With the summer sun at its peak, now seems the perfect time to explore the best way to wash your car in the sun. Washing your car in strong sunlight and high heat can be tricky. It’s generally frowned upon by PRO Detailers and enthusiasts alike – but sometimes there’s no alternative.
Should you wash your car in the sun? Can you wash car in the sun? Safely washing your car in direct sun is possible. Select the right chemicals and products, then follow our 10 PRO Tips for safely washing your car in the sun.
Can you Wash a Car in Direct Sunlight?
The question ‘is it okay to wash your car in direct sunlight?’ is often asked by both new car owners and experienced drivers alike. The short answer is ‘YES’, you can safely and effectively wash your car in strong sunlight and hot weather. The longer answer is ‘Yes, but it’s not ideal’. In this article, we look at how to how to wash a car in direct sunlight and touch on why it’s not ideal.
Ten Essential PRO Tips For Washing Your Car in the Sunshine and Hot Weather
- Wash your car in early in the morning or late in the evening
- Wash In the shade and turn the car midway through the wash
- Use an awning or pop-up shelter
- Apply sunscreen – to yourself, not the car
- Use mild, pH neutral chemicals
- Plan ahead and prepare your equipment before washing
- Use a pressure washer
- Work one panel at a time
- Use a Quick Detailer Spray or drying aid after washing
- Use a water filter for the final rinse
The Best Way to Wash Your Car in the Sun
TIP 1: Wash your car in early in the morning or late in the evening
Regardless of the climate where you live, the sun reaches its peak, and highest point, at midday. Try to avoid washing your car around this time. If possible, wash your car as early as you can before midday, or as late as you can after midday.
Early mornings can work better as the ambient air temperature is often cooler. It can feel fresher, plus you get the rest of the day to enjoy your clean, freshly washed car.
During periods of hot weather, evening temperatures can remain high, despite the sun being lower in the sky. Added to which, evenings can sometimes be unpleasantly humid. If there’s a cool evening breeze and the sun is low in the sky, then washing your car late in the day can work out well too.
TIP 2: Wash in the shade and turn the car midway through the wash
The best way to wash car in sun or in hot weather, is to wash in the shade where possible. At certain times of day, you may be able to use the natural shade created by nearby buildings, walls, trees or other natural vegetation.
If you’re able to find a shady spot to wash your car, but the shade is only partial, consider washing the areas of your car in the shade first. Then once these areas are washed, turn the car around so the other side gets some shade. This will help to reduce water spots and chemicals drying on hot panels.
TIP 3: Use an Awning or Pop-Up Shelter
PRO Detailers who wash and detail cars at the customers’ home or place of work will often have a pop-up tent, pop-up shelter or ‘easy-up’ style awning. These easy shelters shade the car from the hot sun in the summer. They can also shelter the car from rain, hail and snow in the winter months.
You may already have a pop-up tent or awning which you use for camping trips or summer barbeques. If your pop-up shelter is big enough to fit a car underneath – why not use it to provide shade when washing your car in strong summer sun.
TIP 4: Apply sunscreen and hydrate
Nobody wants sunburnt skin or heatstroke, so apply sunscreen or sunblock before washing your car in the strong summer sunlight. Once you’ve applied sunscreen to yourself (not the car), make sure to wash your hands thoroughly.
Sunscreen can be very damaging to a car’s paintwork. Sunblock often contains polyethene glycol and titanium dioxide. Both of these chemicals work to reflect or block damaging, harmful UV light, but both can etch car paintwork and clear coat if left on the surface for any length of time.
It’s also important to stay hydrated whilst you wash your car in hot weather. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, whilst washing your car. If you’re particularly sensitive to the sun, wear a hat and long sleeves for added protection.
TIP 5: Use mild, sun-safe, pH neutral chemicals
There are products available which can be used safely to wash car in the sun and there are others that should never be used in direct sunlight or on hot panels.
As a general guide, try to pick a pH Neutral Car Shampoo that is mild and gentle. Shampoos that are advertised as ‘wax friendly’ or safe to use on recently waxed cars should be ok to use in the sun. Similarly, use a mild, pH Neutral Snow Foam pre-wash too.
When it comes to the choice of spray on chemicals, use a plain old, regular Quick Detailer Spray (QDS) – avoid ceramic or graphene infused QDS products.
If your car has a lot of bug splatter, try using a diluted Citrus Degreaser/Pre-Wash spray – avoid full strength Citrus Pre-Wash and Traffic Film Remover (TFR) sprays.
For your alloy wheel cleaner spray, when washing your car in direct sunlight or hot weather, we recommend using a dedicated Citrus Wheel Cleaner spray – avoid color changing Iron Fallout Remover type products.
TIP 6: Plan ahead and prepare your equipment before washing
Before you even consider turning on your pressure washer or garden hose and pre-rinsing your car, make sure to get all of your equipment ready to use, including:
- Buckets & Grit Guards
- Wheel Brushes
- Wheel Woollies
- Stiff Bristled Tire Brush
- Soft Boar Hair Detailing Brush
- Microfiber Wash Mitts
- Microfiber Cloths
- Microfiber Drying Towels
- Citrus Degreaser (Diluted)
- Wheel Cleaner Spray
- Quick Detailer Spray
- pH Neutral Car Shampoo
- pH Neutral Snow Foam (Optional)
- Snow Foam Cannon (Optional)
- Garden Hose or Pressure Washer
- Car Dryer or Leaf Blower (Optional)
Firstly, fill your wash bucket, rinse bucket and wheel bucket with water. If it’s looking like it’s going to be a hot day, use cold or tepid water. If you have grit guards for your buckets, be sure to use these as they will help trap larger particles of dirt, minimising swirls or marring from the contact wash.
Connect your pressure washer or garden hose, turn on the water supply but don’t spray the car just yet!
Next, throw your wheel and tire brushes into your wheel bucket, add some dedicated wheel soap, or pH Neutral Car Shampoo and foam-up the solution using your pressure washer or garden hose. Then add some pH Neutral Car Shampoo to your wash bucket and foam this solution too, then throw in a clean wash mitt.
Make sure your spray-on chemicals are close by, but in the shade, out of direct sunlight. Give each bottle a gentle shake, so they’re properly mixed and ready to use at a moment’s notice.
Finally, if you have a car dryer or leaf blower, make sure it’s connected to a power supply or fully charged and ready to use. If you’re using twisted loop microfiber drying towels, have them on standby.
Why have we done all this preparation? Because as soon as we wet the vehicle, the clock starts ticking and we’re working against the sun, the heat and time. We want to work quickly and efficiently, to minimise water spotting or chemicals drying on the paintwork.
TIP 7: Use a Pressure Washer
When washing your car in the sun, you should always use a pressure washer if at all possible. Using a pressure washer will allow you to quickly and easily apply your pre-wash Snow Foam, then after a short dwell time, rinse and remove it quickly – before it dries on the paintwork.
Using a pressure washer when washing your car in strong sunlight can also help you to avoid chemicals and water evaporating on the paintwork. Periodically, or in between washing each panel, spritz a fine mist of water over the car to help prevent evaporation and increase working times.
TIP 8: Work one panel at a time
It’s always best practice to begin washing your car by cleaning the wheels first. When you’re washing your car in the sun, this is still the best advice – wheels first. Work one wheel at a time and rinse just the wheel, tire and wheel well/finder liner, not the entire car.
Once the all wheels have been thoroughly cleansed, if you feel your car needs a pre-wash, we recommend using a diluted Citrus Pre-Wash on tough stains, like bug splatter first. Then immediately apply your pH Neutral Snow Foam over the top of the Citrus Pre-Wash. This gives the stronger Citrus Pre-Wash more time to breakdown the bug splatter. Agitate any intricate areas (around badges, grilles, roof rails, etc), or bug splat affected areas, with a Soft Boar Hair Detailing Brush – but be quick!
A thick layer of pH Neutral Snow Foam will help to cool warm body panels and the white foam will help to reflect the sunlight, keeping the car cooler, for longer.
If you see the pH Neutral Snow Foam begin to evaporate on the paintwork, re-apply more snow foam or mist on some water from your pressure washer to re-activate the first application snow foam. Allow your pre-wash to dwell for as long as possible, but when washing your car in the sun, you may only be able to achieve a dwell-time of a couple of minutes.
With the wheels clean and pre-wash done, it’s time for the contact wash. When washing your car in hot weather work one panel at a time. This methodical approach will help to avoid water spots forming as your shampoo or rinse water evaporates. It may take marginally longer to wash your car using this method but the end result will be worth it.
Ideally, when washing your car in the sun, you should clean each panel in the following order:
- Shampoo (contact wash)
If the conditions allow, you may be able to pre-wash the entire car first, rinse the entire car, and then perform the contact washing, rinsing and drying stages one or two panels at a time.
TIP 9: Use a Quick Detailer Spray or drying aid after washing
If you’re washing your car in direct sunlight, try using a Quick Detailer Spray or Drying Aid to help avoid, or even remove water spots. When towel drying your car, using a Quick Detail Spray or drying aid has the added advantage of increasing the lubricity, thus helping to avoid swirls and micro-marring.
If you’re drying your vehicle with a Car Dryer or Leaf Blower and notice some water spots on the freshly washed paintwork, then spritz some Quick Detailer Spray onto a clean microfiber towel, which you’ve folded into four. Gently work the product over the affected area, flip to a clean dry side and buff away any remaining residue.
It sometimes helps to mist some Quick Detailer Spray onto the paintwork as well, if the water spotting is heavy or particularly stubborn.
Instead of using a QDS as a drying aid, you can use a product like Optimum No Rinse (ONR). Dilute it down 1:10 (one part ONR, ten parts water), in a trigger spray bottle. This can help to remove water spots and add lubricity.
TIP 10: Use a water filter for the final rinse
When washing your car in strong, direct sunlight or hot weather, there is one sure-fire way to avoid water spotting. Use filtered water!
We’re not suggesting you rinse your car in Evian! But if you live in an area of the country where the weather is often hot and sunny, if might be worth investing in a water filter system. If you live in a region with ‘hard water’ or a high percentage of naturally occurring minerals in the water table, then a water filter system would be beneficial all year round.
Resin filled water filter systems are easy to install and not too expensive to purchase. Some of the entry level water filter systems are disposable and simply install inline with your garden hose. Once the resin become saturated with minerals and can’t ‘filter’ the water anymore, you replace the entire system.
Other systems use a fixed tank, which also installs inline with your garden hose or water supply. When the resin in the tank becomes saturated, you empty the tank and refill it with fresh resin. Both of these systems can filter water down to 0ppm (parts per million).
After washing your car in direct sun, use your filtered water for the final rinse. You don’t even need to towel dry or blow dry the car – just let the filtered water evaporate. As this filtered water contains no minerals, there won’t be any water spots left behind!
Using filtered water when washing your car means less contact, as no drying is required. You also minimise any swirls and micro-marring which may be induced by towel drying.
If you can’t wash your car on a cooler, less sunny day, then follow the PRO Tips above. You’ll learn the best method for how to wash your car in the sun. With our help, you should be able to achieve a safe, thorough car wash and get that all important show-car shine, regardless of the sunny and warm weather conditions.
With preparation, planning and careful selection of products, it is possible to wash your car in direct sunlight and get great results. Avoid chemicals drying out on hot body panels and don’t let unfiltered water evaporate on hot panels. Remember to keep yourself hydrated and protected from the sun at all times.
With our help and how-to guides, you can enjoy washing your car in the sun, or any other weather conditions mother nature may have in store!