How to Remove Wildfire Ash from Your Car’s Exterior

Need Auto Detailing Services in Washington?

Need Auto Detailing Services in Los Angeles?

Subscribe to Our Blog

Newsletter Sign Up

virtual diagnostic serviceHave a question about your car but don't want to take it to the shop and pay hundreds for a diagnostic? Try our virtual diagnostic service today!

Share this Article
How to wash ash off car

The 2022 wildfire season has been one of the most destructive and expensive on record for the west coast. As of early September, over 350,000 acres have been scorched in California alone. Oregon and Washington have also seen significant damage.

If you live in an area affected by wildfires, you may have noticed a layer of ash on your car’s exterior. It may not seem like a big deal, but that layer of wildfire ash can actually damage your car’s paint if left untreated. The problem is that ash has an abrasive nature, making it difficult just to wipe away.

So, how do you remove wildfire ash from your car’s exterior without damaging the paint? Here are a few tips: 

1. Rinse Away the Ashes

Rinse away ashes from your car thoroughly

This is the most important step in the ash removal process. You’ll want to rinse your car soon after the ash has fallen to prevent it from bonding with and damaging the paint.

The best way to rinse away wildfire ash is with a hose fitted with a spray nozzle. Ash becomes especially corrosive when mixed with water and left to sit on the paint. Therefore, you should use a high-pressure setting to remove the residue quickly.

Start from the top of the car and work your way down. This will prevent the ash from being redistributed and make the rinsing process more efficient. Be sure to rinse under the hood, in all crevices, and around badges and emblems. Rinse the wheels, and the tires last.

2. Wash With a pH Neutral Car Wash Soap

Wash away ash with ph neutral soap

Once you have rinsed away much of the surface ash, it’s time to wash your car as you normally would. However, you should not use just any detergent. Wildfire ash is highly acidic, so it can etch into the paint if you use a car wash soap that is not pH neutral. This can permanently damage your car’s paint more susceptible to future corrosion.

Ph neutral car wash soaps

To be safe, only use a car wash soap designed explicitly for pH neutrality. You can find these solutions at most auto parts stores. Avoid using any kind of sponge or cloth that could scratch the paint when washing your car. A soft, microfiber cloth or wash mitt is your best bet. Once you have washed your car, rinse it off thoroughly. 

3. Apply a Coat of Wax

Apply a coat of wax into your car

After removing all the ash and rinsing away any soap residue, it’s time to protect your car’s paint from future ash falls. A great way to do this is by applying a fresh coat of wax. Car wax creates a barrier between the paint and the environment, including ash, dirt, and other contaminants. 

Before you begin the waxing process, quickly inspect your car for any leftover ash residue. Any ash that is left on the surface will become embedded in the wax, which will be much more difficult to remove.

To apply wax by hand, you’ll need a foam applicator pad and a clean, dry microfiber towel. Start by using a small amount of wax on the applicator pad. Then, spread it onto one section of the car at a time. Once the entire vehicle is covered, allow the wax to dry for the recommended amount of time before buffing it off with your towel. 

4. Hire a Professional Detailer

Mobile car detailing

If you don’t have the time or are uncomfortable removing the ash, you can always hire a professional detailing service. However, you should ask about their experience cleaning ash specifically. Some detailers may not be familiar with the process.

A qualified professional detailer will have the proper tools and products to remove the ash without damaging your car’s paint. They can also be able to provide a thorough cleaning, inside and out. This includes vacuuming the ash out of the crevices, nooks, and crannies.

Some detailers, such as Big’s Mobile, will even come to you. This can be especially convenient if you live in an area still affected by a wildfire’s aftermath.

The Wrap Up

Although wildfire ash can wreak havoc on your car’s paint, it doesn’t need to be a cause for alarm. Following the steps above, you can quickly and efficiently remove the ash. Just be sure to act quickly and avoid letting the ash sit on your car’s surface for too long.

The steps to remove wildfire ash from your car’s paint are as follows:

  1. Rinse Away the Ashes
  2. Wash with a pH Neutral Car Wash Soap
  3. Apply a Coat of Wax

If you need to remove wildfire ash from your car and would rather not do it yourself, Big’s Mobile is here to help. Throughout our years of experience, we’ve detailed all sorts of vehicles, including those covered in wildfire ash. Our team of professional detailers knows what it takes to get your car looking shiny and new again.
To learn more about our mobile detailing services or to schedule an appointment, contact us today. We look forward to serving you!

Share this Article
Posted in


These blogs are meant purely for education and demonstration purposes. It contains only general information and may not account for specific issues related to your particular vehicle or situation. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Read full disclaimer.

virtual diagnostic serviceHave a question about your car but don't want to take it to the shop and pay hundreds for a diagnostic? Try our virtual diagnostic service today!

  • Auto Detailing Services in Washington

    Our online booking system is meant to make your life easier. Take a look at our availability and schedule a detail at your convenience!