One of my least favourite parts of the car cleaning process is washing! yep, that's right, I hate it, loathe it with a passion bordering on the psychotic.
Why I hear you ask? OK, the wash process is when you risk causing most damage to any paint finish as there is constant friction between the washing tool and paint and any dirt on the surface can act as a scourer, leaving more damage, more swirls and more work ultimately.
With this in mind, I figured that other people might be having the same issues so I've compiled a 'how to' guide. This is by no means a definitive (you can only wash your car this way) gospel, rather, it's a bunch of hints, tips and 'do's and 'don'ts' which may be helpful.
Sun or Shade?
Traditionally, washing your car in bright, hot sunshine (which we of course experience a lot of here in the UK…) was always a no-no and whilst there are some shampoos which can and do work reasonably well in sunny conditions, I always try to avoid this as water spots very quickly on paint and glass, shampoo dries streaky before you can rinse away, drying towels drag on water spots, causing scratching – plus the folically challenged always end up with a sunburnt head!
There are a lot of shampoos available both off the shelf, via the Internet or from specialist companies who supply the trade. I usually steer clear of "wash & wax" type products, as they rarely use a particularly good quality wax and I want pure cleaning power from my shampoo (now, THAT sounds like an advert for washing powder!)
Expensive shampoo is something I usually avoid, not because I'm tight, but because they rarely out-perform lower priced products. I always look for shampoo that doesn't strip any wax from the car and ideally one which sheets water off the surface (more on this later) Sonax Extra Gloss and Mothers California Gold are particular favourites for this reason.
I always evaluate any car I work on before doing anything to it. Look for any damage, corrosion, bird mess etching or other fallout and decide on the best route to removal.
I then rinse the car with plain tap water from the hose. Spend a good few minutes doing this, as pre-rinsing will help remove any dust, loose dirt or mud from the car, reducing the risk of this causing damage to your paintwork.
Mix your shampoo as directed – you can use either cold or lukewarm water, not hot as it can either strip wax or reduce its ability to protect, plus it'll burn your hands…..
Get a second bucket and fill with cold water.
Chuck out that sponge!!!!!!!
Yellow sponges are, in my humble opinion, the single biggest cause of wash damage. They trap dirt on a flat surface and simply move it around the paint, making the dirt particles like a scouring pad on your pristine paintwork. Even regular rinsing can't overcome this problem, so what can you do?
Easy, invest in a lambswool washmitt. Does exactly what it says on the tin, in that most have a synthetic mitt that you fit your hand into covered with a thick layer of genuine lambswool.
Why stick your hand up half a dead sheep? Why not I say – whatever floats your boat……
Seriously, lambswool is softer than a synthetic sponge and draws dirt deep into the wool, and away from your paint. It also rinses cleaner and dirt is not trapped as easily, thus reducing the risk of damage.
You can clean them in a mild liquid detergent and I have mitts, which are close to 2 years old and still work well. Chenille and microfibre mitts are also available, but in my experience lambswool performs considerably better.
Back to the process…..
Don't be a scrooge!
You should now have the following tools.
1. Bucket filled with shampoo mixture
2. Bucket filled with cold water
This is the order in which I wash my Astra hatch.
2. Side windows
4. Sides to rubbing strip approx 1/3 from sill height
5. Rear window/boot
6. Front end
I try to follow the logic that, under normal use, area 1 stays cleanest and area 7 collects the most dirt, bugs and so on.
Put mitt in bucket, onto panel and soap thoroughly and here's where you don't need to be (and mustn't be) stingy with your shampoo mixture! use plenty as the soap is both cleaning and providing lubrication (no sniggering at the back please) between your mitt and the paintwork. You can always make up more if you run out! Try to work in straight lines to minimise swirling. I generally use the following rule;
Horizontal panels (roof, bonnet, boot) – front-to-back-motions
Vertical panels (doors, wings, front & rear) – top-to-bottom motions
After each panel, dip the mitt in the clean water bucket, rinse and continue. I generally change the water every 3rd panel or more frequently if the car is very dirty.
I tend to do the roof and side glass, then rinse, bonnet, rinse, side 1, rinse, side 2 rinse, tailgate, rinse, grill, rinse, windscreen, rinse.
I then switch to another bucket, make up more soap solution and clean the sill panels, front and rear bumpers and rinse.
You can use 2 or even 3 clean water buckets (I do this on my black 205), Grit Guards on your rinse bucket, different mitts for different areas – your choice really.
Get your end off
Finally, remove all couplings from the end of your hose then use the stream of water to get as much water from the car as possible – the less water left, the less drying needed.
Get a good microfibre waffle weave drying towel. These are heavier microfibre towels, with pockets that soak up water very quickly 'some won't' even wring out after drying 2 or more cars!
I tend to use several towels on a rotation basis when I dry cars and blot water spots. I also use a lightweight waffle weave which absorbs less water but is lighter than most drying towels.
Meguiars Water Magnet is the best drying towel I have used so far – absorbs a lot of water without becoming heavy.
Always dry in straight lines – I dry front to back on all horizontal panels and top to bottom on all vertical panels. Don't forget doorshuts, petrol filler and boot/bonnet shuts (I have several older towels for these areas)
You can also use some QD spray whilst drying – just make sure it's compatible with any wax on the car to avoid streaking.
This guide should help you to maintain the perfect finish and reduce paintwork damage during washing.
You can add a lot of tools, products and other techniques into the wash process but I have tried to stick to the basics rather than confuse everyone.