How Often Should you Wash Your Car in Winter?

Washing your car in winter can be a pretty big challenge. The temperature is low, and your car is filthy. There’s grit salt, ice, snow and rain to contend with. But it’s still super important to keep your car clean and protected so the finish stays looking slick and shiny for years to come.

So how often should you be washing your car in winter to keep it looking clean and well maintained?

In this article, I’ll be answering this important question and talking about exactly how to safely wash your car in winter to avoid damaging your car’s clear coat. So let’s get started.

How Often Should a Car be Washed in Winter?

As a general rule, a car should be washed at least monthly in winter. This is important to stop grit salt and dirt bonding to the paint and causing damage and corrosion. For best results, it is recommended to wash the car twice a month to keep the paint in the best condition possible.

Washing in Winter is Super Important

Washing your car in Winter is essential if you want to keep your car’s finish looking good for as long as possible. In fact, washing your car when it’s been exposed to the Winter elements is even more important than washing it in Summer.

In winter, your car’s paint, wheels and glass are subject to loads more abuse than in Summer. For starters, it rains more. When you drive through puddles or at high speeds, this dirty rain water coats your car in grime and grit.

The salt on the roads also bonds to your car and can lead to corrosion over time if not properly removed.

What Happens if You Don’t Wash Your Car in Winter

There are a few things that can happen if you don’t keep your car clean in Winter.

Grit salt and dirt can bond to your car’s surface. If left for too long, they won’t be removed through routine washing and can corrode the finish over time. If this happens, you’ll need to use a clay bar to remove these bonded contaminants.

It goes without saying that the winter rain and snow can make your car look pretty ugly too. Not only does your paint end up looking filthy, but your windows will too. This can be dangerous and seriously affect visibility.

So How Often Should You Wash?

You should wash your car at least once a month in Winter, preferably every 1-2 weeks if you have time. This is especially true if you drive your car daily, or if the weather has been particularly bad.

If you don’t have time for a full wash, then make sure you wash the windows at least every couple of weeks to make sure that your visibility when driving isn’t impaired.

Washing your car in Winter can take longer than usual because it’s much dirtier. But it’s really important to make sure you don’t rush the process.

When you rush the wash process, you risk damaging the clear coat and inflicting minor scratches and swirls. This is especially true when your car is dirty.

Scratches occur in the wash process when improper lubrication or tools are used, or when the car is very dirty. Whenever you touch your car’s paint with your wash mitt, you run the risk of grinding the dirt into the clear coat and incurring scratches and swirls.

This can also happen when drying the car if it’s not completely clean. You’ll end up rubbing the grit and dirt into your car’s paint.

How to Safely Wash Your Car in Winter

Luckily, these scratches and swirls can be avoided if you follow these steps to safely wash your car in Winter and keep it looking super shiny and protected despite the terrible weather.

Wash the Wheels

If you wash the wheels after the paint, then you run the risk of dirt splashing up on your freshly washed paint, so it’s best to do this first.

Firstly, I give the tires a scrub with an all purpose cleaner/ dedicated tyre cleaner and a hard bristle brush and then clean the arches with the all-purpose cleaner and a stiff brush.

Then I use a microfiber wash mitt clean the alloys with a dedicated wheel shampoo.


To avoid grinding dirt into your paint, it’s a good idea to try and remove as much of it as possible before actually using your wash mitt. This is where the pre-wash comes in.

If the car has a thick layer of mud then use a pressure washer with a fan extension to remove as much dirt as possible. Spend at least 5 minutes rinsing your car down and getting rid of the majority of the grit and grime.

Then use a foam cannon to coat your car in snow foam. Let it sit on the surface for a few minutes and then thoroughly wash it again. If you want to learn more, then check out this article I’ve written about snow foam cannons.

Wash the Paint and Windows

Next, I use the snow foam cannon to cover the car in car shampoo so the paint is well lubricated. I use separate microfiber wash mitts and buckets to wash the paint and wheels to avoid cross-contamination.

Then I use a microfiber wash mitt to wash the roof of the car and the windows. I’ll then move onto the bonnet and front of the car.

It’s important to keep checking your wash mitt when washing a very dirty car to make sure you’re not grinding dirt into the paint. Every time you wash a small section, either swap your mitt for a new one, or hose it down properly/ rinse it in a bucket.

Ensure your wash mitt is full of suds at all time and the paint surface is well lubricated. Never let it dry or you’re much more likely to inflict clear coat damage.

I wash the sides of the car next, and then the back finally. Then I’ll give it a good rinse down. If it was particularly dirty, then I’ll go over it again with a fresh wash mitt to make sure I’ve not missed any sections.


Always use a plush, freshly washed microfiber towel to dry your car. I find that getting it slightly damp helps it to collect more water. Instead of wiping the finish, I prefer to lightly press the towel onto the surface. This way you reduce the risk of inflicting swirls and scratches.

Check out this complete guide to washing your car without causing scratches.

Key Points

Okay, so let’s wrap things up with some final considerations.

  • It’s super important to regularly wash your car in winter to prolong the life of your car’s paint.
  • You’ll need to wash your car more frequently if you drive it often or store it outside where it’s more exposed to the elements.
  • Washing your car every 1-2 weeks is optimal in winter. If you can’t wash it this often, try and wash it monthly, and keep the windows clean at all times between washes.
  • Never rush the wash process. It’s better to wash a car less often and safely, than wash it frequently with improper technique where you can inflict scratches in the clear coat.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog to learn more about keeping your car looking its best.



Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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