Car cleaning or car washing is something every car owner has done at least once in their lifetime. For some, in today’s society, the second biggest investment is their car and keeping it clean without inflicting damage, such as swirl marks, is important.
Not many people know about swirl marks, spider-webbing or sometimes they’re called ‘love marks’. They are many small scratches and imperfections on your clear coat accumulated over time from improper washing and/or drying, incorrect product usage or even incorrect tools for the job. Other factors come into play like the order in which the car is washed and where it is washed.
For an effective and safe car wash some precautions can be taken to minimise swirls and maintain a show car finish. We’ll break this down into 3 key areas
Tools & Products
TOOLS & PRODUCTS
Before you start any car wash you want to make sure you have the right tools and products. We have listed the top tools for an effective car wash and placed a little explanation about their purpose and function. This list is not conclusive and other products and tools can be added depending the results your chasing, so think of these as your basic car wash staples.
Grit Guard Car Wash Buckets x3
Having the right bucket for the job is important. Be sure to use a large bucket to hold enough car wash solution or rinse water. The height of the bucket is crucial as it allows the placement of a grit guard at the bottom. The function of the grit guard is to trap any dirt taken from the car and keep it at the bottom of the bucket. This doesn’t allow any re-agitated dirt to enter the wash pad. Ideally you’d want to perform a two bucket wash method whereby you have one bucket filled with soapy car wash solution and the other filled with clean rinse water. This method reduces the chances of inflicting swirl marks in the paint.
Having a third grit guard car wash bucket is optional. Ideally you want to have another bucket, separate to the two above, only dedicated for really dirty washing like cleaning the wheels, exhaust tips, undercarriage etc. You never want to cross-contaminate your rinse and wash buckets with your ‘wheel’ bucket as the fine micro particles collected from brake dust are hard to spot and clean away 100%.
Car Wash Shampoo
This would have to be one of the most important products in a proper car wash routine. Using a dedicated and highly concentrated car wash shampoo is crucial to ensure high lubricity while washing, effective encapsulation of dirt particles and provide a slick surface to use a car wash mitt. Further to these important features you want to make sure that the car wash shampoo you use is pH neutral. To keep it simple, the pH scale is used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of liquids and substances. For instance water testing ensures that water is safe to drink or swim in. Human blood also operates in the pH range of 7 allowing proper cellular functions and homeostasis.
Why is this important when washing my car? The water quality that comes out of your hose fluctuates in pH slightly. Also some areas have different levels of water hardness due to water treatments, pipe degradation etc. A pH neutral car shampoo helps to neutralise the pH of the water on the car from your initial rinse, helps to prevent water spotting and won’t strip your wax.
Car Wash Mitt/Pad
Now that your buckets are set up and you have your pH neutral car wash shampoo, it is time to clean the paint. Whenever you wash your car you always want lots of car wash soap on the wash mitt. Using a wash mitt that is made of merino wool or synthetic wool is ideal. Try to avoid the cheap 10 sponges for $5 variety, or even brushes as these are known to cause swirls.
Having a dedicated wheel cleaner that removes iron particles will definitely save you time and make cleaning your wheels easier. Try to avoid the high acidic cleaners as they can be harmful to your wheels finish. Also high acid cleaners that are a spray on rinse off type are unsafe and risky to use not only for the car but for your own health.
Microfibre Drying Towel
Once the car wash is cleaned, now is the time to dry, but put away the traditional chamois. Traditional chamois’ or water absorbers are great for doing exactly that, absorbing water but they aren’t so great at pulling dirt away from the paint. Why would there be dirt on the car after you just cleaned it? You’re human!
Through the wash you may have missed a small section of dirt or water has trickled out of the mirrors, door handles or door jambs and taken any dirt that was in there with it. When you come along with a chamois you absorb the water but the dirt has no where to go in the chamois beyond the surface. The dirt is now stuck on the face of the chamois while you continue to dry your car causing micro abrasion, which causes swirls. Now don’t be so quick to throw your chamois away. Keep them for the dirtier tasks where you don’t want to use a premium microfibre drying towel.
Foam Gun (optional)
This tool is probably the most fun and effective way to pre-rinse your car. If you don’t have a pressure washer with a foam lance, a car wash foam gun is your solution. Filling the canister with a car wash shampoo solution, the gun connects to any conventional garden hose transforming it into a car wash foam gun. This tool can be used by everyone and it will add that extra layer of lubricity to prevent damage. It works by coating your car in a thick lather of car wash shampoo after the initial rinse. The idea is to let the solution dwell on the paint for a few minutes to loosen and encapsulate any dirt that may not have been removed from the first rinse and it will minimise the amount of dirt to be collected when washing with a car wash mitt.
TWO BUCKET WASH METHOD
Now that your car is cleaned, dried and looking its best how do you go about maintaining it. Begin by applying a layer of sealant or wax. It is important for every car, especially daily drivers or cars kept outdoors to have layers of protection as it serves a dual purpose in not only protecting your car but also helping to make car washing much easier and less time consuming.
Some easy to apply products you may want to consider are quality liquid waxes that don’t contain silicone or fillers (Adam’s Buttery Wax), spray sealants (Adam’s H20 Guard & Gloss) and even paste waxes (Adam’s Americana Paste Wax). The idea is to build sacrificial layers of protection to prevent any bird bombs, tree sap, acid rain etc from getting to your clear coat and damaging your paint. Pair this with a proper car wash routine and your car is bound to be the best looking in your street.
We will cover paint protection in depth in a following post as it ties in well with paint correction and obtaining a stunning show car shine. For now we leave the basics with you to consider and hopefully begin to employ in your own car care regimen.
*article shared with permission via www.shineshielddelivered.com.au