Car Care & Detailing Guides
Using appropriate products and techniques gained from many years of experience, UF has published a series of car care guides with the car enthusiast in mind. With careful application and attention to detail, you too can correctly look after your car, make it look amazing and then keep it that way. Protecting your investment starts here …
5. Safe Washing (Shampoo)
Washing your vehicle regularly is an essential part of caring for the visual appearance of your car, but it’s also the most likely time to accidentally inflict swirls into the paintwork. Safe washing techniques must be employed to avoid accidental swirling and micro-scratches, as these build up over time and before too long, the paintwork looks irretrievably dull and tired. As well as being disappointing for the owner, dull paintwork is likely to significantly reduce the resale value of any car.
Traditional sponges are no longer the preferred tool of the car care professional and for good reason: the open cell nature of most foam sponges traps grit and dirt at the surface of the pad, allowing the contamination to be repeatedly wiped over the bodywork as the wash progresses. These dirt and grit particles leave scratches and swirls in the bodywork – the larger the grit the worse the swirls. The marring left behind on the paintwork is clearly visible particularly in bright sunlight and the circular pattern leaves no doubt as to when and how they were inflicted.
To avoid this opt for either a wash mitt or a wash pad.
Favoured by the majority as mitts fit over the hand and secures with a cuff over the wrist. Rather than having to grip on to a pad, a mitt allows the user to relax their hand during the wash process, preventing cramping. It also makes it less likely that the mitt will be dropped on the floor during the wash process, thus avoiding contamination.
There are 2 types of mitt: the microfibre and the natural wool, be it lambswool or Merino wool. Being synthetic, the microfibre mitts are the easiest to maintain – most can be machine washed and then put out to dry. Providing the pile is long, microfibre mitts are a great option – the long pile removes dirt from the car’s bodywork and traps it deep inside, making it less likely to incur swirl marks. Natural mitts are very popular too – the natural fibres are very soft (Merino wool mitts particularly) and again, the long fibres remove dirt and trap it deep in the pile. Natural wool mitts however require better care, typically cannot be machine washed and, depending on how long the fibres are, may even need combing out! They are also more inclined to rot and disintegrate if they’re not maintained properly.
Most wash pads are a microfibre overlay with a sponge centre. This means they are easy to grip and easy to look after. They tend to be highly absorbent (although this depends on the quality of the underlying sponge). Again, look for a long pile microfibre covering as this is all important for isolating and the subsequent removal of dirt particles.
The tried and tested ‘Two Bucket Method’ is an excellent way to minimise the chances of inflicting swirl marks and scratches into the paintwork during the wash process by separating the ‘wash’ water from the ‘rinse’ water. Ideally, a grit guard or scratch shield should be placed in the bottom of the buckets; this allows you to brush your mitt against it, releasing dirt particles which sink to the bottom of the bucket. The guard then helps keep the grit at the bottom of the bucket.
- 2 x Buckets (Wash / Rinse)
- 2 x Grit Guards / Scratch Shields (optional but highly recommended)
- Wash Mitt or Wash Pad
- Step 1 – Place a Grit Guard / Scratch Shield into two standard size buckets
- Step 2 – Fill Bucket One with lukewarm water and shampoo of choice (check the manufacturers recommendation for the amount to use) – this is now referred to as the Wash Bucket
- Step 3 – Fill Bucket Two with clean water – this is now referred to as the Rinse Bucket. If you are only using one Grit Guard / Scratch Shield, place it into this bucket
- Step 4 – Dunk a wash mitt or wash pad into the Wash Bucket, loading it with soapy water
- Step 5 – Begin washing your car from the top down
- Step 6 – When you need to, rinse your wash mitt or wash pad in the Rinse Bucket. You will see this water turn a darker shade as it now holds the contaminants you’ve just removed from the surface of your car. If you have a Grit Guard / Scratch Shield in the bucket, rub your wash mitt or wash pad across it to help release particles trapped in the pile
- Step 7 – Immerse your wash mitt into the Wash Bucket
- Step 8 – Continue washing your car
- Step 9 – Rinse your mitt in the Rinse Bucket as required
- Step 10 – Repeat until your car is clean. You will notice the water in the Wash Bucket stays clean whilst the water in the Rinse Bucket will turn dark and murky. Change the rinse water as often as necessary to prevent contaminating the wash water.
It’s worth noting – wheels, sills and the rear of the vehicle tend to collect the worst of the road grime and it’s a good idea to keep a separate wash mitt specifically for these areas.
Grit Guards / Scratch Shields are grilles placed in the bottom of a bucket to provide a surface to rub a wash mitt or wash pad against. This action releases trapped dirt and grit particles from the wash mitt or pad which then sink through the grille to the bottom of the bucket and are less likely to re-contaminate the wash mitt or wash pad.
There are several types of grille available – some are fixed and suit a particular size of bucket, others have detachable ‘feet’ and so can be altered fit buckets of differing diameters. Whichever you opt for, a grille of this kind is a key piece of the ‘safe washing’ kit and come highly recommended.
Boot, bonnet and door shuts get particularly greasy and grimy and so benefit from a bit of agitation during the wash process. Scrubbing at these areas with a wash mitt is not recommended though, as additional pressure on dirty surfaces are likely to cause swirl marks and scratches. A brush is a much better option as it allows agitation of the underlying dirt without applying too much pressure to it. Brushes are also easier to get into tight corners and around catches.
Badges and grilles have lots of edges making them dirt traps. Attempting to clean these areas with a wash mitt usually result in parts of wash mitt getting caught in the metal, leaving fluffy residue stuck into the corners. Brushes are a much more effective way of cleaning around these tricky areas without leaving pieces of cloth behind.
Choosing Brushes – What To Look For:
When choosing brushes, always ensure you opt for soft, natural bristles, surrounded by a plastic ferrule (the shoulder of the brush where it connects to the handle which holds all the bristles). Metal ferrules are harder and therefore more likely to cause scratches if they make contact with the car.
Different sizes of brush are handy, as some areas will be smaller requiring a small-headed brush, whereas trying to clean the inside of a door shut with a brush that is too small will be very time consuming!