By Michael Mankarious
© nextzett USA


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For some of us, learning how to wash and dry a car might seem trivial considering how many times the average person has washed their car. Not complicated, right? The fact is, proper washing and drying techniques can make a significant different between a paint finish that has a lot of depth and gloss and one that has lost its luster and is covered in scratches and swirl marks.

What a lot of people don't realize is that washing and drying the paint finish can create surface defects such as swirl marks and scratches if done incorrectly. Over time, the accumulation of swirl marks and scratches equals a very dull finish. And if the culprit wasn't washing or drying, it more likely was the car wash or hand wash facility, or the inexperienced detailer that most likely put it there.   

Although basic in concept, many wash their cars incorrectly. We just assume that all it takes is a sponge, a bucket of water and soap and fire away! And while it isn't rocket science, with the easy to learn tips and techniques we will discuss, washing and drying will remain uncomplicated but will help you keep your car looking its absolute best.


Best Time to Wash

What we want to instill in your heads right now is this: Whenever working with chemicals on your car whether its car wash shampoo, car polish or glass cleaner, you should always work out of direct sunlight and hot temperatures. Working with such factors can harm the end result. Heat is a catalyst that can increase the effects of a chemical far beyond its intended purpose. In other words, direct sunlight make your everyday cleaner work a lot faster and stronger than it was intended. With that thought in mind, when washing your vehicle, its best to wash either in the early morning or late afternoon/evening if you will be doing so without shade. Avoid washing mid-day when the sun can heat up your cars paintwork in just a few short minutes. The surface should always be warm or cool to the touch whenever you do any work on it.

Choosing the Right Car Shampoo

The key to proper washing and, more importantly, avoiding swirl marks is using the right tools and techniques. First, always use a quality shampoo that will not strip any protective car wax.

Do not settle for a lower cost brand car wash because they tend to be harsher towards car wax finishes. The reason why they are lower in cost is because they use lower quality surfactants (detergents). Lower cost surfactants are high in alkaline which will not make a distinction between the oily film on your paintwork and the wax finish you just spend an hour applying. Lower cost car wash shampoos also tend to cause spotting and leave residue.

nextzett car wash shampoos are formulated with high quality cleaners which don't cause spotting or streaks on the finish and rinses clean without leaving a residue.


Choosing A Wash Applicator

Just as important as choosing the right car wash shampoo is choosing the correct tool to wash your vehicle with. We recommend using our Microfiber Chenille Wash Mitt which will gently wash the paintwork surface. Avoid using synthetic sponges or synthetic wool mitts. Their surface is not as gentle and can cause fine scratches such as swirl marks. The wash mitt can be washed after use countless times and is highly recommended to prevent scratching due to trapped debris in the fiber. We also recommend natural wool mitts which you can find at specialty automotive stores or online car care stores.



Before we start the wash process, if necessary, you might need to do some pre-washing. If you have sap or bug splatter on any parts of the car exterior, you'll need to treat it first prior to washing since they can be too stubborn for most car wash shampoos.

nextzett Bug & Sap Remover contains special cleaners that loosen bug splatter and sap. Most bug and sap removers contain petroleum solvents that remove sensitive wax finishes but not Bug & Sap Remover. Its water-based formula is also easy on wax finishes so you won't have to reapply wax after washing.

Making sure surface is cool to the touch and out of direct sunlight, simply spray on affected area and allow product to work for three minutes. Then with a direct jet of water, clean affected area.



Set up your two buckets. Use one bucket for your shampoo. Pour the amount of shampoo as directed and use a strong jet of water to create suds. In your other bucket you're going to fill up with plain water. This bucket will be used between washes to remove excessive dirt from your wash mitt and reduce the chance of scratching your paint.

Pre-rinse the surface of the car by spraying water starting from the roof and working your way down. This way any loose dirt and dust flows to the bottom of the car.

First, saturate your wash mitt in the shampoo bucket. Do not wash your car as if you are attempting to scrub the paint off. Instead, allow the mitt to glide across the surface letting the fibers and shampoo lubricants sweep away the dirt. nextzett shampoos have lubricants that create a slick surface so dirt glides off easily without scratching. Creating a slick surface is more important than creating a heavy sudsing action.  Heavy suds are usually the result of lower quality detergents. While you may feel reassured by the appearance of suds, they are not as beneficial as having a slick solution.

Before grabbing more soap, give your wash mitt a quick dunk in the water bucket to remove any excessive dirt. Do this prior to grabbing more shampoo. This will reduce the chance of causing micro scratches in the paint. Alternatively, you can purchase a dirt guard to place at the bottom of your wash bucket. It will help keep dirt settled on the bottom of the wash bucket instead of in the shampoo mix. 

As you wash the paintwork and grab more soap in your wash mitt, agitate the wash mitt in the bucket to release debris caught on the fibers. This will reduce the chance of creating possible scratches and swirl marks. It's also a good idea to use two wash mitts. One dedicated for cleaning your vehicles paintwork and another one for your wheels. This will keep brake dust and grime on your wheels away from your vehicles paintwork. 


Washing Frequency

Generally, it's a good rule of thumb to wash your vehicle once a week if you drive it often (we term these daily drivers). The number one pollutant on roadways today is brake dust which is acidic. When considering all the other pollutants and natural elements such as tree sap, soot, oil, bird droppings and so on, you'd be hard-pressed not to give your vehicle and quick wash at least once a week.

And no, rain doesn't count especially if you live in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles or the North East of the United States where acid rain is common.  Acid rain, if left on your vehicle for days past the rain has stopped, will dull the finish of your paintwork. If you have a wax finish on your paintwork, that will help tremendously. However, it is highly advised to wash on a regular basis. Plus, the more consistent you are with washing, the less effort is required the next wash.

Drying: The Right Tool And Technique

The way you dry the paintwork is just as important as the way you wash it. As a drying tool we suggest using Ultimate Waffle Weave Microfiber Towel instead of a cotton towel which can scratch today's sensitive paint finishes. Many cotton towels available marketed for vehicle care are blended with polyester despite claims of one hundred percent cotton. If you choose to use a cotton towel, use a high quality towel from manufacturers that produce towels primarily. When washing cotton towels do not wash or dry them with fabric softener which will leave a coating on the tips of the fibers. This coating, which gives the sense of softness, will leave streaks on your paintwork. Instead of using softener to soften the towels, dry the towels in a dryer and pull them out when they are slightly damp just before they are completely dry.

Drying the paint finish requires the same technique as washing. Do not apply a lot of pressure. Lay the towel on the surface and pull nearly zero effort is required. Make sure you open the doors, trunk lid and hood to remove water from the rocker panel and door jams.  


Preventive Maintenance

Keep in mind that the key to preventing scratches and swirl marks is by attacking the root of the problem, which in most cases is how we wash and dry our paintwork. Perfect this technique and your car's paint finish will reflect (pun intended) your efforts.

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