How to Remove Water Spots on Your Car: Types Explained

Water spots are one of the most annoying things car owners have to deal with. Not only do they always seem to appear right after you’ve had your car cleaned, but they can also potentially damage your paint job.

Avoiding water is all but impossible, even if you manage to avoid every single rainy day, and take the utmost care while washing your car. All that has to happen for water spots to appear is for you to drive in front of a sprinkler.

But, it’s just water, how bad can it be? Well, it’s never “just water.” The water that drops on your vehicle may have come into contact with chemicals or sediments. As a result, it can contain various pollutants. Once the water droplets dry on your car, those materials remain on your car, resulting in a spot or stain.

Types of Water Spots

Truth be told, not all water spots are created equal. You can qualify these by following incremental degrees of washing. People often put water spots into two separate categories; type 1 and type 2.

Type 1

type 1 water spot

In type 1 we have water that was suspended for a period of time and evaporated, leaving behind a sediment or mineral. These suspended materials are referred to as total dissolved solids or TDS.

They are also known as hard-water stains which are similar to what you might see in your bathroom. The important thing to note here is that these minerals are on the surface of the paint.

Type 2

type 2 water spot

Type 2 water spots can also be type 1. The difference here is that the deposits on the surface also leave an etching in the finish. These etchings occur because the water that landed on your vehicle contained a corrosive substance. This corrosive substance dissolved a portion of the paint.

How to Remove Water Spots

So, now that you have these spots on your car, it’s about time you removed them.

You can always start by using a water spot remover or a detailing product. However, we also have some solutions for those who don’t have a remover or detailing spray on hand.

Washing Your Vehicle

If you have spots on your car, the first thing to do is a complete wash and dry. Chances are you know how to wash your vehicle. A two bucket wash is best and in most cases, any dried-on sediments will loosen and rinse off.

two bucket wash

Dealers will recommend using de-ionized water or in-line water softeners. This isn’t practical for most consumers and really isn’t necessary in order to remove water spots. If you are super concerned about this, consider buying distilled water from your grocery store for a final rinse.

Remember, evaporation is not in your vehicle’s best interest. That’s why the water spots happened in the first place. You should wash your vehicle in a shaded area, and dry your vehicle in the appropriate manner.

White Vinegar Bath

white vinegar

After washing your vehicle with the two bucket wash, there may still be mineral deposits. A simple solution of equal parts white vinegar and distilled water gently wiped over the spots will remove them. Vinegar works well for hard water spots because it can remove magnesium and calcium deposits.

Again, it’s important to do this after you wash and dry your vehicle. You don’t want to grind loose dirt into your paint causing additional problems.

Detailing Clay

detailing clay

After you’ve washed your vehicle, and tried the vinegar method, you may need to use detailing clay. The clay resin material will remove sediments left on the surface like metal particles, industrial pollution, brake dust, rail dust, and overspray. You should always use clay with a spray lubricant or detailing spray. This prevents the loose debris from scratching the surface even more.

When using clay to pick up particles you should knead it often. This ensures you’re using fresh clay each time. Once done, wipe the surface microfiber towels.

Is it Possible to Prevent Water Spots?

While water spots can be irritating, dealing with them isn’t too hard. However, we would still recommend protecting your car from water spots. The first line of defense we would recommend is always having a good coat of either sealant or wax on your paint job.

Also, don’t give the spots enough time to develop. Keep a microfiber towel in your car and clean it every time it gets wet.


Realistically, you can’t avoid getting your car wet. However, knowing how to treat these spots properly can definitely be a great asset. Especially since you can save some money by not having to pay a professional service to remove them.


Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.
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