"There's a lot of ways to skin a cat."
A popular statement used by many cranky old grandpas, and also a somewhat strange way of stating there are different ways to reach the same outcome.
And the same is true with something as simple as washing your car. But rest assured, no felines were harmed in the making of this quick tuturial.
There are a few different ways to approach your weekly car wash:
Lightly mist a little Eco-Wash Pre-Soak (we'll explain what that is later) across the body work and wipe it up with a drying towel. Turn back around, look at the streaky mess, and pat yourself on the back for a job (sorta) well done.
Pros: Takes very little time and is super easy: more time to watch football.
Cons: Is likely going to scratch and mar the paint since the contaminates aren't being effectively removed from the surface before the towel is introduced to the paint finish. Is likely to be streaky if the car was at all dirty before the wash.
Conclusion: This method is best used for someone who is at a car show with a perfectly clean car, and is just trying to remove some fingerprints or a smudge from their perfectly clean car. Otherwise, maybe someone with a white/silver car, who already has some marring, isn't worried about introducing some more, and is in a rush to "clean" their already not very dirty car. (overall, not recommended).
Lightly mist a little Eco-Wash Pre-soak across the body work, then follow up with a wash bucket and sponge of Eco-Wash, cleaning from top (cleanest part of the car) to the bottom (dirties). Follow that up with a two-drying towel method.
Pros: Still is a very quick and time efficient. Can be done completely indoors with minimal mess (i.e. you could effectively wash your car warm garage on a cold winter day without your fingers falling off). Is actually much safer for the paint than it sounds as the Eco-Wash is specifically designed to be a "rinseless" wash for this exact use. Very eco-friendly (minimal water use, and wastewater is totally safe to pour in plants/grass). Can be used in apartments and parking garages that don't allow run off.
Cons: Your neighbors are going to think you have Alzheimer's since you forgot to pull out the garden hose when washing your car. There is an increased chance of marring (lightly scratching) the paint surface if the car was very dirty (i.e. hasn't been washed in weeks, has driven through snow/rain, etc).
Conclusion: This method is best used for someone who isn't super sensitive to light marring (also known as "swirl marks") in their paint, or has a light colored car that doesn't show swirls as much. It's also a great option for a very well maintained car that doesn't get very dirty, and that the owner likes to keep as clean as possible, very often, with a safe, time effective wash (usually takes about 30 minutes or less from top to bottom). Also great for those with show, or antique cars that never get very dirty, but want a safe way to effectively wash the car without introducing a ton of water.
Use a pressure washer (or garden hose if nothing else) to "pre-rinse" the car top to bottom, then lightly mist Eco-Wash Pre-soak across the body work to help emulsify the dirt remaining on the surface, rinse that again, and then pull into the garage and perform a Level 2 wash as outlined above.
Pros: It only adds about 3-4 minutes of extra work to the above mentioned wash, and greatly reduces the chance for marring of the paint finish. Also, the neighbors will see the water hose out and will rest assured you haven't lost any of your marbles.
Cons: Not as eco-friendly since there is water run off. This can be mitigated by rinsing the car on your grass (Eco-Wash is safe for plants).
Conclusion: This is my prefered method as it balances getting a really effective and paint safe wash, without going off the deep end of detailing nerdiness where you have fifty eight buckets and 114 separate towels and take 3 hours to clean your car every Saturday morning.
First step: Control the weather. Make sure it's exactly 61 degrees outside, with high humidity. This will give you maximum dwell time for your chemical cleaners and allow lots of time for drying. Gently pre-rinse the car with angel tears. Utilize a high pH cleaner to dwell on the body work and emulsify any potential acid rain or water spots that may have come from distant sprinklers. After maximum dwell time, rinse again with angel tears. Utilize a low pH cleaner to neutralize the previous high pH cleaners and help loosen any oils or grease on the finish. Let that dwell just enough time to save a kitten from a tree, help an old lady cross the street, and then rinse again with even more angel tears. Next, spray a light frothy mix of Santa's very own Magic Coco Whip Cream across the entire vehicle and lightly massage into a rich lather using a baby's diaper. Not a baby diaper. Gently glide a new born baby wearing a diaper across the paint work until Santa's Magic Coco Whip Cream is sufficiently lathered into a fluffy white soft foam on the paint work. Rinse again with even more angel tears. Use the sonic vibration of an entire southern church choir singing in harmony to will the remaining water beads off the paint work. Wait with bated breath for exactly 3 seconds before finally spreading your arms, parting the clouds, and allow a powerful ray of the lord's sun shine to bestow down upon your perfectly clean automobile.
Pros: You're going to have a very, very clean car
Cons: Somewhere, there are a pair of parents wondering where their baby is.
Conclusion: In all seriousness, when it comes to detailing, you can very quickly fall down a very nerdy, very deep rabbit hole of detailing knowledge, products, methods and quite frankly, and LOT of people on the Internet disagreeing and arguing with each other about all of it.
Instead, let's focus on what's going to give you a good balance of the best results, with the most realistic investment of your valuable time, and without throwing away all your Christmas decorations from the garage just to make more shelf room for your 38th different bottles of wash shampoo and 429 different towels.
I'm going to outline the steps and practices to perform a Level 3 wash as described above. If you wanted to do a level 1 or 2, you can follow these same instructions while just skipping the pre-rinse or Eco-Wash stage. Don't worry if you don't recognize the products used, as we'll explain each of those at the end.
1.) Pre-Rinse the car from top to bottom. Hold the pressure washer wand up high, and point it downward, as to "push" all the loose dirt off of the vehicle and downwards towards the ground. Rinse out the wheels and wheel-wells. This should only take 1 - 1.5 minutes top.
2.) If the front of the vehicle is heavily contaminated with bugs, spray "Bug Juice" across this whole area, including the windshield and rear view mirrors. Bug Juice works as a chemical cleaner and will DRAMATICALLY loosen those bug guts as to lessen the amount of scrubbing you have to do later. In fact, if your car is ceramic coated, or well maintained and the bugs haven't been on the paint long, you may find you can simply pressure wash them all off without having to scrub at all. Don't let this product dry on the paint as it will become ineffective once dry.
3.) Spray Eco-Wash Pre-Soak all over the entire vehicle top to bottom. Eco-Wash is designed to take dirt and "encapsulate" it in it's soft polymers so that it can carry the dirt "up" off the paint rather than to drag it across and scratch it as you wash. Again, don't let this dry on the paint work.
4.) Rinse off all the Pre-Soak and Bug Juice with your pressure washer in the same method as step one.
5.) Take your Wheel Bucket, fill it with water and 1-ounce of Eco-Wash Concentrate for
every gallon of water. Put your white-bristle wheel cleaning brush, your red/black wheel hub brush and your green-bristle tire/wheel-well brush (NOT the "Dressing" brush) in the bucket. If your wheel wells and/or tires are excessively dirty, spray some Bug Juice on them as allow to dwell. Clean them with the green-bristle brush. Clean your wheels inner hubs and brake calipers with the red/black long-reach brush. You can bend this brush into any shape you'd like to help you. Clean the wheel face/spokes with the white-bristle brush. Always start at the 12 o'clock position and move clockwise around the wheel. This will help ensure you don't miss any spokes. I like to dip whichever brush I'm using into the bucket to rinse the bristles of dirt and then "splash" a heavy bit of the Eco-Wash solution to the wheel as this helps "rinse" away any remaining dirt. Move around the vehicle and complete all four wheels/tires before moving onto the body. *Be sure not to mix up the brushes! Green for tires/wheel-wells and white for the actual metal wheel itself. If you start using one for the other you'll find that grease and muck from the tires/wheel-wells will make a real mess of your alloy or painted wheel finish.
6.) At this point, most of the "muck" should have been knocked off during the pre-rinse stages. If the car was excessively dirty (long period between washes, or driven in the rain), it's a good idea to be extra safe and do another lap with the Eco-Wash Pre-Rinse across the body work at this stage. If you're not as sensitive to swirls, it's a lighter colored car, or it wasn't very dirt to begin, you can skip this step and go straight to the Eco-Wash step.
7.) Fill your Body Bucket with 1-ounce of Eco-Wash Solution for every gallon of water. Place your blue body sponge and bug sponge in the bucket. Starting at the top of the roof (usually the cleanest part of the car), take the Eco-Wash soaked blue body sponge and lightly start to wash the body work in back and forth motions. Move the sponge in parallel motions the same direction the wind would move over the car (this is done so that any marring that is introduced to the paint is uniform and less noticeable). Don't use any pressure from your arm/hand. Let the Eco-Wash solution do the work. As the sponge becomes less and less saturated with Eco-Wash, return it to the bucket, give it a couple of squeezes to release all the dirt from the sponge and return to washing the car. Always start at the top (roof, windshield, hood, trunk panels) and then move down the car (side windows, fenders, doors then lower rocker panels) being sure to release dirt into the Eco-Wash bucket and reload the sponge with fresh solution often. There is a "grit-guard" at the bottom of the bucket to help trap dirt at the bottom so it doesn't get reintroduced to the sponge.
8.) Only wash enough of the body that you can get to your towel drying step without the Eco-Wash Solution drying on the bodywork. If it's very cold out, you may be able to get half, or more of the car Eco-Washed before this step. If it's warm out, you may find you only get half of the roof, windshield, rear window and side windows done before needing to towel dry. No problem either way. Take one of your drying towels, fold it onto itself so you have four sections. Start by drying the glass first. This is done because a towel is most likely to mar the paint work when it's completely dry and glass doesn't mar like paint does. Also, contrary to what may seem logical, a towel that is lightly saturated with water will actually absorb extra water much easier making it safer to dry the paint work. Use the first towel to dry 80% of the water off the surface and then chase that with the 2nd drying towel to dry the last small remaining amount of Eco-Wash solution off the finish. Wipe in the direction the air moves over the car as you did with the wash sponge.
9.) If you have compressed air, you can use it to blow remaining water out of the wheels and cracks in the body work. Open the doors and wipe down the door jambs, as well as the trunk jamb.
- One alternative to the pre-rinse steps mentioned above is to drive into a Touchless-Car-Wash (NOT A BRUSH TUNNEL WASH). After this you can pull into your own garage and perform the Eco-Wash steps.
- After your wash is completed, you can take a yellow microfiber body towel and lightly mist some Ceramic Spray Sealant onto the towel (not the body) and then lightly wipe it onto the paint work. After you make a lap of the car, take a dry side of the towel (or a 2nd yellow microfiber) and wipe the body down again to clean any remaining streaks. This is a great way to add gloss and protection to your car every time you wash it and only takes 5 minutes or less.
- That same Ceramic Spray Sealant can be used on your wheels as well.
- Take your dressing brush (black around the handle) and spray some Trim Dressing directly onto the bristles. Keep the sprayer VERY close (touching if necessary) to the bristles you're spraying onto so that you don't atomize the dressing into the air, which can then float onto the finish of your freshly cleaned car. Spread the dressing onto the sidewalls of the tires, and wheel-wells if you're cleaning a large truck or SUV.
- Cleaning your interior regularly is a great way to minimize the amount of damage done to your car long term. Sand or dirt particles left for long periods will actually abrade the carpet fibers as your feet rest on them and you'll end up with a hole where your accelerator foot's heel sits. They also will abrade your leather. Skin oils and sun block will dye surfaces after long exposure and require replacement. To effectively clean your interior simply vacuum it out and wipe it down regularly. If your interior is VERY dirty, you can utilize some All Purpose Cleaner to cut through some of the grease, sun block and skin oils. Otherwise, simply using a green microfiber towel that is saturated with Eco-Wash Pre-Wash is a great way to keep your interior clean while using a VERY gentle chemical cleaner on the surfaces.
- For glass, you can use the Eco-Wash Pre-Wash on a blue microfiber towel. Less is more. VERY lightly mist a bit of Eco-Wash Pre-Wash solution on the towel, and wipe the glass clean. Flip the towel to a clean, dry side for the final wipe down to ensure a streak free finish.
What's in the kit:
- Body Bucket: This is the bucket used to wash the body of the vehicle and should have the blue sponge, and bug sponge in it. It also has a grit guard to capture dirt at the bottom of the bucket
- Wheel Bucket: This should hold the green and white bristle brushes, the red/black long reach brush. The wheel bucket is kept separate from the body bucket because wheels often are full of metallic shavings from the brakes that are microscopic and very sharp and if these were introduced to the paint they would severely scratch the surface over time. You'll notice this wash water gets very dirty, very fast, so use it for wheels only, and rinse it out each time.
- Grey Drying Towels: These are used to dry Eco-Wash from the body. They're very large and thick in order to hold a lot of water. Wash these often as they will hold a lot of the dirt that is cleaned off the body work of the car
- Yellow Body Towels: These are used to apply and wipe off Ceramic Spray Sealant from your paint work. After these towels get saturated with the sealant they won't absorb water very well so it's good to keep them isolated for this one job. This will also keep them from getting contaminates and rubbing them on the paint work as you apply sealant. You can also wipe down finger print smudges on your paint work with these towels and a little of the Pre-Soak.
- Blue Glass Towels: These are kept separate from any other duty simply because of the difficulty in getting streak free glass. The less contaminants in your towel, the better your glass will turn out so it's a great practice to keep a set of towels exclusively for cleaning glass and nothing else.
- Green Interior Towels: These towels have a lot of gunk and dirt that they'll be picking up from your interior and you don't want to spread that to other areas such as your glass or paint work, so having interior specific towels will ensure the other areas in your vehicle stay as clean as possible.
Microfiber Detergent: This is used as the detergent in your washing machine when you clean your microfiber towels. Do NOT use regular clothes detergents with fabric softeners or scents as these will quickly degrade your towels.
Towel washing tips:
- Always wash each group of towels separately. I know this is annoying, but if you get a bunch of the dirt and oils from your interior towels onto your glass towels during the wash cycle, they're going to be impossible to get streak-free glass. Likewise, if the left over Ceramic Spray Sealant from the yellow body towels get onto the grey drying towels, you'll find your drying towels will be impossible to absorb water and will need to be replaced. Washing each group of towles by itself, is the best way to ensure your towels last as long as possible.
- DO NOT use heat when drying. Either use the "tumble" cycle with no heat, or simply let your towels air dry. Heat will "melt" the tips of the microfiber threads together, making them sharp bits of plastic that will scratch your finish and not absorb water.
- Eco-Wash Concentrate: This is what you'll use to make Eco-Wash Solution for your wash buckets, as well as dilute to make the Eco-Wash Pre-Soak you use before washing as well as to clean your interior and glass. 1-ounce for every gallon makes your wash solution for the body and wheel bucket towels. Since each bucket will hold five gallons, you can mix in 5 ounces of Eco-Wash. If you don't want to steal the measuring spoons from the kitchen, you can simply squirt the Eco-Wash Concentrate straight from the bottle, and a fast 2-second count will equal one ounce of Eco-Wash. (i.e. Doing a 10-second count while squirting the concentrate into the wash bucket will amount in the necessary 5 ounces of concentrate being mixed.)
- Eco-Wash Pre-Soak: This is a hand pump sprayer that will be used to spray a diluted concentrate of the eco wash solution onto the paint surface to prep for a wash, as well as to clean your interior. 4 ounces of concentrate should be mixed in this bottle with water to create a gentle cleaner and paint prep solution. By spraying your dirty car with this as a pre-soak, it will help emulsify and loosen the dirt from the surfaces and create a barrier between these contaminants and the paint as they are washed off. As an interior cleaner, it is the most gentle way to lightly carry skin oils and dirt off of surfaces. It's a great maintenance product for the interior. TIP: If you're not going to use the entire bottle of Pre-Soak during your wash, you'll want to use DISTILLED WATER since the Eco-Wash solution will break down the minerals in tap water as it sits on the shelf and will eliminate it's effectiveness. Because of this, either mix a new bottle with tap water each time you use it, or use distilled water to mix and keep it more long term.
- All Purpose Cleaner: This is a more aggressive option for interior cleaning. If you have some more stubborn stains, this will work to help cut through them and emulsify grease and oil stains to be absorbed by your microfiber towels. Ideally, if you needed, you would use an All Purpose Cleaner on a thorough interior detail, and then maintain it week to week with the Eco-Wash Pre-Soak as it's a more gentle maintenance product. You may also find some uses around the house for this All Purpose Cleaner as something to help cut oils, grease and asphalt stains on different surfaces.
- Tire & Trim Dressing: This is a water-based dressing to be used on your tires, wheel-wells, and trim. Its biggest shortcoming is that it isn't extremely long lasting, but it makes up for that by not turning into a brown glue that attracts dust and creates a tar-like sludge on your tires/trim as you'll see with traditional solvent based dressings. If you're maintaining your car well, the week or so that this water-based formula lasts will be plenty of longevity. When using be sure to spray DIRECTLY into the bristles of the green dressing brush. DO NOT spray onto the surface directly as you will inevitably find that the particles will atomize into the air and float onto the finish of the car and make small "spots" all over the vehicle. I like to place the green bristle dressing brush close to the ground, almost under the chassis of thar car, and spray some tire/trim dressing onto the bristles directly to minimize any potential overspray. Then use the brush to apply the dressing onto the tire sideway. If you have a large truck, the brush will help apply dressing into all the nooks and crannies of the tires and you can also spray the dressing into the black plastic of the wheel wells to really give your car that "just detailed" look. Additionally, you can apply this product to black plastic trim, again, it won't last long term, but if you have something like a Chevy Avalanche or Jeep Wrangler with large plastic fenders, it's a quick process to brush these with some trim dressing and make your rig look new each time you wash it.
- Bug Juice: This is a really effective product. Spraying this across the front of your vehicle will chemically emulsify bug guts and help to loosen them off of the surface. Also spray it on the windshield and rear view mirrors to do the same. Don't let this product (or any other cleaner) dry on the vehicle as it will lose its effectiveness if it does. The only downside to Bug Juice is that it is aggressive enough to strip waxes and sealants over time. If you're vehicle is Ceramic Coated, or if you're applying a quick layer of Ceramic Spray Sealant each time you wash, you won't have to worry about this. Don't use this product if you don't need to. You'll notice in the summer months it's a life saver, but during the winter, when there aren't bugs, there's no reason to make more work for yourself since there usually aren't many, if any, bugs on the front of the vehicle. You'll notice this product also works great to help emulsify old solvent based tire dressings and clean your tires. Spray it on, and notice as the white froth of the chemical turns brown as it emulsifies all the contaminants on the tire, and then scrub the tire with your green bristle tire brush.
- Ceramic Spray Sealant: This is a great maintenance product. It's head and shoulders above an over-the-counter "quick detailer" or a traditional wax or sealant, but of course it's nowhere near the durability or gloss of a professional level Ceramic Coating. But since it's easy to apply, and economical enough to do each time you wash, or as often as you like, it's a GREAT way to add a ton of protection and gloss to your car on a regular basis. I'm a BIG proponent of adding small layers of protection, OFTEN, rather than installing a Ceramic Coating, then neglecting your car for years, and then expecting it to look perfect after it's been neglected. This spray coating will add protection whether your car has previously been Ceramic Coated or not! Simply spray onto a yellow body towel (don't spray directly onto the paint work itself) and then wipe it onto the paint. You can do your glass, chrome and trim as well. After you've made a lap of the entire car, simply flip to a dry side of your towel, or grab a new towel, and "dry" wipe the whole car again without any product. This will help level any streaks you may have. As always, wipe in the direction the air flows over the car.
Green Bristle Brush (dressing): This is only used to apply trim and tire dressing. The bristles will help spread the dressing into the sidewall crevices of the tire, as well as spread it evenly if you use it on your wheel wells or other black plastics across your car.
Green Bristle Brush: This goes into the wheel bucket with the white bristle brush. Use it ONLY to clean tire sidewalls and wheel-wells. If you try to then use this same brush to clean the wheel face itself you'll find it spreads grease and much all over the face of your wheel and will become a giant mess.
White Bristle Brush: This goes into the wheel bucket. Use it only to clean the wheel itself. This will keep it free of the grease and oils that are on the tire and wheel wells of the vehicle.
Red/Black Long Reach Brush: This goes into the wheel bucket. It is used to reach behind the spokes and clean the inner hub of the wheel. It can also reach behind the spokes to clean the brake caliper. This is one of those not well-known tricks that really makes a big difference in the overall look of your vehicle. Having clean brake calipers/inner wheel hubs can really make your car look "just detailed" compared to a regular car wash. It may be hard to clean at first as there is likely to be a buildup of brake dust and contaminants, but if you can get it fully clean once, it'll be easy peasy to maintain perfectly clean inner wheel hubs with this brush on a regular basis.
Bug Sponge: This is a soft sponge that goes in the body bucket. It is designed to help "scrub" bugs off the front clip/windshield/rear view mirrors, without severely scratching the finish.
Green Towel: Interior
Yellow Towel: Ceramic Spray Sealant or anything that is touching the paint
Blue Towel: Glass
Grey Towel: Clean Eco-Wash from body work
Here are some great videos demonstrating how a Rinseless Wash (level 2) works. Remember, simply Pre-Rinse the body and wheels with a pressure washer, pre-soak, and rinse again (or take through a touchless wash) beforehand to add more safety to your wash process and make it a Level 3 wash:
If you have any other questions, reach out to me at email@example.com
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