The longer you own your car, the more likely you are to have encountered them, hiding just below the surface and waiting to make their presence known as soon as they are hit by the bright rays of the sun––swirl marks in your automobile’s finish. Especially if you own a dark-colored car, these nefarious paint defects mysteriously appear on almost every vehicle out there and can be as difficult to remove as they are disheartening to look at.
If you do manage to get rid of the swirls in your paint, either through a generous application of polish and elbow grease or a visit to your local car dealership’s detail bay, you might be wondering as to the best way to keep these paint demons from ever infesting your vehicle’s smooth veneer, when time is of the essence and a hand-wash isn’t feasible.
Most of us still have the vision of entering a car wash from the back seat of our parents’ cars, where a rotating bristle brush scrubbed the car’s finish. But modern, automatic car washes are significantly different. “Damaging brushes are virtually extinct from the professional vehicle car industry,” says Eric Wulf, Executive Director and CEO of the International Carwash Association. “Advances in soft cloth and foam type materials, not to mention advances in equipment and chemicals, have made damage to vehicle finishes no longer a concern at “soft touch” car washes.”
The second advantage of finding a car wash that’s been upgraded to modern standards is that they are, according to Wulf, “the most environmentally responsible option for washing a vehicle.” Water bans seem to be as frequent as cookouts and baseball games during the summer, so you may actually be facing a fine if you drag your hose and bucket out of the garage for a hand wash. The second environmental issue for hand washing is that the water and detergent used for washing is generally discharged to a storm sewer, which has direct impact on waterways at the end of the stream.
“Car washes must discharge rinse water to treatment prior to being released to rivers and streams,” says Eric Wulf. The International Carwash Association also manages a program called WaterSavers™ that recognizes professional carwashes that reclaims and recycles its water for future wash cycles and then discharges its effluent to a sanitary sewer or leach field. Think of it as an EnergySTAR program for clean cars.
Of course, when time permits, hand washing your car can be beneficial and therapeutic. All it takes is a sheepskin mitt, a bucket of sudsy water and a shammy for drying things off when you’re all done. The next best thing is to head to your local car dealership for a full hand wash. Dealer personnel will take the same care you would in making sure your car is as clean and beautiful as can be, and you can be sure they’ll keep anything with bristles far, far away from your paint.
But when time is tight, or when the snow and salt of winter roads requires much more frequent washings, don’t count out the soft touch or touch-free carwash. These modern machines replace the rotating bristles with high-pressure jets of special detergents, soft cloths and water, and do a great job of cleaning the car without harming paint, chrome, plastic or rubber.
For more information on the International Carwash Association and its WaterSavers program, visit www.carwash.org.