It’s the Beginning
Whether you are a Professional Detailer, love looking after your car or just doing a favour for someone because you just can’t look at their car anymore, washing a car is where detailing really evolves from.
Some look at car washing as just cleaning off the dirt as they have forgotten the real colour of their car. For others it is a ritual where for that short time, they can shut out all other concerns and get lost in the task at hand. For a small few, it is a very controlled process where the goal is to remove the dirt and oils from the vehicle’s surface, without adding any marring and swirls to an impeccably prepared, finished and protected paint surface. So which one are you? Are you a mix of all of them? Let’s take a look at what we are doing when we wash a car, what we use and try to dispel any old myths along the way
Why is my Car so Dirty?
If you've ever seen the process of dust float in a sunbeam, you will understand the first part. The air all around us is filled with these tiny particles all the time. When a car travels at speed, the airflow over the car creates places on the car's surface where the dirt particles will first adhere. Over time, the size of these contaminant-collecting areas will increase, as new dirt clings, around the edges of the area.
Make sure to remove bird droppings when they happen or shortly after, the acids from this can in some cases damage the clear coat to a level beyond repair. Tree sap should also be removed quickly or parts of the sap will start to bond to the paint. This is when decontamination is required. In the air there are several other contaminants that may cling or even attach your paintwork, such as iron (from brake dust) tar from (err…tire shredding..) and in most cases slowly accumulate and make the paintwork feel rough. This can’t be removed purely from ‘washing’, to remove the contaminants that have bonded or etched into the paintwork; you need to decontaminate the paint, this helps restore ‘clarity’ to the paintwork. The most common method of decontamination is claying. You can read more about this step in the Decontamination Guide here.
Why Rain Makes a Car Dirtier
Shouldn't leaving your car out in the rain, wash away dirt? Rainwater isn’t as clean and revitalizing to the paint as you may think. The truth is that microscopic dirt particles can be within rainwater. Water molecules form around and bond to dirt particles. As the rain falls, it collects pollutants from the air and forcefully delivers them to surfaces. When these raindrops dry, they leave behind the contaminants they collected on the way down.
My Car has lost its shine and becomes dirtier faster?
In an ideal world, when your car is new and you pick it up from the dealer it is smooth and slick. This prevents contaminants from first having the chance to adhere to the paint, so the vehicle gets dirtier at a slower rate. However, once you start washing you inflict micro marring (tiny scratches), which starts to impair the surface. It first starts to happen at a level, which can’t be seen in normal day light. The paint starts to lose its initial gloss. (That deep, colour glow that accentuates curves and can make the paint appear ‘wet’) These scratches add texture to the surface, which help catch dirt and contaminants instead of allowing them to run down the exterior body of the vehicle. Overtime, you will start to see these ‘spider webs’ in the sun known as swirls; this reduces the ‘shine’ of the vehicle by redirecting light in different directions. Which create the perception of ‘lifeless or dull’ looking paint. Take a deep breath and relax, there are ways to remove scratches & swirls and protect the paint. Click here for the Polishing Guide or Click Here for the Protecting Overview Guide.
The Different Kind of Car Washes and Shampoos
Normal PH Neutral Washes (Most Common)
These washes are normally used to ‘safely clean’ the protective layer of the vehicle. So what makes a car wash safe? A good quality shampoo is PH Neutral, meaning that it is safe (when diluted properly) to use on the last step of protection on the vehicle (LSP). A good quality shampoo lubricates the surface so the sponge or mitt can glide across the surface, decreasing the friction on the paintwork. This brings us to our first myth of washing. “More suds, doesn’t mean it’s the best wash”. Suds in most cases are created as a byproduct of the cleaning ingredients reacting to the pressure of the water. Use the wash that feels the slickest on the paintwork, one that glides effortlessly. That is the key to safe washing.
Our Favourite Washes
Protection & Enhancing Additive Shampoos
Most Protective & Enhancing Shampoos are known as ‘Wash n Wax’ products, these are used to add a minor protective layer over the vehicle & give the paintwork a slight bump in gloss levels. They are not normally used on already protected vehicles, as the type of wax in them is normally inferior to the wax used your conventional paste wax. It also changes the way the surface repels water, dirt and grime over the duration of the protection (normally a maximum of 1-2 weeks) So, if there is nothing on the surface, this can be seen as a huge gloss & water repelling boost, however on a already waxed, sealed or coated vehicle, this may create a layer on top which has an inferior level of water repellency.
However, POLISHANGEL have come out with some high tech carnauba based washes, which are used with the only the highest grade carnauba ingredients. These washes are different for they don’t mask the gloss when they are used, they actually enhance the gloss of the vehicle.
Rinseless Wash & Waterless Car Wash
These are two forms of washes that are used when there isn’t a hose readily available or for older vehicles that tend to have a few areas for water leaks. A Waterless Car Wash is like a quick detailer but with more cleaning properties. When using these products you have to saturate the panels first, before you carefully dry the car with the appropriate drying towel (We would strongly recommend a Microfibre Drying Towel when using a waterless wash)
A Rinseless Wash is different, it’s more like your conventional car wash, you dilute the product in a bucket and continue to wash the car, however, you don’t have to rinse it off. Instead, you gently wipe off the product from each panel once at a time
A quick detailer is a product that has light cleaners in it that can help remove light dust & marks on the vehicle. Now days, most quick detailers also have gloss enhancers in it, making it common to use them after you wash the car just to give it a small boost in levels of gloss. You can also use it as a standalone product to get rid of some light dust marks on the car by simply spraying on to the panel and wiping off and you can even use it as a drying aid while drying your car.
- Zaino Z7 Ultra Clean Gloss Enhancing Spray
- Poorboy's Spray & Gloss
- Polishangel Presto Detail Spray
- Swissvax Quick Finish
Different Types of Washing & Drying Tools
Washing Sponge & Mitt
The Washing Mitt or Sponge you use is crucial when washing your vehicle. You want something that glides over the surface, cleans extremely well, rinses really well, traps dirt well & doesn’t inflict washing marring. Your typical yellow wash sponges are great when it comes to cleaning the surface, except they don’t trap dirt well and are the major culprit for swirled paintwork. The Lake Country foam sponge mitts try to help trap more dirt by creating slits in the foam, which is a great option for people who have always liked using your typical sponges. Lambswool has been around for a while now, however it is one of the newest washing utensils to hit the market. They are extremely soft, wash very well & trap dirt exceptionally. However, we find they don’t rinse very well and larger contaminants can get stuck in the mitt and need a bit of rinsing. We are still a huge believer of microfiber mitts, why? Because they are ‘good’ at doing everything. Some might say that foam sponges clean better, lambswool mitts are softer, however we feel there is no major compromise when using microfibre. When preserving your automotive finish a microfiber mitt is a must have for beginners.
- Aquatouch Microfibre Wash Mitt
- CarPro Merino Wool Wash Mitt
- Lake Country Foam Wash Mitt
- Concours Cloudburst Wash Mitt
Drying Towel & Chamois
There are a few options when it comes to drying your vehicle, most people out there use the conventional chamois, these are great at absorbing water quickly & can be rinsed easily, however, they can’t soak up much water & if used incorrectly can inflict marring on car’s paint surface. For people who like using chamois then you should look into a high quality microfibre chamois like the ones offtered by Aquatouch. They have better absorbency but more importantly are safer to use on your vehicles paintwork, there is less chance to scratch the finish. If you are looking for a drying towel that you can practically dry the whole car with without wringing it out, you should look a microfibre waffle weave towel. These waffles create small areas that trap and simultaneously absorb water making them some of the most effective drying towels on the market. One downside to these is they don’t wring out as easy as a chamois, which means for bigger cars it is best getting two, instead of bothering to wring out the first waffle weave towel.
- Aquatouch Microibre Chamois
- Aquatouch Microfibre Waffle Weave Drying Towel
- Aquatouch Microfibre Plush Drying Towel
- Concours TEMPEST Hi-Tech Drying Towel
When it comes to washing you want to use two wash buckets, one for where you put your car wash solution into and the other just filled with water for rinsing. This allows you to transfer all the first from the mitt into a secondary bucket, making the ‘wash’ bucket cleaner. No point rinsing the dirty wash mitt into your wash bucket, that will just leave to you scratching the paintwork. Some say to use a third wash bucket for your wheels, we believe this is a little overkill & with the right wheel cleaners you won’t be bending down to wash your wheels. (Learn how in the Wheel Care Guide)
A Grit Guard is used to help trap dirt at the bottom of the bucket, so again, there is less chance of marring the paintwork. With a grit guard in both the wash bucket & rinse bucket, this dramatically decreases the chance of scratching the paintwork. (You will be surprised how much dirt & grime these grit guards actually trap!)
When it comes to pre-soaking to break down all the dirt on the surface that is where the foam guns come into place. This means less dirt on the vehicle when it comes to washing the car, meaning less chance of scratching the paintwork.
Concours Foam Lance For Pressure Washer
The Concours Foam Lance attaches directly on to your pressure washer, we have a variety of attachments for…
- Gerni (latest series of Gerni, we currently have no attachment for, we are working on it)
So After Years of testing we have perfected our very own Concours Foam Lance. Using this foam lance with a dedicated foaming wash solution, when applied to the vehicle will soften the solid dirt particles on the paint's surface. A dedicated foaming wash, such as Blizzard Foaming Wash, has been designed to have a high cling rate. The higher the cling rate, the slower the foam will drag down the panels, while bringing with it as much dirt as it can and softening any residue. Once this is rinsed off and start washing your car you will not be washing off dirt particles, only road film which will again, minimize any scratching in the washing routine.
Wolfgang Foam Gun for Garden Hose
The Washing Foam Gun doesn't foam up like the Concours Foam Lance. But it still has an important purpose. It will still soften residue on the foamiest setting, but can also be used as a washing aid when dialed down to a less concentrated setting. The Less concentrated method is shown below. With the constant flow of washing solution & water it almost acts as a barrier when washing the paintwork.