How to Remove Water Spots from Car: Comprehensive Guide

As a car owner, you probably dread mud, tar, overspray, bugs, and other car paint irritants, but do you know that water spots could be as much damaging to the surface of your car?

These are normally minerals as well as other small particles and debris left when the water evaporates and they can not only harm the paint of your vehicle but also dull the finish.

After washing your car, or after your car gets rained on, it’s essential to get rid of those water spots if you want the paint to last a long time. We’re going to explore various effective ways of removing water spots from your car but before that, let’s briefly look at the various types of water spots you may have to deal with.

Water Spot Varieties:

1. Bonded particles

Particles from wood stove smoke, forest fires, construction site dust, and industrial plant emissions might fall on your vehicle’s surface and bond with moisture to torment the vehicle’s finish.

If there’s rain, and it turns out the rainwater has high amounts of sulfuric and nitric acid (these are absorbed from the atmosphere), the acids might blend with other contaminants like dust to create hard deposits once the water has evaporated. The acidic nature of these deposits might erode the vehicle’s clear coat if you don’t remove them appropriately.

2. Regular tap water spots

Tap water is typically full of minerals like calcium and magnesium. When you wash your car using tap water and leave the water droplets on there, the minerals in the water form limescale or rather hard chalk-like deposits that are unsightly and hard to remove.

3. Etching

When there’s too much heat in the atmosphere like when the sun is extremely hot, then water spots get baked into the vehicle’s surface.

That’s what is known as etching, and when it’s severe, then you might have to use an abrasive or perform wet sanding to rectify the situation. Using abrasives is a quite sensitive exercise, and as such, correcting etched water spots might need you to seek help from a professional detailer.

All right; now that you know where water spots come from, it’s about time we delved into removing them.

Various Methods of Removing Water Spots from Your Car

1. Washing

The most obvious way of getting rid of those water spots is to give the car a good wash and dry it. We bet you know how to wash your vehicle, but tips will make the exercise efficient and more fruitful.

Inline water softeners and potable deionizers are very effective when it comes to preventing the creation of water spots, but sadly, not everyone out there can afford them.

But don’t fret; there’s an alternative. Why not purchase some distilled water and use it for rinsing the car once you have washed and pre-rinsed it with the regular tap water?

That way, you will wash out the minerals and other particles in hard water that lead to spotting.

For a fine wash, you will need some warm soapy water for washing, perhaps a bucket. You will also need some warm water for rinsing the car, a hose, a washing mitt (you can buy this from Amazon), a sponge, and some microfiber drying towels.

Here are some tips for effective washing:

  • Wipe away the debris. Before you start washing the car, use a piece of cloth to remove all the loose particles/debris. That way, you will minimize the chances of scratching the finish during the wash.
  • Don’t wash it in direct sunlight. When you wash the vehicle in direct sunlight, the water evaporates quickly, allowing the quick creation of spots. Therefore, try washing the car in a shaded area.
  • Use a washing mitt that has long strands, so the debris is not ground into the vehicle’s surface.
  • Clean the wheels first. The wheels are obviously dirtier than the other surfaces, and you don’t want the dirt on them to splash to the clean upper surfaces.
  • Have a rinse bucket there with you. Get a rinse bucket and use the water to rid the mitt of dirt. You don’t want to keep redepositing the dirt you have washed out to other spots. Replace the rinse water suitably for this tactic to work efficiently.
  • Get many drying towels. You can’t rely on on the sun or the heat in the atmosphere to dry your car, as evaporation only enhances the creation of water spots. Thus, you need many microfiber towels for drying the car effectively.

2. Applying white vinegar

White vinegar contains acetic acid, which is very effective at removing hard water spots. The spots from hard water are normally slaked lime or rather calcium hydroxide, which is a base. The removal follows basic chemistry, where acids neutralize bases and vice-versa.

To remove the spots using white vinegar, you will need these items:

  • Regular white vinegar
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    Microfiber towels
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    A sponge
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    A bucket
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    Some distilled water


  1. Prep a vinegar solution by adding equal parts of distilled water and white vinegar into the bucket. The reason as to why we’re using distilled water is that it doesn’t contain minerals, and thus it doesn’t weaken the acid in the vinegar.
  2. Apply the vinegar solution to a small area on the car as a test. In a few seconds to a minute, the water spots on the area should start loosening and dissolving, and you should be able to remove the dissolved matter easily with a towel. Use some clean water to rinse the area then wipe it dry using another microfiber towel.
  3. Keep applying the vinegar solution to the water spots, allowing the solution to set in for a minute or two before wiping the spots gently with a towel then rinsing with water then drying with a clean towel. Ensure that you’re not rubbing the spots aggressively. Otherwise, you might scratch the finish.
  4. Reapply the wax or paint sealant. Why? It’s likely that the acids in the vinegar will remove the wax/paint sealant.

3. Clay detailing

You can use detailing clay to get rid of contaminants like dust and metal fragments that are present in water spots.

Detailing clay is especially great when it comes to removing water spots from the windshields and the windows. Nonetheless, realize that this product might not be able to remove mineral deposits effectively.

Here are the items needed for this method:

  • Clay lubricant in the form of a spray bottle or sprayer
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    Detailing clay
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    Microfiber towels


  1. Apply the clay lubricant to the area you’re focusing on. This prevents finish scratches as you move the detailing clay over the vehicle’s surface.
  2. Move the clay bar gently over the lubricated area. As you do this, the clay will capture the pollutants in the water spots.
  3. When a part of the clay bar gains some grit, fold the bar to uncover a clean portion and continue rubbing the car’s surface lightly to remove the spots.
  4. Once you’re done working on a particular section, wipe it down with a clean microfiber towel.

Professional spot removal products

If the water spots are very tough and you’re looking for something very effective and fast-acting, then you might want to consider a professional spot removal product.

Here are a few options:

  • Meguiar’s A3714 – meant for removing water spots on chrome, glass, and paint. Don’t use it on matte or satin finish and be sure to spot test it first. And by the way, it is safe for clear coats.
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    Eraser Spot Remover Gel – an acid mix that eliminates the mineral deposits that hard water leaves after evaporating. Effective for mirrors, windows, paint, and glass.

If you have tried all the water spot removal strategies described above without success, then your car is faced with extreme etching. Perhaps you never paid attention to the water spots, and over time, there was a significant accumulation of mineral deposits and other stuff, creating cavities in the finish. These cavities, in turn, attracted and retained water, making the water spots even worse.

In case you’re confronted with such a situation, the best thing you can do is have the vehicle’s surface scraped and by a professional. The paint and the wax should then be applied afresh.

Now that you know how to deal with water spots, how about you learn how to prevent them in the first place?

How to prevent water spots on car

Water spots are ugly, and we imagine you don’t want them. Try the following routine maintenance tactics to keep water spots at bay:

  1. Wash your car regularly – for the sake of saving water and time, you can use dry car washing products if the car is not considerably dirty and only wash it with water when it’s very dirty.
  2. Don’t air dry your car – after washing your car, use dry microfiber towels to dry the water. Relying on sunlight or heat will only cause evaporation and water will evaporate, leaving behind any particles it contained.
  3. Park your car in appropriate places – ensure your garage has a roof so that raindrops don’t hit it and so that direct sunlight doesn’t scorch it and avoid parking the car near overspray or sprinklers.
  4. Apply high-quality wax and sealants to keep the finish safe and looking nice.
  5. Use microfiber towels to dry the car – paper towels and other kinds of cloths typically leave lint and streaks when used for drying the car following a wash. To deal with the issue, use microfiber towels; they significantly reduce the chances of streaking as well as water spot formation.
  6. Wash the car in the shade – avoid waxing or washing your vehicle in direct sunlight because the heat from the sun will cause uneven drying and moreover, as the water evaporates, there is likely to be the formation of water spots. Therefore, park the car in the shade, like in the garage or under a tree and wash it from there.
  7. Install a water filtering device – even after observing the other tips, there might still be the formation of water spots if you’re using hard water to wash and rinse the car. The minerals in the hard water accumulate on the surface of the car, leaving limescale and forming spots. To counter that, install a filtering device to filter your entire home’s water or just the water used for washing vehicles.
  8. Avoid using jet water for rinsing – when rinsing the car, you might be tempted to use a jet or spray feature, so you’re done quickly but that promotes the formation of water spots. To prevent spotting from that, use free-flowing water to rinse the car.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are water spots?

Water spots refer to the trails that hard water leaves on your car. What normally happens is that the water evaporates, leaving behind the minerals it contains. These mineral deposits are the unsightly spots that you see on the trails.

2. What causes water spots on cars?

Mostly, it is hard water. But, drying the car inappropriately, like in direct sunshine, normally causes the formation of water spots.

3. How can I get rid of water spots from car windshield?

A paste of baking soda and vinegar should get them off. Apply the paste and let it sit for a little while, then scrub gently with a towel. Following that, wash away the paste, rinse the windshield, then dry it with a microfiber towel. You can use spin scrubber to remove spots from your car which occurred by water water drop.

4. How can I prevent water spots from forming on my car?

Avoid drying the car in direct sunshine and rather use clean microfiber towels to dry it. Also, try installing a water filter in your home to minimize the amount of mineral deposits.

Final Verdict

Water spots are caused by several factors, including rain, using hard water to wash the car, drying it in the sun, and so on.

Some folks might not view these spots as a serious issue but remember, left to sit there, they may etch into the vehicle’s surface, destroying the finish and the paint.

Why wait till it gets to that?

Use one of the methods we have discussed to remove water spots today and practice the prevention strategies we have explored.

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