What the Pros Do When They Clean Your Car (That You Don’t)
The debate over whether it’s best to get your car washed professionally or do it yourself is one you can knock around all day long.
For those in the DIY camp, their trump card is the money it saves you. You also don’t have to go to the bother of traveling somewhere, especially just to get your car cleaned. And for those who enjoy such things, there’s even enjoyment to be had in getting outside, getting active, and giving your car a thorough scrub down – especially if you’re the sort of person who takes particular pride in their vehicle.
But for those who advocate going pro, there’s one ace up their sleeve that’s hard to counter. Professional valeting leaves your car looking a million dollars, with a tell-tale fresh-from-the-showroom sparkle that it’s hard to replicate at home.
Hard, but not impossible. And let’s be honest, if you could crack the secret of how the pros get your car looking so good when they clean it, the argument for doing it yourself suddenly looks pretty convincing. In fact, the only reason not to clean your own car and pay a professional instead would be because you hadn’t the time or inclination.
So what exactly do professional valeting services do to get your car looking so good? And can you do just as good a job at home? Here are some top pro tips that can make all the difference.
It’s all about product
Perhaps more than anything else they do, professional valeting services understand the value of using not only the best cleaning products, but the best for each job. It really is a case of getting out what you put in. If you choose premium professional car cleaning products, you are likely to end up with a professional-looking finish.
Pro-quality car shampoos, for example, are specially formulated to be extremely efficient at lifting dirt from your bodywork without posing any danger to the delicate upper surfaces of the paint – something that you have to be careful with if using cheaper or general-purpose detergents, which can react with the paint to leave marring. Similarly, professional shampoos are highly hydrophobic, which means they push water molecules away from the surface of your car to help avoid watermarks developing.
For professionals, there’s a lot more to cleaning products than just shampoo. The pre-wash is just as important as the wash. So professional valeting services will always apply a snow foam to a vehicle before washing it with shampoo. Snow foam is designed to saturate dirt on the surface of the car, making it easier to remove either with shampoo or simply by rinsing it off with the foam beforehand.
Many professionals will also use special cleaners to remove things like tar, dead insects, and iron filings thrown up from the road. These are among the most stubborn types of dirt that can attach themselves to your car’s paintwork, and can actually cause damage if they are still present when you start rubbing your car down with shampoo and water.
An all-over cleaning experience
Another key to professional valeting is that they treat the whole car, not just the most visible parts. Of course, this can mean giving a car the work inside and out. But even if you just want the outside washing, a pro won’t leave any nook or cranny overlooked.
In particular, professional services will pay attention to the undercarriage and wheel arches, using pressure washers to blast the considerable amounts of grime that build up off the road. This is important because this dirt is a prime source of muck that spreads to your bodywork, so will help keep your car looking pristine for longer. It also helps to minimise the risk of long-term damage.
Move the vehicle to the shade if the sun’s out
Here’s one that always catches the unsuspecting amateur valeter out. If you wash your car in full sunlight, particularly when the weather is warm, there is a good chance that you will be left with stubborn marks and smears all over your car when you have finished.
Why? Because direct sunlight will make the water you use to wash your car evaporate quickly. When you are applying shampoo, the evaporating water will leave behind soap residue before you have had a chance to rinse it off. Even after rinsing with clean water and drying down with a microfibre towel, you will still see smears.
So unless you want the time and effort you put into washing your vehicle to result in it looking like it’s had a light dusting of pale powder, remember to always wash in the shade.
Applying the finish
Finally, that fresh-from-the-showroom sparkle you get when your car comes back from a professional valeting service is not just the gleam of being faultlessly clean. It’s also because your valeter has waxed your car after washing it.
Waxing performs the dual purpose of enhancing the appearance of your paintwork with a pleasing shine and offering a degree of protection from dirt and damage. You don’t have to wax your car after every wash – if you use good quality wax and wash with the right products, a wax layer will survive several washes before needing to be applied again.