Updated: Nov 18, 2020
As the country heads into lockdown number two, your car will have to do without the detailer’s attention for at least the next few weeks, and it could even go beyond that. This means you’ll have to get the job done yourself. In all honesty, how long has it been since you last did a hand car wash yourself?
Regardless, today we have prepared a handy blog piece to detail a step-by-step approach to safely and properly hand washing your car during these times of resurgent COVID-19.
Step 1: Preparation
In the world of detailing, there are literally dozens of products that you might use during a single car wash, but for this article we will do our best to keep it simple and achievable for all drivers. Ensure you have the following items ready to use, and in the article, we’ll recommend some of our favourite particular products that will get the job done best.
· Jet wash
· Two buckets of water
· Car shampoo
· Wheel cleaner solution
· Wheel cleaning sponge
· Wash mitt
· Microfiber drying towel
· Detailing clay bar
· Wax, sealant or other paint protection product
Give yourself a good amount of space in which to work. In winter we don’t have to worry too much about the sun beating down on the car, but for future reference --- IE, summertime --- find a shaded spot for the wash if possible. You don’t want the water to dry off before you have time to get to it with your microfiber towel.
In lockdown times, it’s most important to find an isolated and person-free spot. Avoiding contact with others is the best protection from the disease, and so making sure there are no others around is a big help. If you’re working outdoors, you should also wear a mask, especially if you’re in a built-up area where others might be out exercising or on their way to the shops.
It should also be noted that working with household detergents and other cleaning agents is not something we advise. These products are often harsher, designed for more hardy household surfaces and products. Your car’s external and internal surfaces need more of a finely balanced approach. Use car-safe products for all cleaning.
Step 2: Quick Blast
Recommended Product: Kärcher K4 Premium Full Control Car and Home Pressure Washer
The jet wash is a very handy tool when washing yourself because it allows you to give the car a pre-wash blast. The high-pressure blast should remove the worst of the excess dirt, leaving you with just the more stubborn and embedded stuff to deal with. This is better, however, since you want to avoid any possibility of scratching your paint work and the wash mitt is also better suited to less caked-on dirt. Spray the water steadily across the entire body starting with the wheels then working your way from top to bottom, ensuring to spend a bit of extra time on the wheels and arches where mud and dirt tend to build up.
Step 3: Start with the Wheels
It seems counterintuitive to start low down on the car, but the wheels are actually the ideal spot to begin your hand wash. If you start at the top and work down, when it comes time to blast the wheels and scrub out the embedded dirt, it very easily sprays back upward onto the freshly cleaned bodywork.
Therefore, starting with the wheels
is actually a better idea once
the initial blast off is complete.
Step 4: Work Section by Section
Split the car into individual and manageable sections. Dip the mitt in one bucket to get fresh, soapy water, and start with the first section. One of the most common places to start is the bonnet, but the roof is also a good and logical choice. The goal should be to get around each section and complete the hand wash before the water dries off by itself, if necessary each section can be blasted off with the jet wash as completed. Getting clear sections in your mind helps you achieve that with an even, careful and methodical approach. Avoid moving your hand and mitt in a circular motion. Use clean, linear motion to clean the surface using your mitt in straight lines or you will likely end up with swipes and misses. In addition, make sure that you make good use of your two buckets: one for dipping the mitt before wiping the car’s surface, and one for washing the dirt and contaminants off the mitt separately. You don’t want to be spreading dirty water all over the car.
Step 5: Dry, Dry, Dry
Recommended Product: Glart 44WG Watergate Super Absorbent Microfibre Drying Cloth
After a round with the wash mitt, each section should now be starting to look much nicer. At this point, however, a critical error can occur, which is the water you’ve just sloshed all over the surface may now be starting to dry. This is where your microfiber towels come into play.
Why are we making such a fuss about microfiber? Can’t you just use an old rag or dry t-shirt to dry off the water? The short answer is no. The longer answer is absolutely no. Rags and t-shirts not only have little-to-no water absorbency, but their surfaces are also very likely to carry dust and other contaminants that could either put you back to square one in terms of cleaning, or perhaps leave scratches or swirl marks.
The microfiber is not only absorbent, but very gentle and friendly to your car’s paint job. Stick with these products when drying your car.
Step 6: Survey and Repeat
The careful and methodical approach described above should have managed to get the vast majority of the dirt out, but there are times when it wouldn’t hurt to repeat the process once more. Take a look around and judge the need for a repeat performance. Best-case scenario is that you’re looking good. A more typical scenario is that you find one or two individual sections that need repeating. You can guess the worst-case scenario: full repeat.
Step 7: Protect the Paint
Recommended Products: Meguiar's Gold Class Carnauba Plus Premium Paste Wax; All Shine Complete Clay Bar Kit
Wintertime means more rain, sleet, mud and a dozen or so other ways for your car to get absolutely filthy. You can’t keep away all the dirt, but with some quick paint protection you can ensure that the worst of it doesn’t get embedded. To begin, use the lubricant and clay bar on the paint surface to attack at the contaminants that have embedded themselves too deeply for any number of wash mitt cycles to get hold of. The action of rubbing the clay over the paint literally pulls out remaining dirt and dust, leaving the surface of your primed and ready to receive a wax.
In order for the products we recommend to work most effectively, there needs to be an absolutely clean surface with which to bind. Waxes and sealants that bind more properly will create a lasting coating of protection. The initial wash and subsequent clay bar will ensure those conditions take hold. After the clay bar, it’s time to apply a coat of wax or sealant (synthetic wax). If you want a burst of colour and a real showroom finish, then the waxes like carnauba wax are better. If you want a more lasting, functional protection that can make your surface more resistant to dirt and contaminants, then favour the ceramic coatings and synthetic polymer products.
Similar to when washing with the hand mitt, don’t make circular motions when applying, no matter how “right” it feels to do so. Nice, even straight-line sweeps over small areas create better results.
Follow all this advice and you’ll be able to safely and properly achieve a very pleasing final result with your hand wash. You may not be able to get exactly the same results as your professional detailer. In fact, the whole experience might make you miss the detailer a lot more. In the end, however, it may show you that achieving a high level of car cleanliness and protection is quite accessible for all drivers.
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