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STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CLEANING A CAR’S PAINTWORK

cleaning a car's paintwork

This article shows a step-by-step guide to cleaning a car’s paintwork, including washing, clay barring and polishing a car, this process can be used when valeting a car to a professional standard or simply cleaning your car at home.

1. Washing a car correctly

Firstly washing a car correctly is very important, a dirty car will have paintwork full of contaminates dirt, road film and grit! removing this grime properly will ensure you don’t cause more problems later when trying to get the paintwork looking perfect.

pressure washer

Start off the process by firstly jet washing the vehicle with a pressure washer this will remove heavily soiled areas, move around the car pressure washing from top to bottom as you go until the whole vehicle is done.

The next process is to wash the vehicle with a good quality car shampoo, it is advisable to use a two bucket method when washing your car as the power washer will remove heavy dirt but contaminates could still be embedded in the paintwork, the two bucket method is having two buckets filled with water, one with your car shampoo solution and the other bucket with just rinse water, a grit guard can also be used to help you keep grit from returning to your wash mitt.

Example of two bucket options

Using a good quality wash mitt will help the cleaning process, starting at the top of the car wash small areas of the car with your car shampoo from the one bucket and then rinse your mitt in the rinse bucket, any grit that is on you mitt will fall to the bottom of the bucket below the level of the grit guard, this will prevent accidentally picking up the grit back onto your mitt.

large particles of gritt on your mitt can cause deep scratches in your paintwork so the two bucket method with a grit guard reduces the risk of scratching your paintwork.

When this washing process has been done rinse the car again with your power washer.

2. Remove contaminants using a Clay Bar 

Now that the car is washed correctly a clay bar can be used to remove any contaminants and swirl marks within the paintwork.

Example of Clay bar kit

This method of cleaning is used to detail cars to a very high standard and achieve fantastic results.

What is a clay bar?

A clay bar is a resin compound which can be synthetic or natural, it looks similar to putty it becomes soft and durable and easy to use allowing you to clean paintwork even in difficult to reach places, a claybar should be used with detailing spray or lubricant or it will not move easily across the paintwork.

How do I use a clay bar?

Break a piece of clay bar off large enough to easily work with in your hand, play with it in your hands similar to when you played with plasticine as a child, this will make it pliable, once it is soft flatten it into a small disc shape.

Clay bar your paintwork by working on small areas at a time, spray on some detailing spray, rub the claybar across the paintworks until it feels really smooth and the clay bar glides easily across the paint.

Once you are done use a clean soft microfiber cloth to remove any residue of clay left on the surface, a little detailing spray makes this process easier.

3. Polishing a car for a perfect shine

There are many types of wax / polish on the market, most valeters try different types of wax until they find a prefered brand, Carnauba wax is very popular as it leaves a deep shine, polymer waxes give a glossy wet look finish.

Simply apply the wax to a foam applicator and rub into a smooth finish, wipe off any excess with a clean microfibre towel.

Start polishing from the top of the car roof, bonnet, boot or hatch, then work on each panel around the car until you achieve a perfect shine.

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