Pro detailer Ken Wilson
Pro detailer Ken Wilson. Click image to enlarge
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By Ken Wilson

  • Don’t wash your car in direct sun. Find a shady location with good drainage.
  • Use two large buckets filled with plenty of cold water. The first is filled with clear water to rinse your wash mitt or microfiber towel, while the second is for your soapy water. Be careful to only use dedicated carwash soap, as other products can strip wax and damage clear coat finishes. By using two buckets, you are able to keep your soapy water clean for the duration of the wash.
  • Equip your buckets with a Grit Guard and you will greatly reduce the number of swirl marks in your finish. This clever plastic trap sits at the bottom of your bucket and works to isolate your wash mitt or towel from the grit that gets suspended in your wash water.
  • Avoid sponges and brushes for the painted surfaces of your car. The pros prefer a soft-to-the-touch sheepskin wash mitt as the long, natural fibers hold more soapy water and allow loosened grit to migrate away from the surface being washed. They also can be used a dust mitt when dry. Natural ones last longer than synthetic versions, and are gentler to the paint finish. Microfiber mitts are also an alternative.
    Wash bucket fitted with a Grit Guard
    Wash bucket fitted with a Grit Guard. Click image to enlarge
  • Hose off the car to remove surface debris. If you use a pressure washer, do not hold it too close to the car. Make sure to get behind the bumpers and in the wheel wells.
  • Always wash in a horizontal path, not circular, and keep your mitt soaked with clean, soapy water from your wash bucket. Do small sections at a time starting from the front to the back (hood-roof-trunk), then the sides (one panel at a time) from top to bottom. Rinse as you go. Use a separate mitt for the rocker panels, lower extremities and wheels, as these areas tend to be far dirtier. This is where the cheaper microfiber mitt is best suited.
  • If you drop a mitt, brush, sponge or towel, find a new one unless you like swirls in your paint.
  • Completely dry the car’s surface using microfiber towels. Cotton towels should be avoided, as they are quite abrasive. Don’t forget around the doors, hatches and gas compartment lid.
  • Wash your wheels, wheel wells and tires last. Be very careful to read the instructions for wheel cleaners and tire treatments as they can harm painted surfaces and trim, and some may even damage the wheels they are designed to protect if they are left on too long or misapplied.
  • In the winter time stop by the local car wash and use the wand to spray off your vehicle, but avoid the brush.
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