When is It Too Hot to Wash Your Car? | Car Cleaning Tips

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

when is it too hot to wash your car

All car owners have thought of this at some point: when is it too hot to wash your car? When the temperature reaches 85°F (~30°C), you should avoid washing your car under the sun’s direct heat.

If no shade protects you and your car from sunlight, you should reconsider working outside. Below are the right time and helpful tips for washing your car in hot weather.


How Hot is Too Hot to Wash Your Car?


Washing your car on a cloudy day with temperatures ranging from around 70 degrees to 80 degrees will be okay. As long as the temperature does not reach below 50°F and exceeds 85°F, you can wash your car comfortably.

If you live in California, you’ll have the ideal heat for an outdoor car wash even in the summer, which ranges from 75°F to 84°F. Sadly, we all don’t live in California and can’t always have the right temperature when the car needs a rinse.

This doesn’t mean that you should leave your car dirty for an entire summer when temperatures reach 100 degree and more. You can still wash your car. You have to plan and be prepared.

Why You “Shouldn’t” Wash Your Car in the Sunshine


  • Higher chance of leaving water spots

Remember to appreciate how quickly water dries when you’re washing car in sun. Before you’re done rinsing one part of your car, there’s a big chance the other side has already dried up before you can wipe it.

Leaving water to air dry – unintentionally or not – leaves unsightly water spots on the car coating that are hard to clean afterward.

  • Leftover soap residue is difficult to remove


When soap evaporates before it can be rinsed, it will leave a residue that will stick to your car. Soap residue is even more challenging to remove than dirt. The soap chemicals that clean your car react to extreme heat by baking into your car’s paint.

If you have a hot black car, dried soap residue will leave obvious marks when not washed quickly enough. Unwanted soap residue marks will make your black – or any dark-painted car look dirtier than before.

  • Waxing car in sun can lead to subpar results

Although waxing a car during the summer season is not necessary protection-wise, unlike in winter, it still adds beauty to a car when it gives that extra shine.

However, waxing your car when the environment is too hot will damage your coat paint.

Like soap residue, wax can bake into your car when it is applied on a hot day under direct sunlight. Moreso, you should avoid waxing your car if the temperature reaches above 81°F (~27°C). Once the wax bakes into your car’s coat, it will be tough to remove.

  • Sun glare can result in missing some dirty areas


Sunlight reflected from a car’s panels might make you miss a few dirty spots. It’s going to be an eyesore – literally and figuratively.

  • Heat exhaustion

Being under the sun for prolonged periods can lead to heat exhaustion, sunburn, dehydration, and even heatstroke. It would help if you took precautions during a scorching day to avoid being a victim of heat-related illnesses.

What to Do When the Heat Can’t Be Avoided


If you live in a hot climate area, here are some car washing tips if you can’t avoid the heat:

  • Find a shaded area

Bring your car to a spot that has shade. If there’s no possible shade, invest in a pop-up tent if you can.

  • Choose the coolest day possible


Check the weather forecast for the week and pick a cooler day. If the forecast predicts 110 degree weather or higher for the day, it’s best to choose another day. Too high temperatures will exhaust you before you can finish washing your car.

  • Wash when the sun isn’t too high up

If you have to wash your car on an extremely hot day, the best time to wash car is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Don’t wait until noon when the sun is at its peak.

As tempting as it might be to wash your car at night, do that less. Washing in the evening will leave your vehicle damp – and over time, will lead your car to corrode. Lack of sunlight also means missing a few spots – even if you have artificial light.

  • Prepare your materials beforehand

Gather all the materials you need to wash your car before you start. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more if you can, and buy well-reviewed brands that have been proven to give good results.

Use appropriate products, like microfiber towels and car soap or shampoos, instead of just any cloth or soap.

Related: Car Wash Soaps Alternatives.

  • Wash in sections


To avoid dried-out marks, work in small sections. Start with the wheels and work from top to bottom. Remember to rinse the parts where you wash, work quickly and often rinse to keep the car wet.

  • Protect yourself

Use sunscreen and appropriate clothing when washing your car. Choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and apply it to your face and body. Also, wear light, comfortable clothes that will let air and sweat pass through.

Prepare liquids to make sure you don’t get dehydrated. Water or electrolyte drinks like Gatorade will help you feel refreshed. If you have a cooler, bring it outside and store your glasses to keep it cool.

  • Go to a car washer


If your car needs a wash on a day with unbearable heat, just go to a hot car washer. You can ask them for some sunshine detailing and hand car wash. Automatic car washers are also an option.

How Often Should I Wash My Car in the Summer?

Washing your car once a week during summer is ideal. Washing it frequently will make sure dirt won’t build up on your car.


Your car won’t wait for the perfect temperature if it needs to be cleaned. With temperatures rising and heat waves affecting cities worldwide, it’s essential to know how to work around the heat.

Remember, every time you think, “when is it too hot to wash your car?”, the answer is most likely “not today.” Pick the right time of the day and a shaded spot, and prepare everything you need beforehand. Do remember to always be careful and not to overexert yourself.

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