A proper detail requires proper preparation. The best way to prepare a vehicle for a detail is to pick a washing technique that fits your situation. There are many ways to wash a vehicle without adding imperfections to your paint. We will go over our favorites below.
Having all your supplies ready to go is an important step while detailing. The longer you let products dwell on paint, the higher the chance of water spots forming. By moving from product to product efficiently, you minimize the chance of water spots and give yourself less work to do in the long run. Work Smarter, not Harder.
- Attach the hose to your water source. (An in-line water purifier is optional and can help with hard water)
- Unwind the hose to ensure it can easily reach every panel of the vehicle
- Attach a shut-off valve at the end of the hose (make sure the valve is closed)
- Turn on your water source
- Attach a spray nozzle to the shut-off valve coupler
- Place a Grit Guard in both your rinse and soap bucket
- Open your shut-off valve and fill each bucket about half way up with water
- Soak your wash media in the designated rinse bucket
Depending on the level of contamination on the paints surface, a degreasing step may be required. Degreaser can help break up dirt, tar, sap, bird droppings, and other stubborn forms of contamination. We advice you to degrease prior to shampooing your vehicle. Degreasing will usually remove the protective layers of a wax or sealant, so don’t forget to reapply a wax or sealant.
- Choose a degreaser (we recommend Meguiars D108) and read the instructions to learn it’s dilution ratio
- Apply the degreaser starting with the lower portions of your vehicle working upwards.
- Let the product dwell for the required time (typically 30 seconds – 5 minutes)
- Soak your wash media in a bucket of clean water
- Gently wipe (no pressure) a panel
- Rinse the wash media in your rinse bucket agitating it against a Grit Guard (this helps release any contamination your wash media may have picked up)
- Repeat steps 5 through 6 until the entire vehicle has been degreased
- Proceed to washing your vehicle
Traditional Two Bucket Wash
Two bucket washing is arguably the safest way to wash your vehicle while minimizing the chance of adding imperfections to the paint. This method can be used in conjunction with washing with a foam gun to even further decrease the chance of marring your paint. This method involves using two buckets clearly labeled in a way for you to distinguish which bucket is which. We like to call these buckets “Wash Bucket” and “Rinse Bucket” and like to use colors to help distinguish them.
- Follow the Pre-wash Setup or Pre-wash Degreasing step
- Following the directions on the bottle, pour the required amount of shampoo into your Soap Bucket
- Spray your Soap Bucket with a strong spray nozzle to generate some lather and suds
- Take your wash media and dunk it into the Soap Bucket
- Starting from the top of your vehicle, gently glide your wash media across a panel of your vehicle. Remember to use little to no pressure, stubborn spots will be taken care of at a later step.
- Clean your wash media in the Rinse Bucket and agitate it over the Grit Guard on the bottom of the bucket
- Repeat steps 4 through 6 until your entire vehicle has been washed
- Thoroughly rinse your vehicle
- Turn the shut-off valve off and remove your spray nozzle
- Turn the shut-off valve back on and use the sheeting method to help remove the bulk of the water on your vehicle
- Proceed to Drying Your Vehicle
Incorporating a Foam Gun
Adding a Gilmour Foamaster II Foam Gun in conjuntion with your two bucket wash method can further decrease your chance to add imperfections to your paint. The main benefit to a foam gun or foam cannon is that you can pre-soak your vehicle without touching your paint. This allows your shampoo to start working at lifting those surface contaminants from your vehicle. Plus using a foam gun or cannon is a great way to add some fun to your wash process.
- Follow the Pre-wash Setup but instead of attaching a spray nozzle, use the Gilmour nozzle instead
- Following the directions on the bottle, pour the required amount of shampoo into the foam gun reservoir and add the appropriate amount of water.
- Adjust the dial to the appropriate dilution setting (we use the ‘E Setting’ for maximum suds)
- Shake the foam gun tank to mix the shampoo and water — this helps generate more suds
- Attach the foam gun tank to the foam gun nozzle
- Starting from the top of your vehicle, cover the entire vehicle with suds from the foam gun
- Let this sud-solution dwell for up to 5 minutes
- Rinse your vehicle with water
- Proceed to Traditional Two Bucket Wash
The sheeting method is a process that allows you to dry your vehicle with the power of flowing water. The benefit to this technique is the ability to dry most of your vehicle without touching it. This method works well when the vehicle is protected with a wax or sealant but can still be used on any vehicle. Any remaining drops can be absorbed with a microfiber waffle weave drying towel.
- Starting from the top of your vehicle while moving left to right, flood the roof until water is pouring off the sides
- Quickly lower the hose to “catch” the water falling from the roof while continually moving left to right
- Repeat step 2 until you reach the lowest panels on your vehicle
- Proceed to Drying Your Vehicle
Drying Your Vehicle
Drying your vehicle is as important as washing it. Incorrect drying techniques are a sure way to add imperfections to the paint. We suggest a microfiber waffle weave drying towel for removing any water left behind after you’ve performed the sheeting method. Waffle weave towels are superior to the chamois (such as The Absorber or ShamWow) due to the towels texture and ability to capture any contamination that may still be on your vehicle. Avoid dragging the towel.
- If you haven’t already, please perform the sheeting method to remove the bulk of the water
- If you have access to a blower or compressed air, blow out panel gaps, trim pieces, lug nuts, side-view mirrors, and lights to stop any dripping
- Starting from the top of your vehicle, blot dry any remaining drops of water with your waffle weave drying towel.
Rinseless Washing is the newest and most economically friendly way to wash your car. This method still involves a bucket but uses microfiber cloths as a wash media. Rinseless washing allows you to wash your vehicle virtually anywhere — garage, apartment parking lot, or even at the car show. We recommend Optimum No Rinse as your “shampoo” due to it’s superior encapsulating ability to trap dirt and lift it off your paint without scratching. We also recommend good microfiber towels over 400 GSM.
- Fill your wash bucket with approximately 2 gallons of warm water
- Add 1 ounce of ONR (or the proper dilution for any other rinseless product)
- Soak your microfiber towels in the solution
- Wash the surface of a panel using a single motion per side of the towel while using little to no pressure.
- Flip the towel to a clean side
- Repeat steps 4 through 5 until every side of the towel has been exhausted.
- Discard the towel in a clean space (we recommend using an empty bucket)
- Repeat steps 4 through 7 for every panel of your vehicle
- Blot dry using a waffle weave microfiber towel
- Follow with a quick detailer and a plush microfiber towel to ensure no streaking or left over water
Waterless wash is great way to top off your car a day or two after it had been previously washed. Please not that this method is for lightly dusted vehicles and if performed on heavily contaminated cars, it WILL add marring and swirls. We recommend Poorboy’s Spray and Wipe or Chemical Guys Go Green! Waterless Wash.
- Mist the waterless wash solution onto the surface you intend to clean
- Let the product dwell for about 30 seconds (refer to the directions on the bottle for more specific instructions)
- Using a plush microfiber towel, gently wipe the surface clean
- Using a second plush microfiber towel, buff the surface any any streaks left after step 3
- Repeat steps 1 through 4 for the entire vehicle
Facts and Tips
- Allow your shampoo to do most of the cleaning. Scrubbing a stubborn spot is always a bad idea
- A foam gun is a great way to do a pre-soak and a valuable tool
- Try to work out of direct sunlight. The cooler your vehicle is, the less likely product or water will dry on the vehicle
- Always use two buckets
- Always use at least one grit guard per bucket
- Use separate wash media for wheels and tires, heavy contaminated areas, and lightly contaminated areas
- Pre-treat heavily contaminated areas with a degreaser
- Washing your vehicle at least once every two weeks is ideal
- Pay attention to the strength of your shampoo as some shampoos are designed to strip off previous coats of protection
- Utilize the sheeting method to help remove the majority of the water on your vehicle
- A blower can help with drying those stubborn spots or crevices
- One can never have enough microfiber towels