How to Remove Water Spots From a Car

Knowing how to remove water spots from a car is often more about knowing how to prevent these troublesome specks than it is about removing them. You've spent the whole afternoon washing your car, removing layers of grease, grime, road salt and who knows what else. But instead of a shiny, showroom quality finish, you're left with a car that's speckled with water spots -- what gives? Chances are, you're going about washing your car the wrong way.

How to remove water spots from a car

How to Remove Water Spots From a Car

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Car Washing Soap
  • Soft Sponge
  • Chamois Cloths or Microfiber Towels

The good news is this: it's relatively easy to remove water spots from a car. The bad news is, if you've just washed your car, removing the spots means washing your car all over again, because it's likely that the way you washed your car to begin with is culprit.

While water spots on a car can be caused by many different factors, most water spots on cars are the result of two problems: using the wrong soap to wash your car and/or neglecting to dry your car after you've washed it.

Using anything but a car washing formula to wash your car is asking for water spots on your car. In other words, don't use dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, or any other detergent not formulated especially for use on cars. 

Regardless of what you use to wash your car, always dry your car after you wash it, or else you'll be wondering how to remove water spots from a car every time you wash. Leaving beads of water on your car to dry is a recipe for water spots.

Now that you know what not to do, here's how to remove water spots from your car:

  1. Park the car in a shaded area. Bright sunlight heats the car's surface, making it difficult to rinse all the soap from your car before it dries. Bright sunshine will also make drying your car with a cloth more difficult.
  2. Rinse the car thoroughly to remove dust, grit and debris.
  3. Wash the car with the car washing soap according to the label directions. Make sure to use a clean, grit-free sponge in order to prevent scratches.
  4. Wash the car in small sections, rinsing often to prevent soap from drying on the car.
  5. When you've washed the entire car, rinse again thoroughly.
  6. Dry the car using chamois cloths or microfiber towels. Do not park in bright sunlight until the car is completely dry.

How to Prevent Water Spots Using Wax

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Car Washing Soap
  • Soft Sponge
  • Chamois Cloths or Microfiber Towels
  • Car Wax
  • Soft Cloths

The best way to prevent water spots is by applying a coat of wax to your car. The polymers in car wax compounds create a barrier between your car's finish and the elements, including hard water or acid rain. Applying a coat of wax periodically according to the wax's package instructions can preserve your car's finish and make it look better longer.

To apply wax to your car:

  1. Follow the above instructions for washing your car.
  2. Park the car in a shaded area. Bright sunlight will cause wax to haze more quickly, and may make it more difficult to remove.
  3. Dry the car thoroughly using chamois cloths or microfiber towels. Leaving any water on the car will prevent the wax from adhering well to the paint finish.
  4. Apply and remove the wax according to the label instructions. Use an applicator, if included, to apply the wax or a soft cloth. Remove the wax with soft cloths, discarding the cloths often to ensure that you are not wiping wax back on to the car's surface.

If, despite your best efforts, your car still has water spots, the culprit may be your water. Hard water is often responsible for water spots that are difficult to remove or prevent. If you do have hard water, it may be wise to install a water softener on your home's water supply. Water softeners can reduce the concentration of minerals such as calcium and iron in your water that can harden and cause spots when water from your water supply dries on your car. Unsure if hard water is to blame? A home water testing kit, available at most home improvement warehouses can clue you in, but a cheaper gauge of your water's mineral concentration is the fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen. If you're often scrubbing hard water stains from your sinks, faucets and other fixtures that come in contact with water, then you likely have hard water.