How to Remove Water Spots from your Car

When you want your car or truck to look nice, water is one of your biggest enemies. Just about any kind of water can leave spots on a car’s finish or glass — especially if you drive a vehicle that has a dark colored paint.

You’ve probably wondered how to remove water spots from your vehicle if you’ve ever seen them appear on its surface. These small, white-edged rings can ruin an otherwise beautiful paint job, and they can be hard to remove — if you try to wipe them away with a cloth or water, they’ll often reappear as soon as you finish. Luckily, water spots are simple to remove if you act quickly and use the right tools. Read on for everything you need to know about how to remove water spots.

What Causes Water Spots?

What Causes Water Spots?

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water spot damage

Any kind of water can leave water spots on a vehicle — the exact same water you use to wash your car can leave it with ugly spots that may even damage the paint if you don’t remove them!

Water spots are caused by trace elements like calcium, metals, and acids from air pollutants that exist in water. As the water evaporates from your vehicle’s surface, those trace elements get left behind, creating a spot. Depending on the elements in the water, they can cause damage to your vehicle’s paint if you don’t remove them quickly.

How to Prevent Water Spots

How to Prevent Water Spots

There are a few ways you can help keep water spots from appearing on your vehicle’s surface in the first place.

Whenever you wash your vehicle, be sure to dry it thoroughly with microfiber cloths and towels. If you remove all the water from the surface rather than letting it dry there, you won’t get water spots.

Then, use a detailing spray after you wash your car or truck. This helps treat the surface so water has a harder time sticking to it, preventing spots.

Finally, try to avoid letting your car get wet. Park it in a garage, if possible, where it will be protected from rain and other precipitation. If you have to park it outside, try to keep it out of the range of sprinklers or other sources of water.

If your vehicle does accidentally get wet, don’t give any water spots time to dry and “bake on” — this will make them harder to remove and increase the chances that they cause deeper damage to your paint. If you ever see water spots on your vehicle, follow the steps below to remove them as soon as you can.

How to Remove Water Spots: 4 Methods

Removing water spots from your vehicle is typically as easy as just having the right tools. Here are four methods you can try, plus what to do if you find yourself with stubborn water spots that just won’t come off.

Method 1: Spray Bottle with Vinegar Solution

Spray Bottle with Vinegar Solution

The key to removing water spots is one of the most affordable and widely available products out there: distilled white vinegar.

For the first method, you’ll want to start by washing and drying your car like you normally would. Then, fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and distilled white vinegar. Shake the bottle to mix the solution thoroughly.

Working in sections, spray the vinegar solution all over the surface of your vehicle. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it away with clean water and dry your car thoroughly to avoid getting any new water spots.

Note that while vinegar removes water spots, it will also remove any wax from your vehicle’s surface. If you wax the paint to protect it, you may need to reapply car wax after using a vinegar solution to remove water spots.

Method 2: Towel or Sponge Soaked in Vinegar Solution

Towel or Sponge Soaked in Vinegar Solution

For more concentrated areas of water spots, or more stubborn spots that are difficult to remove, you can soak a sponge or a towel in a solution of equal parts clean water and distilled white vinegar.

Then, lay the sponge or towel over the part of your vehicle that has water spots, and let it sit for a few minutes. After it sits, remove the sponge or towel, rinse away the vinegar solution with clean water, and dry your vehicle thoroughly with a microfiber cloth or towel.

Like the first method, this method will remove any wax from the areas where you use it, so be sure to reapply car wax after removing water spots this way.

Method 3: Commercial Water Spot Remover

Commercial Water Spot Remover

For smaller or more concentrated areas of water spots, you can use a commercial water spot remover. These are typically made of distilled water with added mineral oils, solvents, absorbents, buffers, and conditioners.

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To use a commercial water spot remover, carefully read and follow the instructions on the product you choose. Similar to vinegar, these products will often remove wax layers wherever they’re used, so reapply wax after removing water spots.

Method 4: Clay Bar Treatment

Clay Bar Treatment

For removing stubborn water spots, there’s a secret weapon that detailers often use: an automotive clay bar. Clay bars are made of an engineered resin mixture that’s designed to remove pollutants and contaminants from paint, glass, fiberglass, metal, and any other surface material on the outside of your vehicle. 

By gently gliding or stretching automotive clay over your car or truck’s surface, you can gently remove surface contaminants (including water spots). As an added bonus, a clay bar treatment will remove contaminants like rail dust, brake dust, and industrial fallout that can penetrate through paint, glass, and even metal, causing serious damage to your vehicle over time.

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Clay bar treatments can be done at home, but it’s important to use the right products and be careful — claying incorrectly can drag contaminants across your car’s surface, damaging its paint. If you aren’t confident in your own claying abilities, detailing shops offer clay bar treatments for most vehicle types.

What To Do When Water Spots Won’t Come Off

If you’ve tried all of the methods and tips above and your water spots still won’t budge, it’s likely that they remained on your vehicle’s surface for too long and caused mineral etching to occur. This means that the contaminants in the evaporated water have penetrated below the surface and caused damage to the paint.

In some cases, you can counteract this by polishing your vehicle. In extreme (and rare) cases, the damage is so bad that the car or truck requires a new paint job.

Try These Methods to Protect Your Vehicle’s Paint and Surfaces

Avoiding water spots helps your car look better, but it’s also important to protect your vehicle’s paint and surfaces from potentially lasting damage. When you see water spots on your vehicle, act fast to prevent damage — use one of the four methods in this article to clear away water spots as quickly as you can.

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