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Swirl marks are the enemy of all black car owners. These are tiny scratches caused by poor washing techniques. With a little know how, you can learn simple techniques to protect your black car shine.
You’ll notice swirl marks when a bright light reflects on your paint. Its as if cobwebs appear around the reflection – these are the dreaded swirl marks.
Swirls are created when washing and drying your car. Follow these steps to prevent them from appearing in the first place. If you are planning on doing any other detailing it’s important to get this stage right.
To quickly wash your car a pressure washer with foam cannon will remove most of the dirt without scratching your paint. This inexpensive Sun Joe SPX3000 on Amazon has thousands of reviews and can generate thick snow foam.
Whats the best way to wash a black car?
To wash a black car use clean microfibre wash mitts and the famous two-bucket method. This involves using one bucket of soapy water and one bucket of clean rinse water to rinse your mitt. Read below for plenty more tips, tricks, and ideas.
What products do I need to wash my car?
You need to take care when washing a black car because anything can cause a scratch. Use the softest materials you can find and put as little pressure as possible on the them. Here are the basic products you need. All links are to Amazon.
- Car Shampoo : Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam
- Wash Buckets : Meguiars Yellow Bucket
- Grid Guards : Meguiars Grit Guard
- Wheel Cleaner : Adams Wheel Cleaner
- Wash Mitts : Chemical Guys Premium Wash Mitt (MUST HAVE)
- Drying Towel : Griot’s Garage Drying Towel(MUST HAVE)
- Wheel brush : Chemical Guys Wheel Brush
- Spray Wax : Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wet Wax.
- Plastic Trim Booster : Meguiar’s Ultimate Black Plastic Trim Restorer
- Tire Shine : Chemical Guys VRP
The Multi-Mitt Car Wash Method. I use this!
The Multi-Mitt Method is getting more and more popular. It’s like the two bucket method except that you use a clean mitt for each section of the car.
The general rule with this method is to never put a dirty mitt back into the soapy water. This obviously is a fantastic idea and it will help keep black paint looking amazing for years. You don’t need to buy grit guards or multiple buckets.
- Spray wheels with wheel cleaner
- Use a foam cannon to soak the wheels with foam (optional)
- Use your wheel brushes to clean wheels.
- Rinse wheels.
- Use a foam cannon to heavily soak the car in foam (optional)
- Rinse with a pressure washer.
- Fill water bucket and add car shampoo.
- Starting from the roof, use a microfibre mitt in side-to-side movements.
- Use up to 4 clean mitts to a slightly dirty car.
- Use up to 8 clean mitts to do dirty car.
- Use a pressure washer or hose for the final rinse.
- Apply spray and rise wax.
- Dry car with a microfibre drying towel.
- Use detailer spray for finishing touches.
- Spruce up plastic with a trim restorer.
- Apply tire shine.
What is the two-bucket method?
The two bucket method is what most car detailing enthusiasts use. It greatly reduces the risk of adding scratches. The goal to to remove all the dirt from your car without grinding and dragging the it along your clear coat. Before starting the two bucket method on your paint your should first wash your wheels and throw away the soapy water you used.
Use two buckets both of which have grit guards. Rinse out the buckets and grit guards first as even a few grains of sand can cause swirls and scratches on your paint.
One bucket is filled with clean water for rinsing the mitt. The other is filled with clean water and sudsy car wash solution.
Rinse the mitt in the clean water after each section and rub your mitt against the grit guard. A grit guard helps remove grid and stones from the mitt and stop you from touching the bottom of the bucket and collecting more grit. Rub the sudsy mitt gently over the car surface applying as little pressure as you can. Let the solution run down the sides of the car.
This will help soften the dirt on the dirtier parts of the car. Rinse the suds off every now and then, don’t wait until you have the whole car wash because the suds may have started to dry in to the paint.
Avoid letting the suds dry on your car. Tap water drying on your car will cause water spots. So use a large drying towel like the one mentioned above to dry your car.
Get started with an all-in-one kit!
Save yourself some time and money by getting an all in one kit that has most of the stuff you need to get started. Manufacturers like Chemical Guys often sell these kits at a big discount. Check out Chemical Guys 14-Piece Arsenal Builder Car Wash Kit with TORQ Blaster Foam Gun & Bucket over on Amazon.
Here’s what you get in the Chemical Guys Kit…
- Macrofibre Wash Mitt
- Bucket with grit guard dirt trap
- Honeydew Snow Foam car shampoo (one of the best shampoos on the market)
- Torq Foam Blaster, create foam from your hose (not for pressure washer)
- Butter Wet Wax. Quick and Easy to apply liquid wax.
- Applicator Pad for wax
- Three Microfiber Towels
- Soft brush for wheels and rims
- Signature Series Glass cleaner
- Diablo Gel for safely cleaning wheels
- Silk Shine dressing for plastic and rubber
- Three Macrofibre Towels.
Check Price on Amazon Chemical Guys 14-Piece Arsenal Builder Car Wash Kit with TORQ Blaster Foam Gun & Bucket
Things NOT to do when washing a black car.
- Don’t use dish soap. It strips away any existing protection and discolors plastic and rubber.
- Don’t use a sponge. It collects grit that will scratch your paint.
- Don’t use a brush. It collects grit that will scratch your paint.
- Don’t use just one bucket because the water will get too dirty.
- Don’t leave the car to dry naturally.
- Don’t dry the car with a bathroom towel.
- Don’t dry the car with a leather chamois.
- Don’t wash your car without soap.
- Don’t use a water squeegee to dry your car.
- Don’t scrub your car. This will cause swirl marks and the paint to fade too quickly.
- Don’t try to remove tar spots without a Tar Remover.
- Don’t wash your car under direct sunlight as it will dry too quickly.
- Don’t clean your tires and wheels last.
- Don’t let your mitts or towels touch the ground even when you’re finished.
- Don’t use the same things you used to clean your wheels to wash your car.
- Don’t forget to read the instructions for the products and tools you buy.
Is a pressure washer worth it?
The more dirt you can remove from your car without touching it the better. So to me, a pressure washer is worth it.
It adds more time to the job, but it will help keep scratches to a minimum.
Soaking the car in thick foam will help cut through grease and road film. Then blasting it away with the pressure washer will remove 95% of the dirt that would otherwise scratch your car when you dig out the mitts.
Pressure washers like my brilliant Karcher K5 Full Control allow you to adjust the amount of pressure. So to generate think snow foam Ill turn the pressure up and to rinse the foam and dirt I’ll turn the pressure down.
Why you should wash your wheels first.
Treat your wheels as a separate task completely. This includes cleaning wheels wells. The black brake dust stuck to your wheels will scratch the paint. So get rid of it first.
Soap won’t remove bonded brake dust. Use a wheel cleaner like Adams wheel cleaner to dissolve brake dust on your wheels. You don’t need to use it every time you wash. It gives fantastic results without needing to scrub.
I have a couple of wash mitts that are only for use on wheels. You can also use wheel brushes to get into the back of the wheel when you want a really deep clean.
Wheel wells can get very muddy. If you have a car that’s low to the ground you probably can’t see into your wheel wells so you don’t need to worry about them.
But if you have a truck or any vehicle where you can see the wheel well you’ll need to give it a good wash. A foam cannon with a pressure washer is going to be great for this job but most people don’t have one. So what you can do is first soak the area with water to soften any dirt. Then use a soft hand brush with soapy water to agitate the dirt and rinse off with a hose.
When done throw all of the water away and rinse out the mitts and buckets. The rinsed mitt can then be machine washed with everything else.
How to wash a black car without scratching it.
Park the car in the shade and allow the surface to cool. Spray the car with a hose or pressure washer to rinse off as much loose dirt and dust as possible. Soaking any heavy dirt will help to soften it.
Wash the wheels first. Follow the instructions on your wheel spray and use the wheel cleaning brushes. A product such as Carpro Iron X 500ml with Sprayer will do a great job of removing stains from alloy wheels. Use in a well-ventilated area because it has a very strong smell.
You can also use Iron X on your car paint to chemically decontaminate it. Read my blog post on using a clay bar. Use a separate bucket for washing the wheels. I use a special mitt for my wheels because I can get my hands in there more easily. Rinse the wheels when done.
Use a snow foam cannon to cover the car with foam. Follow the instructions for your shampoo. Let the foam soak in for a minute or two and rinse it off again with water.
This contactless washing is very helpful to remove as much dirt as possible before you physically start to touch the car. Wash your car from top to bottom using the two bucket method outlined below.
How to avoid swirl marks on black cars
Take great care not to scrub the car. Put as little pressure as possible on the paint because scrubbing with the mitt will cause swirl marks.
Wash from top to bottom as the the bottom is usually the dirtiest. Use a different mitt for the bottom as it will get really dirty. Its even better if you use lots of clean mitts and put them in the washing machine when done.
Never dry wipe dust and dirt from the car. Never wash with a regular sponge or brush.
The One-Bucket Method
With this method you use a hand sprayer like the Chapin 1002 48-Ounce Hand Sprayer For Multi-purpose Use. You also use one bucket of clean water with a grit guard to rinse the mitt as you do each section. In the hand sprayer you mix some car shampoo and water and spray the mixture on to the mitt or/and directly on to the car. I find you end up using a lot less soap and water with this method.
Is it safe to use a waterless wash on a Black Car?
Some of these products have come a long way in recent years. But I’m still a little nervous about using them on a very dirty car. But I can understand the attraction of people who don’t have their own pressure washer or for people who live in apartments.
If you want to wash your car with these make sure you use enough of the product to lubricate the dirt away form the paint. Also, grab a clean microfiber towel when it becomes dirty and don’t rub dirt into the paint if you can avoid it.
Waterless wash products I recommend.
But its also super convenient when you want to touch up your car when its not that dirty.
Using a Waterless wash and a self service coin wash.
If you have access to a self service / coin wash then you should use the pressure washer available there. But don’t use the soap or brush that might be available. Instead follow these steps…
- Use the high pressure wash to take the heavy dirt off and get the car really wet.
- Use your own wheel brushes to clean your wheels.
- I might use wheel cleaning spray if needed to remove iron deposits.
- Or I might use my wheel mitt with some car shampoo solution in a spray bottle.
- Use pressure washer again to rinse off your wheels.
- Starting with the roof and using multiple microfiber towels using a waterless wash such as Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All .
- Spray on the surface of the car
- Wipe in straight lines and in one direction
- Flip the towel over for each wipe so that a clean side is used each time.
- Apply tire trim.
- Apply spray wax or quick detailer with microfiber towels to add shine and protection.
How often do you need to wash a black car?
If your car is driven every day then you should probably wash every two weeks or so to keep it protected. It also depends on the time of year and the type of weather you are having.
Brake dust can cause damage to wheels and paint so I like to get rid of that as much as possible. Sometimes if the weather is particularly bad I just pull the powerwasher out and give the wheels and sides of the car a quick wash Bird droppings can also damage your paint.
If you park in an area where tree sap or bird poo is a problem then you should wash your car weekly. If your car is well protected with a good sealant it should be easier to clean.
How to clean bird poop off a black car
Don’t be tempted to wipe off bird poop with a cloth. Wiping a black car should be totally avoided. Use something like a spray wax or spray lubricant. Spray directly on to the poo and on to a damp microfiber towel. Let the towel sit on the bird poo for a few minutes.
This should lift the poop right off. Of course this will work best if your paint is properly sealed and protected. When done you can also apply sealant to the area to protect from the next attack.
How to dry a black car.
Drying a car properly is one of the secret weapons of professional car detailers. Don’t use a rubber wiper or a chamois leather or a bath towel. These things will drag grit and dust over the paint and scratch it.
Use a number of microfiber towels to car dry. The car should be as clean as possible at this stage so if your drying towels get dirty then you haven’t cleaned the car properly. I use four large microfiber towels to dry my car.
Using a detailing spray at this stage of you don’t plan on doing any other detailing after you wash. These can leave a fantastic shine very quickly and easily and can give some protection. If any water has dried these sprays can help remove the dreaded water spots.
Very gently rub the towel against the wet car. But again don’t put any pressure on it. Use a different surface of the towel for each pass.
I have written a new blog post on how to dry your car properly. Its one of the best skills you can learn to keep your car looking new for longer.
How to wash a black car without water spots
Water spots are caused by water drying on the paint. A very helpful tool is a small drier. These help blow water out of hard to reach spots to help you dry the car. With more powerful blowers you can dry the car completely which would obviously be of great benefit as you wont be touching the surface.
Dry and clean the glass with a waffle weave microfiber towel. This helps protect the tinted glass. A special glass cleaner for cars sound not contain anything damaging such as ammonia and will leave a brilliant shine.
Add some tire dressing to give that finishing touch.
Best car wash soap for black cars
Don’t use dish soap because it strips off wax and can leave plastic trim discolored. Use something with protection in it such as wax. Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss Concentrated Car Wash has great cleaning power and leaves a super shine on the car. And it smells good too.
It’s the main product I use at the moment. It’s also great in the foam cannon. As ever Meguiars products are top notch. Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner is something I tend to use when the car is not so dirty. It does a great job protecting existing wax and adds its own layer as well.
For best results dry your car properly with microfiber towels or with a car blow dryer. Follow my steps above on how to wash and dry your car without scratching it.
To make your car easier to wash next time, you should also consider sealing and waxing. These steps will give your car a mirror like shine only black cars can have.
If your car has faded paint or scratches read my guides on using a clay bar and polishing out scratches.
I have added a new blog post where I review some of my favorite soaps. Click here to read it.
Washing a black car causes scratches. But you can massively reduce them and preserve your shine if you learn these safe washing techniques.
- Never dry wipe a black car.
- Always use lubrication. (Car shampoo or ONR)
- Use microfibre wash mitts.
- A waxed car is easier to wash. (spray waxes are awesome)
- Use the two bucket method or another safe method.
- Dry with a microfibre drying towel.