How Often Do You Clean Your Car?

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Photo: Erik Shilling

I’m talking about the car’s exterior.

When I was a kid, moms had rules about the interior. One of the big ones was, “Do not eat in my car you little shit.” Which is fair — kids are messy.

But I do not abide by that rule as an adult; eating in the car rules. As a result, I’m sure the interior of my car has crumbs on the floor. It doesn’t really smell so bad, I promise.

Anyway, I am here to talk about the exterior. In the Midwest and Northeast it’s important to keep the outside clean because road salt (and its succesor, rust), though in California where I am currently stationed, that isn’t much of an issue. Instead, what I have here in L.A. is black dust, which settles on the car if it is street parked for as little as a day.


I am told that an important social distinction in these parts is whether your car is clean on the outside — indicating that you are wealthy enough to have a garage, perhaps — or whether your car is goddamn filthy. Which my car was until this week, when I took it to a car wash and used the wand to wash it down. (It’s not advisable to go to the brushy car wash, but you knew that.)

A distinction between the East Coast and West Coast I’ve noticed — I live in New York City but am temporarily on the left coast — is that in NYC no one gives a shit what your car looks like, as long as it passes inspection. In the Midwest, where I grew up, people care even less; drive any dumb rustbucket that runs. In Southern California, I saw a guy buffing his 2003 Civic last weekend. Now, I appreciate a buffed old Civic as much as anyone, but also life is short.


So: How often do you clean (the exterior) of your car? Are you one of those people who babies it every weekend? Do you do a once-a-month sort of situation? Do you (gasp) never clean it? What’s the situation down south?