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Orange spots on a white car. What is it and why can’t I wash it off?

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Fresh Eco Steam Cleaning is a mobile detailing company that comes to you and steam cleans your vehicle. We have steam cleaned and detailed many vehicles. Here in Orlando FL, we see a lot of vehicles with orange and black spots on the back of the car. What is it?

Orange and black contamination on the paint
Orange contamination

White vehicles will show contamination on the paint that you would not usually see on darker color vehicles but it is there. No matter how many times you wash the vehicle, those spots are still there and feel like sandpaper. What are those orange spots on the paint?

Those spots are contaminated by iron particles and turn orange (rust). It is called rail dust or environmental fallout. Rail dust is a term used to describe metal-to-metal contact causing iron particles. Rail dust is also caused by a semi-metallic brake pad rubbing on a metal rotor. While driving, these particles get embedded into the paint, oxidized, and turn orange. Iron particles can also come from factories and airplanes. It’s everywhere.

Rusty Brake and roter

Washing the vehicle does not remove it?

You need to use a dedicated iron removal chemical. Before you use this chemical, you must wash the vehicle as the chemical would be more effective on a clean dirt-free surface. You will also need to clay the vehicle with the iron removal chemical. Make sure the vehicle is not in direct sunlight because you need the iron removal chemical to dwell for a few minutes without drying.

Before you begin you need a bucket with soapy water, a wash mitt and grit guard, a medium clay bar, an iron removal chemical, a garden hose or pressure washer, and a drying towel.

Carwash items

Step 1. Wash the entire vehicle.

Step 2. Read the instructions for the iron removal chemical. Make sure you understand how and where you should use the chemical. The brand does not matter. Most of them do the same thing.

Iron Remocal Chemicals
Iron Remocal Chemicals

Step 3. Pick a section of the vehicle, like the trunk area, and apply the iron removal chemical. The chemical will go on clear and activate when it hits the iron contamination.

Step 4. Wait for the iron removal chemical to dwell and turn purple.

Iron removal chemicals turn purple
Car with iron removal chemicals

Step 5. After about 2-5 minutes squeeze the soapy water off the wash mitt onto the trunk area and use the clay bar to clay it. Make sure you use the soap as lubrication and keep the surface wet, so the iron removal chemical doesn’t dry. This will remove all or most embedded contamination.

Claybar and iron removal chemicals
Auto detailing with clay bar
Used clay bar

Step 6. Rinse the area, feel, and inspect the paint. If some area still feels rough or like sandpaper, simply repeat steps 3 to 6.

Auto detailing rinse chemical
Rinse iron removal chemical

Step 7. Dry the area and move on to another section. Continue to work your way all around the vehicle. When you use the iron removal chemical some areas will show more purple than other areas. This means certain areas have more contamination than others.

Auto detailing after cleaning
Cleaned car

Step 8. Apply a sealant or wax. No matter what color vehicle we follow those steps when we are deep cleaning the paint and getting it ready for paint correction.

Before and after mobile detailing

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