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Get your car sparkly-clean, lower your environmental impact, and discover a new use for toothpaste in this car wash episode of How to Adult!

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Today on How to Adult, we're going to talk about how to wash the exterior of your car. Here in Missoula, Montana- and probably many other places- it only really takes one spring day of parking under a tree to trigger the sticky pollen-aphid poop-ocalypse.

And if you're extra lucky, the birds will have also generously fertilized your windshield, or maybe a massive forest fire contributed to a chunky layer of tree ash onto your auto. But even if you're driving around in, like, a pristine beautiful empty world with no birds or plant-life, or forest fires your car is shedding little bits of itself onto itself in dust-form. There is no way to keep things clean in this world.

We're just going to have to go around cleaning and organizing until the heat death of the universe. But that's okay! Because on a hot sunny day, cleaning your car's exterior is one of the more entertaining cleaning endeavors to take on.

 #1 Automated vs. Hand-wash (0:54)

The first choice you're going to make on the road to a sparkly-clean car, is whether you're going to do it yourself, or go to an automated car wash. An automated car wash is going to be the fastest route, and the latest car washes are very good at avoiding scratching paint. From an environmental angle, they're required to send your oily soapy water to a water treatment facility and they often use less water than a hand-wash.

They're also kind of magical. Like, if there were some service that dragged me through a soapy hurricane of white noise every evening, I would consider that.

However, there are reasons to hand wash as well.  This video would be awfully short if there weren't. Hand washing gives you more control. If you know there's a sweet decal on the side of your truck that might come off, you've got specific products that you love, or you're worried about getting little-swirl marks from a bad automatic car wash, you should consider hand washing.

It's also a good group activity. If an automatic wash can be a lonely magical hurricane, a hand wash can be a party! And finally, depending on how often you do it and how affordable your tastes are, hand-washing can save you money.

 #2 Take Care of Your Water (1:53)

So assuming you want to hand-wash, first take care not to let your contaminated water run into storm drains or water sources. It can be easy to take clean drinking water for granted when it magically appears from the tap, but holy crap is it important that to protect our water sources if we're going to survive as a species. Park your car in grass or some gravel away from any storm drains, and at the end of your wash pour your dirty water from your bucket into the toilet.

Consider buying eco-friendly soap, and a nozzle to put on your hose to waste less water. You can also kind of go halfsies and go to a coin-operated car wash. This has the benefit of using the least amount of water according to a 2002 Report for the International Carwash Association (which is apparently a thing), and you don't have to worry about where your water is going.

 #3 Tires! (2:35)

Now, for the actual car washing part, turn up the tunes and start with the wheels. Fill up one clean bucket with water and either tire cleaner or a gentle dish soap, or purchase a spray-on wheel cleaner.

Fill another clean bucket with water to rinse with. Grab a tire brush or a cloth dedicated to tires. Your tires are going to be super dirty, so you don't want to use the same cloth on the tires as the body of the car.

Then, spray down your first wheel with pressurized water to rinse off brake dust and grime. Take your brush or cloth and destroy that dust with your mighty car-washing muscles, take care to rinse off your brush or cloth in the rinsing bucket when it gets too dirty, and change that rinsing water when that gets too dirty, 'cause it's going to get dirty. Rinse off your soap, and dry with a microfiber cloth, chamois, or soft terry cloth towel. And repeat until all of your tires are sparkly.

 #4 The Main Event: Body Wash (3:21)

Now for the main event: washing the body and the chrome. Clean out the buckets out that you used for your tires, and prepare them with car shampoo and water for the wash bucket, and just water for the rinse bucket.

Grab some car mitts, chamois, or microfiber cloths for washing, and microfiber cloths, chamois, or terry cloth towels for drying. The car is generally dirtier at the bottom- also, you want the dirt to fall downwards, and so you clean up here, pushing the dirt down- so start at the top, work your way down.

Begin by giving your car a thorough rinse with water from your hose or coin-op sprayer to get rid of some of that initial loose dirt. You want to eliminate as much of the grittiness as possible to avoiding scratching your paint.

Then use the two bucket technique to soap up small overlapping sections of the car, taking care to rinse out the dirt out after each section. Repeat that whole-car rinse to wash off the soapy mixture. If you're looking for a particularly deep clean, maybe you're about to sell your car, maybe you just want to impress the world, you can repeat the soap and rinse steps.

Finally, dry off your car. Air drying will result in water spots, so use a cloth if you want it to look super nice, which I assume you do 'cause you're washing your car.

 #5 Headlights (if they need it) (4:24)

Clean your headlights! If your car is a little older- a little long in the tooth, a little grayer on the temples, your headlights might not be all that they used to be. And while cleaning the body of your car feels nice and looks good, having bright headlights might be the difference between you seeing or not seeing something in the road. And that's important.

After you've washed and dried them in the previous step, mask off the surrounding area with masking tape. You're going to be buffing the headlight with toothpaste- which is a gritty substance. There's actually, like, little rocks, tiny, like, pieces of sand in toothpaste- and we've been avoiding rubbing grit on the car in all of our previous steps. Then add a glob of toothpaste to a damp clean cloth and buff the plastic in a circular motion until you've seen some improvement.

Now that your car is a beautiful shining metallic cuboid on the outside, check out our automotive playlist to learn how to clean the interior of your car, do some basic maintenance, and many more things auto. Now for the actual washing part, turn up the tunes and start the wheels.

Oh. [laughter]. Star- Turn up the tunes, and just... drive the car. Into a lake. [laughing] Grab some car mitts, chamois [Hank pronounces it: sham-WAH].

Chamois [Hank pronounces it: sham-OICE]. I'm not really sure how to say that word. A moist sham-oice. [laughter].

There' something else... there's something else that... Oh! The sham-wow. Because it's a sham-wah, and this was the sham-wow.

S-H-A-M-W [Howjsay

Speaks:] "Shammy as in the cloth, sham-WAH as in the animal." [audible gasps]. Did he say shammy!? [off-screen, incredulous] Yeah [EXPLETIVE BLEEPED] J said shammy. I gotta fix something. [off-screen] You've gotta go back. I said that wrong before.

Work it- this.. what's- what's this called? Again? Sarah? [Sarah] Down!

Yeah, okay. Your headlights might not be wha- Oh pffffttt. [laughter]. I felt good about that.