It can be really frustrating to wash your car only to find as you’re finishing up that there are water spots all over it.
There are several reasons you can end up with water spots on your car’s paint. Probably the most likely reason is that the water you used to wash your car is hard – meaning that it has a high amount of minerals dissolved in the water.
This is more appropriately referred to as total dissolved solids or TDS for short.
An aggravating factor for dealing with hard water and the resulting hard water spots is washing your car in direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause the water on your car to dry quickly. Evaporation will cause the water to leave behind the dissolved solids which are typically minerals.
You can have hard water with high TDS and if you wash and dry it quickly with a good microfiber towels or air dryer you can avoid water spots. If the sun dries it out before you get a chance to handle it yourself you’ll end up with spots.
Sprinklers can be culprits too. Parking near one inadvertently could cause a headache if it comes on while you’re away.
Last, rain can be the cause of water spots. Rain can pick up contaminants from the atmosphere or splash them up from the ground or other surroundings.
What’s worse with rain is that the contaminants could even be caustic (aka acid rain) and cause etching on the finish of your car if not dealt with quickly.
While all of this is great information to know it isn’t likely the reason you’re reading this article. You probably already have water spots on your car or truck and need to figure out the best way to remove them.
Continue reading to learn more about how to remove water spots as well as preventing them in the future.
Water Spot Remover
This is an obvious choice to solve this problem. A quality remover that is formulated specifically for use on cars and trucks will be safe for your clear coat but still do an excellent job and breaking down mineral deposits.
Meguiar’s Water Spot Remover is very popular and my choice for dealing with stubborn water spots in small spots.
If your vehicle is covered from bumper to bumper with water spots this isn’t going to be practical. While a bottle isn’t going to break the bank it might take more than one to cover an entire car, not to mention the effort required to do the entire vehicle by hand.
Waterless car wash spray
Start off by using a good quality waterless car wash. A waterless car wash spray is a great maintenance wash between regular washes. In this case it may be a simple and easy way to quickly remove water spots.
This will not always work since water spots tend to be fairly strongly adhered to the clear coat but you may find that it does the job well. It is especially true if your car is currently well protected with a good paint sealant or ceramic coating. Paint sealants and ceramic coatings do a good job of protecting your paintwork from mineral deposits sticking firmly to the finish.
If a waterless car wash spray doesn’t work then you will find out very quickly. If you purchase some waterless car wash specifically for this and it doesn’t work, you’ll be glad you have some on hand for other touchup cleaning jobs for your paint. It’s fairly inexpensive and very useful for helping keep your car looking sharp longer before needing to do a full wash.
Wash it . . . again
Often if you simply wash your vehicle you can easily remove water spots. This is also true if you just washed your car and got the water spots from not hand drying it quickly enough to prevent the sun from drying it first.
When rewashing your car or truck you’ll want to try to do so in a shaded area. You’ll also want to follow the proper car washing method. A car port is ideal but not possible for everyone.
Some shade from trees or a building will also do the trick as well. If you can’t find any shade you will probably have to resort to continually wetting down the areas of your vehicle that you haven’t yet dried as you wipe it down. This can be a bit of a hassle but it will work.
In the end, your goal is to dry your car with a microfiber towel or air dryer before the sun can do the job for you.
Remove water spots with white vinegar
Your next option that is quite effective at removing water spots is using vinegar. It’s simply a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and distilled water.
Before you run off to your kitchen to find some white vinegar and make a vinegar solution it is important to note that you should wash or rewash your car or truck first.
If you’ve discovered the water spots some time after washing your vehicle you need to ensure that dirt and debris have been removed from the surface or you run the high risk of creating swirls and scratches in your clear coat.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s pretty simple to use the white vinegar and distilled water vinegar solution mixture. Apply a little to a clean microfiber towel and gently use the moist towel to wipe away the spot.
Going hardcore with a clay bar
Good clay bars are designed to remove surface debris from your paint that is too firmly stuck on to be removed by simply washing your car or truck. Water spots fall into this category although they are quite small elements that have adhered to the surface of your clear coat.
If you’re not familiar with using a clay bar, it is very much like it sounds. It’s a bar of a particular kind of clay that is ideal for sliding across the surface of your vehicle and grabbing debris stuck onto the car or truck.
There are all kinds of things that can adhere to your finish that you often don’t even realize are there. To use a clay bar you need to apply a good clay lubricant to the surface. This will prevent the clay from sticking to the paintwork and allow it to glide across the finish.
When using a clay bar you typically want to avoid applying pressure and simply let the clay bar glide across and do the work. This doesn’t always work you may find that you need to apply some light pressure.
This is also true with particularly tiny surface debris and grime such as water spots. Large gunk like road tar and bug parts tend to be easier for a clay bar to grab onto and remove.
Going thermonuclear with polish
If none of the other methods have worked up to this point then you may be dealing with acidic rain that has etched into the clear coat.
Using a mild polish may be the only real way to solve the problem. A little polish and a good hand polishing pad could work for a small spot. If your car or truck is covered with these spots then you will likely need to invest in a quality random orbital polisher.
If you’re not familiar with how to use polish to remove imperfections in your clear coat you’ll want to check out our post titled “How To Polish A Car With A Orbital Buffer Fast”.
While polishers are more often used for removing swirls and scratches it isn’t uncommon for them to be used to deal with etching problems such as from acidic rain.
Preventing water spots
As we mentioned previously, drying your car prior to it drying due to evaporation is the first line of defense. Avoid direct sunlight and ensure that the surface of your car or truck is not very hot.
An option that some people try is using an inline water softener to lower TDS and get rid of the minerals and other dissolved solids in the water. These can be somewhat expensive and not practical for some people. It will however allow you to be far less concerned with washing in the sun.
Keeping a good coating of wax or paint sealant on your clear coat is ideal. If you maintain a good coating then the surface will be far less likely to allow anything, including hard water mineral deposits or acid rain from adhering.
Even if you do find that you somehow have water spots then they should be very easily removed.
Water spots on a car can be extremely unsightly and depending on the contaminants that make up the spots they can even be damaging. Removing them usually isn’t difficult but sometimes can be very stubborn to remove.
The good news is that except in some usually more rare circumstances, the spots can be removed without much trouble.
Since you never know what the spot material consists of you don’t want to risk them etching into your paintwork so removing them as quickly as possible is the best course of action.
Once you’ve successfully removed the water spots you’ll want to protect your finish from this happening in the future by washing properly and protecting your finish with a good paint sealant.
Hopefully this post has armed you with the knowledge you need to solve your water spot problem and prevent it from occurring in the future. Good luck!