Why is My Car Still Dirty After Washing It? – 8 Reasons

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

why is my car still dirty after washing it

It can be frustrating to put effort into cleaning your car only to wonder, “Why is my car still dirty after washing it?”

Especially for black car wners who often complain, my black car never looks clean, it’s usually because of incorrect car washing practices, such as only pressure washing the vehicle, using only one bucket, not drying the car properly, etc.

Read further to find out what you may have done wrong to make it right.

List of Reasons For Dirty Car After Washing

1. Car Washing Under the Hot Sun


Water and car wash soap or shampoo tend to dry quickly under the sun’s heat while car washing. And when that happens, you may get residue on car after washing that’s not only unsightly but can also be harmful to the vehicle’s exterior.

Water, especially when full of impurities like minerals and contaminants, can leave chalky, white spots on a vehicle. While car wash soap or shampoo can leave chemicals on its surface as it dries up, which can result in soap spots on car.


Do your car washing in a garage, car wash/detailing canopy, or shaded area to avoid the sun’s heat.

Or you may also choose a cooler time to wash your vehicle, like an earlier time in the morning or late in the evening.

2. Car Washing on a Windy Day

During car washing, strong winds can blow dust, dirt, and other particles onto your vehicle. These contaminants can stick to its wet surface and make it dirty again.


You wouldn’t want to remove dust from car again when you’ve just washed it. Therefore, it’d be best to reschedule your car washing to a less windy day if you don’t have an enclosed area for safeguarding your vehicle.

But if you really need to wash it despite the strong winds, you may do it in a garage to stop dust sticking to car.

3. Only Using a Pressure Washer


A car can’t be thoroughly cleaned if you merely wash it only with a pressure washer. A car requires car cleaning products, such as snow foam and car wash soap or shampoo, for the contaminants on its surface to be effectively removed.

These products can provide the cleaning agents and lubrication needed to thoroughly do the job while preventing scratches and swirl marks.


Don’t just rinse your vehicle with a pressure washer. Also, use a car cleaning product according to its product instructions to ensure that you won’t have dirt still on car after wash.

4. Using Only One Bucket for Car Washing


Truly, the lack of cleaning equipment is one of the reasons dirt won’t come off car, like when using only one bucket in the process. This would only spread contaminants instead of removing them from the surface because all the pollutants would accumulate in that bucket wherein the wash mitt is being dipped.

Once the wash mitt is wiped on the car, the contaminants would be moved around on your vehicle’s surface. And it’s often the reason why white car still dirty after car washing


It’s best to use multiple buckets, such as the two-bucket or, even better, the three-bucket method.

In the two-bucket method, you have one bucket for the soapy water and another bucket for water for rinsing the wash mitt once it collects contaminants.

The three-bucket method provides an additional bucket, usually for an additional solution for cleaning the wheels, the engine bay, an extra rinse, etc.

5. Using Low-Quality Car Wash Soap or Shampoo


Even if you use the proper car washing techniques, and it seems that the car wash doesn’t work, you still end up with a dirty-looking vehicle. It may be caused by the use of a low-quality car wash soap.

Buying a cheap product may sound like a wise idea to save money. Still, those usually lack cleaning agents and can’t produce enough lubrication.


While the price may not be the only thing to determine a product’s quality, still, it may help to research some products’ user experiences in reviews online before buying anything.

With that, you can pick and use high-quality products that allow thorough cleaning.

6. Not Wiping With a Microfiber Wash Mitt


Using a regular cloth, towel, and sponge for wiping your vehicle is another reason why a car always dirty after washing. Compared to a microfiber wash mitt specially designed for washing cars, those above aren’t as effective in removing contaminants.

That’s because they don’t have the microfiber wash mitt’s excellent cleaning properties that effectively trap contaminants while preventing scratches on the paintwork.


Always use a microfiber wash mitt when car washing to ensure that the contaminants get cleaned off from the vehicle and minimize scratching.

7. Not Thoroughly Rinsing the Soap off the Car


Failing to rinse the soap off the car thoroughly can leave some soapy film on its surface. This can cause the problem of a vehicle being dirty but it was cleaned yesterday.

Because the soapy film is sticky and can make more contaminants adhere to its surface and quickly make it dirty again.


Make sure to rinse off all the soap on the entire surface of your car. It’d help to spray high-pressure water, such as from a pressure washer or garden hose, to remove all the dirt without a trace left behind.

8. Not Drying the Car Properly


Failing to dry your car properly or not drying car after wash can leave water spots on its surface, especially when the water has impurities. The impurities would be left behind as the water evaporates, which causes the spots. And these spots not only make the vehicle dirty but can also harm the paintwork.


To avoid getting spots on the car after washing, you must always dry your vehicle correctly. You can use a microfiber towel or air blower to effectively and quickly do this.

Tips to Prevent This Problem (Clean Car Properly)

  1. Get two buckets, and fill one with your car soap and water mixture and the other with water for rinsing the microfiber wash mitt.
  2. Spray water onto your car, and then apply soap using the wash mitt. It’d be ideal for working on the upper parts of the vehicle first, going down because this would prevent contaminants from dripping and re-soiling parts that were already cleaned, which would likely happen if you start from the bottom.
  3. Remember always to rinse the wash mitt to get rid of accumulated contaminants and to avoid spreading them.
  4. Using a pressure washer or garden hose, thoroughly rinse the car, ensuring all areas get rinsed, and no soap is left over.
  5. Thoroughly dry the car with a microfiber towel. Make sure it’s clean, not to introduce dirt on the car again.
  6. Apply a protective coating of wax on the car to shield off contaminants.

Maintain a Clean Car After Washing Guide


  • After car washing, remember to also apply wax regularly to keep your vehicle clean and shiny for longer.
  • Park your car in a garage to protect it from harsh weather, dust, birds, bugs, etc., that can contaminate it.
  • If a garage isn’t available, you can use a car cover to protect your vehicle from contaminants.
  • Spray-on car cleaners would be useful if your vehicle gets dirty and needs a quick cleaning.

For example, there’s the quick detailer spray that wouldn’t only help clean your vehicle but also leave a layer of protection with a super sealant. There’s also the waterless wash that has better cleaning power that can tackle light dust to dirtier conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should I Wash My Car?

Generally, it’s best to wash your car every two weeks. If you apply wax after car washing, cleaning may be done less often.

But some circumstances may require you to wash your vehicle more often, such as driving on dirt roads often or snowy, icy roads with road salt that can harm your car.

Should I Wash My Car in Direct Sunlight?

No, you must not wash it in direct sunlight, as the heat from the sun can make the water and soap quickly evaporate, which would leave spots. These spots could be the impurities in water and/or chemicals from soap.

What Types of Dirt That Hard to Remove?

The types of dirt that are hard to remove on a car are sticky substances, such as bug splatter, tree sap, tar, and asphalt.

These contaminants require more than just regular washing with soap and water. They have to be removed immediately with additional steps using cleaners specifically designed to clean off such tough contaminants, such as clay bar, tar remover, WD-40, etc., following its product instructions.


As you reach the end of this article, now you’re aware of what you may have been doing wrong.

And you’d no longer have to wonder, “Why is my car still dirty after washing it?” because you already know the right way to wash a vehicle that would prevent it from still looking dirty afterward. Remember the proper car washing techniques, and you’d always achieve desirably clean results.

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