Detailing done right

If you are an enthusiast you probably like to keep your car clean. If you are like me then perhaps you also have a compulsion to have it ‘perfectly’ detailed. That I see more as a journey than a destination (how very Zen eh?) but it is certainly a path that leads to a lot of discovery.
After getting the F355 I decided that I really wanted to understand what the detailing best practices where. I knew I couldn’t go to the extremes but hopefully I could improve. Shockingly, what I have learned so far is that for all these years I have been doing even the basics of just washing my car all wrong!
What I’ll start to incorporate into this blog is the road to enlightenment that I am undertaking when it comes to correct car detailing. I am going to start this journey with an empty slate and take nothing for granted. Any results that I achieve I want them to be both understandable and reproducible.
So let’s start this process with what what I know NOT to do.
1. Washing your car with dishwashing liquid. I did learn this a while back but it is worth re-iterating to be thorough. Dish washing liquid is designed to strip grease and food matter from plates, it is therefore quick an aggressive cleaner, especially when it comes to oils and fats. This means that it will generally strip away any waxes or sealants you have on your paintwork. It will certainly clean the paintwork but it will leave it exposed to the elements without any protection which is not good. So don’t use dishwashing liquid.
2. Use a sponge. Say what? I hear you say but the problem with sponges of today is that they are rock hard. If you have ever found a natural sea sponge you’ll know the difference. You don’t want anything hard trying to remove dirt because it doesn’t, it simply grinds that dirt into the paintwork marking it. You want to use a lamb’s wool or microfibre mit instead.
3. Use a single bucket. You need to use two buckets. One bucket you fill with your cleaner the other you fill just with water. Your wash mit (not a sponge) goes into the cleaner bucket and you then use it on the car. Before you dip your wash mit back into the cleaner you dip it into the water bucket. This rinses off all the dirt that you just collected with the wash material. If you don’t do this the dirt goes back into the cleaner bucket to be potentially picked up by the mit and then ground into the paintwork. Thus, into the cleaner bucket should only go a mit that has been rinsed to remove any dirt.
4. Wash the car directly without rinsing. This will remove any loose dirt and provide lubricant for the surface. It will also give you a better idea of how protected the surface is. If the water beads and runs off the paintwork then generally there is good protection. If the water clings to the surface and fails to drain away then the paintwork needs protection.
5. Wash the wheels before washing the paintwork. Most wheels contain a significant amount of brake dust and other material. If you do your wheels before or while you are doing your paintwork (and you are using a single bucket) then that material ends up on the paintwork and ends up scratching it. If you want to do the wheels first, either use a third bucket or completely rinse out any buckets you use before moving onto the paintwork. To me it makes more sense to do the wheels after the paintwork to avoid getting anything from them into the paintwork.
6. Wash in direct sunlight. Washing a car takes a while to get around all panels and if you are washing in direct sunlight chances are these panel will dry out before you get to them. That may mean you are then rubbing a hard sponge with dirt all through it directly onto the paintwork without any lubrication. You need to ensure that all panels stay cool and wet when washing as this also avoids water marks.

Doing the above items, especially in combination, allows your paintwork to be cleaned but upon closer inspect you see that it is covered in ‘swirls’ like shown above. These become quite pronounced in day light. These are minute scratches in the paintwork that can typically only be removed using some form of pain ‘correction’.
When I inspected my daily drive I noticed that it was indeed covered in swirl marks from incorrect washing procedures over the years. It was now time to start rectifying the wrongs and I’ll start covering off what I now do and the results of my research as well as the questions I am still researching as I continue along this detailing journey.
Stay tuned for a deep dive into the world of car detailing.

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