We've developed a no- frills, no-bucket washing regime that we use to keep concours cars looking perfect and we detail how it is better than the more elaborate and gear loaded set-ups recommended by some detailers.
We've noticed it's been in vogue of late to dramatise detailing regimes, detailers dream up and dictate incredibly expensive and sophisticated processes -and it impresses (some) people.
It's entertaining to hear about washing regimes that require 8 hours, washed by silk covered hands of non-speaking monks with blessed and filtered tears of only the happiest children after consultation with water sommelier hipsters in a marble floored garage. 10 mitts, 5 buckets and a twin barrel foaming gun.
Some of the processes look impressive, but after running 3 car washes at 100+ cars per day, all by hand, that's enough hard work washing cars for me, I want my washing regime to be top quality, but I want it as simple and easy as possible with absolutely no unnecessary materials, time or effort required.
So, I sat down recently and went to work on replicating the various regimes I'd seen, searching for any benefits, anything I could adapt to my own system for an increase in quality and any time saving I could find. I found nothing.
No system washed any 'safer'. They all took far too long, used copious amounts of product and required lengthy set-up and pack-up times and efforts.
One system was so time consuming that shampoo started to dry, perhaps it was a viable process in England or Germany, but in Australia, America, Indonesia -where most of our customers hail, they weren't useful, they were cumbersome - even irritating.
Another system had a foaming gun up against the mitt with the hose touching the car. Foam just looks good, it does nothing at all to make a wash any safer. Fact. The amount of care that was required to make sure the brass nozzle didn't come into contact with the body was a worry, any time you make a process require a lot of attention, especially a process carried out regularly, you will have issues as complacency sets in, the operator is bound to slip up sooner or later and I bet that brass nozzle will take a chunk of paint out sooner or later, especially as washing is almost always carried out with wet hands on a wet floor. There must be no risk and no room for error. The wash must be enjoyable too, not a back-breaking chore. For me, weekly washing is time-out I enjoy.
A poor man pays twice - buy carefully
I'm all for systems that minimise marring/swirling and I want quality, the last thing I want is to wash the car quickly and spend more time and much more money on products correcting the imperfections I induced. Here is a list of very effective, very efficient products I personally use on my own vehicles, I recommend to everyone and why;
The best washing gel, mainly for its low SLS (sodium lauryth sulphates) , low foam, high lubrication (minimises marring) formula and very reasonable price.
2. A NanoFibre Wash Mitt for bodywork and another for wheels.
No matter how well you wash your wheel mitt, some abrasive particles from brake pad compound may remain, always keep them separate, I mark one for wheels with a 'W' on the cuff with a permanent marker.
3. A High Pressure water unit.
At about 250-1000psi, it's much better to remove loose debris than mains pressure which is usually only about 80psi.
Just be careful not to put the lance too close to any surface of your pride and joy.
A high pressure unit, used correctly is very safe and much better than water with mains pressure.
4. Wheel Clean
Another outstanding product for its ridiculously effortless cleaning power and its super safe formula. PWC will deliver a good clean without the need for scrubbing (for wheels that aren't very heavily soiled) and with a little assistance from a wheel brush for heavily caked wheels, the results are nothing short of stunning from very little effort. PWC is perfectly safe on any type of wheel, coated or not and is gentle on brake calliper paint also.
5. Glass System
This two NanoFibre cloth system works great, there is almost never a time when a glass cleaner is required.
Protection after washing, whether it be a top-up wax or the first coat is so important. A product that makes this easy and a product that doesn't require force is important. Full Metal Jacket Spray Wax (FMJSW) meets all the criteria and offers the ability to be applied to all plastics, chrome and glass as well as paint.
A must. Everyone with a car should own at least one Final Inspection NanoFibre Paintwork cloth.
The fastest, safest and easiest way to dry your car (or mini drying towel for your compact or motorbike) after washes.
The very easy and enjoyable wash process...
NB: some of the products used in this video appear different to the current (optimised) versions
Step 1 – Initial Rinse
High Pressure (recommended) your vehicle from top to bottom removing all loose debris. Spend as long as you have to, making sure you remove as much muck as possible as this is a completely non-abrasive method of removing dirt from your surfaces. High-pressure hoses actually use very little water, so go for it. If your car is warm from a recent drive or you've moved it out of the sun and the panels or wheels are hot, its important to cool them down with water. Do not wash hot panels and do not wash in direct sunlight.
Step 2 – Cleaning Wheels, Tyres & Wheel Arches
It is a good idea to regularly clean your Wheel Arches, you could apply a little Jaffa to them (even the carpeted arches) and allow it to dwell for better results.
Spray Jaffa onto your tyres to remove build up of old tyre dressing. Agitate with a brush if necessary.
Spray wheel clean onto wheels and agitate if necessary.
Rinse wheel arches first, then tyres, then wheels making sure all products do not have the chance to dry on the surfaces.
Step 3 – Pre-Rinse Technique -Optional
Spray 2-4 pumps of paint pampering body shampoo onto each panel of your vehicle.
Allow to dwell, but not dry.
Rinse your body shampoo off the vehicle starting from the top down.
This is the pre-rinse method and ensures more of the dirt on the vehicles exterior surfaces is removed. The pre-rinse will remove more dirt than clean water only. The body shampoo breaks-down and encapsulates the debris and the rinse removes it. Mechanical action from a wash mitt is required, but the less debris you are removing with a mitt (in the next step), the less chance there is for marring to occur as it is pushed along the surface.
Swirls are caused when abrasives are moved across the surface, reducing the amount of these abrasives on the surface prior to washing reduces the degree of damage.
Every time you wash your car, you will be causing damage to your paint. It is impossible not to cause micro scratches and on dark colours they appear sooner than on light colours.
Step 4 – Body Washing
Make sure your wash mitt is clean. If it isn't, spray the mitt with water from your high-pressure hose to clean it out. I usually place the mitt under a windshield wiper arm to stop it flying away whilst I rinse all the debris out of it from the last wash. This practice removes the requirement for a bucket and actually cleans the mitt far, far better than attempting to remove the dirt from the mitt by hand in a bucket of water. The Final Inspection wash mitt is built so well it will happily be washed with high-pressure thousands of times without losing fibres or structural integrity.
So, this method improves speed, reduces water waste, lowers cost and most importantly, minimises marring to the surfaces as the mitt is cleaner. Less debris in the mitt = less debris moving around inducing swirls. We washed a test panel 100 times and took copious amounts of gloss readings before and after and proved this method to work better than any bucket rinsing system.
Using no buckets also reduces shampoo cost as you spray paint pampering body shampoo directly to your mitts surface. Lubrication is increased as a result (your body shampoo isn't diluted in a bucket full of water) and cleaning power is increased. Another reason why buckets don't equate to a better wash.
Spray 2-4 pumps of Body Shampoo onto your wash mitt and wash a panel from top to bottom with slightly overlapping strokes in a grid pattern, not circular.
With an efficient body shampoo, you don’t have to wipe the same area of the surface more than once and doing so is unnecessary, slightly over-lapping grid is efficient and circular motions aren't and will result in more agitation of the debris on the surface.
Continue to wash every panel from top to bottom checking the mitt regularly. When the mitt has an amount of dirt build-up you consider to be unacceptable, rinse it out with the method above, re-apply your body shampoo and continue on the next panel.
If at any stage it appears body shampoo is drying on the car, rinse those sections immediately and continue the wash process.
Step 5 – Final Rinse, Drying and Protection
Rinse the car removing all traces of body shampoo and dry with a Microfibre Drying Towel as soon as possible after rinsing, a wet surface collects dirt much faster than a dry surface and you don't want to be pushing around dirt now that your car has no lubrication in the drying step.
This is one of the reasons why drying as quickly as possible is a plus and the drying towel does this best, nothing dries faster (or safer) than a waffled weave NanoFibre product, the drying towel is designed to scoop up liquid as quickly and efficiently as possible and the mammoth size of the large version does this so well.
Although you rarely will need to, the large waffle weave can be a little difficult to wring out when fully loaded with water and can weigh quite a bit also. This is where the 'mini' waffle weave drying towel comes in handy, it is slightly slower at water pick-up and you may have to wring it out once or twice, but it is perfect for smaller vehicles and much easier to handle.
This is where glass should be cleaned, use your glass system at this point.
Once clean and dry, apply protection. We recommend spraying Full Metal Jacket Spray Wax directly to the vehicle and buffing with a NanoFibre Paintwork cloth, immediately, one panel at a time. This is your weekly top-up of protection and will assist you with a faster, easier and safer wash next week!
So there you have it, all you need and nothing you don't, the very best weekly maintenance technique proven effective with my 20 years experience. My own cars and motorcycles as well as my customers cars are maintained this way and they very rarely need anything more.
The process above costs approximately $2-$5 and requires 10-30 minutes to complete and is the best way to avoid having to see a detailer more often than you should.
If you love your car looking its best, you'd be crazy not to wash your car yourself.