Advice > How to maintain the appearance of your car between washes

Quick detailing is a term used to describe how you can maintain the appearance of your car between washes. The term was coined in the US in the early 1980s when the first spray and wipe products were released onto the car care market. These products were intended to serve two main purposes. Firstly, their use was recommended after washing and drying, as their special formulations enabled them to quickly and easily remove water spots and add extra gloss to the finish. Secondly, their use was recommended every couple of days to remove light dust and grime and negate the need for regular washing. This was marketed as a great advantage for busy people with little or no time for car care and those living in areas subject to seasonal water shortages.

These intended uses remain equally valid today, but have evolved in line with advances in the marketplace. For example, many quick detailing sprays now also add a layer of wax or sealant protection, meaning that topping up your protection can now be done quickly and easily after each wash. Moreover, advanced products are currently being released onto the market that enable you to safely and effectively wash your car without the need for buckets or a hose. These so called waterless wash products feature advanced blends of emulsifiers, surfactants and lubricating oils that loosen dirt and grime and enable it to be safely wiped away without adding fine scratches to underlying surfaces.

If all of the above sounds too good to be true, that's because to a large extent it is. A lot of guides posted on car care websites about quick detailing are often written by people living in warm, sunny climates where the roads are clean and rainfall intermittent. In the UK, our climate is very different, and it is not unusual to find that your car is quite dirty again only a few days after washing it. Generally speaking, waterless wash products are only meant to be used to remove light accumulations of dust and grime - we do not recommend that they are used to clean really dirty vehicles, as the chances are you will damage your paint by inflicting swirl marks or more serious scratches. Although we urge caution, waterless wash products are invaluable on certain occasions. For example, if you are going to a show or a track day some distance away, waterless wash products are great as they enable you to quickly and easily remove any grime acquired en route. Also, if you own a classic vehicle that spends much of its time garaged, waterless washing is a safe and convenient way of keeping the bodywork dust free and in great condition.

Returning to the first intended use of quick detailing products, we recommend that they are used after every wash to remove water spots, enhance gloss and add another valuable layer of wax or sealant protection. This is particularly beneficial during the winter months, when the weather and roads are bad and you only have short windows of time in which to care for your car. An important thing to remember at this stage is that you should try to match your choice of quick detailing spray to the type of last step product you use. For example, if you normally add protection in the form of a carnauba wax, you should only use a quick detailing spray that contains glossing agents or wax. This is because if you layer a sealant over a wax the wax cannot evaporate, and may become cloudy over time. However, if you normally protect your car by applying a sealant, you can use any quick detailing spray you like, providing you don't end up layering another coat of sealant over a layer of wax at any point. If you are unsure about what can and can't be layered in terms of last step products and quick detailing sprays, please contact us and we will be happy to advise you accordingly.

Applying a quick detailing product after washing is a simple 15 minute job. All you have to do is spray it on and then wipe it around using a microfibre buffing towel until it dries (you may have to fold the towel a few times on a cold day). Most quick detailing products are safe to use on all surfaces, including trims and windows, but you are advised to check the label first.

If you decide that waterless washing is for you, we recommend that you adopt the following procedure in order to minimise the chances of inflicting swirl marks or more serious scratches. The first thing you should do is assess how dirty your car is, particularly on the lower halves of the doors and towards the rear end. If you find anything more than a light covering of dust and grime consider washing it normally instead. An alternative is to use a pressure washer to get rid of the worst of any dirt and grime before using the waterless wash product (it is okay to use such products on wet surfaces). This is a good compromise on a cold day if you don't fancy dipping your hand in a bucket.

The next step is to work from the top down, panel by panel. Spray each panel thoroughly with the product and leave it for a few minutes to begin to break down and lift the dirt. Then, using a deep pile microfibre towel, wipe away the product following the lines of the car, using only back and forth or side to side motions - circular motions will only make swirl marks more pronounced if you are unlucky enough to inflict any. Check the towel after each wipe and refold to a clean face if required. If you can't find a clean face when refolding its time to get another towel out - you may need up to half a dozen towels to do your whole car. When you have finished the bodywork and the windows, follow the same procedure on the wheels, allowing even longer for the product to work if necessary.

The final step in the process is to rinse out all of the towels you have used and then wash them in a washing machine at a low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents containing bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing them to dry out naturally.

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