A Detailers Guide To Washing A Car
  1. At least two buckets containing grit guards.
  2. A large plush microfibre towel for drying and a large plush microfibre towel for buffing.
  3. A PH neutral car shampoo
  4. A Microfibre, noodle or lambswool wash mitt  (Never use a sponge to wash your car)
  5. Detailing wheel brushes to clean your alloy wheels.
  6. A pressure washer
  7. A citrus based pre-clean product
  8. Snow foam
  9. A wheel cleaning product such as Auto Wheel or Bilberry
  10. An electric or compressed air blower to remove water from cracks and crevices if you want to look like a pro.
  11. Detail spray
  12. Tar and glue/bug remover.

This methodology represents the approach of many professional detailers for correct and safe washing of both our personal vehicles and those of our clients.

To begin, the initial step is to locate a shaded area away from direct sunlight. It is essential to avoid washing a car with hot paintwork, as we aim to prevent water from drying on the vehicle's surface. The presence of dried water spots can pose significant challenges in their removal. Fortunately, if this does occur you can find a variety of water spot removers to help rid these stubborn marks. 

1. Clean Your Wheels & Tires 

Cleaning alloy wheels professionally is essential to achieve that pristine appearance for your car. Here's how to do it effectively. Many typically use a high-quality alloy wheel cleaner, such as Bilberry, known for its excellent natural cleaning properties. Another reason for its popularity is that this wheel cleaner is safe to use on vehicles with carbon ceramic brakes. 

However, our personal favourite is a product called Auto Wheel by Bilt Hamber, despite its pungent odour, Auto Wheel works wonders in removing dirt from alloy wheels. It's also effective against iron contaminants, fallout, and brake dust. One unique aspect of Auto Wheel is that it appears to bleed as it reacts with contaminants. During your initial use, you'll likely be astonished by how much contamination is present on your car, making it quite satisfying to witness it being thoroughly removed.

Bilberry can be diluted, unlike Auto Wheel, which is used undiluted. Both products should be applied using a spray bottle that you fill yourself. Start by spraying the product generously over your alloy wheels, including inside the rims. Also, apply it to the wheel arch liners and adhere to the recommended time limits as specified by the manufacturer. We recommend cleaning one wheel at a time before moving on to the next, as these products should not be left on the car for an extended period, especially Auto Wheel.

After applying the product, take a high-quality detailing wheel brush to agitate it. Move the brush in and out of the spokes to reach the inner sections of the alloys and remove any accumulated dirt. Following this, use a smaller detailing brush, like an artist's brush, to clean the faces and spokes of the alloys, as well as the inside of the holes where the wheel nuts are situated. The small brush is ideal for this precision work. I also take the opportunity to clean the tire walls by spraying onto the rubber and using the small brush to eliminate any dirt.

Now, it's time to remove the product from the alloy wheels and wheel arches using your pressure washer. Ensure thorough removal as Auto Wheel tends to be thicker requires a bit more time to rinse off compared to Bilberry. Be cautious to avoid splashing back into your eyes, especially when directing the pressure washer into the wheel nut holes.  Once you've completed one wheel, move on to the next, repeating the process until all four alloys and tires are immaculately clean and ready to go.

As for your tires, there are dedicated tire cleaners that will strip and clean your tire in preparation for its next dressing. You will find your tire dressing lasts longer if you choose to do this, however it is an optional step. A popular favourite is Gyeon's Tire Cleaner, this product does exactly what the label says and in spectacular fashion. 

 

2. Use A Citrus Pre Cleaner 

To begin, I recommend filling a snow foam lance or spray bottle with a citrus-based pre-cleaner and the appropriate amount of water, then attaching it to your pressure washer. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions on your chosen product to ensure you're using the correct dilution rates. The purpose of using a citrus pre-cleaner is to effectively remove as much debris and contaminants, such as grit, dirt, and bird droppings, from the car's paintwork before we start physically washing it. The goal is to have the car as clean as possible before we begin washing to minimize any potential damage to the paint.

Starting from the bottom of the car and working your way up towards the roof, evenly spray the citrus pre-cleaner across the car's surface. Begin on the sides of the car, starting from the corner of the front bumper and moving towards the rear corner of the bumper. Adjust the nozzle on the lance to achieve a wider spray pattern and fully open the dilution rate. After covering one side of the car, work your way back above the layer you've just applied until the entire side is coated with the pre-cleaner.

Repeat the same process on the opposite side of the car, then proceed to spray the front and rear bumpers. Finally, move on to the roof. Don't forget to address the wheel area as well. Spray inside the wheel arches to cover the wheel liners and coat both the insides and front faces of the alloy wheels. Remember to also open the petrol/diesel tank flap and apply some pre-cleaner in there if needed, using a brush if necessary.

Once you've completed the pre-cleaning process, detach the snow foam bottle from your pressure washer and let it sit while the pre-cleaner continues to work on the car. Citrus pre-cleaner typically requires about 5-10 minutes to effectively do its job. After this waiting period, reattach your pressure washer lance to the pressure washer itself. Now, it's time to rinse off the pre-cleaner from the car.

To do this, repeat the same process you used to apply the pre-cleaner in the first place. Start on the sides at the bottom and work your way from the front of the car to the back. Ensure that you thoroughly remove all product residue, especially from the wheels and wheel arches, where dirt and mud tend to accumulate. Pay particular attention to getting the water right up behind the lip of each wheel arch to eliminate all dirt and grime.

Once Rinsed, you have now successfully completed the pre-cleaning process for your entire car.

 

3. Inspect For Bugs & Tar 

Now is the opportune moment to carefully examine your paintwork for any signs of insect residue and especially stubborn tar spots that may have adhered to the surface and were not eliminated during the pre-cleaning phase. If you happen to notice any of these imperfections, it's advisable to have your bug and tar remover ready. Apply this solution generously to the affected areas and allow the product to permeate and perform its intended function. Under no circumstances should you attempt to manually rub or scrub at these spots with a cloth or any other tool. Simply permit the bug and tar remover to work its effective magic. The next step in the process will naturally remove the bug and tar remover from the car's surface. 

4. Apply A Snow Foam 

Now, let's delve into the process of snow foaming your car, but what exactly is snow foam?

Snow foam functions by generating a thick, adhesive foam that adheres to your car's surface. This dense foam extends the duration during which the cleaning agents within the snow foam interact with the dirt on your car's surface. This extended interaction period is commonly referred to as "contact time." Due to this heightened contact time, as compared to using regular soap and water alone, snow foam excels at breaking down and lifting dirt from your car's surface. Consequently, it significantly enhances the effectiveness of your standard car washing routine.

To properly snow foam your car, the application method mirrors that of the citrus pre-cleaner.

Once more, adhere to the manufacturer's recommended dilution rates, as outlined in their instructions, and prepare your snow foam lance by filling it appropriately. Attach the lance securely to your pressure washer. I won't reiterate the application process, but instead, follow the previous instructions regarding starting with the sides of the car and using a sweeping technique as you progress from the front to the rear, commencing with the lower portions of the car. Once the entire car, including the wheels, is enveloped in a thick foam, allow the product to work its magic by leaving it on the car and allowing it to naturally drip off for approximately ten minutes (observe the manufacturer's instructions for specific duration recommendations). As the foam drips away, it effectively rids the car of any remaining contaminants from the citrus pre-cleaning phase.

While the product is at work, this is an opportune moment to meticulously clean the snow foam bottle in preparation for future use. Now, to remove the foam from the car, reattach the pressure washer lance and initiate the removal process from the bottom of the car and move upward, mirroring the technique employed with the citrus pre-cleaner. Be sure not to overlook the area beneath the petrol/diesel tank flap.

After rinsing, you have now successfully completed both pre-cleaning procedures for your car!

4. Wash Your Car With Shampoo

We have now arrived at the stage where you can proceed with the familiar car washing process that you recognize. The pre-wash treatments have effectively eliminated any debris, dust, and airborne contaminants from your car's paintwork. This meticulous preparation ensures that your car's surface is free of hidden particles that could potentially inflict damage during the washing process. Similar to any meticulous job, whether it's decorating or car washing, the key lies in the preparation to attain the best possible end results.

To begin, you will require two buckets, each equipped with a grit guard. These grit guards are placed at the bottom of the buckets and serve to remove any grit or debris that may inadvertently accumulate on your wash mitt. Their purpose will become evident as we proceed.

Now, fill one of the buckets with fresh clean water, while the other bucket will be designated for your pH-neutral car shampoo.

The strategy here is to use one bucket for the actual washing process and the other for rinsing out your wash mitt after each immersion in the shampoo. Add your car shampoo to the designated wash bucket. I recommend using a concentrated shampoo, as it lasts longer and requires less product. Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding the recommended amount and add fresh clean water to fill the bucket. We are now prepared to commence the car washing process.

Take your wash mitt and immerse it into the shampoo bucket. I prefer to start at the top of the car, following this order: roof, windscreen, bonnet, and boot lid. I consistently leave the sides for last, particularly the lower portion of the car, which tends to accumulate the most dirt. It's advisable to utilize a second wash mitt for cleaning the lower half of the car to further minimize the risk of debris transfer to the mitt, thus reducing the potential for paintwork damage.

While washing, it is essential not to exert excessive pressure on the paintwork. Instead, gently glide the mitt across the paint surface to minimize any potential harm during the wash. Use a straight-arm motion and work from front to back. Avoid circular motions. After washing a specific panel, such as the roof, promptly rinse the shampoo from the panel using a pressure washer to prevent soap from drying onto the paintwork.

Crucially, never put your wash mitt into the wash bucket without first cleaning and rinsing it thoroughly in the clean water bucket. Dip the mitt into the clean water bucket and agitate it against the grit guard at the bottom. This process effectively dislodges any debris that may have adhered to the wash mitt. Any debris that is removed from the mitt during this agitation process falls to the bottom of the bucket beneath the grit guard, safely out of harm's way. It's also prudent to visually inspect the mitt for any visible debris. 

Once you've rinsed the mitt, you can dip it back into the wash bucket and proceed to wash the next panel, starting with the windscreen. Repeat this process diligently, agitating the mitt against the grit guard each time before re-immersing it into the shampoo bucket, until all horizontal panels, including the front and rear windows, have been thoroughly washed and rinsed off with the pressure washer. At this point, you are ready to clean the sides of the car.

Once again, employ a straight arm method and wash up and down in straight lines, avoiding circular motions. Begin with the top half of the car's sides, and as mentioned earlier, it is advisable to change your wash mitt when transitioning to the lower half, which tends to accumulate more dirt. After washing, rinse thoroughly with the pressure washer, replace your mitt, and proceed to clean the lower half of the car, including the front and rear bumpers.

 5. Dry Your Car 

The drying process of your car is a critical step where potential harm to the paintwork can occur. This is the stage where the risk of streaks and swirl marks is most prominent. After investing considerable effort in preventing these issues, it's essential to exercise great caution when removing water from your car. Here's the optimal approach to minimize any potential damage during the drying process.

Use a large microfibre drying towel, extremely plush and absorbent with some even capable of soaking up to 2 litres of water. Grab each side of the towel and place it over the wet panels and slowly pull the towel over the car soaking up each drop of water as you go. Using a rinse aid can help in this situation and add a slight bit of lubricity between the towel and the panel. 

 

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