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Can Ash Damage Car Paint?


Wildfires carry with them toxic remnants which not only cause harm to your health but also to your cars. Thus, as curious car enthusiasts, we wondered how the ash and soot would affect your car’s detailing.

So can ash damage car paint? Yes. Ash contains calcium and potassium chemicals, but they may not entirely harm your car’s paint. However, wetness combined with ash is corrosive and opens up weak spots on your car’s surface.

While the ash may damage the car’s paint, you shouldn’t worry because there are ways to protect and care for the car. This article will look into that and provide ways to clean the ash. Let’s jump right into it.

Can Ash Damage Car Paint?

While we’ve identified the main ingredients of ash, it is common to try wiping the car with damp clothes to clean off the dirt. However, specialists have discouraged this approach. There are ways you can try to clean your car, and we’ll discuss them further below.

Ash Covered Car

Ash is a pollutant that lingers in the atmosphere, especially after a wildfire. It might not cause much damage when it lingers around, but most often, rain follows a smoke-filled area, where ash’s corrosiveness kicks in.

Ash and Car Paint

Volcanic areas: This ash is like small broken glass; wiping it off will lead to damaged car paint.

Wildfire ash: As much as this ash is fine, it carries harmful chemicals. The duration of this in the air is uncertain.

Although it may hang around for a while, the best remedy is to clean your car often and put on a protective coat.

How to Clean Ash From Car Paint?

It’s almost like an impulsive moment for you to take damp clothes and try to clean your car whenever you find dirt.

Please don’t

Car care specialists discourage you from trying to DIY, especially if you don’t have the right procedure.

So how should you care for an ash-covered car?

There are two ways:

  • Visit a professional car wash center.
  • Do it yourself.

Let’s go through two options and their pros and cons.

Car Cleaning Station

Here, a skilled car cleaner will clean your car with tools that might not be available to you at home. With a pressure washer, your car will be cleaned, which will remove any particles hiding beneath its surface while forcing clean the top surface.

Then the car is scrubbed with soap to ensure dirt and debris are wiped off. There is a special car wash soap that, in this case, should contain a PH 7 (neutral) level that will attack the soot’s alkalinity completely.

After that, the car was wiped dry with a soft cloth and finished with waxing.


  • The pressure wash is perfect for dealing with soot.
  • The cleaning tools used may not be available at home.
  • The interior of the car is thoroughly cleaned.


  • The washing soap used may not be the right PH level.

Do It Yourself

If you opt to wash the car at home, you must avoid eroding the car’s paint. The equipment needed includes warm water, a hose pipe (if available), soft clothes, a handheld car duster, PH neutral car washing soap, and quality car wax.

The first thing to do is to wet the surface of your car. Use the hosepipe to put pressured water on the car. If this is not available, then warm water should do.

  • Start the process from top to bottom. This method ensures the ash trickles down the car paint, leaving no traces as you move towards the tires.
  • Put car washing soap and clean thoroughly, giving each spot the deserved spark.
  • Don’t forget to wash the head and rear lights.
  • Rinse with loads of water, ensuring the hidden spots receive that needed cleansing
  • Dry off the wet surface with a soft dry cloth.
  • Give the car a quality wax. A clean shine while protecting the outer coat.

It’s important to have a mask on and keep away from the car to protect yourself from inhaling toxic fumes.


  • Clean car since you will give it a well-deserved wash.
  • It saves you money.


  • You risk inhaling the toxic ash fumes.

How to Protect Your Car From Ash Damage?

Your car is one precious possession that, if damaged, sets you back a few dollars to repair. Fortunately, you can avoid unnecessary costs by adhering to simple maintenance.

Wondering how to protect your car against the harmful ash on your paint? Let’s find out below. 

  • Garage the car: The safest way to avoid ash from getting in touch with you is to park it inside the garage, and this shields the ash and ensures the longevity of your car’s paint.
  • Car covers: The alternative to a garage is a car cover which might also be used inside the garage. Likewise, they protect the car’s paint and shield the tires and the interior from any impurity.
  • Cleaning techniques: As we’ve established, your cleaning methods can harm your car, leading to corrosion of your car’s paint. Proper skills and effective tools should help you deal with the ash on your car. 
  • Close Interior: Ensure you keep your windows and sunroof tightly closed, especially at night. However, you can give your car a vacuum cleaning to clean soot and unseen dirt inside the car. Alternatively, you can put on your AC for a few minutes and let it blow off the residue.
  • Waxing: After cleaning, put wax on the surface to shield and protect the car’s paint.
  • Wipers: Clear up the window by topping up the fluid reservoir. You should also change your wiping blades to get yourself an effective pair.
  • Special attention in a humid environment: Calcium and potassium only become harmful when they come into contact with humidity. In this case, you will be required to clean the ash frequently. Make sure you follow proper procedures to avoid damaging the paint.
  • Visit the mechanic for your regular maintenance check-up. You might change your air/oil filter, brakes, and engine oil.

Final Thoughts

You shouldn’t be scared of ash contacting your car’s paint. You must understand that it might damage your car, but all is not lost. Take care of the ash and protect your car.

We hope we have answered your concerns and look forward to having you enjoy a spanking-looking ride regardless of what’s smoking in the air.

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