View Full Version : Defining terms/materials for washing/detailing

02-15-2008, 07:57 AM
Buffing, polishing, waxing, rubbing compound, buffers, etc.

Those are all terms (including more) we always see and hear relating to finishing/detailing your paints, plastics, and metals.

I thought it would be useful to help define what these processes actually mean and what different pads/cloths are really used for to help us out. I feel it's important to do things correctly, and I know a lot of us don't (simply b/c we are ignorant).

Doing research on the internet, either no one clear cut defines it, or they they conflict with other websites. So, to get things started, who can tell what the processes are used for (metals, paint, plastic), why do you use them (smoothen surface, shine, cleaning), and what towels/pads you use (and when you use them)?

Rubbing Compound

For the cloths and orbitals we have:
Sheep Wool Pad
Foam Pad
Sponge Pad
Terry cloth pads/towels
Microfiber pads/towels

Any more I'm missing (in general)?

Basically, what's the DOs and DON'Ts?

Personally, i'm not sure what each pad of the orbital buffers are for (sponge, foam, microfiber, sheep wool). I haven't used one before, and I'm curious to try them out.


02-16-2008, 07:56 PM
There is loads of information out there though distinguishing between credible sources and hacks can be difficult at times. I'd suggest heading over to autopia.org and reading some of the how-to sections that they have. They are great as a refresher to a skilled pro, and good for teaching beginners the proper technique for washing, paint correction, lsp and how to keep future marring from happening.

First things first is washing. When washing mine or a customer's car, I want to do 3 primary things. Use a shampoo that will both lubricate the surface to reduce the chance of marring the paint when loosening dirt and safely loosen as much dirt and debris without agitation; rinse from the vehicle without leaving streaks, excess soap, nourish the oils in the paint to keep it from cracking.

For soaps I choose more of the boutique ones, or the ones bought from online detailing stores. I know many people that think dawn dish washing detergent is fine to use on a painted surface, however it is very damaging to the paint and removes alot of the good "oils" in the paint. This can leave the dry feeling very dry, as well as lead to cracking of the paint/clearcoat and/or poor UV protection leading to clearcoat failure. If buying your shampoo OTC such as those found in auto parts stores or walmart/target/etc., I'd recommend Meguiars Gold Class, or Duragloss 901. Both do a great job of loosening up dirt and providing lubrication to keep from scratching the surface with the dirt particles you are removing.

To wash the car I like to use two 5 gallon buckets, my wash media(touch on this in a minute), a good quality soap, and a few microfiber cloths. For wash media Ill use either a good sheepskin mitt or a grout sponge found at your local home improvement store. The reason for these choices are they both release dirt and embedded particles with very little effort. The less crap left in your mitt after each panel, the less the chance you'll have of creating more scratches as you wash.
Using two buckets is also very important as it allows you to have one bucket with plain water for rinsing your media, and the other filled with soap and water mixture to wet the media before washing your next panel.

1. Start by spraying the entire car down with water to remove any loose dirt. Make sure your out of the sun and the paint isn't hot to the touch. Start washing from top to bottom, making sure you first rinse and wring your mitt in the bucket filled with water, and then rinsing your mitt in your soapy solution. Wash one panel at a time and repeat this process. For larger panels or very dirty vehicles I recommend doing this more often. Remember the more anal you are with washing your car the less the chance of creating more work for yourself later. Don't rub too hard with your wash media either. You want the soap to actually be doing most of the work of loosening dirt. A few back and forth motions with the sponge with very light pressure should be sufficient for removing most foreign debris. After every panel has been washed you are now ready to rinse.

2. When rinsing your vehicle you want to make sure you remove all the soap from the vehicle's surface. If any is left behind it can cause horrible streaking and make paint correction and other duties a harder task. Start rinsing from the top to the bottom again making sure to rinse all crevices dirty,soapy water can hide. I like to use a power washer with the nozzle set to a fan spray pattern for a regular hose nozzle will work fine. After all the soap is rinsed from the vehicle I like to use just a reg garden hose with no nozzle to flood the vehicles surface with water. You should see the water "sheeting" off which lets you know its completely clean and soap free. This method also allows the car to dry faster and flush everything that you may have missed. Once all surfaces have been flooded with water you are ready to dry.

3. Throw away all of your old beach/bath towels that you used to dry your car with. For drying I prefer a quality waffle weave/microfiber drying towel. Stay away from the water blades you may see or even a leather chamois. Use the towel in more of a blotting motion than actual rubbing. Avoid trying to drag the towel over the surface of the car as well just in case you missed something when washing. Work your way around the vehicle again going from top-to-bottom. Once most of the water is removed I like to use a leaf blower and blow out all the cracks and crevices that water may hide in and drip from later. Be careful not to touch the blower nozzle to the paint as it may create a scratch. Helpful tip: use masking tape to tape around the plastic nozzle just in case something happens. After I get 99% of the water off, I let it sit in the sun for a bit to dry any remaining water and also to inspect the paint's condition. Nothing is better than natural sunlight for detecting flaws,marring,hologramming and other defects. From here, depending on the surface's condition you can either seal/protect or continue onto paint correction.

I'll write more about the other steps later, but this should give you a good jumping off point.

Any questions feel free to PM as I don't know when I'll get to the rest.