Recently an article featured in AutoExpress magazine discussed the demise of the weekend tradition of washing the car at home. Whilst we agree with the articles author, Mike Rutherford, that the sight of a neighbour out with his bucket and sponge on a Sunday morning is becoming a rarer one, there are some for whom the practice of washing the car will never go out of fashion: The Car Care Enthusiast.
These people love their cars and their passion is keeping their car looking ‘showroom’ ready. From the supercar owner to the hot hatch brigade, the luxury car lover to the daily driver, the car wash process is a labour of love. Each step is designed to lavish care on sensitive paintwork and the Enthusiast knows no-one will look after their car the way they do. Hours are spent painstakingly decontaminating paintwork using non-contact methods before the main wash, to help prevent incurring swirls and scratches. The bucket and sponge have gone, replaced with the Two Bucket Method.
The sponge has been replaced with wash mitts made of the softest natural lambs wool or the deepest, plushest microfibre.
Gone too is the traditional chamois leather; microfibre and waffle weave drying towels are in; ultra-soft, hugely water absorbent, easier to look after than the chamois and will not remove wax layers the way a chamois can. Throw into the mix the enthusiast’s penchant for pre-washing their vehicles with the aptly named snow foam and final rinsing with de-ionised water to avoid unsightly watermarks and it is clear that the revolution is well under way!
For the enthusiast the whole ethos is about making sure the paintwork is pampered, the wheels are cleaned without being compromised by harsh chemicals or scratched with sharp-ended bristle brushes.
It’s about making sure the final overall effect is nothing short of stunning. It’s about relaxation, escaping the everyday chores and indulging in some quiet time with their cherished vehicle.
It’s easy to see why, for this section of the population, the £5 hand car wash is a less than attractive proposition. Yes they’re quick and they’re cheap, but at what price to paintwork and wheels? Harsh chemicals are sprayed to quickly strip away dirt and traffic film; chemicals that leach the natural oils from the paintwork and react with the lacquer on the wheels (and may eventually cause the lacquer to peel and the wheels to therefore discolour). The same washing tools are used on the myriad of cars that pass through; they collect dirt and grit and without a proper method for removing unwanted contamination, these particles are rubbed repeatedly back and forth over every car in the production line. The sponges may get rinsed and rung out, but the emphasis here is on speed: as many cars through as possible, so not much time is taken to ensure all the tools are in the best condition. The drying cloths too, are subject to the same issues: flung on to tables or into buckets they undoubtedly collect contamination which then is rubbed over the car during the drying stage. Mechanical car washes may have long had a name for causing swirls and scratches in paintwork, but is the £5 hand car wash really any safer?
There have been many advances in paint protection systems designed to help protect paintwork and wheels from just this type of damage. Both natural carnauba and synthetic Car waxes have long been popular and remain so to this day. One trip to the £5 hand car wash though and waxes can be stripped from the surface by the harsh chemicals used to wash the car. The latest generation of nanotechnology-based ceramic sealants arguably boast the best protection. Operating on the nano-scale, the surface area to volume ratio means they’re inherently incredibly strong. These sealants form chemical bonds with the substrate to which they’re applied and once cured, offer tolerance to highly alkaline and acidic chemicals. Their tough nature also makes them resistant to wash-induced swirling. An added benefit is the slick, glossy shine they leave on the paintwork. The perfect answer then? It would be tempting to think that, with a sealant such as this in place, the £5 hand car wash could do no damage.
The reality is however, that in spite of their tough nature, like all things sealants eventually degrade. The constant use of chemicals with very high or very low pH (highly alkaline or highly acidic) will impact on the longevity of the sealant and using less-than-clean washing and drying equipment will, over time, result in hazing of the sealant layer. The irony is, having protected the vehicle with a nano-sealant, dirt and contamination do not adhere as readily to the surface – so the car is far easier to keep clean without using harsh chemicals. Even wheels can be maintained with a pH neutral wheel cleaner. Washing a car protected with one of these sealants takes significantly less time than it used to. On the other hand, for people who are regularly pushed for time and end up taking their cars to a £5 hand car wash as a result, having a nano-sealant is an absolute must!
UF has been supplying car care products to enthusiasts worldwide since 1999. Some bring their vehicles to the UF Detailing Studio when they’re brand new, to receive New Car Protection. Some enthusiasts have had their car for some time but have noticed the paintwork is looking swirled and tired. Often they want their car protected initially so they can then maintain it themselves, knowing the underlying protection is there. A significant portion of customers want to look after their cars at home. They love the glow the paintwork exudes when protected with an exclusive carnauba-based wax. They find relaxation in carefully applying the wax over the paint and then buffing it off. Others opt for a nano-sealant because they know they offer enhanced swirl resistance, making the car quicker and easier to keep clean and maintains a high shine; it’s a practical option which allows them to keep their car looking in ‘showroom’ condition for longer. But whether the enthusiast is in it for practicality or for a love of the process, for them, washing the car at home is not just a whimsical fashion – it’s a heartfelt passion which from our experience shows no sign of slowing down!