3 Solutions to get rid of pesky water spots on your car

Because we all want that squeaky-clean look
by Joey Bernardez | Sep 13, 2019
PHOTO: Joey Bernardez

Water spots on car paint jobs—ugh!

It’s bound to happen sooner or later, unless you’re one of those people who live and breathe car polish. In that case, this article isn’t for you. This article is for us mere mortals who struggle to keep our cars looking good.

But really, there’s no need to fret. Water spots can be removed—it’s just a matter of using the right substances and putting in a bit of elbow grease.

Water, if left to sit unattended to evaporate and dry on a car, can cause water spots on a car’s paint finish. This is because water contains minerals and minute traces of pollutants. Once the water evaporates and dries, it leaves behind those minerals and pollutants. Combined with the light and the heat of the sun, these particles are baked and etched onto the car’s finish, resulting in water spots.


To remove these water spots, you need to wash and dry the car first to locate the stains. Then, apply the following solutions:


White vinegar is a mild acid, and the minerals and pollutants in water spots can be broken down by this mild acid. To apply, simply follow these steps:

  1. Mix white vinegar and distilled water in equal parts in a bucket.
  2. Soak a sponge or a microfiber cloth in the solution.
  3. Apply the solution to the water spots, allowing the solution to soak into the stains for about a minute or two. The key is to allow the vinegar to break down and loosen the contaminants’ grip on the surface so they can be wiped off gently.
  4. After the waiting period, try to gently wipe off the spot. Avoid the tendency to wipe vigorously as you will be merely grinding the minerals and the pollutants onto the paint finish, creating scratches.
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Clay bar

Detailing clay is a synthetic resin compound designed to pick up minerals and pollutants on your car’s finish as you glide it on a car’s well-lubricated paint finish. Use this if white vinegar wasn’t enough to get rid of the stains. Check out the following instructions:

  1. Get some detailing clay and clay lubricant.
  2. Spray lubricant onto the paint finish.
  3. Glide the clay over the lubricated surface gently, with light pressure. It may take several passes to remove the water spots.

Paint cleaner/polish

If the water spot cannot be removed by vinegar or a detailing clay bar, this means the minerals and the pollutants have already been baked and etched into the car’s finish. To remove them, you’re going to have to remove the part of the finish that’s been etched together with the water spot. You can use paint cleaner/polish to do this. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Dab some paint cleaner/polish on a foam pad.
  2. Apply the product onto the parts of the paint finish with a water spot, rubbing in a circular motion using firm pressure until the stain disappears.
  3. Continue the procedure on each and every panel of the car with the water spots.

This last procedure should be certain to remove just about any water spot. However, if the water spot still cannot be removed, what you have is clear-coat damage that has gone down all the way to the paint color level. Unfortunately, this can no longer be addressed by cleaning, and you’ll need to have the clear coat retouched by a painter.

After the water spots have been removed, you will have most likely removed the clear coat’s protective layer as well. To protect the finish from further contamination by water spots, you should reapply a layer of protection like a wax or a sealer over the entire car. Having this layer of protection allows water spots to be wiped off gently.


Paint protection application and wiping away water spots before they dry are the best defenses and preventive measures against water spots. Got more tips to remove water spots from your car’s paint job? Share them in the comments.

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PHOTO: Joey Bernardez
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