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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A guide written by Robbie at Valet Magic for the GTR forum, thought i would share with everyone to dispel some common misconceptions:-In this
thread I hope to explain some good practices for washing a car that help in the
prevention of inflicting swirl marks to paint.

Whats Wrong With A Sponge?

Millions of people wash their car using a sponge. But if you read the threads
on this forum you will see that hardly any members are washing their cars using
a traditional sponge... Why is that? It all comes down to the flat flace of the

Imagine automotive paintwork with your typical dirt and grit paricles sutck on
the top of the paint, that you want to wash off to revela your car's shine.
Some of these dirt particles are sharp:

Now, if you place a sponge down ontop of these grit particles as you would do
if you were washing your car with a sponge, the grit particles become trapped
between the face of the sponge and the paint - they have no where to go owing
to the flat face of the sponge:

When you wipe the sponge across the paintwork, you wipe the sharp grit
particles straight across the paint. As they move over the paint, the dirt
particles leave a thin hairline scratch:

These little scratches are highly visible in bright light because they catch
the light, and this is what gives you the dreaded swirl marks that rob your
paint of gloss and colour and ruin the car's look. A pic of bad swirl marks,
the result of sponge washing of a car:

Wash Mitts

Lambswool and Sheepswool wash mitts have been developped to get around the
problems of sponges trapping grit particles by the flat face. If you run your
fingers through a lambwool mitt, you can see that it is deep pile and not flat

Returning to the grit partciles on paintwork, when the wash mitt is placed onto
them, the grit particles are absorbed into the mitt - safely away from
paintwork so that they cannot scratch the paint:

Therefore, sweeping the mitt across the paint doesn't sweep the grit over the
paint also and so you don't inflict lots of tiny hairline scratches.

Note: While washmitts are considerbaly better than sponges, it is impossible to
completely avoid inflicting the odd swirl marks here and there using a wash
mitt. What follows in this thread are tips on how to keep these inflicted
swirls to an absolute minimum.

Which Wash Mitt?

There are a great number of washmitts on the marked nowadays, ranging from
lambswool and sheepswool to cotton chenille to microfibre. In my experience the
best mitts are the lambswool and sheepswool. When choosing a mitt, choose one
with a soft deep pile that will be kind to paintwork. Two excellent mitts are:

Meguiars Lambswool Wash Mitt

Eurow Sheepskin Wash Mitt

and there are others too.

So Many Shampoos! Which to Choose?

At the end of the day, shampoo choice for your car is going to come down to personal
prefernce. But there are so many shampoos on the market its hard to know which
ones to go for! A couple of things to look for when choosing a car

1. Lubricity in the washing solution - you want a shampoo that makes the
washing solution feel nice and lubricated so that dirt particles can be
encapsulated by this lubricant and any that aren't absorbed into the wash mitt
will slide off the paint without scratching in the rinsing water. Soapy suds
are pleasing and can make car washing fun, but lubricated wash solution is more

2. A shampoo should contain no harsh detergents if you are washing a car that
you have spent many hours polishing, sealing and waxing. Harsh detergents strip
wax straight off the paintwork leaving your paint surface dried out and
unprotected. Fairy Liquid is therefore a big no no for washing cars. You feel
what happens to the sking on your hand if in prolonged contact with harsh
detergents, it dires the skin out - it will do similar damage to paint.

With this in mind, there are still a huge number of car shampoos that fit the
bill - ones that I have used and rate are the following, so if you're
struggling on which to choose, try one of the following:

My own PH-Neutral shampoo

Zaino Z7

Meguiars #62 Bodywork Shampoo & Conditioner

Meguiars Gold Class Bodywork Shampoo & Conditioner

Meguiars Hyper Wash (awsome dilution ratio of 400:1 - lasts ages!)

What is the "Two-Bucket Method"

Again, millions of people use a single bucket of car wash solution to wash
their car, but if you read the threads on this site you will find most members
wash their cars using the "Two-Bucket Method" - whats that?

As suggested by the name, the two bucket method uses two buckets, not one. In
thie first bucket, you have your car wash solution as normal. In the second
bucket you have clean fresh water. First off you soak your mitt in the wash
solution and begin washing the car (as described below). Then, before dunking
the wash mitt back into the wash solution, you rinse it out in the second
bucket of fresh water - this rinses out the dirt and grit particles from this
mitt so that they cannot come into contact with your paint, reducing the number
of swirls inflicted.

A grit-guard is also a very worthwhile investment and sits at the bottom of the
bucket (I have two, one in the rinsing bucket and one in the wash solution
bucket). When dunking you mitt into the fresh water bucket, rub it across the
grit guard to increase the amount of grit particles which are removed from the
mitt. Also, it keeps them trapped at the bottom of the bucket so even less
chance of the mitt picking them back up and them reaching your paintwork to
inflict scratches.

Here I describe the generic technique I use to wash cars...

Wheels, Arches, Door Jambs:

Start with these. When washing your wheels using a wheel brush, the shampoo
solution (or wheel cleaner solution) can spray up onto paintwork, and if youve
just cleaned the paintwork, you'll end up needing to clean it again to remove
the dirty spray from wheels! Don't forget to open all doors and boot and clean
the doorjambs and the insides of the door (without getting wash solution into
the locking mechanisms, I cover these up) - these areas can pick up a lot of
dirt as well and it adds something a little extra to open the door and see the
jambs as clean as the rest of the car as these areas are often forgotten


This loosens up dirt and wets the paintwork ready for washing. Using a hose
pipe, direct agentle sprayof water at the paintwork at a shallow
angle. If you blast the paintwork with high pressure at ninety degrees to the
paintwork, you'll force grit into the paint and cause scatches. Just a gentle
spray of water to wet the paintwork is all that is required. If you don't have
access to a hose, use a watering can with the rose fitted to produce a gentle
spary of water:


This is the major stage of the washing process, and the time when most
scratches can be inflicted if care is not taken. This removes fresh surface
contimaniation from paintwork such as dust, grit, mud, road film etc... Add the
correct amount of car wash solution (according to the dilution ratio on the
bottle) to your bucket and fill with water to produces suds and lubricated wash

The water can be cold, or warm - I prefer warm water as it keeps my hands warm,
especially in winter!!

Now, use the two bucket method described above. Use two washmitts - one for the
top areas of the car (roof, bonnet, upper sides above the wheel arch line) and
one for the lower areas (below the wheel arch line, front and rear bumpers).
Use a light parallel motion when washing, with out applying forceful pressure
that will inflict scratches.

If a mark is stubborn and wont come off with gentle movement of the wash mitt,
it will require a stronger cleaner such as tar remover or clay. Start from the
roof and work down, therefore the large quantities of dirt that form on the
lower parts of car are not transferred to the traditionally cleaner upper areas
of the car. Try to avoid letting the shampoo dry on the paintwork as this will
cause streaks and soap spots, for this reason try to avoid washing in direct
sunlight. If you are in direct sunlight, it may be neccessary to wash and rinse
a panel art a time. Continue until the car is completed.


Once washed, the next step is to rinse away the soap bubbles and film. If using
a hose I first of all use a light spary of water to wet the paintwork (using
the rose on the watering can), just like the pre-rinsing step. Then follow this
up with a flow of water from the hose (rose off the water can this time). Most
shampoos are free rinsing and require this flow of water to make the rinsing
water "sheet" off of the paintwork. (This sheeting effect will work
best on well sealed and waxed paintwork). On a sealed/waxed car, keep rinsing
until the water sheets cleanly off the paintwork and leaves behind only water
beads and not flat regions of water. This makes the car essentially self
drying! Rinse from the top of the car down.


Another risk stage as far as scrathes are concerned. First off, I find that
using a waffleweave drying towel is far safer and more effective than using a
chamois leather. A couple of examples of good quality waffleweave drying towels

Meguiars Water Magnet Drying Towel

Poorboys Waffleweave

Also Pakshak towels are very very good too! Rather than sweeping the towel
across the paintwork to remove the water, I prefer to pat dry the car. The
sweeping of the towel has more risk of inflicting scratches as stray grit
particles may be picked up and inadvertantly swept across the paint inflicting
swirl marks. Instead, pat dry the car by laying the towel down over the wet
paintwork. Gently pat the towel, then lift off the paintwork. The towel will
absorb the water to dry the paint. A thin flim of water may be left behind but
this will quickly evaporate to leave a sparkling, streak free finish.

And there we have it - safe washing technique to avoid inflicting dreaded
swirls into paintwork.


655 Posts
Good post!

You see soo many cars that have been washed with a housebrick.

My top tip is to finish off with a spray wax - I use Pinnacle Crystal Mist.

It's a lightweight carnuaba, which tops up some of the wax you've just removed.

It makes the car look just waxed, and saves a lazy git like me having to do the full grind & buff & waxmore than once a year. Or almost never, in the case of the garage queens!

GT86 Cosworth
4,869 Posts
Excellent Post! I intend to wash my car tomorrow so searched for this thread for a quick readup to make sure I do it properly
Most of it is common sense but not often do people really THINK about what they are donig when washing a car....

Will post pictures next week......

6,998 Posts
...we should have a "Who's got the best beading" competiton...


5,716 Posts
Some good angles on those beads Senna, but I have seen better, so please try harder! Ha ha..

2,138 Posts
too bad your entire explanation on sponges is crap. i've been using a sponge on my car for years and years and i have never (read NEVER EVER) had a single scratch and believe me, my car gets dirty sometimes.

sponges absorb dirt just as well, if not better than a mit, and what's more, because a sponge is thicker than a mit, it will exert less pressure on the paint further decreasing the chance of a scratch.

as for the rest of the guide, i'm completely with you. although i personally just go to a self-carwash with 3 gallons of lukewarm water and 2 buckets so i don't have to use the stupid dirtfilled "foam brush" they have. the person who invented that thing should be shot, drowned, hanged, drawn and quartered. and then been given a stern talking to.

It'll be interesting if we get together 1 September 2013 to compare paint/finish.
I've not had a car from new before (except. Co cars which don't count) so I'm being particularly anal with my washing/polishing/waxing and its looking pretty darn fine right now. Okay, so it's only six weeks old but I'm confident there'll be few or none any better.

2,138 Posts
TripleRich said:
Great guide. Washed mine twice now and it looks fantastic when finished
Never used two buckets until I got the 86, makes real sense when you see the water colour in the second bucket
and if you can do an entire car without changing the water in the rincing bucket, you're not cleaning hard enough

6,998 Posts
R32 GTR and Robbie @ Valet magic speak words of wisdom here.

Follow this advice 'You must'...
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