When washing your car, the accessories you choose can make all the difference. You may have heard us harp on the 2 Bucket System and the use of Grit Guard in the past, but we’ve yet to cover one of the most important car wash supplies needed for a great car wash: a wash pad. Sure there are wash mitts, wash brushes, and a whole lot of other accessories that claim to make your car wash better, but there are some concrete facts you should know that put wash pads over the top. Take a look…
Wash pads vs. wash mitts
For those who don’t know, the main difference between pads and mitts is that you stick your hand into the mitt whereas you “hold” a wash pad. While this may make the mitt sound like a more useful and comfortable cleaning tool, there are two factors at play that make wash pads a much better (and safer) solution for washing your car. The first is cushion. With a plush wash pad you have a good inch or two of separation between your hand and the surface of the car; with a mitt this distance is closer to one or two centimeters. Basically this means that with a wash mitt you’re adding more pressure to the surface than you are a wash pad. This comes into play if and when you’re washing a particularly dirty car, where light debris and contaminants will be more likely to drag across or get caught on the painted surface. Dragging things across your paintwork causes scratches and is never desired. In addition to cushion, wash pads hold advantage over mitts because they don’t have cuffs. Cuffs are often made of a rough elastic material and almost always have seams – anything this close to your paintwork shouldn’t have either. One misstep and that cuff will scuff your clear coat.
Why sponges are terrible
Wash sponges have been outdated for quite some time. A lot of people like to use sea sponges because of their absorbency, but when it comes to washing your car that’s not always a good thing. Sponges get awfully heavy when saturated, and if we jump back to the last section for a second, the added weight means added pressure – this is not desired. Additionally, sponges don’t hold suds well at all due to their rough texture. A soft synthetic wash pad has hair-thin fibers that work to lather up nicely and hold thick suds while washing the car. More suds are key for a better car wash, and having a tool that allows them to last longer on the surface is absolutely ideal. As if that weren’t reason enough, one thing sponges do hold well is dirt. Put all that together and you get a heavy sponge carrying dirt across your surface with an inadequate amount of suds. In other words, a great way to scratch your car.
What brushes are safe for washing?
As a rule of thumb, never touch a brush to your car that isn’t flag-tipped. This means that the end of the bristles are split into tinier strands so that nothing of too much force is on your paintwork – making for better cleaning and a safer brush. Some people use horsehair brushes to wash their car, but this is relatively outdated and they’re more suitable for cloth surfaces such as convertible tops and seats. A lot of times these horsehair brushes can lead to hairline blemishes in the clear coat that are easily removable with a light hand polish, but still… I wouldn’t use one. What about California dusters? Eh… don’t use them. We typically don’t recommend dragging any sort of brush or duster on your car without some sort of lubricant, such as a detail spray (in which case you would use a microfiber towel). The answer is flag-tipped (when needed) and don’t look for anything else.
When and where to use these brushes is just as important as making sure what kind you’re using. I recommend using a brush only for the front (grille, lights) and lower 25% of your car (rocker panels, lower fascia, bumpers, running boards, etc.). Typically this is where most of the dirt and grime accumulates, and cleaning the rest of the car shouldn’t require a brush.
Wash pads reign supreme
The ultimate washing tool is the wash pad. Since all wash pads aren’t created equal, you should always make sure you’re using a (1-2 inch) thick synthetic fiber pad that doesn’t show threaded seams (these can cause scratches if you’re unaware of them). Don’t fall for magic towels and sponges, and if you must opt for a wash mitt be sure it’s microfiber. The only scratch-proof solution to a better car wash is by switching to a thick, soft wash pad.
What do you use to clean your car? Got a favorite tool? Share in the comments and on facebook!