If you wash your own car, you may notice that fine scratches, swirl marks and spider webbing seem to be attracted to your car’s paint like a magnet. If this is the case, then you need a lesson in proper car washing techniques. The bucket grit guard serves as a washboard, keeping dirt off your wash pad and your vehicle.
Washing your car regularly is to exterior car care as changing your oil is to good engine maintenance. As we used to hear on TV, “You can pay me now or pay me later!” As with the engine, dirt and grime are the enemy of your vehicle’s paint, glass, plastic and polished metal finishes. It causes scratching and it’s a catalyst for corrosion. That means that regular washing is essential, but are you doing it the right way?
The Double-Edge Sword of Car Washing
Car washing can be a double-edged sword. That’s because your average jug-o-car-wash product is more likely to strip your car wax than not, leaving you with a dull, unprotected paint finish. Dish washing detergents, a favorite of many car owners, are even worse. Products like Dawn work great cutting through grease and grime, making them a very effective car wax remover. Sure, your car will be spotless, but it won’t have a bit of protection.
The Importance of a Quality Car Wash Soap
If you’re going to wash your own car, be sure to use a quality car wash shampoo product. Trust me, spending a buck or two extra on a good product is money well spent. You can’t go wrong with Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash and Conditioner or Mothers California Gold Car Wash. They are both easy to find at your local auto parts store and they won’t remove your wax protection. Plus, these wash shampoos offer conditioners designed to prevent scratching and maintain the shine.
Cheap Wash Mitts & Household Sponges are a No-No!
If you are already using a quality car wash, and you get swirls and scratches anyway, the problem could be your wash mitt or sponge. Cheap, synthetic wash mitts are bad news, and household sponges are even worse. What your car needs is a high quality wash mitt that holds lots of soapy water and is free-rinsing. I highly recommend a lamb’s wool mitt or one of the big, shaggy microfiber wash mitts. They work great and they don’t scratch, unless you don’t use it correctly.
I can’t tell you how many times I have watched people use their wash mitt, then toss it on the ground while they rinse the car. On the ground the wash mitt picks up dirt and grit like a magnet. Almost as bad is tossing the mitt into the bucket of soapy water where it sinks to the bottom and picks up all of the grit and grime you just washed off. The best solution is to put it across the rim of your wash bucket or use a device called a Grit Guard to keep it off the bottom of the bucket altogether.
Try Using Two Buckets… It Works!
If you are really paranoid about swirl marks and fine scratches (black car owners, listen up), you might want to use the two bucket method. That’s where you have one bucket with your soapy water and a second bucket of clean water for rinsing your wash mitt. This makes your soapy water last longer because you never put your wash mitt into the soap before rinsing it.
The two bucket method has a very practical benefit. Most importantly it keeps dirt and grit out of your soapy water, which keeps it off your car’s paint. It also makes your soapy water and wash suds last longer.
Old Bath Towels for Drying… Never!
After washing, it’s time to dry. A thorough drying off prevents water spots and streaking, but what’s the best towel to use? It isn’t a bath towel, I can tell you that.
Household towels contain polyester threads and backing for durability. Pure cotton is nice and absorbent, but it isn’t strong enough. That’s why bath towels, kitchen towels and beach towels contain polyester. Unfortunately, polyester is stronger that steel and it scratches just like steel wool. If you use household towels to dry your car, they will cause swirl marks.
The old timers used leather chamois. They work great, last a long time, and don’t scratch, but they have to be put through a wringer. A more modern solution is the microfiber drying towel, often called a waffle weave towel. Although these towels are synthetic, they are super absorbent and the cloth fibers are so fine and soft they don’t scratch. You can buy microfiber drying towels at your local auto parts store.
A scratch-free, swirl-free car wash isn’t difficult or a mystery. Use a quality car wash, wash mitt and drying towel and your swirl mark problems will be gone forever.
Discover popular car detailing articles on the Guide to Detailing blog, including more car washing and drying tips that will save you time and money.
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