Washing and Drying can be the most overlooked process during a detail, however, in reality is one of the most important steps during a detail. You may be asking yourself how washing and drying can be so important. The reason is because many of the imperfections in your paint (scratches, swirl marks, water spots, etc.) are caused due to improper washing and drying techniques. Our goal is to teach you the proper techniques to help minimize creating more imperfections in your paint. Recommended Products:
(2x) Quality Wash Mitts
(1x) A good lubricating automotive shampoo
(1-2x) Quality Drying Towels
(2x) 5 Gallon Wash Buckets
(1x) Water Supply and Hose
(1x) Bug and Tar Degreaser and/or Block
Why do I need these products you may ask? Start with two wash mitts. Is one good enough? We strongly encourage using two wash mitts for many reasons. The main reason is your lower panels, front and rear bumpers, wheels and wheel wells get significantly dirtier than the rest of your vehicle and you do not want to be using the same mitt that just touched your brake dust, to touch your hood. Allocating one wash mitt for those areas is a smart move because you will not be using a contaminated wash mitt on your delicate paint. This is one major reason why people create swirls during the wash phase. Another reason we suggest using two wash mitts is that if you use one wash mitt for the entire vehicle, you will run through them much faster and end up costing you more money in the long run. By allocating two wash mitts to your vehicle, you can choose one, preferably a Sheepskin Wash Mitt, for the parts of your vehicle that do not get extremely contaminated, say from your knees and up and a second one, perhaps a more durable Microfiber Wash Mitt, for the areas of your knees down that see the most contamination.
A good lubricating shampoo is key when trying to remove contamination. Without proper lubrication you would be pushing dirt, pollen, tar, etc. across your paint and causing many imperfections in your clear coat. Properly lubricated shampoos will help lift contamination from the surface, making them easy for removal. A quality shampoo should also have the proper conditioners for your paint unlike the common enemy of dish soap. We know many of you have it hammered into your head that you need to wash with a dish soap, such as Dawn, to remove previous layers of wax to start with a fresh surface. Well there are downsides to washing with dish soap over time, such as it can dry out your paint, dry out and discolor plastic, vinyl and rubber trim, and is harmful to your clear coat. There are better methods to strip the previous layers of sealant or wax that are beneficial to your paints surface, such as polishing your paint. Also, when maintaining your vehicle and do not plan on re-waxing, quality shampoos will leave as much protection on your paint as possible.
Investing in high quality drying towels will not only save you time during the drying process but it will also be safe for your clear coat as well minimizing the chance of adding swirls. Our towel of choice is a Waffle Weave Microfiber Towel. This design has a small nap to pull contamination away from the surface as well as absorb water like a sponge. In many cases, you will only need one of these 25” x 32” towels to dry your entire vehicle assuming you follow our helpful tips and techniques (which will be explained in just a moment) during the drying process. It is the safest product we have tested to minimize adding swirls to your clear coat.
Two 5 gallon wash buckets is a must for any wash day. The reasoning will be described in further detail as we get into the how-to part of the tutorial, but one will be filled with water and suds and the second one with just water.
Water supply and hose is pretty obvious but should not be over looked. Flooding the surface of your vehicle is the best thing for minimizing the chance of adding imperfections to your paint so plenty of water will be necessary for pre-wash, rinse and final sheet drying.
Bug and tar degreaser is a nice product to have around when you happen to run into stubborn bits of contamination that need to be pre-treated prior to the wash. The most common things this will be used on is tar, bug splatter and rail dust. Usually this product will be used on the lower panels, behind wheels, and the front and rear bumpers. Using a bug and tar block can also help aid in the removal of stubborn contamination and save you some time.
Now that we have explained the products you need let us proceed onto the process.
Let us start by addressing prior to actually washing the vehicle. First, find an area to work in with plenty of shade. With the sun beating on hot soapy water, it can cause water etching and spots on your vehicles paint. This will add more time in your routine removing them especially if you are just washing and drying for maintenance and not planning on doing a full routine. The paint and wheels should be cool to the touch prior to washing. Next step, take a look at your attire, no jeans, no belts, no buttons, no rivets and no jewelry. You may ask why, but the reasoning is pretty simple, they all will easily scratch your paints surface even with very minimal pressure. Also at this time ensure that all windows are completely up and doors, hood and trunk are completely closed.
Fill up one 5 gallon wash bucket about 3/4 full of water and the remaining 1/4 full of suds.
Fill up the second 5 gallon wash bucket about 1/2 full of water.
Soak your bug block (if using one) in warm water for 2 minutes to ensure it is safe for your paints surface.
Rinse down an area of the vehicle that you plan on washing. Start from the top of the vehicle and work your way down. Also, work in sections such as front fenders and hood, or passenger side and half of the roof.
Walk around your vehicle and pre-treat any areas that have a lot of contamination, such as bug splatter, tar, and other road grime that may be difficult to remove, with a bug and tar degreaser.
Dunk your wash mitt in the bucket of suds.
Gently glide your wash mitt across the surface of your vehicle that you just rinsed and got wet and make sure you pass over each area at least twice.
Return to the second wash bucket without suds and shake out your wash mitt in the clean water to remove loose contamination in the pile of the mitt.
Rinse the suds off of the vehicle for that particular area.
Continue washing and rinsing the vehicle in the same fashion for all panels from your knees up.
Proceed to follow the same procedures stated above for the lower panels, wheel wells and front and rear bumper of your vehicle, however use the second wash mitt for these areas. You can also use your softened bug block in these areas if the contamination is becoming difficult to remove, use this as a last resort though, not a go-to step. Make sure you rinse contamination off of the bug block more frequently since it does not have a thick pile to absorb contamination like the wash mitt.
Once the entire vehicle has been washed and rinsed, remove the spray nozzle from the hose. Starting from the top of the vehicle sheet free flowing water from the hose off of the vehicle. You should begin to notice this is starting to self dry the vehicle. When working down the sides of the vehicle, move the hose from left to right while getting lower and lower, this will ensure the water floods off of the vehicle and will cut your drying time down considerably.
After the vehicle has been sheeted off using the technique described above, take out your drying towels.
Blot-dry any large pools of water with your drying towel. This will help get the towel damp which can increase its absorbing characteristics.
Continue around the vehicle wiping off any remaining water on your vehicle.
If you plan on using a blower or air compressor now would be the time to blow out any seems and cracks to ensure water does not continue to drip on your vehicle to prevent water stains or difficulty as you proceed to your next step.
Give the vehicle a final wipe down to ensure there is no water left on the vehicle.
Next Step: The next logical step in the complete detailing process is Clay Baring your vehicle to ideally prep your paint for either polishing, glazing, sealing and waxing. Washing and Drying is the foundation of any detail so you may proceed to any step next.
I really appreciate this write-up. I've been making use of it for about half a dozen washes now on my IS and notice a difference in the fine scratches on the car. The sheeting of the water to rinse is also very effective and substantially cuts down on drying time. Thanks much!
2008 Lexus IS 350 - Starfire White
1999 Ford Explorer 4x4 Sport
Ohhh great post.
Good effort you write the whole method of washing a car with the beneficial tips for washing.
I think there is not a post before this which i like this detailed. Please post some tips for
cleaning the rims because I found it the most difficult part of washing a car. Because when
the mud is stuck insides the wheel and rims then it makes trouble in washing. So please post
something for that.
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