How to Properly Wash, Polish and Wax Your Car

Sure, it’s December, but almost any time of year in sunny Albuquerque is good for car washing. And since we recommend washing and waxing your car at least once every three months, that means it may be time for your quarterly exterior clean-up. To do the job right…

Avoid Commercial Car Washes

The #1 rule for caring for your car’s finish is to bypass any commercial car wash that uses scary brushes and rollers. Those are notorious for scratching your paint. Instead, go straight home and park in a shady spot (to avoid leaving water spots), and…

Collect Your Car Washing Implements

Proper car washes require:

  • a bucket
  • a microfiber or lambs wool washing mitt
  • several microfibers towels
  • car wash soap (not dish detergent)

Unreel the hose, or, even better, a pressure washer if you have one. Start with a gentle rinse to remove loose surface impediments and gradually increase water pressure to dislodge stubborn dirt.

Time Out for Questions:

Why microfiber or lambs wool?

The nap of lambs wool or microfiber draws the dirt particles away from the surface of the car rather than trapping them at the surface where they scratch your paint.

Why not dish detergent?

Dish detergent can strip the wax, damage the paint and leave a residue.


After you have sprayed the car to remove large particles, start washing at the roof and work your way down. Re-dip the mitt in your bucket after each panel (or more often if needed) so as to clean the mitt and work with fresh suds. When you’re all done, rinse away all soap suds. For a streak-free shine, thoroughly dry the car with a soft terrycloth towel.

If you see any scratches or feel below-the-surface contaminants after the rinse, you will need an extra step. Use either a clay bar to remove the contaminants or a compound paint cleaner for the scratches.


Polishing can be compared to using moisturizers on your skin. It restores the natural oils of the paint, restoring its depth of color and gloss. Use either a dual-action polisher or a microfiber cloth to apply the polish with circular movements. When the polish becomes hazy, it’s time to remove it with a microfiber cloth. DO NOT ALLOW IT TO DRY COMPLETELY. Trying to remove dry polish almost always results in scratches.

Time Out for Questions:

Why polish and wax?

Polishes add gloss to the finish. They do not protect it. For that, you need wax.


If polish is your car’s moisturizer, wax is its sunscreen. Using either a carnauba-based wax or polyform type will give it a layer of protection against the sun’s paint-fading UV rays.

Apply the wax one section at a time, using the same technique used in polishing – small overlapping circles. It is dry when a haze forms, at which time you can remove it in the same manner—buffing in a circular motion.

Time Out for Questions:

Which is better carnauba or polymer? And how about Spray waxes?

The choice of carnauba or polymer is a matter of taste. Carnauba works perfectly well. Polymer costs a bit more, but it goes on easier and can be wiped off soon after applying rather than waiting for the haze required with carnauba.

Spray waxes, designed for quick and easy application, do not give the same degree of protection as paste or liquid waxes. However, they can be used as monthly boosters.

Professional Detailing

If you do not have the time or inclination to invest the energy to proper exterior cleaning, then let the pros do it. Quanz Auto Body offers full detailing service as well as simple wash and wax service. For the easier way to a great-looking car, contact us to schedule an appointment.