Last Updated on August 21, 2022 by Stewart

A worry for many people when washing their car is the fact that they may end up scratching it, or putting swirls into it. This is understandable since it is a possibility. A main cause for this damage to the paint work is using an automatic car wash. The speed and nature of the brushes in these car washes are extremely damaging to the cars paint.

Contaminants such as loose dirt and grit must be removed before any contact is made with the paintwork. For a particularly dirty car, a pre-wash regimen should be used.

What is a car pre-wash?

Carrying out a pre-wash on a car is an effective way to remove as much dirt and debris as possible from the paint work. Technically running a hose or pressure washer over the car can be classed as a pre-wash. For well maintained and protected cars, sometimes all that is needed is using free flowing water on the paint work.

However, it is often the case in the winter months that a pre-wash with some form of shampoo or snowfoam is also needed.

Generally speaking, a pressure washer with a foam lance is needed to carry out a pre-wash on the car. However, it is possible to use a foam sprayer on the vehicle as well. This is a great alternative for those that do not have access to a pressure washer, but they still want to carry out a pre-wash regimen.

The biggest benefit of foaming the car is that it greatly reduces the chance of installing scratches and swirls on the paintwork. The reason for this is that the foam generated will start to break down any dirt and debris on the vehicle. It will also help to slide this off the panel without the need to touch it.

Therefore, when the time comes to clean the car with a washmitt, there is a significantly reduced chance of marring, swirling or scratching the paint. You can read more about our top picks for snow foam by clicking here.

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Can snow foams be used as a contactless wash?

The short answer is no. If the car is exceptionally clean, then a pre-wash would lift any light dust that is on the car. In the same vain though, if the car is also well maintained then rinsing it off would be enough to remove this level of surface dust.

Unfortunately, a lot of detailers will ‘write off’ a snow foam if they cannot use it as a contactless wash method.

It should be noted as well though that some snow foams are not pH neutral. In this regard, if the dilution ratio is not correct, it can result in any protection that is on the car to be degraded or stripped entirely. In this instance, it’s extremely important that the manufacturers dilution ratios are followed.

Using the correct wash tool

When washing a car, never use a sponge. The reason for this is that sponges are actually abrasive, even when wet. In addition to this, the dirt sits on top of the sponge. A safe alternative is using a wash mitt. The most common variant of this is a microfibre wash mitt, although it is also possible to get a lambswool mitt. Microfibre wash mitts come in two varieties; chenille and normal microfibre. The chenille variant has noodles protruding from the surface of the mitt. These noodles can help encapsulate the dirt so that they do not sit on the surface of it. It’s important that a high quality wash mitt is used, otherwise it can damage the paintwork. With that in mind, we have collated a list of the best wash mitts that are on the market just now. You can read more about them at this dedicated page found here.

A safe wash also needs to implement the two bucket method.

Last update on 2024-05-19 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last update on 2024-05-19 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Gtechniq Car Cleaning Microfibre Cloth Wash Mitt with Inner Foam Core, Dirt Trapping Fibres, Comfortable Low Friction Glide Cleaning Mitt, Car Accessories for Car Detailing Kit
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What is the two bucket method?

The technique used when washing a car is crucial to prevent scratches and swirls. As mentioned above, two buckets are usually required to wash the body of the car. A third bucket is always needed for the wheels.

The first step is to clean the wheels using the dedicated bucket and tools. After this, the two bucket method can be implemented on the paint work.

Generally speaking, when I am washing my car, I will wash the roof, and after doing so, clean the mitt in the rinse bucket. Since the rinse bucket has a grit guard in it, I use this to agitate the mitt, and thereby allow the dirt from it to sink to the bottom of the bucket. This will stop it from from mixing with the rinse water.

For dirtier areas of the car, such as the doors, I will only clean the top half. After that, I will clean the mitt in the rinse bucket before cleaning the bottom half. Additionally, for the bottom of the car below the doors, I use a separate, dedicated, wash mitt since this is the dirtiest area of the car.

Another technique used by some is to have a multiple wash mitts at hand.

Rather than rinsing the wash mitt off each time, once an area (such as half a door) has been cleaned, it will be discarded into a bucket. A fresh mitt is then used and so on and so forth. This method does require a larger investment, and more cleaning of the mitts down the line.

This method reduces the chance of scratches and swirls being installed in the paintwork.

The mitt must always be moved in straight lines. When there is dirt and grit in the wash mitt, washing in a circular fashion will increase the chance of paint marring and scratching.

Using a high quality shampoo

A high quality shampoo is a necessity when washing a car. There are some people online that would have you believe that you can use washing up liquid to clean your car. Please don’t do this; it can severely damage the paint.

Instead, it’s extremely important to use a high quality shampoo. A selection of shampoos can be found at this page. Using this will help to lift dirt from the paint work, as well as providing a large degree of lubrication to it. A high quality shampoo will also be one that is pH neutral and will not cause any damage to the paint, or any protection products that you have on it.

Drying the paint

There are several options to dry the paint. The first is to use a dedicated drying towel. A brilliant example of this is the waffle weave towel from Meguiars. This is super absorbent, and removes water effortlessly.

Another alternative is a plush drying towel. When using a plush towel, I rest it on the paint work, before gently patting it. The towel is then removed. Since it is so plush, it absorbs a lot of water, making for a safe drying method.

For those with a bigger budget, it is also possible to use an air blower to dry the car. This is definitely the safest way to do so. Since no contact will be made with the paint, there can be no damage to it. There are a lot of air blowers on the market. As long as they do not come into contact with the paint, they’re safe to use for this application. In particular, the Adams Air Cannon is a fantastic addition to any detailing toolset.

An extremely easy way to dry the paint is to have a high quality wax or sealant on the paintwork. If you angle the stream of water from the house properly, it can remove a lot of the water left on the panel. Regardless, even having protection on the paint means that a lot of water will bead and sheet off of it. This means that there will be significantly less water on the bodywork making it easier to dry. There are many stand out products available, but one of my favourite waxes is Autoglym UHD Wax. I’ve written a full review which can be found here.

Autoglym Ultra High Definition Wax - High-end Car Wax Made with Carnauba For the Ultimate Mirror-like Shine
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Last update on 2024-05-19 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last update on 2024-05-19 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last update on 2024-05-19 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.