How to wash your vehicle after your Detail Package from 5 Star Reflections
The "Rinseless" Car Wash
This method for washing your vehicle is the one I personally use for keeping my own car clean after commuting 25 miles one way to and from work each day. It does a fantastic job, but is also very inexpensive and eco-friendly.
It only takes me 20 minutes to wash my entire car (including the wheels) and only uses 2 gallons of water to complete 5+ washes! Another bonus is the ability to wash the car IN THE GARAGE because there are no puddles of water. You can also wash your car in the winter as you dry the car before the liquid freezes.
Items you will need:
1. Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine (ONR). This car care product can't be found in auto parts stores, but is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use car care products I have come across. It is sold on Amazon or other online vendors and is very inexpensive considering it is a concentrate. The 8oz bottle typically costs $10, but the 32oz bottle is only $5 more on most sites. There is also a ONR Wash & Wax (green vs. blue) combo version that has wax mixed in you can use as well.
10/1/2013 update: Turtle Wax has released a product similar to ONR - it can be found at Wal-mart & auto parts stores. It is not as concentrated as ONR so it will be more expensive in the long run, but easier to obtain.
2. 2 Gallons of Distilled Water - You can pick this up at any grocery store for under $1 per gallon. You can use tap water, but I HIGHLY recommend distilled water because it will not leave water spots like tap water does. Also, make sure you save the jugs! You will be re-using them later.
3. Microfiber towels - You will need at least 20 towels. Microfiber should be the only cloth/mitt/towel that touches the paint on your car as it won't scratch or swirl your paint like other fabrics will. I recommend going to Costco or Sams Club as they both have economy packs for $15 that work great for this wash method. Make sure you wash (separately from other laundry) them (no fabric softeners) and dry them (low heat) to remove any lint that may have come with the packaging. Keep them as car wash cloths only. Don't use them for other tasks around the house. It will contaminate them with other chemicals or particles and damage your paint.
The following items can be picked up at your local Dollar Store for - you guessed it...$1 :
4. A clean bucket (make sure it holds more than 2 gallons) dedicated to just washing your car. If you can get one with a pour spout on the rim, do so.
5. Clean plastic funnel (Tip - don't use one from your wife's kitchen or you will be in trouble - spend the $1 on a new one!)
6. A measuring cup that measures ounces (oz) (same advice as above on taking one from the kitchen!)
7. A clean empty 32 oz plastic spray bottle (Dollar Store bottles are fine, but Lowes has them for the same price and they are higher quality)
After reading this list, you are probably wondering about spending $30 for car wash supplies. Good news - these supplies will allow you to wash your vehicle every week for a year and the only thing you will need to buy is a gallon or two of distilled water every few months!
Step 1. Measure 1 oz of ONR and add it to your bucket.
Step 2. Add 2 gallons of distilled water to the bucket. Be sure to save your jugs and lids for later!
Step 3. Fill your plastic spray bottle with the diluted ONR solution using the funnel.
Step 4. Take 10 of your clean microfiber cloths and submerge them into the bucket of solution.
Step 5. Take 10 dry microfiber cloths and fold them in half and then half again (quarters). This gives you 8 clean sides of each cloth to work with as you dry your car panels.
Step 6. Take your spray bottle and mist/spray 1 panel** of your vehicle. Start from the top of your vehicle and work your way down to encourage dirt to flow down and off your car.
**A panel consists of a roughly 3 foot by 3 foot area of your vehicle. For example, the front panel above the front tire, the door panel below the window, the rear panel above the rear tire, 1/2 of the hood, 1/2 of the roof, 1/2 of the trunk, 1/2 of the lower bumper area on the rear of your car, 1/2 of the front bumper/grille area, windows, windshield, etc.
**Do not work on your tires/wheels - yet. Wash the car First and clean the wheels LAST.
Step 7. Take 1 soaked microfiber towel and wring it to where the towel is wet, but not dripping. Make sure to wring it out over the bucket to catch the cleaning solution back in the bucket. Fold the wet towel into quarters (8 clean sides) just like you did the drying towel.
Tip - Once you remove a clean, wet towel from the bucket - NEVER put it back in the bucket for any reason until it has been laundered and ready for the next time you wash the car.
Tip - Do not put a wash cloth or drying cloth on the ground. They will pick up sand and particles that will scratch your car. If you drop a rag - grab a new one!
Doing this will ensure that you are not putting any dirt or contaminants back into your clean bucket of solution and clean towels.
Step 8. Wipe the pre-soaked panel with the wet folded towel in long, straight, horizontal strokes (NO CIRCLES) applying light pressure to the panel of your vehicle. Work from the top of the panel down until you have wiped the entire panel.
Tip - Inspect your towel after every stroke, if you have picked up dirt & grime on that portion of the towel, refold the towel to a clean portion before you wipe the car again. Once you have used up all 8 sides of the towel, put it in the laundry hamper and grab a new one from the bucket of cleaning solution.
Tip - Do Not Wipe In A Circular Motion. If by chance you do have contaminants in your cloth and it scratches your clear coat, long straight strokes are easier to polish out than circular ones. Circular motion creates swirls in your paint.
Step 9. Take the clean, dry and folded microfiber towel and using the same long horizontal strokes, dry the section you have just washed. The surface should be slightly tacky at first, but will buff to a nice shine.
**Make sure you switch sides of the towel to clean sections just like you do when washing.
Step 10. Repeat Steps 6 to 9 for each panel of your entire car until it is clean.
Step 11. Repeat the same process for your wheels/rims, but do not touch your vehicle's painted surfaces with the same cloths you use for the wheels as brake dust is made up of metal particles.
Step 12. When your car is finished, take any remaining unused wash cloths left in the bucket and wring them out over the bucket to save the cleaning solution. Put all of your dirty towels in the laundry hamper to be cleaned.
Step 13. Take your funnel and refill the spray bottle with some of the remaining cleaning solution from the bucket. Save your spray bottle for spot cleaning or for the next time you wash your vehicle.
Step 14. Take your remaining cleaning solution and pour it back into the empty gallon jugs from the distilled water. Cap the jugs and save the solution for your next wash. Make sure you label them.
Step 15. Wash and dry your microfiber towels SEPARATELY from any other wash. Use hot water, detergent, but no fabric softeners as it will damage the microfibers. Dry them on low heat so you will not melt the fibers.
5 Star Reflections Tips & Tricks
Once you have paid money to have your car detailed by 5 Star Reflections, I believe you should have the knowledge on how to keep your car looking it's best. The following list of Tips & Tricks are the "little" things that can add up to keeping your car looking in pristine condition and make it more valuable when it comes time to sell or trade it in.
1. Protect your vehicle's clear coat finish!
A vehicle's clear coat is thinner than the average cellophane wrapper on a pack of gum. It is a protective layer between the elements and your paint. It also reflects the sunlight and makes the appearance of your car the way it is. Swirls and scratches reflect the light and make the car's finish look less shiny and hazy.
2. Where you park your vehicle matters.
Most people don't think about it, but if you park your car in your garage at night, it is protecting the finish for 1/2 of the day. You can't get bird poo or bug guts on your car when it is parked in the garage.
Don't park under trees if you can help it. I know you are thinking it is better to park in the shade, but it isn't. The main reason - gravity. Things fall out of trees on your vehicle. Tree sap, pollen, branches, bird poo etc. all are contaminants to your clear coat finish and once they get on your car, they need to be removed. Sap can harden and be terrible to remove. Pollen is like tiny particles of sand paper and if rubbed across your paint, it will scratch it. Bird poo is acidic and can eat and etch your clear coat finish. Branches - self explanatory. On the same line of thinking,
It is much better to have a wax or synthetic sealant protecting your car from the sun's rays than parking under a tree.
One last note on where you park - if you can find a parking spot that is covered on one side by a curb or other barrier to keep another car from parking right next to you on that side of your vehicle...you have just reduced your chances of getting "door dinged" by 50%.
3. Remove Bird Poo and Bugs ASAP.
As I mentioned above - Bird poo is acidic and will etch your clear coat. The same goes with bug guts. When you do remove them - make sure it is with a cleaning solution or water and a microfiber cloth. Dried poo and guts will scratch your paint when wiped off if they are still dry. Taking the extra second to spray the area down will make a huge difference. I keep a small bottle of Quick Detail Spray and a few microfiber cloths in the trunk of my car for when the need to remove contaminants arise.
4. Microfiber Cloths
I'm now sold on microfibers. The best microfiber products, which were designed specifically to do a certain job, can't be beat at what they do. They are the professional choice of detailing. Science has certainly contributed to car care through the invention of microfiber detailing tools. They don't scratch or mar your paint and pick up dirt and particles that traditional towels can't. You can get good quality microfiber towels from Sams or Costco and they will do a great job. Just make sure you keep them separate from other towels and don't use them for other tasks around the house. That will contaminate them with chemicals and other things that will hurt your vehicle. Care for them by washing separately with detergent (no fabric softener) and drying on low heat. Also, make sure you remove all tags on your microfiber cloths. They can scratch your paint.
5. Invest in floor mats for your car
I know most cars come with great floor mats, but I recommend buying separate rubber floor mats and keeping the ones that came with your car in the attic or closet. That way when you trade or sell your car, the factory mats will be in mint condition and increase your value. Also the rubber floor mats are easier to clean and protect the carpet of your floorboard better from dirt, grime, and stains. The worst interiors I have had to detail are because the car didn't have floor mats.
If you are willing to spend the money - I highly suggest Weathertec.com floor mats. They are easy to clean and are laser cut to fit your car specifically.
6. BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LET WASH YOUR CAR!
NEVER use an automated car wash. If you use an automated car wash that has the pieces of cloth that touch your car you aren't paying them to clean your car - you are paying them to scratch your car. Even the automated car washes that use only the supersonic jet powered water use the most inexpensive and harmful soaps for your vehicle's finish.
NEVER let a dealership wash your car after servicing it. There is a reason they keep the wash services at the back of the dealership. If you actually witnessed the minimum wage Lot Attendant pick up a soapy rag off the ground and proceed to scrape it across your paint, you would understand why. They use the same dirty buckets of dirty soapy water on car after car and dry your car off with the same dirty towel that they used on the 10 previous cars. One last thing is 90% of them wash your car in the direct sunlight which causes water spots.
**Make sure the next time you have your car serviced at the dealership to have 3 sticky notes with bold lettering saying DO NOT WASH and put them in the windshield, and each window so it is known not to wash your car. Also make sure it is noted on the work order and give specific instructions to the person responsible for your work being done that day.
NEVER have your car washed by volunteers at a fundraiser - see above! Just donate the $5 and keep your car from being scratched.
Be careful with the mobile wash services that come to large office buildings and wash your car while you are working. This is a quantity vs. quality type of service for them. Again, they typically have minimum wage folks washing your car with the cheapest products and re-using the same wash mitts and buckets car after car and will scratch and mar your finish.
7. If you have little kids in car seats, invest in a seat cover.
Regardless of all the "spill proof" drink cups, they leak and it will cause damage to the seats. Amazon sells inexpensive, but waterproof covers for $15. They keep all of the little toys, cheerios, and whatever else kiddos drop from being ground into your leather or cloth seats and making tears or stains. They also act as a barrier from the bottom of the plastic car seat from rubbing damage into your leather seats.
If you exercise and then get into your car, it is wise to have these as well.
The covers come in larger sizes if you have your pets loose in your car. Pet hair is one of the hardest things to clean from a car.
8. Treat your seats and carpets.
If you have leather seats, you need to make sure you apply leather conditioner a few times per year. Leather is kind of like skin, it can get dry and needs to be conditioned and moisturized in order to last a long time. I recommend Lexol products. They have a pH balanced cleaner and also a conditioner.
If you have cloth seats I recommend treating them with a fabric protectant (similar to scotch guard) to help repel dirt and grime. The same products can be applied to your carpets. This, combined with occasional vacuuming, will keep them looking great.
9. Rinse before you wash and stay out of the sun - If you are going to wash your car via the traditional method, there are 2 reasons to make sure you rinse off the car before you wash it. the first is to remove as much loose dirt and grime before you wipe it with the microfiber cloth/mitt. That is less dirt to be traveling across your paint during the wash process. The second reason is it helps cool down the surface of the car, because a very hot car being washed will have water spots and they are hard to get rid of.
10. The products you use to care for your car are very important!
The technology and products that are used to care for cars have come a long way since Turtle Wax and Armor All. What you use on your car can have a lasting effect on its appearance and longevity. I have provided some of the items I recommend for my customers that they can easily pick up without too much trouble. They may not be the same products I use to detail a car, but I wanted to recommend products that my customers can find fairly easily.
A. Soap - Many people just grab the dish soap off the kitchen sink when they go to wash the car. Don't. Dish soap is very strong and will strip off the wax protectant on your clear coat. So will many of the cheaper soaps offered at the local auto parts store. I recommend using a mild car soap or using the No Rinse Method I have provided specific instructions for on the disk.
A couple brands that work that you can find at the local stores that are safe are Meguiars or Mothers brand.
If you do use traditional car soap, make sure you use the 2 bucket method. Have 2 clean and car wash dedicated buckets (you can get them at the Dollar Store) and have 1 bucket with the soap and 1 bucket with plain water. After washing a section of your car, rinse the microfiber mitt or cloth in the plain water to remove as much of the dirt and contaminants as possible. Then reload with the soap bucket. Repeat this process until the car is clean. The rinse bucket should keep dirt and grime from being scraped across your paint. Make sure you wash the wheels LAST if you are doing this method. If you really want to keep contaminants off the car, invest in a Grit Guard which traps the dirt in the bottom of the bucket when you are rinsing.
B. Glass Cleaner - Try to stay away from Ammonia based glass cleaners. A lot of windows now have some tint to them and ammonia will harm the film.
I recommend Invisible Glass. It is fairly inexpensive and is safe for all windows.
C. Interior Detail Spray - This product has come a long way and now you can find products that are safe for all types of surfaces. Leather, Vinyl, Plastic, etc.
You can find the Meguiars brand at most auto parts stores and it works fine.
D. Exterior Quick Detail Spray - This product is for spot cleaning or as a final wipe down after washing the vehicle.
Again, Meguiars makes a fine product for the average user. It can be found at most auto parts stores.
E. Wheel Cleaner - This is a very important subject because wheels are very hard to clean due to brake dust and other contaminants that become imbedded in your wheels/rims. Be wary of the "spray and walk away" claims of some products. Some of them are very strong and acidic and can harm your wheels or other areas over-spray may hit when treating your wheels. I recommend finding a wheel cleaner that states it is "safe for all wheels"
Griots makes a good wheel cleaner and it can be found online or at Advance Auto stores. Meguiars makes a decent cleaner, but make sure to check it is the version that is safe for all wheels.
F. Tire Shine/Protectants - Everyone likes the shiny black tires with the "wet" look after washing their car. I recommend using a water based product as silicone based ones can do harm to your tires over extended use. The spray on products don't tend to last very long so using a gel based product and applying with a cheap sponge you can get at the local dollar store works best. Make sure you let the product dry before you drive because it will "sling" onto other areas of your car.
Meguiars Hot Shine is fine for the average user.
G. Wax/Sealant - If you are going to use a wax yourself on your vehicles, I recommend what detailers cal an AIO (All In One) which is a slight polish/cleaner/and sealant in one product. Just make sure you use microfiber cloths to remove and buff the paint.
Meguiars Cleaner Wax is easily found in auto parts stores and works well. They also make a ColorX product that is highly rated.