Save Your Money, Time, and Paint

Here’s the thing about cleaning cars at apartments,


It can be horrible. I love learning from guys like Larry at Ammo NYC. Larry makes the best products and utilizes the best techniques for making cars look knee-tremblingly good. But it can be extremely frustrating watching the master at work with expensive tools, products, and facilities. Personally, I live in a gated apartment complex. Most of us apartment dwellers are students or in the early years of our careers. Some of us have new families or have loosely scheduled lives. It can be difficult to maintain a squeaky clean shine on our chariots. Also, most automobiles kept in apartment complexes spend most of their time outdoors. Therefore, maintaining proper paint protection in the harsh sun is paramount. My father raised me to be extremely proficient at maintaining an immaculate car. “Clean it like you’re selling it tomorrow” he would say. Nowadays I think “easy for you to say, Mr. homeowner”. However, in the last few years, I have implemented an extremely effective way to maintain the wet shine on my cars and protect them from the elements in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.


Step One to implementing my method for keeping your steed clean is to NEVER use an automated car wash, a do-it-yourself stall, nor a bunch of bikini-clad girls (I don’t care how cute they are, they WILL scratch your paint).  Automated car washes scratch and scuff your paint with dirt and grime left over from previous users. I hear you shouting at your screen “But I live in the north, where the touch-less car washes are used! Surely you are just too narrow-minded.” To you I say, get off my lawn with your fancy magic car washes. These washes are still very dangerous to your car because of a few reasons. Firstly, the vast majority of these systems recycle their water. Even if these systems can filter out the large dirt chunks, they still have difficulty with eliminating the miniscule sized particles. Also, if you live anywhere in the country where salt is used on the roads, the salt knocked off of prior users dilutes itself into the water. The result is a machine that is sand blasting your paint’s protection off and leaving behind a film of salt water! Have you ever seen a car that has lived its whole life near the sea? This will exacerbate the process of wear and rust on your vehicle’s seals, metal parts, and fade the paint. As far as do-it-yourself stalls go, look no further than that brush.   The soap-application brush is not only course, but also full of sand, dirt, and whatever else it has accumulated off of previous cars and its time spent on the ground. Now that you have been properly warned, let us continue.


By far the most frustrating part about apartment or condo living, when trying to properly maintain your car’s finish, is the lack of a water supply. To remedy this, you will need to purchase three buckets. Auto parts stores are always hawking these for around $3-5 apiece if you look in the right place. Each bucket serves a different purpose (wheels, cleaning agent, and dirt release). Therefore, it would be wise to find three buckets that are dissimilar in appearance, or use tape or paint to make distinguishing marks. While you are at the auto parts store, buy a wheel cleaning brush (as long and soft bristled as possible) and a microfiber mitt. Look for the mitts or cloths that have long dread-locks. The longer and more frequent the fibers on the mitt are, the more dirt can be picked up without being pushed back onto the paint. Finally, you need to find a good drying cloth. I drive a four-door sedan and a 3ft x 3ft cloth is sufficient. I would buy one at least that size so that you can continue to fold it over to use a clean side with every pass. Regardless, purchase a cloth with a soft, waffle-like texture. These pours give the cloth more surface area to trap the excess dirt and water on the surface, without scratching the paint.


Now you are ready to go home and access the interweb. There are three products you will need: First, a bottle of Optimum No-Rinse Wash and Wax This product is fabulous. Unlike other wash and wax products, this chemical is completely safe to dry on your car without rinsing. Done right, there will be absolutely no residue, haze, or harsh chemicals left over. As it dries, the product becomes a thin layer of paint-protecting wax. By washing your vehicle with it, once every a week or two, you are effetely giving your car at least one two-stage carnauba wax job every month! The second product is a 12-inch Grit Guard. This will be implemented in the “dirty” bucket to prevent re-application of dirt to the vehicle in the form of sandpaper. The final product you will need is a wheel cleaner. Different rims require different products. Therefore, you will need to search for a cleaner that is most effective for your ride, whether you have painted, chrome, or powder-coated wheels. This is a very important distinction to understand. Meguiar’s is the brand I trust. By now you have probably spent about $50 and you hate my guts right now. However, now that you own all these products, you will not need to continue paying. The products will last you over a dozen washes, and will leave your paint much healthier.


Finally, we can discuss the method. Most apartments lack water hoses, as discuss previously. However, most sinks will accommodate your new buckets. Filling these buckets 2/3 the way full should be sufficient, and will not be too heavy to bring outside. (You can go to a DIY stall to do this, but most hoses there spray and are not effective at filling a bucket) Beginning with the wheels: focus on each one at a time. This will actually be your most time-consuming aspect of the process. Spray your wheel cleaner and wait for a minute or two, as directed. Use your wheel brush to agitate the surface until you see suds. Now, dip the wheel brush in the bucket designated for your wheel cleaning. Continue to saturate the brush and clean the wheels until the suds are gone. It can also help to bring a big cup out with you to dump some water on the wheels. Repeat the process until all four wheels are done. Now it is time to focus on the body. Take one of the remaining buckets and place the grit-guard at the bottom. Put 2oz of the Optimum Wash and Wax in the other bucket and stir. You will be using what is called the Two-Bucket Method to clean the surfaces of the car. First, saturate the mitt in the product-filled bucket. In a controlled north-south motion, swipe the mitt across the surface you are cleaning. The Optimum product dries somewhat quickly in warm weather. Therefore, it is wise to clean and dry your car piece by piece. I start with the roof, then the hood, front, sides, and finish with the back. After applying the surface with the wash and wax. Put your mitt in the bucket with the grit guard and agitate it until the dirt leaves the surface of the mitt. You can leave the mitt in the bucket while you dry so that it does not end up on the ground. To dry, fold your waffle-cloth into a ½ foot square. Without much pressure, run the cloth across the wet surface one pass at a time. You should only need one pass to dry Optimum Wash and Wax. Ensure that the leading edge of the cloth does not have a tag or sowing lip. This ensures the process will not scratch the paint. Continue to dry the surface in this way, changing up the waffle cloth’s folds so that the same part of the cloth is not used as the leading edge twice. Repeating this process for every panel on the car should only take about twenty-minutes, and your car should be beautiful! The great thing about no-rinse products like Optimum is the car does not NEED to be parked in the shade or even parked at all, once done. I typically perform this task in the evening, after work, so it is not as hot, and the wax has less of a chance to haze. But if you are quick to dry, you could drive the car immediately. This is a fantastic method for cleaning a car prior to a show, meet, or cruise! I hope this walkthrough was helpful for you! I will discuss my cost and time-effective interior cleaning methods later.