We at Driving2Save would like to send our best wishes to everyone impacted by the wildfires that have plagued California, including our local communities on the South Coast. We know firsthand how difficult it can be to go through a devastating wildfire in your community.
As recovery begins, many of you may have questions regarding proper methods of cleaning up the ash and dust covering your homes. For information on home clean-up tips, check out city and county resources such as those posted by Santa Barbara and Ojai after the Thomas Fire.
There has been far less information posted on the best way to clean ash off your car, however, so we put together this Post/Public Service Announcement. If you have been affected by a wildfire, there is a good chance you will have ash all over (and inside) your car. So how do you clean it up safely and effectively?
There is no “how to” manual for cleaning ash off a car. So we put our scientific and research skills to work to help you figure it out. There are pros and cons to virtually every option. So, we’ve prioritized protecting your health and minimizing environmental damage. Our recommendations for cleaning ash off, and out of, a car are listed below:
Be Patient. Please wait for the ash to stop falling before you start cleaning.
We absolutely understand the desire to regain normalcy in our lives, but washing your car before the ash is done falling means that it will have to be done again, wasting time and money, and exposing you to health hazards unnecessarily.
The ash may contain harmful substances such as asbestos from burned homes and very fine particulate matter that can get into your lungs. Wear a properly fitted N95 mask and keep it on throughout the cleaning process.
Do not use a blower!
Using a leaf blower will spread the ash further, slowing the cleanup and spreading harmful particles around.
Gently brush off your car with a soft brush when winds are calm. Do so away from doors and windows if you can.
- For the exterior of your car, use a soft brush to gently wipe the ash off your car without scratching your paint. You could also use a soft towel. For ash on the ground, use a vacuum that contains a filter, a bag and hose (we recommend a HEPA vacuum if you have one) to vacuum up as much of the ash residue as possible.
- For the interior of your car, vacuum as much of the ash as possible using the same setup as above. Afterwards, clean the interior with a warm, moist rag to collect as much particulate matter as possible. Once complete, dispose of the rag.
- Afterwards, carefully dispose of the vacuum bag of ash by placing it in a sealed trash bag and then putting it into a trash can outdoors to prevent spreading the particles into your home.
Unfortunately, ash has the ability to get everywhere. After the car wash, check the door jams, under the hood, trunk/tailgate and gas cap to make sure that no ash is left behind to eat your paint. It took us more than two hours to clean all the ash out of each car that had been outside during the Thomas Fire.
Wash your car thoroughly at a commercial car wash.
Dry ash on your car is not extremely harmful to the paint, but as soon as it encounters moisture such as dew or fog, it can become acidic and damage your paint. While we normally advocate for waterless car wash, this is an exception. Take your car to a commercial car wash that recycles its water – the reverse osmosis system will filter out the particles, meaning that it will not wash into our rivers and ocean.
After the wash, we would advocate a wax to help protect the paint – it has had a tough time enduring all the ash and dirt. This would be a great time to use Aero Cosmetics Wash/Wax to ensure a properly clean and protected car.
If you have any questions about this piece or cleaning ash off your car, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out these online resources:
Please be safe.