No matter how new it is, a dirty car is not going to look its best. It’s a shame to spend money on a car you can be proud of, only to have it start to look old because it isn’t kept up, but it’s even worse to try and keep it clean and damage the finish in the process. Here are some tips to keep in mind so you can keep your car shining and looking new as long as possible.

Keep it clean – One thing is clear: The best way to get your car looking new is to maintain it all along. It’s much easier to keep that new look up than it is to restore it once things get grungy. Regular washing protects your paint because dead bugs, road tar, and tree sap can damage your paint. If you leave them on long enough, even bird poop and dirt can do harm. If you have access to a hose, wash any of those things off as soon as you notice them. If you live where you can’t clean off each intrusion, make a point of cleaning the car often so nothing stays on the paint for long.

Schedule regular car cleaning – Planning a regular time each week makes it easier to stick to the routine. First thing Saturday morning is good, but if you go to a car wash, lines may be long since a lot of people have the same idea. Maybe you can make it a habit to wash the car (or get it done) Thursday after work. That way you’ll always have a clean car ready for the weekend as an extra bonus.

Avoid scratching while cleaning – You already know better than to take your car through one of the old-style brush car washes, but the same kind of fine scratches can result from hand washing with a dirty sponge, rag., or even a paper towel. After all, it’s not that different from a fairly fine grit sandpaper if you are rubbing your paint finish with a gritty surface, even if it’s a soft one.  Use a clean sponge or cloth and rinse it with clean water often.

Use soap formulated for cars – Don’t risk damage to your car’s shine by using a household cleaner that is too harsh. This includes dish detergent. Even though it is imperceptible, every time you damage the finish a little bit, you move one step closer to a perceptible degradation in your car’s appearance.

Scrub from the top to the bottom – Since your car will be dirtier the further down you go, when you start at the top, you don’t risk spreading more dirt and grime onto areas that weren’t that bad to start with, and it doesn’t hurt that as soap and water runs down over the dirtier parts below, it starts rinsing them off wile while you work above.

Make sure you don’t waste your efforts to keep your car looking great by having rusty license plate fasteners or chipped up license plate covers. You won’t believe what a difference chrome license plate frames can make for brightening up your car’s appearance—get yours today!