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The Four Types of Car Washes

When it comes to car washes, there are typically four main types available. Your choice is influenced by your access to water, time, and money. For instance if you have access to water, the time to wash your vehicle, and the money to do so, you’re more apt to hand-wash. Where-as if you don’t have the time or access to water, than an automatic car wash may be your only option. If you have the money you could also pay for someone to hand-wash.

Let’s explore the four main methods of car washing.

Types of Car Washes

1. Handwashing

All detailing experts will tell you that handwashing is the safest method for washing your vehicle. Several different techniques fall into this category, including the conventional two-bucket wash to newer foam cannons that cover your vehicle in snow foam. The Vehicle Labs says that regardless of the method you go with, all of them involve sudsing car shampoo and washing your vehicle with a microfiber towel or mitt.

Handwashing is simply more effective than any other type of car wash. This is because it is successful in removing heavy contamination and while still being very gentle on your vehicle’s finish.

The Pros:

  • Able to remove heavy particulates
  • Reduced scratching

The Cons:

  • Costs more than an automatic wash
  • Takes more time than other techniques
  • Needs large amounts of water
  • Hard to accomplish in colder climates

2. Waterless Car Wash

During a waterless wash, only two things are used. The first is waterless car wash that you apply to your vehicle with a spray bottle applicator, and the second is a handful of microfiber towels that you use to wipe your vehicle down with.

This form of car wash isn’t very effective at getting rid of heavy debris and particles, and there is a good possibility of scratching, since you might pick up particles and drag them over the finish.

So, why do people use waterless car wash? Some folks aren’t allowed to use water where they live. They also might not have enough room for hand-washing and the hardware required to do so.

The Pros:

  • Water isn’t necessary
  • Achievable in a smaller space
  • Quicker than handwashing

The Cons:

  • Unable to get rid of heavy contaminants
  • Higher odds of scratching

3. Rinseless Washing

Don’t confuse rinseless washing with waterless washing. There are similarities to a degree, but this is more of a mix of both waterless washing and handwashing. In this case, you mix a small bit of rinseless wash product into a bucket with water. You don’t get any suds in doing this, but that’s also why you won’t have to rinse. All that you have to do is once you wash any area, wipe it dry with either microfiber towels or wash mitts.

Rinseless car washing is a favorite of anyone that doesn’t have a lot of space or has to work within water restrictions. It might be a good choice for you if you are worried about scratching up your vehicle. This technique does carry a higher risk of scratching than handwashing does, but it’s still safer than waterless washing.

The Pros:

  • Takes less time than handwashing
  • Lower chances of scratching as compared to waterless washing
  • Less water necessary than handwashing
  • Can be done using limited space

The Cons:

  • Won’t dissipate heavy contaminants
  • Higher risk of scratching than handwashing

4. Automatic Washing

You might know automatic washing as ‘tunnel’ washing. They are often found at some gas stations but there are also independent car washes. Your vehicle goes through a conveyor belt that takes the car through a sequence of both brushes and blowers. These brushes are rough, and they typically contain a certain level of contamination. Over time they pick up abrasive grime from the previous vehicles that can truly mess up your finish. Another thing they use is harsh cleaning chemicals which might dry your paint out or strip coatings and waxes. This can fade your color or lead to cracking.

The big advantage to these is how cheap and convenient they are. That alone makes them the most common kind of car wash available.

The Pros:

  • Fast
  • Cheap

The Cons:

  • Might miss heavy contaminants
  • Harmful chemicals can hurt your finish
  • A direct source of heavy scratching

Our Recommendation

As you can see, all of these car washes has certain advantages and disadvantages. You have to factor in your access to water, the time you’re able to invest, and the money you’re willing to invest.

Our specific recommendation is handwashing whenever possible. It’s likely the deepest clean of any of the four, and it entails the least risk of scratching your vehicle’s finish.

Automatic car washes are an option of last resort. They may help get rid of heavy contaminants, but they also might introduce new ones depending on how well kept the car wash is.

Waterless and rinseless washing make for good middle-road options if you’re limited in terms of space, and they’re especially useful if you face water restrictions.

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