Washing Done Safely and Correctly

Washing Done Safely & Correctly

Are you washing your car, or just damaging the paint?
Most of the swirl marks are likely caused by improper washing techniques. Thorough but gentle weekly washes and careful hand-drying can be the best care you can give your vehicle. Improper techniques will cause unsightly swirls and scratches in the paint, requiring compounding or polishing at the very least. You can eliminate these problems and save yourself extra work by following a few simple tips when washing and drying your vehicle.

Are you washing weekly or weakly?

Weekly washing is best because some contaminants quickly do serious long term damage to paint if they are allowed to remain. Two such organic compounds are bug splatter and bird droppings. These bio-hazards contain complex proteins that bond to the surface and nourish biological processes and organic acids that penetrate and break down the surface eating into your clear coat if not removed promptly. Weak spots in the clear coat make your vehicle susceptible to corrosion and discoloration.

Another problem contaminant is brake dust. It contains metal shavings from the rotors and adhesives used in the production of brake pads. Try to picture the dirty plume of brake dust and roadway chemicals that travels along with a moving vehicle. This fog of chemicals showers the lower portion of your vehicle with a clinging, nearly invisible mist. Brake dust itself, is highly corrosive and very sticky. Washing your vehicle once a week will remove these contaminants before they have the opportunity to do unsightly permanent damage.

Wash Tools

First, never wash in direct sunlight. Pick a shady spot. Second, it’s very important to choose tools that are gentle on the paint, yet still effective at removing contamination. As a rule of thumb, Wash Mitts & Towels that are plush or have a deep nap are better than flat weave towels or dense sponges. 

Another option is a Wool Wash Mitt. Sheepskin is extremely soft and plush. The fibers are gentle on the paint while the nap is deep enough to accommodate loose dirt and sand so they do not rub against the vehicle. Because sheepskin is natural, it does not last as long as a Microfiber Mitt. However, for luxurious softness, you can’t beat the texture of sheepskin.

Our Refract Wash towels are also good choices because they clean easily and they last longer than sheepskin. The plump fibers hold lots of soapy water for lubrication and the fibers are soft on any surface. Choose from Refract Safe Washing Mitts & Towels here.

Detailing Brushes are another option that enthusiasts are raving about. These paint-safe brushes are made with real boar’s hair! They hold a tremendous amount of soapy water and they provide excellent scrubbing ability. Plus, the hairs release dirt back into the wash water easily, so it doesn’t wind up back on your vehicle.

To rinse your vehicle, ideally, use a pressure washer. They features adjustable spray patterns and have the pressure behind them to wash-off dirt and debris before physically touching the painted surfaces!

Proper Washing

  1. Wash the wheels and tires first. If you splash wheel cleaners or dirt onto your vehicle, you can simply wash it off as you wash your vehicle. Use a cleaner that is safe for all wheels, like Refract DECON. It is water-based but has some amazing carbon and grime dissolving agents that wont damge surfaces.  Agitate with a Refract Wheel Cleaning Brush or Refract Microfiber Sensitive Wheel Brush to clean wheels without scratching. Wash each wheel and tyre one at a time and rinse thoroughly before moving on to the next one. NOW EMPTY AND RINSE ALL CLEANING MATERIALS including your Refract Wash Bucket System.

  2. Now you’re ready to wash. Let’s start with clean water and a freshly rinsed container and a Refract Microfiber Wash Towel

    It’s important to use a car wash that is rich in lubricants. The purpose of the car wash is to remove contaminants and lubricate them so they do not scratch the paint as they slide off the vehicle. Dish detergents are not ideal because they remove protective coatings. Refract AVALANCHE is a fantastic choice. This non-alkaline shampoo does not remove wax and provides ample lubrication of gritty particles.

    5 gallon car wash bucket with grit guard
  3. How do you prevent swirl marks? Use two buckets. Fill one bucket with soapy water and fill the other with clean water. Each time you’re ready to reload your towel or mitt with soapy water, dip it in the clean water first, to rinse out the grit and contamination you’ve just removed from your vehicle. Then dip it in the soapy water and continue washing.

    An even better option is a Grit Guard. This plastic grid sits in the bottom of a 20 Liter wash bucket and stabilises the water. Contamination and particles settle to the bottom of the bucket and the clean wash water remains at the top. A Girt Guard is included in the Refract Wash Bucket System

  4. Always rinse your vehicle thoroughly before you begin washing in order to remove loose debris. Then begin washing at the top of the vehicle. Wash down the vehicle as opposed to front to back. Remember that the lower panels are dirtiest. You want to clean the windows and the upper panels before cleaning the lower half of the vehicle so that you don’t transfer grit to the top half of the vehicle. Rinse and reload your sponge often to prevent cross-contamination. Rinse your vehicle frequently as you work, especially in hot weather.

  5. When rinsing, you don’t have to blast your car clean with the water hose. Free-flowing water (no nozzle) will allow the water to sheet off of your vehicle for a drying effect.


Never skip drying! Drying your vehicle after washing is necessary to prevent water spots. Water spots are caused by mineral deposits that etch the outline of a drop of water into your vehicle’s paint. All water has minerals, whether it’s from the hose or the sky. As the water evaporates, the minerals remain on the surface and they will eventually, invariably create water spots.

You can dry your vehicle in a variety of ways, but you want to make sure you do it quickly before the water evaporates. The Refract Pro Dry 1 & 2 are large Twisted Loop and Plush Microfiber Towel that are manufactured to absorb massive amounts of water, fast. The Twisted Loop and Plush Microfibers increase the surface area so the towel can absorb more water. They can absorb 10 times its own weight in moisture, and it’s completely nonabrasive. Microfiber Towels come in a number of sizes and they can be altered for a specific purpose.

Generally as a rule of thumb, the higher the GSM is, the plusher and softer. For example, the Refract Pro Dry 1 will clean and dry glass without streaks but the surface isnt plush and its a lower gsm, its safe and non-scratch but absorbs massive amounts of water quickly.

Refract Pro Dry 2 also absorbs huge amounts of water but is better suited towards final drying and finer streak removal. Its very plush at 1000gsm and a combination of the two is the perfect choice.

Terry cloth towels are not recommended because the fibers can become matted and hard after repeated uses. They shed lint. They increase the chance of swirls. Compared to microfiber, they are not as absorbent and they don’t last as long. Never use bath towels unless you want to ruin your paint!. They are probably not soft or paint safe. All Refract Microfiber Towels are engineered to be LINT-FREE and ultra-safe on your vehicle!

Drying Tips

  • Dry the windows and mirrors first.

  • Use the Pro Dry 1 and then Pro Dry 2 afterwards. Microfiber Towels are the best way to remove the water off your vehicle. These towels measure at 110cm x 60cm and 60cm x 90 cm. They will both absorb 10 times their own weight in moisture. Go back over the vehicle with the Pro Dry 2 to catch any water the large towel may have missed or water that has leaked out of trims and side-mirrors. This quick two-step process will leave your vehicle bone-dry and ready for wax.

  • Once the outside is dry, wipe down all your door jambs and sills. Open the boot and hood to wipe the jambs. Your Pro Dry 2 should still give you good drying abilities if you've used Pro Dry 1 first or is not heavily soaked in water.

  • Dry your wheels using a Pro Dry 1 or 2.  These are also designated just for this purpose. Don’t use this towel on your paint after the wheels tho to avoid cross-contamination. You may also use this towel to wipe off surfaces under the bonnet. Wash your towels in warm, neutral detergent before you use them again and line or warm machine dry!

The Finishing Touch

Use protection coatings like Refract Hyper-Gloss or sprays  that contain waxes like Refract Quick Detailer to give deep gloss and shine!.

The ultimate in protection for massive gloss and shine is the Refract DIY Pro-Protect Graphene Ceramic Coating

The Pre-Soak Snow Foam Gun Option

If the hose and bucket method isn't for you, there's the foam gun option. The idea behind a foam gun is that it pre-soaks the vehicle in suds to start loosening grime and lubricating the paint right away. And truth be told, it's a lot of fun to use a foam gun. Refract has a few foam gun options:

The Refract Pre-Soak Snow Foamer that works with your pressure washer to deliver a high soapy foamed pre-soak solution to the vehicle allowing dirt and debris to soften and lift.

Clean Water Makes for a Clean Car

If you’re taking all the precautions every time you wash your vehicle and you’re still getting spots and swirls, the problem may be the water.

No water is pure. All water has minerals and most has some form of sediment. If your car shampoo (or hair shampoo) doesn’t lather well and your taps and fixtures tend to turn green, you’ve got hard water. If water will not sheet off your vehicle and you’re constantly battling water spots, you’ve got hard water. Hard water is mainly caused by calcium and magnesium, which can be removed with a water softener.

Sediment is another common enemy of any paint finish. Sediment is actually dirt and rust in the water line. Water treatment plants filter out sediment but more sediment can enter the pipes between the plant and your home. This is why household taps have screen filters in them. If you only have bore-water then you should consider buying large containers of clean water as Bore-Water Contains high amounts of Iron and will stain your paint! 

(Caution - If your Vehicle is sprayed with Council Irrigation Water then its most likely water from a Bore. immediately get this washed off your car at the closest hand car wash or run a hose over it fast! You can wash & dry it later....)

Check out all the great tools and products we have to clean your vehicle the Refract way here.