For some of us, learning how to wash and dry a car might seem trivial considering how many times the average person has washed their car. Not complicated, right? The fact is, proper washing and drying techniques can make a significant different between a paint finish that has a lot of depth and gloss and one that has lost its luster and is covered in scratches and swirl marks.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that washing and drying the paint finish can create surface defects such as swirl marks and scratches if done incorrectly. Over time, the accumulation of swirl marks and scratches equals a very dull finish. And if the culprit wasn’t washing or drying, it more likely was the car wash or hand wash facility, or the inexperienced detailer that most likely put it there.
Although basic in concept, many wash their cars incorrectly. We just assume that all it takes is a sponge, a bucket of water and soap and fire away! And while it isn’t rocket science, with the easy to learn tips and techniques we will discuss, washing and drying will remain uncomplicated but will help you keep your car looking its absolute best.
Dusk or Dawn
What we want to instill in your heads right now is this: Whenever working with chemicals on your car whether it’s car wash shampoo, car polish or glass cleaner, you should always work out of direct sunlight and hot temperatures. Working with such factors can harm the end result. Heat is a catalyst that can increase the effects of a chemical far beyond its intended purpose. In other words, direct sunlight make your everyday cleaner work a lot faster and stronger than it was intended. With that thought in mind, when washing your vehicle, it’s best to wash either in the early morning or late afternoon/evening if you will be doing so without shade. Avoid washing mid-day when the sun can heat up your car’s paintwork in just a few short minutes. The surface should always be warm or cool to the touch whenever you do any work on it.
Choosing the Right Car Shampoo
The key to proper washing and, more importantly, avoiding swirl marks is using the right tools and techniques. First, always use a quality shampoo, which is close to pH neutral (7.0) and will not strip any protective car wax.
Do not settle for a lower cost brand car wash because they tend to be harsher towards car wax finishes. The reason why they are lower in cost is because they use lower quality surfactants (detergents). Lower cost surfactants are high in alkaline which will not make a distinction between the oily film on your paintwork and the wax finish you just spend an hour applying. In addition to our quality shampoos containing high quality cleaners, they do not cause spotting, cause streaks on the finish, and they rinse clean without leaving a residue.
einszett Perls Shampoo which has a pH of 6.8 is near neutral, does not leave a residue or cause spotting. Perls Shampoo also protects with water-activated polymer waxes allowing you to wash and protect at the same time.
Choosing A Wash Applicator
Just as important as choosing the right car wash shampoo is choosing the correct tool to wash your vehicle with. einszett recommends using our microfiber wash mitt which will gently wash the paintwork surface. Avoid using synthetic sponges or synthetic wool mitts. Their surface is not as gentle and can cause fine scratches such as swirl marks. The einszett microfiber wash mitt can be washed after use countless times and is highly recommended to prevent scratching due to trapped debris in the fiber. We also recommend natural wool mitts which you can find at specialty automotive stores or online car care stores.
Before we start the wash process, if necessary, you might need to do some pre-washing. If you have sap, bug splatter, or light tar on any parts of the car exterior, you’ll need to treat it first prior to washing since they can be too stubborn for most car wash shampoos.
einszett Anti-Insekt Bug & Tar Remover contains special cleaners that loosen bug splatter, sap and light tar known as bitumen. Most bug and tar removers contain petroleum solvents that remove sensitive wax finishes. Not Anti-Insekt. Its water-based formula is easy on wax finishes.
Making sure surface is cool to the touch and out of direct sunlight, simply spray on affected area and allow product to work for three minutes. Then with a direct jet of water, clean affected area.
Pre-rinse the surface of the car by spraying water starting from the roof and working your way down. This way any loose dirt and dust flows to the bottom of the car.
Now grab that wash mitt and relax… No need to get worked up. It seems like a lot of people are really tense and agitated while washing. They put their entire body weight and strength into cleaning. Do not wash your car as if you are attempting to scrub the paint off. Instead, allow the mitt to glide across the surface letting the fibers and shampoo lubricants sweep away the dirt. This is where using a high quality shampoos stand apart from lower quality variety. einszett Perls Shampoo, for example, has lubricants that create a slick surface so dirt glides off easily without scratching. Creating a slick surface is more important than creating a heavy sudsing action. Heavy suds are the result of lower quality detergents. While you may feel reassured by the appearance of suds, they are not as beneficial as having a slick solution.
As you wash the paintwork and grab more soap in your wash mitt, agitate the wash mitt in the bucket to release debris caught on the fibers. This will reduce the chance of creating possible scratches and swirl marks. It’s also a good idea to use two wash mitts. One dedicated for cleaning your vehicle’s paintwork and another one for your wheels. This will keep brake dust and grime on your wheels away from your vehicle’s paintwork.
Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb to wash your vehicle once a week if you drive it often (we term these ‘daily drivers’). The number one pollutant on roadways today is brake dust which is acidic. When considering all the other pollutants and natural elements such as tree sap, soot, oil, bird droppings and so on, you’d be hard-pressed not to give your vehicle and quick wash at least once a week.
And ‘no’, rain doesn’t count especially if you live in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles or the North East of the United States where acid rain is common. Acid rain, if left on your vehicle for days past the rain has stopped, will dull the finish of your paintwork. If you have a wax finish on your paintwork, that will help tremendously. However, it is highly advised to wash on a regular basis. Plus, the more consistent you are with washing, the less effort is required the next wash.
Drying: The Right Tool And Technique
The way you dry the paintwork is just as important as the way you wash it. As a drying tool we suggest using Uber Jumbo Waffle Weave Drying Towel versus a cotton towel. Many cotton towels available marketed for vehicle care are blended with polyester despite claims of 100 percent cotton. If you choose to use a cotton towel, use a high quality towel from manufacturers that produce towels primarily. When washing cotton towels do not wash or dry them with fabric softener which will leave a coating on the tips of the fibers. This coating, which gives the sense of softness, will leave streaks on your paintwork. Instead of using softener to soften the towels, dry the towels in a dryer and pull them out when they are slightly damp—just before they are completely dry.
Drying the paint finish requires the same technique as washing. Do not apply a lot of pressure. Lay the towel on the surface and pull – nearly zero effort is required. Make sure you open the doors, trunk lid and hood to remove water from the rocker panel and door jams.
Keep in mind that the key to preventing scratches and swirl marks is by attacking the root of the problem, which in most cases is how we wash and dry our paintwork. Perfect this technique and your car’s paint finish will reflect (pun intended) your efforts.