How Important is it to Dry Your Car after a Wash?

If you’ve ever run your car through an automatic car wash or drive-up wash stand, you’ll always find people who are taking the time to dry their vehicles by hand. And for good reason. This step, which might seem like a waste of time, is actually one of the most important ones in the car washing process.

Although it is possible allow your car to air dry and still enjoy the benefits of a deep clean, you won’t get that truly perfect sparkle unless you dry it as soon after the wash as possible.

Why Not to Air Dry?

The main reason not to allow your car to air dry is because of the residue that gets left behind. Water—even the water used in car washes—contains natural minerals, which don’t evaporate during an air dry. Although the liquid will eventually disappear, it will leave behind spots, streaks, and deposits that can make your car look worse than it did before you washed it. This is especially true if your car has a dark-colored paint finish or if the sun is out and highlighting all your car’s imperfections.

In some areas, these deposits can also harm your car’s paint job. Some of the compounds in water that get left behind can degrade the paint over time—you aren’t likely to start seeing damages after just one wash, but a lifetime of air drying could leave behind calcium and minerals that ruin the surface of your vehicle.

How to Properly Dry Your Car

As soon as your car is finished with its wash, pull it forward and find a place where you can spend a few minutes drying it. You’ll want to use a clean chamois or microfiber cloths to do the drying; although some people recommend using items like cloth diapers or old t-shirts, these materials tend to provide more damage than they do benefit, since they have rough surfaces on a microscopic scale.

By keeping specialty chamois in your car, you’ll always have a quick and easy drying solution on hand. As you dry, start at the top and work your way down. You’ll also want to use blotting techniques instead of wiping ones. This is because even after a car wash, there may be small particles of dirt and other items in the air that work into the cloth. Wiping movements will only scrape those particles over the paint.

You might also opt for a squeegee with a pliable rubber that can remove water without leaving streaks behind. In both cases, make sure you pause and shake any cleaning materials after every few strokes, as this will prevent too much build up. (If you’ll be drying your wheels and tires, make sure you have a separate towel, as you won’t want to get your chamois too soiled to use on the car body again.)

For the best finish, you’ll also want to pop open your doors and trunks, and lift your windshield wipers to dry at all points of contact. Water often seeps into these areas, which might not seem like a big deal until you start driving and those droplets work their way out and streak along the paint job you just so meticulously cleaned.

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