How To Wash

How To Properly Wash A Vehicle

It is important that quality products, tools and proper techniques are used when washing a vehicle in order to reduce the chances of surface damage.  It is important to use a high lubricity automotive shampoo and an acid free wheel cleaner.  Automotive shampoos are specifically made to be gentle on the surface and not remove any existing wax or sealant on the vehicle.  Household soaps are not recommended for vehicle washing, these soaps often contain chemicals that will remove any LSP (Last step product is any wax or sealant) leaving your vehicle's surfaces unprotected from the elements.  Equally important is using a quality wheel cleaner to prevent damage when removing built up brake dust.  Many over the counter wheel cleaners contain acids that can cause surface damage if they are used on a regular basis.  Some boutique brand PH balanced wheel cleaners chemically remove embedded brake dust that cannot be removed with mechanical cleaning alone.
To properly wash a vehicle, more than just quality products are needed.  Equally important is having the proper tools and equipment.  Paint safe mitts and sponges should always be used whenever removing debris from a vehicle’s paint.  However mitts and sponges alone cannot remove water completely from crevices.  A boar’s hair brush can be used to safely clean emblems, grills, trim and wheels.  It is recommended that three, five-gallon buckets are used when washing a vehicle: one for shampoo, rinse water and wheels.  These buckets should be equipped with Grit-Guards.  Grit-Guards help release debris from wash media and keep dirt and grit at the bottom of the bucket and away from your vehicle.  Only microfiber towels with an 80/20 or 70/30 polyester/polyamide blend towels should be used when drying a vehicle.  Microfiber towels are more absorbent and designed to dry delicate surfaces unlike traditional cotton household towels.  While not completely necessary, an air compressor or electric leaf blower can be used to remove water from crevices in order to prevent water spots.

The best products and tools are nothing without proper hand washing techniques.  Before any water or chemicals are used it is important to make sure the vehicles surfaces are out of direct sunlight and cool to the touch.  Water spots are formed when hard water evaporates and leaves behind minerals.

1. Clean the wheels and tires with an acid free wheel cleaner and an all-purpose cleaner for the tires and wheel wells.  After allowing the product to dwell for a few minutes, it is time to use a combination of boar’s hair and nylon brushes to loosen debris for later rinsing. 

2. When washing a vehicle’s paint, it is important to move the mitt of sponge in straight lines and follow the direction that wind travels over the vehicle.  Straight lines prevent unsightly swirl marks that are caused by washing with circular motions.  After cleaning each panel, it is important to rinse off the wash media in the rinse bucket to reduce the chance of wash induced marring.  Always start by cleaning the roof, then work your way down the vehicle while using a separate mitt or sponge for cleaning the rocker panels.  (Note: The rocker panels are always the dirtiest part of a vehicle and you do not want to contaminate the other panels after removing the road debris.)

3. When drying a vehicle, start by using compressed or forced air to remove excess water from the crevices before towel drying.  It is important to blot the vehicles paint dry and not drag the microfiber towel across the surface.  A minimum of three different dedicated microfiber towels (paint, door jambs and wheels) should be used when drying a vehicle to prevent cross contamination.

4. After the vehicle is washed and dried, the job is still not finished until the brushes, wash media, and towels have been properly washed.  Brushes can be cleaned using the same all-purpose cleaner that is used on the tires and allowed to drip dry.  Mitts and towels can simply be rinsed out with water and left to dry after the excess water has been wrung out.  Microfiber towels require a little more attention when cleaning to keep them soft and absorbent.  Regular laundry detergents contain dyes and softeners that can damage microfiber towels and cause them to perform poorly.  Quality microfiber towels are expensive and microfiber specific detergent is necessary to protect your investment.  Never use dryer sheets or high heat when drying microfiber towels or they will repel water the next time they are used to dry a vehicle.

Products and Tools

Acid Free Wheel Cleaner
Automotive Shampoo
Boar’s hair and nylon brushes
Compressed or Forced Air
Premium Microfiber Towels
Three five-gallon buckets
Three Grit-Guards
Wheel barrel brush
Wash mitt or sponge

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