Should you take your car to a car wash?

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Should you take your car to a car wash?
Should you take your car to a car wash?

As a car owner, at one point in your life, you probably find yourself wondering if you should wash your car yourself or use a car wash service instead. The first option is money saving while the second one will spare you a couple of hours. With the car wash industry in the US growing every year, a sharp increase in car owners preferring to delegate the washing to specialists, and 8 million vehicles sent to a car wash annually, it seems like using a service is the right choice. However, is it, really?


Let us throw in some scientific facts, shall we? The International Carwash Association conducted a study together with the University of Texas in which they compared the impact of different car washing techniques varying from these used by professionals to your regular sponge-and-bucket method. The results may make you want to ditch the garden hose forever and take your beauty to spa ever since.


A hand wash can leave scratches on the car surface making up for up to 1/10 of the overall paints thickness. The observations showed that a hand wash leaves the car with numerous marks to the point that the surface looked cratered under microscope. The decline in the surface reflectance readings just screams ‘Don’t ever do this yourself again’.


Is the water you can bring in a bucket or a stream from a garden hose enough to provide for just the right amount of pressure? The researchers claim that only specialists can offer sufficient water supply to clean your car.


The study showed that the tools and detergents that you can afford and that manufacturers market to you as effective could actually cause permanent damage with the combination special ‘car wash’ brushes that you put on your garden hose and low-pressure water stream named as the most harmful.


At home, you can’t really control where the wastewater ends up (hint: nowhere where it’s supposed to). And with the water pressure this low, you use the same amount of water that a specialized utility uses for the entire procedure in under five minutes.


Even with the argumentation this solid for using a car was service, you should not forget that there are facilities that do their best and make every penny spent worth spending, and there are those that leave you wondering if just driving under rain would do your car better.


Your car deserves to be treated better than being put through a literate torture chamber that is a tunnel with ‘spinning’ brushes. They are harmful, obsolete and, to be honest, need to be extinct. But sadly, for many the idea of a proper cleaning is polishing the car with brushes to infinity. Maybe ending up with a vermillion scratches can change their mind.


Hydrofluoric acid is widely used in the car wash industry. In theory, everything is perfect as the acid is just right to dissolve the finest dirt particles. However, if you take your car to a car wash, you can’t really control the concentration of the acidic fluid they use and know beforehand how it can affect the surface.

Dirt from other cars

Unless you have the honor to be the first customer to use the drive-thru, brushes and cloths are going to carry the dirt from the previous vehicles and drag the dirt particles all over your car. The result is the car paint being slowly eaten away.

Water pressure

As it turns out, water pressure is not always your best friend. Let’s say, there’s a tiny rock stuck to the car surface. While a water stream under lower pressure would just gently wash it off, the high-pressure water jet has the capacity to drag it across scratching the surface.

Things to keep in mind

Watch out for brushes

Stay away from car wash services that have been in business since ages and still use abrasive brushes that were maybe harmless for older car models with on stage paint, but are damaging to the cars with a ‘base/ clear’ system with a thin, transparent layer on top of the underlying color. Your best option is either soft cloths or a touchless car wash.

Think twice about after-wash wipe-down

Most car wash services will dry your vehicle with a heated air jet and then transfer it to the area where attendants hand-wipe it. Nothing wrong about hand wipe-down. However, no one can guarantee that the employees will use clean towels instead of dirty rags that can scratch the surface like sandpaper. Instead, let the water remnants air dry while you drive the car.

Check if your car is OK before you leave

Many facilities claim that they aren’t responsible for any damages that may occur in the process of cleaning. However, for the sake of avoiding negative feedback and maintaining their reputation, they may find the way to solve the problem if you point out to the manager that something is not OK.