Regularly washing your car removes everyday contaminants like tar, road debris, and bird droppings that can ruin your car’s paint job over time. But how often do you need to wash your vehicle to keep it in tip-top shape? Can you wash your car too much? The answer depends on multiple things, including your lifestyle, the climate where you live, and how your store your vehicle when you’re not driving it. Jonathan Ganther, co-founder of Brakes to Go, a mobile brake repair company in Texas, gave us his take on how often you should wash your car and what factors might influence it. He will also answer the question, “Is it bad to wash your car too much?”

How often should you wash your car in a moderate climate?

According to Ganther, if the weather’s not too harsh where you live, washing your vehicle every two weeks is a good rule of thumb. However, if you apply a coat of wax at the end of each cleaning session, you may be able to wash it less often. “Waxing your car creates a barrier between your clear coat — the layer on top of the paint — and outside elements, so it won’t be able to absorb and affect the exterior of your car,” Ganther said. You may also get away with washing it less frequently if you keep it in the garage most of the time.

When washing your car, don’t forget about the interior. You should clean it just as often — if not more — than the exterior, depending on your lifestyle and how much time you spend in it. For example, if you have kids or eat in your vehicle, you may want to consider more frequent interior cleanings. You may also want to apply a ceramic coating to your seats, which can help prevent stains from setting in and dust from collecting, Ganther says.

How often should you wash your car in winter?

“Climate has a major impact on how often you should wash your car,” says Ganther. “When not treated, salt, snow, and rain can eat through the paint and undercarriage of the car, causing long-term damage.” Salt can cause damage to your car that leads to corrosive rust. Washing your car after the roads are clear of salt and chemicals following a snow storm can help protect your vehicle’s paint and undercarriage.

Let’s say you live in a cold climate with severe winter weather or near the coast where the sand and salt from the beach and ocean get caked onto the exterior of your vehicle. In that case, you should consider more frequent cleanings to avoid permanent damage to the body of your car.

Can you wash your car too much?

Is washing your car often bad for the vehicle? “You can’t wash your car too much if you’re doing it properly,” says Ganther. However, not washing it enough can cause damage, and your car may not be as clean as you think. Substances like tree wax or bird droppings are trickier to see than a layer of salt coating the paint, and people often leave these things on the car for too long. Infrequent washings can also cause brake dust to build up and eat through your wheel finishes.

To clean your car properly, Ganther recommends washing your wheels first with a separate rag because they have the worst debris, and you don’t want to transfer it onto the rest of your car. Once your wheels are clean, you can move on to the body of your car. If you’re not the DIY type, be mindful about taking your vehicle to a carwash. “Car washes will often use the same rag from car to car, which can transfer dust, dirt, and debris from another car onto yours,” Ganther said.