How to Avoid Adding Swirls with Proper Car Washing Techniques
Before we begin, keep in mind anything that is even mildly abrasive will add micro-scratches and swirls to your paint. This includes dirt nibs trapped in your wash mitt and coarse or abrasive drying towels (never use household towels – they're much too coarse).
- A good pre-wash like Red Thunder® or Bug-Off™
- Two buckets – one for soap and one for rinsing
- A quality car soap or wash and wax
- A wash mitt
- A high-quality chamois for drying
- A speed detailer spray like Malco Showroom Shine™
- Clean microfiber towels
Thoroughly rinse and inspect your buckets and wash mitt to ensure they are free of all dirt and debris. Next, fill your wash buckets – one with clean water for rinsing and one with your soap mixture. Be sure to follow the dilution ratios on the soap. Wash and wax products typically require more product, while concentrated car soaps typically require very little. Always mix your car soap as directed.
Move the vehicle out of the sun, and make sure the surface is cool to the touch. Next, thoroughly rinse the entire vehicle surface to get rid of as much of the loose dirt and soil as possible before you begin washing. Then, pre-treat any heavily soiled areas like wheels, wheel wells, rocker panels, and any spots such as bird droppings, bug splats, or tree sap with Malco Red Thunder or Bug-Off before washing. Let the product dwell as directed and rinse.
Now you're ready to start washing.
Wash Horizontal Surfaces
Begin by cleaning your vehicle's horizontal surfaces in straight lines. Start off using a left to right motion and finish using front to back (this will help loosen dirt from multiple directions). Work in small sections (no larger than three square feet) and apply very little pressure to your wash mitt. Rinse out your wash mitt often using your rinse bucket – never dunk your dirty mitt back into the soap. Also, be sure to rinse the vehicle often, ensuring that you do not allow the soap to dry on the surface.
Wash Vertical Surfaces
Next, move on to the vertical surfaces, working from the top down. If you come across heavily soiled areas, avoid the urge to apply more pressure. Never "scrub" the surface with your wash mitt. The harder you press, the more likely you will damage your vehicle's paint. Re-treat stubborn areas with your pre-wash or all-purpose cleaner. For the final rinse, use a heavy spray. Or, better yet, remove the nozzle entirely and let the water sheet off of the surface. Sheeting the water will create fewer water spots and speed your drying and touch-up time.
Unroll and Inspect Your Chamois
Make sure the chamois are free of dirt. Wet the chamois using clean water and ring out any excess moisture. If you like, you can even use a little spray detailer to add some additional lubrication. Keep the chamois as flat as possible and use broad, sweeping strokes to pull away as much water as possible.
Dry Tight, Hard-to-Reach Areas
Use a clean microfiber towel, and remember to remove the tag as it can also add scratches to your paint. Finish up with your spray detailer and an additional microfiber to clean up any unwanted streaks or water spots that might occur as water drips out of seams and body moldings.
That's it. You're done!
Follow these careful steps every time you wash, and you'll avoid much of what causes ugly swirls and micro scratches.