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How to Remove Water Spots From a Car

Posted by Auto.com Staff | Jan 2, 2019

Water spots can make a car’s exterior look dirty. They are the result of natural minerals or debris found in water that stay on the paint after the water has dried. Though they can occur anywhere, it is more likely to see water spots in areas that have hard water. This is because hard water has a higher mineral content. These minerals are naturally occurring, but water stains are more likely to show up from tap water than rain water.

Water spots can show up anywhere on the vehicle's surface, including the car windows. Traditional window cleaner should be able to clear up any hard water spots on glass, though the hard water can etch into the glass given enough time.

Depending on the severity of the water spots on the car paint, you can sometimes simply wipe them off using a non-abrasive quick detailer spray or cleaner wax product and a microfiber towel. If the water spots have been present for a couple of days, they can be more difficult to remove. Your local automotive supply store will often have several types of products that can help eliminate water spots.

For the more DIY-minded individual, there are home remedies that will also clear up light to moderate hard water spots. Distilled white vinegar is often recommended. You can apply it with a spray bottle to the affected areas, and wipe it off with a towel made of microfiber.

It is important to make sure that the car’s surface is clean of other dirt and debris before wiping the car down. Even small dirt particles can scratch the paint if you aren’t careful. If in doubt, try washing the car's surface with a gentle car-specific soap, then rinse complete and dry with a chamois or a microfiber cloth. Once the car is clean, you can use a quick detailer spray or cleaner wax to clear up any remaining water spots.

If your car has suffered years of neglect in the hard water spot department, it is possible that the minerals found in the water has etched the paint.  This can occur if a car is parked near a sprinkler that runs frequently. If you find that the minerals have etched into the paint, you made need more than just a good wash. There are more advanced methods, such as a multi-stage wax and polish system that can remove surface water spots and restore paint. You can talk to the representatives at your local automotive supply store and see what products they can recommend for removing hard water stains.

If you aren’t sure what to do, or it feels like a bigger project than you can take on, it may be best to take your car to a professional automotive detailer. Detailers have the experience and know-how to get rid of pesky water spots, and make your car’s paint shine again. Once the water spots have been dealt with, regular car wash and waxing should help reduce the chance of it happening again.