10 Reasons to not use a hand car wash

With hand car washes popping up all over the place the temptation to use them as a regular way to keep your car clean is hard to resist. The convenience of the work being completed in 5-10 minutes while you wait and normally for less than ten pounds it all sounds fantastic so why wouldn't you use them? 

Here are some reasons worth considering...

  1. The first thing is your car is normally subjected to is an application of dilute traffic film remover via a pump sprayer and this is bad in two ways. The first is that this strong caustic chemical is very good at removing grime but will also strip any wax protection your paintwork has leaving it exposed to day to day wear and the elements. The second and more serious is that if this is applied to a dry surface there will be some form of damage to the top layer of paint and the severity is dictated by the strength of the dilution. Along with this we have also seen damaged chrome, plastic and rubber trim from this process. Shine Wizard only uses non-caustic, mild citrus degreasers or ph neutral snow foams and only ever on pre-rinsed, wet vehicles.   

  2. Wheels follow and this is again either by spraying with traffic film remover or in worse circumstances an acid based product. Both are strong and both can cause considerable damage especially when you consider that your vehicles wheels will inevitably be hot due to heat soak from the brakes and calipers. This will cause the water in the solution to evaporate allowing the chemical to dry or begin to dry on the finish. Using these products on warm or worse, hot wheels, will generally result in some form of damage to the wheel and caliper finish. Shine Wizard only use ph neutral wheel cleaners that are gentle and only ever on cold wheels. 

  3. The large buckets of water you see the guys working from is the same bucket of water that was used to clean the filthy, off road 4x4 that went before your vehicle. If you want your car washed with dirt this is definitely a great way.

  4. The shampoo used is important as it should not only be as close to ph neutral as possible so to not effect any protection on the paint but should also provide good lubricity that helps to remove the dirt from the paint efficiently with minimal micro scratching. Cheap shampoos will not provide any of the above.

  5. Washing your paint with the traditional yellow sponge has now been identified as one of the biggest culprits to damaging your vehicles paint. Sponges will generally trap dirt between the surface of the paint and the surface of the sponge creating a mild sandpapering effect which leads to the fine scratches, surface hazing and swirl marks you see on darker coloured vehicles. The introduction of soft lambs wool and microfiber wash mitts help to mitigate this problem and keep any abrasion to a minimum. Shine Wizard only use genuine lambs wool wash mitts to clean vehicles.  

  6. Understanding the correct way to clean a vehicle may sound ridiculous but there really is a right and wrong way to do it. Employing the correct technique will minimize micro scratching and swirl marks, ensure all areas are effectively cleaned and reduce the risk other common problems arising like premature drying of shampoo etc. Along with these factors it is also worth noting is that cleaning a car should be done carefully and should not be time restricted in any way. The majority of hand car washes fall short on all these fronts and should therefore best be avoided if you care about your vehicles paint.

  7. Drying the vehicle is the next pitfall and again a plethora of damage can occur by incorrect methods and the choice of equipment. The biggest problem is the use of drying blades which will drag any remaining tiny pieces of dirt or grit across the paint leaving scratches that can sometimes be extremely deep and difficult to remove. Even after a car has been cleaned the chances of there still being some small particles of dirt or grit on some of the panels is extremely high so using the safest way to dry is best. Chamois leathers tend to have a similar problem to sponges with regards to trapping grit and then dragging it around. When you also consider that they are rarely rinsed out and normally just wrung out the probability of being contaminated with dirt is high. Shine Wizard use a combination of soft, clean microfiber towels and blown air to dry which minimizes contact and the potential for damage of any kind.

  8. Silicone based dressings used on bumpers, plastic and rubber trim and tyres not only attracts dirt and dust due to its sticky consistency but leaves finishes patchy in appearance, over and unnaturally shiny and with the tendencey to eventually turn brownish in appearance. Silicone is a topical based dressing meaning that it simply just sits over the top of the surface to be treated so does nothing to nourish, moisturise or add to the finish.

  9. Waxes and polishes used at hand car washes are again heavily silicone based, offer little actual protection and durability and are generally not what you want on your vehicles paint. When you also consider that they are being applied and removed with unclean or contaminated cloths and rags which can also add fine scratches to your vehicles paint the benefits are far outweighed by the potential problems that can arise.

  10. The last reason is from an environmental stand point and will not apply to legitimate, legal car washes that capture their waste water or use bio degradable products. Employing the use of cheap chemicals will normally mean using non bio degradable, environmentally harmful products that if washed into storm drains can end up in rivers and water ways and can be problematic to ecosystems and wildlife. Using bio degradable products is more costly but should not be ignored, especially if the amounts used are high. If you are going to use hand car washes try and make sure they use environmentally friendly products.


With many owners unaware of the potential problems that can arise and the costs involved in rectifying them if you do care about your vehicle, these reasons are definitely worth considering as is the employment of a professional. When you also compare the quality of service offered between a ten minute car wash or a professional, 3 hour car wash you really do get what you pay for. Our advice is if you like your car, use a professional to look after it!

Here is a short clip from Fifth Gear showing the damage done from just one incorrect wash, enjoy.