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Nothing feels better than finishing a deep clean of your car, then stepping back to watch it shine. But sooner than we hope, we always start to see bugs start to accumulate on the windshield, dirt crawl up from near the wheels, and small stains start to accrue on the leather seats.
In no time at all, it might seem like it’s time to wash your car again. This begs the question: how often should you wash your car? How much dirt is too much?
This is an incredibly subjective question, but there are some general guidelines to follow to ensure a great looking car most of the time. Let’s get into it.
One thing to keep in mind is that the ideal car washing frequency is different for everyone. There are a ton of variables that you should consider, including:
This all being said, it’s a good rule of thumb to give your car a wash – at least if it’s your primary vehicle and the car you use every day – about once every two weeks. This can be done yourself or by taking your car to a quick car washing service, which will do the job in a few minutes, at least for the exterior.
However, there’s tons of flexibility with this frequency and you shouldn’t take it as an ironclad rule.
The idea is that you give your car a good rinse and scrub every couple of weeks so that it never becomes too dirty or even embarrassing to drive.
Even more important, washing your car this frequently will prevent certain types of dirt and stains from building up. Over time, some contaminants like stains can become harder to scrub out of your car (especially in carpet) if you go too long without washing them. The more you wash, the easier it is to wash each time.
Now let’s get into the details.
Your environment is largely responsible for how dirty your car becomes over time. For instance, if you drive your car on the freeway every day and expose it to exhaust fumes, dirt, and debris from the road, it'll get dirty pretty quickly.
On the other hand, if you only drive your car on country roads without a lot of exhaust, it will get dirty less quickly.
But there are other things to consider as well. If you live near the coast, for example, you should probably clean your car more frequently than every two weeks because salt can accumulate on the surface of your vehicle and can cause rust by corroding through the metal and your car paintwork. Just because you don’t see the salt in the air doesn’t mean it’s not there!
The same, of course, is true for winter and snowy areas where roads are salted, and thus your car gets salted.
In many places during the winter, local or federal government workers will salt the roads in order to lessen the likelihood of cars slipping and sliding on the road. This salt definitely saves lives every year, but it wreaks havoc on the finish, paintwork, and frame of your vehicle.
Because of this, it’s actually more important to wash your car more frequently during the winter, even if washing your car seems to be more of a summer chore. Salt can quickly cake onto your car’s body over time and cause serious issues.
Furthermore, seasons where you encounter more rain or snow (i.e. summer and winter) are the seasons when it’s important to wash your car more frequently. Of course, the same argument could be made with the fall. During these months, leaves and plant matter are constantly spiraling through the air and can quickly build up on the surface of your vehicle. Springtime carries its own issues, like pollen.
The bottom line is this: the different seasons have different environmental hazards and contaminants, and you should take it upon yourself to clean your car more frequently if those contaminants build up more often. This is heavily dependent on your climate and your own judgment.
When it comes to washing classic or rare cars, you should only wash them as much as necessary. Depending on how frequently you drive them, this may only be as often as once every few months. Cars that sit in your garage and are properly covered with a sheet or blanket won’t get very dirty or dusty, so you won’t need to wash them very often.
In most cases, you’ll only clean these vehicles right before showing them off or driving them for a special occasion. Or you might decide to wash them thoroughly when it’s time to reapply the wax or ceramic coating you applied to the vehicle.
Common sense applies here as well, but on average, you’ll wash your classic, vintage, or show cars less frequently than your primary transportation vehicles.
The reapplication frequency for wax or ceramic coating depends on the product. Most modern wax is made with carnauba wax – the hardest ever harvested.
In general, wax lasts for between one to two months while ceramic coating can last for between two to three months. For instance, Shine Armor’s Fortify is a washing, shining, and ceramic coating solution that lasts for about three months on average, provided you take care of your vehicle.
Be sure to read the instructions for any given wax or ceramic coating product when you reapply a new layer of the protective material as appropriate.
Don’t worry about washing frequency affecting the wax or ceramic coat for your car. Any good wax or ceramic coat worth your time and money, like Shine Armor’s Spray Wax Quick Coat, should be hydrophobic – this means that the layer created by the wax or ceramic coating will repel water and allow you to wash the exterior of your car without worry.
In fact, washing your car while it still has a wax or ceramic coat is one of the best ways to tell whether it’s time to reapply. If the water beads easily on the car’s surface, then the coat is still intact and doing its job.
You should also do interior cleaning whenever it makes sense. Cars that are used more frequently should be cleaned more often, and cars that you rarely take out the garage don’t need to be vacuumed and shampooed that often.
If you really want your car to look and smell as good as it can most of the time, make it a habit to clean the interior of your car every time you give it an exterior car wash. You can always add some extra scrubbing or stain removal time if an accident happens, but in general, washing the inside and outside of your car in the same session will help you keep both aspects looking great around the clock.
This also makes it difficult to forget one or the other.
At the end of the day, it’s totally up to you how often you want to wash your car. This is doubly true if you don’t always have the time or energy to do it by hand and occasionally run it through a professional car washing service.
However, we'd recommend finding a routine or regularity that suits your budget, schedule, and personal preference. You'll feel more confident and more in control if you have a great looking car compared to if you let it become dirty over time.