What is a snow foam?
When we snow foam a car, what we’re referring to is a blanket of foamed car wash detergent that completely covers the exterior of a vehicle. This is usually in a relatively thick consistency of suds that appears as if the car is covered in a blanket of snow.
The combination of car wash detergent, compressed air, and water are the three main factors that when mixed together at optimal ratios, are what creates a thick and lustrous consistency of snow foam. Although there are a few different methods of applying snow foam to a vehicle such as using pump-action compressed air bottles and hose attached detergent foaming dispensers, the most widely used and effective method of all is achieved with the use of a foam lance bottle attached to a pressure washer.
Why apply snow foam to your car?
The whole premise of using snow foam is to achieve a safer and more effective car wash result. After a certain period of time, dirt, environmental fallout, and road grime settles and bonds to the surface of your vehicle.
In many cases, trying to remove those more bonded contaminates by simply hand washing your car can prove to be difficult or even worse, lead to swirls and scratches. A snow foam has the benefit of softening and encapsulating dirt and road grime, providing a far safer and easier hand washing result.
You can think of it like soaking your dirty plates and pans in soapy water that softens the stuck food particles and makes them so much easier and safer to clean without having to resort to more aggressive scrubbing and damaging the surface.
How do you get the best performance from snow foam?
You should think of a snow foam as a pre-wash treatment or preparation for the hand wash stage.
It’s best applied to a dry vehicle as it will bond and cling more effectively and it’s best applied to a cool surface and out of direct sunlight as it will prevent the detergent from prematurely drying up.
In most cases, the longer you can allow the foam to dwell on the vehicle the better the results. However, you don’t want to let the foam dry on the paint as it will be difficult to rinse off. Depending on the weather, usually about 5 minutes or so is a good average dwelling time.
Perhaps the most important step of using a pre-soak foam is the rinsing stage. This is when you are able to remove the largest amount of the previously softened grime with a pressure rinse in a completely safe touch-less method. So once the vehicle has been snow foamed and pressure rinsed down, you can then proceed to your normal two bucket hand wash stage and you should find that it will be a much easier, safer, and more effective wash.
What else is important to know?
Some car wash products that have been formulated to work well in snow foam applications just simply work better than others, avoiding product streaking and increasing suds and dwell times.
In most cases, a 1:10 dilution ratio is a good ratio to mix into your foam lance but always check with the product manufacturer. A stronger mix of detergent can increase the thickness and dwell time of the foam, but it can also cause difficulties in rinsing the detergent off.
Snow foaming with simple tap water and using a pressure washer with a higher PSI rating will usually create richer and thicker snow foam.
In general, applying the snow foam starting from the bottom of the vehicle and working up is a more effective technique that will allow for a longer and more even consistent bond of the foam to the vehicle.
In the end, when used correctly with the proper understanding and technique, using snow foam for both general vehicle maintenance washes and more intensive decontamination washes is an extremely effective procedure that can largely minimize wash induced scratches and allow for an overall improved, thorough and safer cleaning result.