How Often Should You Wash Your Car?

The Crash Course
dirty car with "wash me" written in the grime

Deciding how often you should wash your car is dependent upon a lot of factors including the time of year, where you live, how often you drive, and so on. For instance, if it’s the dead of winter and you live somewhere with heavy amounts of snow, you’ll need to wash it more often than you will in the summer due to road salt. If you reside on the coast, snow won’t be much of a concern, but you’ll want to pay attention to how the salty ocean air affects the look of your vehicle. If you happen to live in a heavily-wooded area, you’ll be constantly dealing with pollen, leaves, tree sap, dirt, and bird droppings.

When pressed for an answer, most experts would tell you can’t go wrong washing your vehicle every 10 to 14 days under normal circumstances. More often than that (assuming it’s not getting extremely dirty in the interim) might be considered a bit overkill. But really, the best thing you can do to maintain your vehicle’s showroom look–and this isn’t complicated–is to just wash it whenever it looks like it needs to be washed. It’s as simple as that.

And speaking of washing your vehicle, did you know that regularly washing your car can actually help maintain its value in the long run? For instance, if you’re a buyer, you’ll certainly want your new car to look great from the outside. Fading paint or rust spots can be a good inclination that a vehicle’s owner has been less than meticulous about cleaning their vehicle. And if they’re not keeping up on maintaining the vehicle’s exterior, it’s often safe to assume that regular maintenance tasks and upkeep might have fallen by the wayside as well. In this case, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover.

Is It Bad to Wash Your Car Too Often?

Assuming you’re using the proper washing techniques and equipment–or going to a reputable automatic wash that won’t damage your car–there’s nothing wrong with washing your car as much as you want.

While some might view the act as a bit excessive, if you have the means and desire to grab the hose and sponges every day, then by all means have at it!

Will Salt Damage My Vehicle’s Paint?

Yes, it will. If you live in a region that gets a lot of ice and snow in the winter, you’re surely used to seeing the plows and salt trucks working diligently to keep the roads clear and safe when winter storms are in the forecast. Unfortunately, this salt and sand mixture will almost always mix with the moisture in the air and become adhered to your vehicle. And while it won’t happen overnight, that grimy substance will, if left untouched long enough, eat away at your vehicle’s paint job. So as soon as the storms have passed and the roads are back to normal, you’ll want to get that gunk washed off.

Should I Hand Wash or Use An Automatic Wash?

While running through the automatic machine is definitely more convenient for washing the mud and sludge away, it might not be the best choice when it comes to maintaining the longevity of your vehicle’s paint job. If you must use an automatic wash, try to find a touchless option as opposed to the kind with the giant, spinning or swinging brushes. With as much grime as these brushes see in a given day, they probably won’t be the cleanest or gentlest on your vehicle’s exterior. Touchless washes that spray sudsy soap and water at your vehicle are a better choice, but still not ideal as the jets can just scrape your vehicle’s gunk across its surface. And remember, if the vehicle in front of you in line is absolutely caked in mud or grime, give up your spot and come back later (all that gunk has got to go somewhere). As far as the coin or paid options go, the do-it-yourself stalls are certainly your best bet, but still nothing beats a good old fashioned wash by hand. Just remember to always wash your towels, sponges, and mits and keep them stored where they won’t get dirty before their next use.

There are many good tools and cleaning solutions on the market that can keep your car’s finish looking great and lasting a long time. Your local hardware, auto parts, or department store should have plenty of options to choose from. Your vehicle is a big investment and it’s in your best interest to do all you can to preserve it for as long as you can.