Detailing How 2 - Washing & Drying

In this section you can find articles to help you out with the best car care regimes

Detailing How 2 - Washing & Drying

Postby Chris Hardey » Sat Feb 13, 2016 4:23 pm

Whether your car is kept cosseted in your garage, or under a cover it will eventually get dirty. Granted your show car may not get exposed to as much dirt as, say, your daily driver, but these techniques are still best practice what ever state the car is in.

The most important rule with this whole process is to keep direct contact to the car’s paintwork to a minimum. Every time you come into contact, or more importantly rub anything against your paint work you run the risk of adding scratches of varying degrees to the surface. This is why the traditional bucket, sponge and chamois approach is a big no-no these days, but I will come to that later. So let’s get on with it!

The first stage of the whole procedure is a good rinse off and there are a few approaches to this stage you can use. These approaches will be dependent on how well you know your car to determine which method will best suit you application.

• Garden Hose
This is the more delicate way to rinse if you are concerned about any ingress of water should the door or window seals be suspect. Using a low pressure or adjust your nozzle for a fine spray will work here, you just need enough flow to allow the water to catch any debris and flow off of the car.

• Pressure Washer
Don’t dismiss using a pressure washer just yet! Yes a pressure washer will breach any seals that are past their best or take off any loose trim or badges but only if you wave it too close and at full pressure. Using a pressure washer with a lower pressure, at a safer distance and with common sense will mean you can mist debris away without problems.

• Foam Rinse Agents
A relatively new innovation is ‘snow foam’ which is a type of shampoo you mix with water. This mix is usually held in a bottle which is then screwed into a foam lance, an attachment which connects to your pressure washer lance. You can however buy a version that connects to a garden hose, but in reality the pressure wash version works best. You then coat the whole car in a layer of foam and leave to dwell for 5 to 15mins (depending on outside temp) it will break down the traffic film as well as loosening the debris that plain water will do.

It should be noted that Snow Foams are a rinse aid to be added to a washing regime and not relied on to wash the car. Having said that a car that has had recent protection, lives in a garage, and is not too dirty may only need a foaming.

Once you have thoroughly rinsed off the body/foam you are ready for the next stage, the washing. However it’s always best practice to wash and rinse the wheels first!

• Two Bucket Method

The two-bucket method as the name suggests, has one bucket for washing and another for rinsing. This is one of the processes where you have to come into direct contact with the paint surface and having just one bucket will run the risk of any debris still on the car being put back on the car and worse being rubbed into the car. The additions of properly fitting grit guards at the bottom of each bucket will further protect you cars paint.

• Shampoo
Yes there are many to choose from but I hope I can help you out a little by dividing them into two main categories.

1. Non-Waxed Clearing Shampoos.
These shampoos are the ones to use when you either start, a proper detailing regime if you have never done so, or to replenish your full protection again. Put simply not only does the shampoo clean your car but also strips any waxes or sealants back to what is known as “Virgin Paint”, this is the starting block for further processes.

2. Shampoos with Wax Additive
These shampoos are ideal for washing your car between protection cycles, for example if you have waxed/sealed your car a month ago you can use these types of shampoos to “top-up” your protection.

• Wash Mitts
In the past we all grabbed the faithful sponge and got cleaning, we may have even gone to our car accessory shop and treated ourselves to one of those expensive cellulose sponges thinking we were doing good, I know I used to! The problem is that even a relatively clean car that’s just been rinsed may still have bits of debris. The cell structure of any sponge will cling to these particles and not draw them away but keep them on the surface and thus your sponge is now similar to glass paper introducing swirls and scrathes into the paint.

A proper wash mitt will pull any particles into the mitt keeping them away from the paint and then they can be deposited safely into the rinse bucket.

Dip you mitt into the wash bucket and start with the roof working in straight front to back motions, DO NOT move in circles. After you have done the roof then move on to the side windows, the windscreen and back window. No move on to the wings, the doors/side,and quarter panels. Then followed by the bonnet and boot, remembering to dip the mitt into the rinse bucket after each panel in turn. Then move on to the side windows, the doors, the wings and quarter panels.


Remember however, to not move any lower than the centre of door level, the lower half of the car should be washed separately from the top half. These sections of a car will always harbor more debris than the top. You may even wish to buy a second mitt, one for the top half and one for the bottom. At the very least use your single was mitt in the way I have just mentioned so as to not transport any debris between the bottom half and the top half.


Once you have completed the wash rinse thoroughly.

Similar to the traditional sponge it would be at this point we would have reached for the chamois leather, but again this method is ripe for adding those scratches. The same as a sponge, debris can cling to a chamois and coupled with the motion you would normally use can give you a whole host of new “love marks”! You may even want to try the newer silicon water blades BUT DON’T unless you want to run a scratch the length of your roof!

• Drying Towels
These are just the job and come in two main types, the waffle weave microfiber or the furrier microfiber. I prefer the furrier variety as I have found there work better, the other advantage is even the more expensive ones are cheaper than they average chamois. They hold an amazing amount of water without transferring it back to the car.

The best method is to lay the towel over the car and either pat it dry or as I do, lay your hands in the middle and slide them outwards using light pressure. Once you have done this over the entire towel pick it up, don’t pull it off, then move on to the next section. The beauty of this method is that you hold the towel in one place and it’s only your hands that move, thus once again, no chance of scratching the paint.

Move over the whole car in this fashion until the surface is dry. As you move down the sides and it becomes more vertical you will find gravity takes over and you will not be able to lay the towel. Once you get to this stage simply hold the towel in one hand and pat with the other, DON’T be tempted to start rubbing the towel along the body.

• Air Drying
If you are really conscious of touch-less washing and drying there are dedicated air drying machines which blow hot air from either a hand held unit of one mounted on wheels. The advantage of these you eliminate the need to touch the paint altogether. You can also thoroughly dry all those areas that trap water, lamps and mirrors etc. They can also be used to great effect if you decide to give the engine bay a session. However they are quite an expensive luxury starting at £85.00.

• Sheet Drying
This is for when you have really good paint that is almost perfect, you can use hose water to dry you car. No I’m not mad! If you have a perfectly polished surface you can develop a technique whereby you can run the water over a panel that in-turn collects any residue water and sheets off.

There you have it one “almost” clean car ready for the next stage surface preparation.
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Chris Hardey
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Re: Detailing How 2 - Washing & Drying

Postby Terry Wright » Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:13 pm

That is a very informative and helpful guide to washing and drying your car, thank you.
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