05/04/11 10:52AM Cleaning Products, Detailer Help, detailing, Polishing, Restoration

Dr. Detail For Professional Detailing Tips

Editors Note:

We are happy to present PART 1 of several articles to follow.Wayne Loomis is the owner of Dr.Detail and is an expert in detailing how-to's and the right products and tools to use to restore your ride to its original pristine condition.I have a BLACK Mustang and I listened intently and took notes as he explained the right products for me to use.I will be ordering soon, you should too.

Each week we will be posting another tip from Dr.Detail....Enjoy and learn

Details … Details … Details!


Rx: Dubba Dub Dub …


The Law:

The most basic unwritten “law” of detailing is to work ONLY on a clean surface, with the one exception being the cleansing step itself.  Only after loose, soluble debris has been removed can the surface safely be further detailed. Admittedly removing bonded debris with clay bars is also a cleansing step but it will be dealt with in a later article.  So … let’s get it really clean!


A variety of contaminants may take up residence on your baby’s surface that will detract from a healthy shine.  Among the list of culprits can be found common dirt, oil, tar, bird droppings, tree sap, hard water deposits, bug remains, etc..  I’m certain you can add to the list.  Whatever is water soluble; dirt, bird dropping, etc.; can be washed away with a soapy solution and a good wash mitt.  Whatever is not water soluble; tar, tree sap, etc.; will require solvents, abrasive materials OR “new technology” … more about clay bars later.



You can make the most effective soapy solution with soft water and “surface active agents” (surfactants to a Chemist) commonly found in an automotive grade shampoo.  The primary “job” of a surfactant is to make water “wetter”.  I’ll bet that surprised you.  You see, all liquid materials have a property known as surface tension.  It’s the property that allows a straight pin to float on the surface of a glass of water.  Pure water’s surface tension is very high (76 dynes) which actually makes it difficult for water to wet other materials.  Ever notice how water beads on wax?  That’s because waxes generally have a very low surface tension and water tends to crawl away from it into a ball instead of flowing out over the waxed surface.  This is a good thing when comparing wax and water but water’s high surface tension is a real draw back when used to dissolve other materials.  To help the process along we add materials that, together, give water a low surface tension and the result is that it then can dissolve contaminants more easily.  One of the easiest ways to demonstrate what a surfactant can do for water is to add as little as 2% alcohol (rubbing alcohol works just fine).  Now that straight pin had better know a good backstroke or stay out of the water because the blend will have a surface tension of about 21 dynes and will wet just about anything.  Please don’t get the idea that the Doctor is recommending you use alcohol and water to wash your car!  It’s just an analogy!


Notice also that the CORRECT surfactant added to water is a benefit when washing your car but the WRONG ones can do some real harm.  It’s best to leave the selection up to the Chemists who design automotive grade shampoos.  Many well meaning “enthusiasts” will grab the household detergent and mix up a batch to wash their car but this is really a bad decision.  Some surfactants (let’s call them soaps from now on) can help dissolve some really tough greases, oils and tars.  As good as that sounds you should know that wax is a kissing cousin to grease.  Remember the major selling point for Dawn Dishwashing Detergent?  It cuts grease!  You waxed your car to protect the paint from oxidation.  Wash it with a detergent and that wax won’t hang around long.


That’s one reason to avoid detergents.  Another of the several remaining is that they can also pull the “moisture” and “Plasticizers” from the paint thus drying it out.  Paint needs a small amount of Plasticizers to keep it somewhat flexible and resilient.  A dry paint oxidizes very quickly.  Paint also dries out just sitting around in the sun waiting for you to finishing picking up groceries but it can be remoisturized.  That’s why we recommend a conditioning step with Glazes/Polishes.  You’ll see that article later.


The bottom line is … use only a good quality automotive grade shampoo on your car’s surface.  Meguiars, for instance, makes many shampoos that you can choose from.  The primary difference among them is marketing and price.  The best they make is #62, Mirror Glaze Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner but it only comes in a gallon.  They also make one in their NXT Generation line, #G126, Car Wash which does a great job of softening the water you use to dilute the shampoo.  It comes in half gallons and pints.  Most Meguiars’ shampoos are in their Consumer lines and that’s where the marketing glitz comes in.  Don’t get me wrong … they’ll all do the job for you but for my money the better the quality of the product the better the job performed.


Wash Mitts are best because you have two surfaces to use and they carry “tons” of solution.  Meguiars makes a Microfiber Mitt which is wonderful.



Now, on to the process.  In general, keep the paint cool.  Stay out of the sun when washing so water droplets don’t dry up on you leaving hard water spots.  Even when using soft water this is a strong recommendation.  You may have softened you wash solution but your rinse is probably straight from the hose, is still hard and will leave spots.  Keep the whole surface wet as you work and dry it quickly when you’re done.  Use lots of soapy solution and rinse it off quickly before it dries.


The best practice is to select TWO (2) buckets. Mix a soapy solution according to the dilution specified on the label in one of them.  Too little shampoo doesn’t do the job and too much is just a waste.  NOTE: This is an RTL situation.  That means READ THE LABEL.  The water should be sudsy.  If not add a little more shampoo because suds don’t appear until the water is relatively soft.  Fill the second bucket with plain water for rinsing your wash cloth or mitt. 


Select an old wash fabric and scrub the bumpers, grill and fender wells first.  This is the dirtiest job and it’s best to get it out of the way first.  Rinse in the pure water bucket.  When done put the junk cloth away, grab you best wash mitt for the paint and refill the rinse bucket with clean water.  Hose off the entire surface to dissolve and rinse away as much debris as you can before you start washing.  Use a slow stream of water under low pressure so that it doesn’t splash.  Little droplets dry up and turn into spot.  Wash from the top down and work quickly.  Rinse as you go and keep it wet.  Don’t forget the windows.  Use plenty of soapy solution and rinse in the plain water to keep the mitt clean.



Drying fabrics can be made of terry towels, diapers, real or synthetic chamois, microfiber, etc.  You just want to make sure whatever you use is soft.  The best choice will be large, absorbent, thirsty and SOFT!  See a previous article on washing fabrics.


Terry can be all of that except thirsty.  They’ll require a lot of wringing.  Diapers are a close second.  Chamois, a version of cowhide, are very thirsty but their biggest complaint is the threat of pulling wax.  Chamois also come in a wide range of qualities.  You’ll find them for $10 to $15 at discount parts stores but good quality will run $25 to $30.  Synthetics are all over the map for quality. The most popular synthetic is the Absorber.  A nice feature is that it can be stored wet without danger of mildew but my biggest complaint is that most of them leave water streaks after each pass.


Best choice?  Microfiber.  The MF towels typically hold 7 to 8 times their weight in water and are the softest fabrics on the market.  When made for drying, these fabrics are heat treated to fracture the fibers and increase their absorbency.  I can dry an average size car with one towel and never have to wring it out.  Their only drawback is that once they pick up the water they don’t like to give it back and are difficult to wring out.  So use two, one to knock off most of the water and the second to finish.  By the way, they will dry out in a third of the time it takes Terry.


DO NOT USE SQUEEGEES.  Need I explain? Do you really want to drag a chunk of rubber or silicone across your paint?


Well, it’s washed and dry!  Now would be a good time to wipe it down with Meguiars Final Inspection, #34, or Quick Detailer (in the red bottles).  You might also consider a spray wax to boost the wax layer for prolonged service life.  If this is the first step to a more thorough detailing, as it should be, watch this space for future articles.  Believe me there is a lot more that could be said on this subject but this article is already long enough.  Ask your questions and we may reprise the subject at a later time.


In the absence of reader questions we’ll deal with clay barring next month.  Let the shining begin!


Please submit your questions for this column to DrDetail@DrDetailForLess.com and we’ll cover them in a future column.  You can also submit your own testimonials and comments about the subjects covered here and we’ll try to publish them as well.


Thanx until next month

Dr. Detail