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Washing Cars At Home

On summer weekends, Real Simple magazine recommends taking an hour to wash your car.

It's cheap, easy to do at home and, more importantly, washing your car regularly can save you a lot of money down the road.

On The Saturday Early Show, Real Simple magazine's Kris Connell gave some pointers to washing cars.

She says you don't have to buy a bunch of fancy products to get the job done right.

The number one mistake most people make in regards to car washing, according to Connell, is not doing it enough. Some may not realize that keeping a car clean can impact the resale value or help avoid penalties at the end of a lease — up to $2,000.

It would cost about $10 a wash to take a sedan through a car wash. Connell says washing cars at home can save money. You save even more money by using products you have around the house. She says there's no need to buy cleansers in the automotive section of the store.

Another common mistake is washing cars under the full sun. While the sun may be appealing, you're bound to wind up with streaks if you do this. Connell recommends washing in the shade or during the early morning or late afternoon.

To actually wash the car, first rinse the car to hose off loose dirt. Be sure to hit the cracks below the windshields and the undersides of the wheel wells.

Next, soap the car. Connell recommends using a wash mitt because it is easier to use than a sponge. She says it's denser than a sponge so the fibers pick up more dirt, and it's soft on the finish. It is important to make sure the wash mitt is clean. Using a dirty mitt can scratch the car's finish. Mix one-eighth of a cup of mild dishwashing liquid into a bucket of water.

The order in which you wash different parts of the car affects how clean it gets. Start with the cleanest part of the car, the roof, then move on to the hood, sides and trunk.

Use a separate sponge to scrub the really dirty parts of the car (the windshield and the tires). Connell says to save the right front wheel for last because it gets the dirtiest (it hits the most puddles and gravel on the side of the road).

Tar can be tough to remove. To remove it from a car, Real Simple says to saturate a cloth with a quarter cup of white vinegar and half a teaspoon of linseed oil then vigorously rub into tar.

When washing, soap as much of the roof — or whatever part you're working on — as you can reach and then rinse immediately so the soap doesn't dry on the finish. Don't worry about spots, you will be rinsing again before drying.

After washing and rinsing the car, give the entire vehicle another rinse and then get to work drying with a towel. Connell says to carefully dry the roofline just above the windows so you don't have water dripping onto your windows when you move the car.

Finally, it is time to wash the windows. Bugs, grease and road grime make car windows harder to clean than the windows in a home. Although there are a variety of glass cleaners on the market, Real Simple spoke with several car detailers and they all recommended washing with a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. You can put the solution in a spray bottle.

And there you have all the basics to a clean car. It's cheap and it will extend the life and value of your vehicle.

Connell also showed some car floor mats that have deep channels to collect mud, sand and salt. Each one will hold up to a quart of liquid! ($45, Griot's Garage, 800-345-5789)

Maybe this weekend, washing a car will be the perfect Father's Day gift.