Water stains on a car can mar the appearance of an otherwise beautiful paint job. Those white-edged splotches and circles seem like they would be easy to remove with a wet cloth, but the stains reappear as soon as you've finished wiping them away. Fortunately, water stains on a car are easy to remove with materials you may already have on hand—you just need to know the proper methods to make it happen.
Follow these simple steps to make water stains disappear from your car, almost like magic.
|Detergent Type||Dish soap, spot remover, white vinegar|
|Water Temperature||Warm and cold|
Before You Begin
Stains on your car's body and glass are the ghostly remnants of hard water that have been allowed to dry on those previously shiny surfaces. Hard water contains a high concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium. As hard water evaporates, it leaves behind traces of these minerals that appear white when dry. To prevent hard water spots from developing, wipe off water drops with a clean cloth while they are still wet.
Hard water spots are annoying because they look unsightly, but mineral residue can become even more menacing—ultimately damaging your car's paint. The longer mineral deposits are allowed to remain on your car, the harder they stick. The stains and spots can etch into the surface, requiring more involved removal and repair methods such as wet-sanding or even an entirely new paint job.
Equipment / Tools
- 2 buckets
- 1 hose
- 1 sponge
- 1 soft washing mitt
- 3 drying towels or cloths
- 1 spray bottle
- 1 bottle of dish soap
- 1 bottle of spot remover
- 1 bottle of white vinegar
- 1 roll of paper towels
- Detailing clay (optional)
How to Use a Basic Wash and Dry Method
If you get stuck with water stains, the first thing you need to do is wash your car. This may sound counter intuitive since washing your car may have created the water stains in the first place. So why would you want to do this again? Won't the stains just return?
Not necessarily. Washing will eliminate particles that can scratch the paint surface when you attempt to remove the stains. Plus, a second wash, using the steps below, should help remove the stains left by the first wash.
Prepare to Wash
Fill one bucket with warm, soapy water, and fill a second bucket with clean rinse water. Have a hose ready as well as a soft washing mitt and/or a sponge, and drying towels or microfiber towels.
Wash with a Soft Mitt
Use a two-bucket method of cleaning, where you soak the washing mitt in the soapy water and wash the spotty surface. Then, rinse out the mitt in the clean-water bucket. Re-soak the mitt in the soapy water, and continue washing.
Rinse the vehicle thoroughly with clean water from the hose, making sure no suds remain.
Start drying the vehicle immediately, wiping with towels or cloths from the top down. Enlist help from an assistant if possible to wipe the water before it evaporates.
How to Remove Water Stains With Vinegar
Vinegar is often touted as a miracle substance, capable of cleaning tiles, shampooing dogs, killing weeds, and extending the life of cut flowers. So, it should come as no surprise that vinegar can help clean water stains from car paint. White vinegar is mildly acidic, making it an effective opponent to alkaline mineral deposits.
Mix Vinegar and Water
Pour equal amounts of distilled water and vinegar into the bottle and gently shake it.
Spray the Car
Saturate the glass or car body by spraying the compound thoroughly across the surface.
Fill a Bucket with Vinegar Solution
Pour the rest of the solution into a bucket, along with a towel. Add more 50/50 solution, as needed to immerse the towel.
Place Wet Towel Over Spots
Lay the towel over the area on the car that needs to be cleaned. Let it rest for about two minutes, then use the same towel to scrub away the water stains.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water from a hose, then dry with a clean, dry towel.
How to Spot-Remove Water Stains
When you need to remove localized areas of water stains on your car, one of the best ways to do this is with a commercial water spot remover.
All spot removers have different ingredients, but there are some common elements. Clean, distilled water is the base, with mineral oil added as a lubricant. Additional ingredients may include solvents, absorbents, buffers, and conditioners.
Water spot removers work best on paint, glass, chrome, and metals. They're safest when used with glossy paint surfaces, and should not be used on flat or matte surface paint jobs.
Apply water spot remover to the spotted areas with a foam applicator.
Rub and Dry
Rub the product onto the paint with two or three passes. Finish by rubbing the compound away with a dry, clean cloth.
Additional Tips for Handling Water Stains
- For small areas of particularly stubborn water spots, use the professional detailers' secret tool: detailing clay. Much like soft artist's clay, detailing clay comes in small bars that can be kneaded and shaped and used much like an eraser.
- Detailing clay is used with a lubricant that is included with the product. This specialized clay is best for smaller, localized sections of water spots. It's also best for stubborn water stains since it essentially shears off the mineral residue by force.