This post will explain how water spots are formed, how to remove them, and how to prevent future water spots from forming.

HOW WATER SPOTS FORM

Water spots form when tap water is not dried quickly enough on a paint surface or glass. Water from garden spigots or lawn sprinklers typically contains various minerals and chlorine. This kind of water is commonly referred to as “hard” water because of the hard minerals found in the water. If a car is not dried quickly enough, then these minerals and other particles will be left behind on your glass or paint’s surface, leaving marks and spots that can’t be removed with a car wash.

PREVENTING WATER SPOTS

To prevent water spots, you must dry your car, truck, or SUV as quickly and thoroughly as possible, especially if washing and drying in direct sunlight. There are several ways you can do this.

Drying In Shade

If available, park your car somewhere with plenty of shade before you hand wash your car. If nothing, this sure helps beat the Los Angeles heat!

Parking your car in the shade will cool your car’s paint, making the paint harder and as a result, more difficult to scratch. Avoid washing and drying your car in direct sunlight because paint softens when heated, making it easier to scratch.

Drying in the shade will also give you a bigger window of opportunity to dry your car entirely versus toweling off in sunlight because the water on your car’s surface evaporates less quickly when you park your car in the shade.

If You’re Going To Wash And Dry In Direct Sunlight, Then Wash And Dry Your Car 1 Panel At A Time

Wash and dry your car one panel at a time, starting at the top and working your way down. For vehicles with large roofs and hoods, wash and dry one half first (driver or passenger side), then wash and dry the other half afterwards.

Try to avoid spraying soap or water on the panels that you’ve already dried. If you get a previously cleaned panel wet, then quickly wipe the panel dry. You can lay down or drape clean microfiber towels over completed areas to avoid overspray. This method gives you enough time to individually dry small sections of your car without leaving any missed spots or going over the same spot twice, ensuring a complete drying process.


Wash your car anywhere and using ANY water source, even just a bucket of water, with this portable 18 volt Ryobi washer.

Use Distilled Or Purified Drinking Water To Rinse

Another way to prevent water spots on your car is to wash and rinse with distilled, de-ionized, or purified drinking water. If you use any of these types of water for your hand car wash, then you won’t get water spots because minerals that can stain your paint or glass aren’t present in the water used.


The CR Spotless DI-120 hooks up to your regular garden hose and filters hard minerals from the water. You’ll need to replace the resin filter once a year.

Use A Waterless Car Wash Solution

If you don’t use water to wash your car, then you won’t get water spots. Waterless formulas like Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax will not leave behind permanent water spots because there are no hard minerals present in the wash formulas.


Meguiar’s waterless wash product doesn’t leave water spots and has a high gloss, natural wax finish.

REMOVING WATER SPOTS

Items required:

Hand Wash & Hand Dry Your Car

It’s generally not a good idea to do any of the following in direct sunlight.

First, give your car a gentle but thorough hand wash with car wash soap. Then, using one of the steps mentioned above for water spot prevention, thoroughly dry your car.

Clean Your Vehicle With Car Detailing Clay

Use a detailing clay like Meguair’s Detailing Clay to clean your paint’s surface. If claying in direct sunlight, then you must work one panel at a time (half a hood, half of the roof, and etc).

First, knead the clay into a palm sized flat circle. You can put the clay in a zip lock bag and put the bag in warm water to make the clay easier to work with.

Next, spray a liberal amount of detailer spray on one panel of your paint’s surface. This will be used as lubricant for the clay. Alternatively, water can be used as a lubricant too.

Afterwards, gently glide your kneaded clay across the surface of your paint’s surface with permanent water marks. Don’t put any extra pressure. This will take off some light water marks because car detailing clay shears paint. If your water marks have been removed, don’t stop yet – proceed to polish your paint to ensure a perfectly smooth surface for wax or sealant application.

Polish The Water Spots

If any water spots remain, then you’ll have to polish these spots. Even if there aren’t any water spots left, you should still polish your paint because clay shears your paint in an uneven manner. Polishing guarantees a perfectly level surface for a superior shine and an optimal bonding surface for your wax, paint sealant, or ceramic coating. Polishing in direct sunlight is generally not a good idea.

Using the least aggressive polishing product you have available (if you have both a Polish and a Rubbing Compound, this means start with Polish first, next move to compounding, then finish up with polish again), hand polish the spots of your paint that have water spots. Work your polishing product onto an applicator pad or a microfiber towel and gently rub it onto and into your paint’s surface.

If a hand polish isn’t enough, then you’ll need to polish your paint with a machine polisher like a Flex XC3401VRG. After you’ve completely polished the water spots, your paint will be smooth and ready for sealing.

Make sure to fully wipe away any remaining polish that might be on your paint or stuck in between doors, side mirrors, and trunk jambs when inspecting your work. Avoid allowing polish to dry on your paint. Some defects are stubborn to remove so be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time polishing and buffing dry your vehicle.

Seal Your Car’s Paint

Your paint has been corrected and is now ready to be sealed. Seal your car’s surface with a wax, sealant, or ceramic coating and you’re good to go! If you know anyone who has water spots they’d like to remove, then please pay it forward by sharing a link to this page. Thank you!

Categories: Exterior