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How to wash your truck or car during the winter to protect from salt damage.

If you’re reading this, then you’re one of the smart ones out there who is looking for a solution to keep your truck or car rust free through the harsh winter months. Good on you! The winter adds all sorts of complications to your normal wash routine. Being a Michigan based truck soap company means this is our forté, so we’ve got your back!

Snow melting wintertime road salt treatments like liquid calcium chloride and other harsh chemicals can cause rust to your metal surfaces and spread all over before you know it! It’s important to stay on top of salt removal as much as humanly possible. How often does this mean you should be washing your truck? This may sound biased, or like it’s our way of trying to get you to use more chemicals so we get you to come back sooner (it’s not), but honestly we wash our trucks multiple times a week. If you like to live life on the edge and are a fan of gambling on your paint job, then the bare minimum we’d recommend for time between washes would be 3 weeks.

You’re probably thinking, “Easy for you to say, you’ve got a nice indoor wash bay to wash in.” And to that we say, “Ok, fair point.”
But even if you’re washing outside, we have tips to help make your winter wash easier and less painful.

Don’t want to read the whole article? Skip to the end for our quick list of tips and tricks.

Alright, let’s start with public enemy #1… ROAD SALT!

Why Is Salt So Bad For Your Truck??
close up showing rusted out paint job

The short answer? Because it’s corrosive. What does that mean for your paint, metals, and everything else? RUST. Since salt is highly abrasive, the friction of salt rubbing on your paint can lead to micro scratches all over your vehicle. That salt will also corrode bare metal, leading to rust issues coming from behind your paint. And if you have chips in your paint, that salt can get through to metal and start a world of rust issues. YIKES!

This can mean damage to your undercarriage, brakes, exposed metals, paint and other parts of your vehicle exposed to the snow, ice, and road salt.

I mentioned how abrasive salt is a few moments ago for a reason. If your truck was covered in dirt, would you wash it with a mitt or brush before knocking that dirt off? Hopefully your answer is no. The same applies to dealing with salt. When you brush or mitt your soap onto painted surfaces, you risk smearing those abrasive salt particles into your clean coat. You don’t want a scratched up paint job, right?

The easiest and less abrasive way to clean off that corrosive salt is by using 2-step touchless wash soaps. The chemical reaction of these two soaps neutralizes the corrosiveness of ice melting road salt. In addition to neutralizing the salt, this same chemical reaction also breaks the static bond that makes dirt and grime stick to your paint, making it easy to pressure wash off without ever taking a brush to your paint.


Ice Cleats
ice cleats
If you have to wash outside in the snow and ice, ice cleats are an absolute MUST HAVE. I first learned about these when I lived in South Haven, MI and walked out to the lighthouse at the end of the pier in the dead of winter every single day. The ice was treacherous to say the least and one misstep (without cleats) meant the risk of sliding into frozen lake water. No thanks!

“Ok, great unrelated story about snowy lighthouse piers, but what does this have to do with washing trucks???”

On days when your outdoor truck wash setup is as slick as an ice skating rink, the little teeth on your ice cleats will help keep you from slipping and busting your butt. Even on days when there isn’t existing ice on the ground, you’re going to be spraying water all over the place. All that water then hit’s the cold ground and freezes. Now you’ve got that hard-to-see black ice that just looks like wet ground.

You’re not going to be washing any trucks if you slip and bust your hip. Invest in some quality ice cleats. You’ll thank me later.

We don’t even sell these, so hopefully you can tell by now, I’m not just trying to sell you on stuff. Pick some up from your local Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, or that online shopping site named after a rainforest.


Water Proof Outerwear
Staying warm and dry is a mandatory part of washing any vehicle outdoors during the winter months. Gloves, hats, ear muffs, long johns, boots… the whole works. If you’re a serious professional, you’ve probably already got this stuff, but it’s important to mention.

Keep your hands toasty warm and dry with some neoprene ice fishing gloves. These things are A LIFE SAVER. Having a quality pair of water proof gloves gives you the dexterity you need to properly handle your pressure washer lance in those frigid conditions.

If you need full body gear, check out Work ’N Gear’s selection of waterproof pants, jackets, overalls, and more.

Once again, here I am referring you somewhere else to get what you need. But we’re a soap company, not a waterproof outerwear company. So, it is how it is.


Here’s our list of tips and tricks for washing through the Winter.
How to wash a truck in the winter tips and tricks1. Before the snow starts falling, it’s important to decontaminate your painted surfaces and wheels with a quality Iron Remover. Micro iron particles embed themselves in your clear coat and cause rust. You know what makes that rust worse? Salt. So use Iron Remover to melt those iron particles, then coat your vehicle with our Wax Replacement for protection.

Which brings us to the next point…

2. Possibly the most important tip of this list: Use some sort of sealant to protect your paint job like our foam-on/rinse-off Wax Replacement. Having a protective coating on your car or truck means that salt has a harder time corroding your surfaces. Having this hydrophobic protection also means your vehicle will come out cleaner after a touchless wash. Re-apply after every thorough wash job to increase the protections longevity.

3. If you have to wash outside, pick a day when the weather is warmer than 30°F, and if possible, the sun is out.

4. Wear warm / waterproof clothing. Especially gloves!

5. Wash with cold or lukewarm water. Pressure washing with hot water actually causes the water to freeze quicker. (Science is weird)

6. Use 2-Step wash soaps like our Touchless 1 & 2 to neutralize road salt and avoid washing by hand to reduce friction aka scratches.

7. Although we recommend washing with cool temperature water, you can use hot water to pre-rinse large chunks of ice buildup.

8. Work in smaller sections than you normally would during the warmer months. You DO NOT want soaps to dry (or freeze) on your vehicle surface. If soaps dry or freeze, you should be able to re-activate it by wetting it with your pressure washer lance and continuing to rinse until gone. Worse case scenario, you may need to agitate with a brush, but the water should loosen it up and do the trick.

9. Salt can ruin a well polished aluminum job overnight! If you run a polished truck through the snowy states, we strongly advise washing well with our Touchless 1 & 2 after you come in off the road to protect polished metals.

If washing outside is starting to sound more like a hassle than anything else, you may be considering setting up your own wash bay. We can help with that! Click here to sign up for a free consultation and we'll give you a custom solution that fits your needs. 

If you made it all the way to the bottom of the article, THANK YOU. I really hope all the time I put into this article helps you keep your vehicle maintained through the winter months. If you'd like to pick up some Touchless 1 & 2 to keep your ride clean through the winter, use code WINTERWASH to save 15% at checkout. (Does not apply to 5 gallon option)

If you have any questions at all, click the chat bubble in the bottom right corner of the page here and send us a message. We love hearing from you guys and will always get back to you. 

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