Why Black Cars Are Hard to Keep Clean (And How to Fix It)

Black cars look great when they’ve been cleaned and wax, but most people find that it’s difficult to keep a black car actually looking clean and in good condition. But why?

In this article, I’ll be discussing why black paint is such a paint to keep looking clean, and what you can do to solve the problem. So let’s get started.

The Quick Answer

Black cars are harder to keep clean than other paint colors because they show dirt and dust easily, are more prone to water spots and scratches that can occur when washing are more visible.

Now let’s jump into these three points, and talk about the things you can do the fix them.

Looking for some great car cleaning products to keep your black car looking fresh? Make sure you check out my recommended products page for all my current top picks.

They Show Dirt and Dust Easily

One of the biggest issues with keeping black cars looking clean and shiny, is that they show dirt quite easily. A lot of people think that lighter colors show dirt more easily, however, it’s usually the darker colors that tend to highlight it the most.

Dust and dirt tend to dull the finish of dark paint more than lighter colors like grey and silver which hide it quite easily. So it’s pretty obvious when a black vehicle hasn’t had a wash in a good while.

Dust is the main enemy, particularly if you live in a dry and hot climate as it can settle very quickly, even in a matter of days after washing the car.

How to Fix It

Unfortunately, the only real way to solve this problem, is to wash the car more often. Which I know probably isn’t groundbreaking advice. It’s a good idea to wash your car every 1-2 weeks not only to keep it looking clean, but also to prevent things like corrosion over time.

If you don’t have time to properly wash the car, then consider hosing it down and driving it to dry it as a quick fix to slightly improve the overall look of the car. This works best if you have a good wax or sealant on the paint as dust and dirt won’t stick as hard.

Don’t be tempted to wipe the paint either with a quick detailer spray and microfiber towel, or any other type of equipment. This is extremely likely to cause scratches and swirl marks in the paint, which are a particular problem with black cars.

Instead, just wait until you have time to wash it properly. Also, don’t bother with automatic car washes, and the vast majority of hand washes, as they also are highly likely to scratch the paint using the wrong techniques and tools.

Check out this article to learn how automatic car washes can ruin the paint by causing swirls and scratches.

They Are Prone to Water Spots

This is perhaps one of the biggest gripes that black car owners have. Since the paintwork is so dark, water spots are a big issue for two reasons.

Firstly, they stand out on dark paint since they often look chalky and white. Secondly, black paint gets much hotter in the sun than lighter colors so the water evaporates much faster, therefore increasing the likely hood of water spots from occurring.

Water spots not only look ugly, but they can actually cause permanent damage to your vehicle’s paintwork.

The chalky residue left behind is actually just impurities in the water. Often, these impurities can be corrosive in nature, so if left to sit on the paint, can actually cause it to wear away. This is known as water spot etching.

How to Fix It

Dealing with water spots is actually relatively straightforward, and the best thing you can do is try and prevent them as removal is definitely more of a challenge.

Of course, working quickly after washing the car to dry it again is the obvious one. Same with avoiding washing the car in direct sunlight. So try and wash the car either in the shade, or early in the morning or later in the evening. Applying a wax or sealant also will slow down the evaporation process, and prevent water spot etching.

I’ve written a full article on 9 effective ways to prevent water spots, so check it out if you’re looking for some tips.

If you’re one of unfortunate people that already has water spots on your car, then don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to deal with them effectively and permanently.

I’ve also written an article on 6 methods to remove water spots and etching, so take a look if you’re struggling to tackle them.

Scratches and Swirl Marks Are Obvious

Have you ever noticed really fine scratches that kind of look like spider webs or swirls on a car’s paint? These are clear coat scratches that are 9 times out of 10, caused by washing the car.

These scratches and swirls are very obvious on black cars because they often look white in direct sunlight, so they stand out compared to white and silver cars. Here’s an example.

Your car’s clear coat is very delicate, and friction when washing the car is the most likely culprit of scratches. Not only do they look terrible in direct sunlight, but they can also cause the paint to look dull in all levels of lighting.

How to Fix It

You can avoid inflicting this kind of clear coat damage all together by washing the car properly. This means using a proper wash mitt, rather than a sponge, and using a microfiber drying towel instead of a bath towel to dry it. There are actually loads of different things you can do to make sure your car doesn’t get these scratches.

Never take your car to an automatic car wash, and be careful with hand wash stations as they often use poor technique and tools to clean the car very quickly. Instead, take around 30 minutes to clean the car properly yourself and the paintwork will thank you for it.

Check out these 11 Tips to Wash a Black Car

If you’ve noticed that your car already has scratches and swirls (pretty much every vehicle does), then you can correct the paintwork in a few steps.

Take a look at this complete guide to making your car look shiny to learn everything you need to know.

More Frequently Asked Questions

Don’t worry if you still need some more answers. This next section goes into all the most commonly asked questions about keeping a vehicle look its best.

How do you wash a black car properly?

Washing a black car properly starts with a thorough pre-wash using a snow foam to remove as much dirt as possible before touching the paint. Then the paint should be washed from top to bottom using a microfiber wash mitt and good quality car shampoo, making sure to rinse the mitt every time it looks dirty using a hose. The paint should then be rinsed and dried gently with a clean, plush microfiber towel.

Can you take a black car through an automatic car wash?

Automatic car washes are highly likely to cause scratches which are very noticeable on black paint. The harsh, dirty brushes they use cause damage to the clear coat making the car look duller. Washing the car by hand and taking more care and time will prevent these scratches.

Why do black cars scratch so easily?

Black cars do not scratch any more easily than other paint colors, but the scratches are more obvious because they look white so contrast against the black paint.

What is the best car color to keep clean?

Grey and silver cars are usually easier to clean than white paint or darker colors because they hide dirt and dust more easily, and are less prone to water spots than dark colors. Grey and silver cars also hide clear coat scratches that can occur during the wash process more than black cars.

Take a look at this complete comparison of which car colors are easiest and hardest to keep clean for some more information!

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the website to learn everything you need to know about keeping your car looking its best.

Check out the Auto Care HQ YouTube Channel



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 autocarehq.com and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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