Any vehicle that you have some pride in you want to protect the finish as much as possible. One of the biggest ways of damaging a car’s finish over time is to wash it incorrectly. Incorrectly washing a car will introduce common swirl marks that will need paint correction at a later date. This process could be explained in detail over a couple of hours. I’ll summarize the important steps to minimize the risk and let you watch two of my favorite all-star details go over the process themselves.
General thoughts to keep in mind:
- Lubrication – Keeping the car lubricated with soap or water is key to provide a layer of protection.
- Minimize debris – The less debris or material (wash mitt, microfiber towel, etc.) touching the finish directly will help minimize the risk (scratches/swirls/haziness).
- Prep your washing method ahead of time. This means your 2 buckets (soap and clear bucket – explained below), tire bucket, and drying method (explained in another tip)
- #1 Bucket with soapy water (add your wash mitt(s)). #2 Bucket clear water with a grit guard at the bottom. #3 bucket with soapy or clear water and your tire tools.
- Rinse off the vehicle from the top to the bottom. If you are working in the sun (which you should try to avoid) rinse the shady side first and then continue onto the rest of the vehicle. This is key and safest method to clean your vehicle as water is a great lubricant and loosens any surface dirt off the vehicle. You can even use a power washer on flat spray to accomplish more of the chainsaw type removal of dirt.
- After rinsing the vehicle thoroughly you may foam your vehicle before washing. These foam gun type attachments can be pretty inexpensive and adds another layer of protection/lubrication to make the process as safe as possible. I think I picked up mine for around $30 although I used to use one attached to my garden hose which was about $10 when I was first starting out. Essentially you are adding a sudsy layer of lubrication to float dirt/grime above the finish to remove later.
- Wash time. Get your wash mitt super sudsy and start from the top of your vehicle. Do one section at a time and then return to your #2 bucket with the grit guard in the bottom. Scrub the used side(s) of your wash mitt against the grit guard to deposit the dirt/debris into the bottom of the bucket. Back to #1 bucket for more lather and repeat until the top 2/3rd of vehicle is done. I like to go in straight lines to avoid picking up debris and creating a swirl by mistake.
- Bottom 1/3rd. You may wish to switch to another mitt or rinse in bucket #2 more often during this process. Make sure you don’t miss the outsides of the fenders and lower parts of your body panels. You’d be surprised at how many people miss the lower parts and then after you are standing back admiring your shiny vehicle the bottom of the vehicle has a line of dirt still that you missed. Trust me you’ll make this mistake more than once starting out.
- Rinse. Here’s an opportunity to wash away any dirt/debris that is now suspended in the soap that is still on your vehicle.
Your vehicle is now ready to dry, and/or add sealant or wax. If you use these steps outlined above you’ll avoid the ‘love marks’ of washing your car and enjoy your result much, much more. Happy detailing!