Proper Washing & Drying Technique
Are you washing your car, or just damaging the paint?
Most of the swirl marks that disfigure your vehicle are likely caused by poor washing technique. Thorough weekly washes and careful hand-drying can be the best care you can give your vehicle. Improper techniques will cause unsightly swirls and scratches in the paint requiring compounding or polishing at the very least. You can eliminate these problems and save yourself extra work by following a few simple tips when washing and drying your vehicle.
Are you washing weekly or weakly?
Weekly washing is best because some contaminants quickly do serious long term damage to paint if they are allowed to remain. Two such organic compounds are bug remains and bird droppings. These bio-hazards contain complex proteins that bond to the surface and organic acids that penetrate and break down the surface, eating into your clear coat if not removed promptly. Weak spots in the clear coat make your vehicle susceptible to corrosion and discoloration.
Another problem contaminant is brake dust. It contains metal shavings from the rotors and adhesives used in the production of brake pads. Try to picture the dirty plume of brake dust and roadway chemicals that travels along with a moving vehicle. This fog of chemicals shower the lower portion of your vehicle with a clinging, nearly invisible mist. Brake dust itself, is highly corrosive and very sticky. Washing your vehicle weekly will remove these contaminants before they have the opportunity to do unsightly permanent damage.
First Never wash in direct sunlight. Pick a shady spot. Second it’s very important to choose tools that are gentle on the paint, yet still effective at removing contamination. As a rule of thumb, sponges and mittsthat are plush or have a deep nap are better than flat weave towels or dense sponges. For example, aNatural Sea Sponge has numerous deep compartments where dirt and debris can accumulate. The natural fibers themselves will not scratch the paint and they will essentially pull contamination into the sponge’s openings, away from the paint. Always use the softer side of the sponge for washing. Rinse new sea sponges thoroughly before use to remove any shell fragments or sand.
Another option is a Sheepskin Wash Mitt. Sheepskin is extremely soft and plush. The fibers are gentle on the paint while the nap is deep enough to accommodate loose dirt and sand so they do not rub against the vehicle. Because wool is natural, it does not last as long as a Microfiber mitt. However, for luxurious softness, you can’t beat the texture of wool.
Micro-chenille wash mitts are another paint-safe option. Microfiber’s combination of polyester and polyamide make it capable of scrubbing the paint without scratching or swirling. It traps dirt and grit within the fibers rather than leaving them on the surface of your vehicle. Be sure to rinse the mitt frequently to release these particles.
1. Wash the wheels and tires first. If you splash wheel cleaners or dirt onto your vehicle, you can simply wash it off as you wash your vehicle. Use a cleaner that is safe for all wheels, like Wolfgang Tire & Wheel Cleaner. It is water-based and has no corrosive chemicals, which is safer for coated wheels and rubber. Agitate with a wheel brush to clean wheels without scratching. Wash each wheel and tire one at a time and rinse thoroughly before moving on to the next one. NOW EMPTY AND RINSE ALL CLEANING MATERIALS including your Pinnacle Safe Scrub Bug & Tar Sponge and your wash bucket.
2. Now you’re ready to wash. Let’s start with clean water and a freshly rinsed container and our Micro-chenille Wash Mitt. It’s important to use a car wash that is rich in lubricants. The purpose of the car wash is to remove contaminants and lubricate them so they do not scratch the paint as they slide off the vehicle. Dish detergents are not ideal because they remove protective coatings. P21S Bodywork Conditioning Shampoo, DP Power Wash and Pinnacle Bodywork Shampoo are all fantastic choices. They do not remove wax and provide ample lubrication of gritty particles.
3. How do you prevent swirl marks? Use two buckets. Fill one bucket with soapy water and fill the other with clean water. Each time you’re ready to reload your sponge with soapy water, dip it in the clean water first, to rinse out the grit and contamination you’ve just removed from your vehicle. Then dip it in the soapy water and continue washing.
An even better option is the Grit Guard. This plastic grid sits in the bottom of a 5-gallon wash bucket and stabilizes the water. Contamination and particles settle to the bottom of the bucket and the clean wash water remains at the top.
4. Always rinse your vehicle thoroughly before you begin washing in order to remove loose debris. Then begin washing at the top of the vehicle. Wash down the vehicle as opposed to front to back. Remember that the lower panels are dirtiest. You want to clean the windows and the upper panels before cleaning the lower half of the vehicle so that you don’t transfer grit to the top half of the vehicle. Rinse and reload your Sponge often to prevent cross-contamination. Rinse your vehicle frequently as you work, especially in hot weather.
For stubborn spots, like bugs or tar, use the Pinnacle Safe Scrub Bug & Tar Sponge to gently remove sticky contaminants without scratching. To soften the sponge, soak it in warm water for 3 minutes. Always use it with soapy water to lubricate the sponge. If you choose to use a spot cleaner, spray it on before washing and reapply wax to the treated area after you’ve dried the vehicle.
5. When rinsing, you don’t have to blast your car clean with the water hose. Free-flowing water (no nozzle) will allow the water to sheet off of your vehicle for a more thorough rinsing.
Never skip drying! Drying your vehicle after washing is necessary to prevent water spots. Water spots are caused by mineral deposits that etch the outline of a drop of water into your vehicle’s paint. All water has minerals, whether it’s from the hose or the sky. As the water evaporates, the minerals remain on the surface and they will eventually, invariably create water spots.