I wish everyone saw what I see when I drive past a hand car wash. It's time to educate people about what your actually getting for your £10, 10 minute wash and the damage they are really doing to your car. Where do I start...
Lets look at the comparables first of all. Most hand car washes charge on average £15 for in and out and your kept waiting at most 20-30 minutes. I charge at most dependent on vehicle size £60 for a Maintenance Detail which essentially is their 'in and out' and take roughly 2.5 hours. If you do the math’s your actually paying the equivalent just I take 5x longer, so why spend more?
The first key point is when I perform a Maintenance Detail my goal is to offer the highest level of clean, as safely as possible using high quality products protecting and maintaining your car and its protection. Their aim is to clean your car in the quickest way possible by any means, meaning they use cheap, highly aggressive chemicals to break down the dirt and rush around your car in order to free up space for the next car to come In. They need to operate on the lowest possible overheads, this means the more aggressive the chemical to clean your car the less of it they need and the more often than not the cheaper it is.
These days nearly all cars are manufactured and finished in different ways. Wheels for example, you could have polished, painted, diamond cut or satin finishes thus meaning that different products are required to ensure these finished are cleaned safely without diminishing or blemishing the appearance of the wheel. Hand car washes do not consider this and use wheel ACID to clean any type of wheel. I have seen first hand what wheel acid does to polished wheels and satin finishes wheels and its not pretty! I even had a customer recently with a black Range Rover with black wheels, he took it to the local hand car wash where they sprayed on wheel acid, it was a hot day and his wheels were hot from driving as a result the acid had dried and baked on by the time they came to rinse it off, consequently it had streaked all over the wheel and would not come off. That's a wheel refurb on every wheel! Any detailer will carry various products suitable for various finishes to ensure when cleaning all surfaces and coatings on the car are safely cleaned looking after the finish and protection.
Anyone who's takes an avid interest in detailing or just an enthusiast knows one of the fundamentals of the process is using two buckets, one clean water and one soapy to wash the car with. The reason for this is to wash off your grubby wash mitt that you've just taken off the paint into the plain bucket to rinse off the dirt then put it into nice clean soapy water to put back onto the car. However this appears to be a myth at any hand car wash. Next time you visit a wash and scratch take a look inside the drum they pull their mitts out of, it will most likely be full of black soapy water which has washed anywhere from 50- 100 cars in a day. If you turn up at the end of the day they are essentially washing your car with the dirt off 75 other cars adding a nice swirly finish for free! But that's not the main issue for me, the main issue is that they don't actually use the nice dirty water all that much, instead they grab a dripping wet wash mitt and use it to wash near enough half a car before rinsing it off again and taking it back to your paint. So they are dragging half a cars worth of dirt across the car adding more to your stunning swirl effect!
The next issue with their wash process is the shampoo they use and how it diminishes and degrades any protection on your car. pH Neutral shampoo is essential when cleaning you're car to ensure any wax or coating currently protecting the paintwork is left behind after washing. I only use pH neutral shampoos which do exactly what they say, contain no harsh or aggressive chemicals and most importantly, no acids. The shampoo they use will have a wide variety of aggressive chemicals in it which will break down and lift all kinds of dirt quickly and effectively including sap and bird mess with little agitation, which is great but not so great for your wax or coatings. After only a couple of hand car washes you can wave goodbye to any protection you or the dealership applied meaning your paintwork is left bare and open to a wide variety of foreign bodies which damage your paint such as bird mess, acid rain, bugs, tar and salt!
To me it's common sense and I really can't see how people cannot see what they are doing to their paintwork. The amount of damage that can be caused in one wash is mind blowing. Don't get me wrong some are much worse than others and you wouldn't believe me but the dealerships are by far the worse. Audi for example, they employ fleet valeters who arrive each morning. I've had the joy of working alongside these cowboys and what I witnessed is not for the faint hearted! In the time it took me to deep clean, decontaminate and dry an Audi A1 (2.5 Hours), they "cleaned" 9 cars! While cleaning these 9 cars the leather which they dry the cars off with was jet washed off, on the floor twice! On concrete with grit and dirt being pressure washed into the fibers of the leather. I nearly passed out when I saw it!
So back to your local hand car wash, after they have stripped all the dirt with harsh aggressive chemicals, given the dirt on your car a good wash around with dirt off other cars too, they then rinse it all off in preparation to dry the car with the dreaded Chamois leather. Although these can be very effective at absorbing water and drying your car, unfortunately they can also easily inflict a lot of damage onto the surface of your paintwork in the form of light scratches, swirl marks and marring. A chamois leather is an animal rawhide which means it has obviously not been ‘designed’ for the sole purpose of drying a car, which means that you are compromising the safety of your paintwork if you use one. The make up of a chamois leather means that any small stray particles of dirt on the surface of your car become trapped between the paintwork and the chamois during the drying phase and are therefore drawn across it which results in the fine scratches and swirl marks. Chamois leathers also dry hard so even if just a small part of it is not sufficiently dampened and softened before you begin drying, marring could be inflicted onto the surface of your paintwork. There are synthetic chamois also available but these too suffer from the same disadvantages that a natural chamois leather does.
If all of that hasn't deterred you yet, then getting home to see the really poor level of clean should! Wheel dishes are always left heavily soiled, arches still caked, grills still with a film of dirt and the corners of alloys still baked up. Even better than that is when they leave dirt lying in your drainage channels and you drive off down the road and the water lying in the drainage wells runs out down the door taking the dirt with it leaving a lovely dirty streak down side of the car.
I appreciate that most people to be honest don't care and love the convenience of a hand car wash but more and more I'm being asked why is my car so dull, what is causing all those marks in the paint and why does it get dirty so quick and people are bemused when I tell them it's actually how they are cleaning their car which is making their car so technically dirty!
Im not tarring everyone with the same brush, I know some people do look after their own cars but those that currently use hand car washes please take note, it's not too late. Book your car in to have some level of machine work either an Enhancement Detail or Correction Detail to remove the damage inflicted by hand car washes and then either have it maintained by me here at Detail Driven or book yourself in on my one course designed to teach you how to safely maintain your car in and out, at the end you'll be given a hamper of products to safely maintain your car with safe products.
You really are not getting anything different by paying £5, £7 or £15. They all use the same chemicals, same poor processes and same terrible results. Rather than spending £10 a week at a hand car wash, why not save your £10 up and once a month have it maintained properly by myself for most likely the same price you would have paid over the past four weeks but a much higher level of clean using products designed to safely clean your car with a 10x better result. An absolute no brainer! Book yours in now here!