Car Detailing - How to Wash Your Vehicle
Understanding that no car wash method is entirely fool proof in preserving your paint is key. Our goal is to minimize risks and maximize cleanliness. Unfortunately where there is contact with your paint, there is always a risk (no matter how small) that you'll introduce some form of imperfection to the surface of the paint. Car detailing is a meticulous process but it's entirely possible to carry out this process without damaging your paint if done correctly.
This is one of the main benefits of paint protection film in that a barrier is placed between the paint and anything getting to it.
Three Core Stages of an Ideal Car Wash
Initial Decontamination (Pre-Contact Phase)
Begin with an application of a foaming agent or a general-purpose cleaner. This step loosens and lifts dirt without direct contact. Whether you let the solution sit or rinse it off quickly depends on the product and your preference. Experiment to see what works best for your vehicle.
Active Washing (Contact Phase)
Engage directly with your vehicle's surface using a soft wash mitt. Employ a method that prevents dirt reapplication, like the dual-bucket system. Buckets can be purchased cheaply, and are a great way to help guide against damage. The process being that you wash your cleaning mitt off in one bucket allowing most of the dirt to come away from the mitt. You then load up your mitt in the clean bucket. This guards against grit being on your mitt when cleaning. If you add grit guards to the bottom of the bucket, it'll help even more!
Always start from the higher surfaces and move downwards, ensuring dirt and grime flow away from cleaner areas onto the floor.
Rinse and Detailing Dry-Off
A final rinse is essential, especially if chemical decontaminants were used. This could be a detailed task, taking up to 15 - 20 minutes to ensure all residues are completely rinsed off. Again start high and work your way down.
Dry the vehicle with high-quality microfiber towels, using one for the bulk of the water and another for finishing touches.
For an even more meticulous dry, consider an air blower, which is particularly effective in crevices and hard-to-reach areas. Air blowers are one of the tools we use when detailing as it gets rid of the water in places you can not reach with a towel, like joins in body work, edge of lights etc.
Wheel Cleaning: A Separate Art
Treat wheel cleaning as its own task. We would suggest doing this first (despite it appearing last in this article) as wheels are usually covered in muck, and you don't want to have just washed your car and then get the muck from the wheels over it!
Apply a non-contact cleaner first, followed by a gentle but thorough hand wash. For stubborn grime, a wheel-specific fallout remover may be necessary, followed by agitation and a final rinse.
To sum up, these techniques, when applied correctly, offer a safe and effective way to maintain the aesthetic of your car's paintwork.
For a video guide, the Chemical Guys have an excellent video here.