by Paul Williams

My promotional Mr. Clean AutoDry car wash kit came neatly presented in a nice blue bucket, with the slogan, “Ban the Bucket” emblazoned across it. There’s an irony here, which will shortly become clear.

The Mr. Clean system is designed to provide a “spot-free shine, with no need to hand dry.” The kit you can buy contains a blue and green, hand-held plastic applicator with a “Power Grip” handle, a bottle of soap you pour into the applicator’s reservoir, and a filter you slide into a chamber, where it snaps authoritatively in place.

Mr. Clean AutoDry
Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Yes, you get to “lock and load.”

After attaching a garden hose, you can adjust a selector to spray your choice of plain water, soapy water or filtered water as you put this high-tech car wash system through its paces.

That’s the theory; now here’s the reality.

After loading your applicator, you proceed to wet the car by turning on the tap at the faucet, flipping the thumb-activated on-off switch, and selecting “rinse.” Pre-rinsing is something you’d do when washing your car anyway, but doubtless without such a formidable artifact in your hand.

After rinsing, you change the selector to “soap” and as the water flows through your applicator, it mixes with shampoo and you cover your car with this solution. So far, so good.

But here, and I’ve been waiting patiently to say this… here, literally, is the rub.

You now have to go over the car with a wash mitt to lather the soap. My test kit conveniently came with a mitt, so I used that. You will have to get your own.

But – I thought, stupidly looking at my hand – my mitt is dry, and I need to wet it. With what shall I wet it? Hmm. Water would be good, so I fired a burst of soapy water at the mitt with my applicator, soaking my shoes in the process.

Then I started to rub, and as the soap on the car burst into a fine lather, I very quickly had another problem. My mitt was now dirty, and here was I rubbing my nice paint with a dirty mitt, which is likely to scratch the finish on my car. Hand wash-types like me don’t like this.

Then I got to thinking, as bipeds are wont to do when faced with challenging engineering problems of this type. You know, I reasoned, I need a separate device that will contain all this soapy water in one convenient location. Something I can plunge my mitt into, releasing the trapped dirt therein.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a bucket for containing and transporting water, don’t you think? And for plunging mitts.

After lathering and rinsing (in the bucket marked “Ban the Bucket) a few times, the car was covered in soap and I was well-pleased. Using the Mr. Clean device, I deftly switched back into “rinse” mode, and removed the soap from the car.

The instructions say to make sure that on no part of the car should water be allowed to bead. If you see areas where water is beading, you must retrieve your soapy mitt and go over that part. There were such stubborn parts, I found, and I went over them again.

As an aside, a Proctor and Gamble representative assured me that this doesn’t mean the soap strips your waxed surface. Apparently this is a polymer soap that treats the surface so that water sheets on top of your carefully applied shine (assuming you wax).

Now, the piece de resistance. Select “filter” and the device kind of vibrates in your hand, while emitting a somewhat rude noise.

Purified, filtered, water emerges to rinse the car, after which you simply stand back and watch it dry before your eyes (which it does eventually, but not right away). Spots, as promised, are not to be found.

The result is a nice-looking job, a dirty mitt, a bucket of soiled water, a wet driveway and wet feet.

And that’s gotta be worth, what, $28.99 at your local Canadian Tire store? Pick up a filter good for 10 more washes for $8.99, and the special polymer car wash for $7.99 in a 600-millilitre bottle, and you’re away.

Aren’t humans ingenious?

As you can tell, I’m not hugely impressed with this AutoDry car wash system, but then I don’t mind (rather like, actually) washing and drying my car. For those who don’t, the Mr. Clean system is an interesting novelty, and kind of fun to use.

Coincidentally, a friend mentioned he’s looking forward to trying it on the windows of his house. He figures they’ll dry spot-free. He’ll still need a bucket, though. You always need a bucket.

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