Hand Wash Vs Machine: Which Is Best For Your Car?

We take a look at which method of cleaning is the best for cleaning your car, hand washing or machine washing.

You’ve just driven your brand new car off the dealer’s lot and you’re flying high with excitement because of the new purchase. On your way home you vow to yourself that you are going to take excellent care of your new car and treat it like a newborn baby. You’re going to keep the shiny finish bright and dirt free, dust and vacuum the interior every week.

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However, as you’re driving along it occurs to you that you don’t have a clue what the best way is to keep the exterior clean. There really doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer to that question on the Internet, but here is some of the thinking on the subject.

10 Hand Washing: May Be More Gentle

Most people feel that hand washing their car is the best way to keep the finish looking shiny and new. There are no stiff, bristly brushes rubbing against the car and scratching the paint. However, there are a lot of conditions to getting that very gentle wash for your car.

If you follow the steps put forward by a poster on Quora, simply washing your car by hand is a major production involving no less than six steps, a pressure washer, four special buckets, multiple sponges and mitts, ‘snow foam,’ detailing clay, and a product that removes iron from the paint on the car. That’s a lot of stuff and a lot of steps.

9 Machine Washing: Gets Off the Grime Better

No matter what kind of automatic car wash you go to, whether it has rolling brushes or flopping soft cloth, it is going to get your car cleaner than it will when you do it by hand. Let’s face it, all those brushes or flaps of flannel are going to pound away any dirt and grime your car has managed to pick up. Along with the water shooting out of the jets, those machines are going to blast away the dirt and rinse it right off and leave your car virtually spotless.

Car wash manufacturers have been working diligently to make sure that cars get cleaned without damage. In addition, the majority of car washes have people there with equipment to make sure all the stuck-on grime is removed.

8 Hand Washing: Is More Thorough

Getting up close and personal is what happens when you hand wash your car. To most people, this means that you are definitely going to see all the nitty-gritty dirt, oil, and grease that has attached itself to your car. Putting your hands on your car is the best way to get rid of the dirt and scrub off the bird-poop, brake dust, and road oil from all areas of your vehicle.

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Professionals warn, however, that you should always use a cleanser that is specially made for cleaning your car. Using dish soap is likely to damage the finish and will strip any wax. Car and Driver magazine recommends Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash and Wax as one to try.

7 Machine Washing: The Cloth Friction Car Wash

Many people have chosen to go with a cloth friction automatic car wash rather than those with rolling brushes. You’ve probably seen these as they look something like a soft blanket cut into strips that are dragged up and down and across the car moving through the wash.

They look soft and they are. The soft cloth strips gently rub the dirt away after the water jets have softened everything up. With all those flaps moving over the car's surface it’s almost like doing it by hand except that there are about 100 hands doing the cleaning all at once.

6 Hand Washing: Is More Economical

The cost of an automatic car wash will vary depending on the number of people who put their hands on your car. If it’s just a quick run through the wash tunnel or if someone actually gets in your car and vacuums it all out, you will pay accordingly.

When you do it yourself, all you really need is a good car cleaner, a bucket, rag, and a few old towels. If you want to do a bang-up job, you’ll need a pressure sprayer, cleanser, several grit-guard buckets, sponges, microfiber towels, detailing clay, a de-ironer, glass cleaner, paper towels, and car wax. All these things are usually good for several uses before needing to be replaced.

5 Machine Washing: An Automatic Car Wash Is More Eco-Friendly

In this day and age a majority of automatic car wash facilities, no matter what type, integrate some type of water recycling. Not only because of the cost of thousands of gallons of water that gets used but also because it just makes ecologic sense.

It is very likely, however, that when your car first gets sprayed with that initial blast of water, it is probably dirty water that hasn’t been recycled or cleaned yet. The water used for the rinse cycle is always clean.

There are different styles of recycling. Some facilities use a sediment tank, others a type of purifier that removes the soap and debris and most recently, they have available the ability to use osmosis to clean the water.

4 Hand Washing: Can Be a Family Affair

Depending on how many steps you go through to get your car clean and polished, it could take a couple of hours of your time. However, for a lot of people, getting outside and washing the car and cleaning up the inside is something of a ritual that takes them away from their daily worries as they concentrate on this simple task of caring for the large investment they’ve made in their car.

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For others, it is just a matter of pride of ownership to have their car looking its best. Also, if you have a family, why not get everyone out there in the sunshine and get the car clean together? Then everyone can jump in the beautifully clean car and go get pizza!

3 Machine Washing: An Automatic Car Wash is Faster

It’s quite possible that you simply don’t have time during your week to wash your car by hand, even though you may like doing it that way. Sometimes the dirt, grime, and salt in some areas, just can’t wait for your calendar to get freed up.

We all know that taking care of the car’s finish is important and that there are a lot of nasty things out on the road that love to eat up paint. So, taking your car to a car wash during your lunch break is the prudent thing to do. While you enjoy your lunch, the car goes through the machine and comes out the other end shiny and sparkling in about 30 minutes.

2 Hand Washing: Using a Self-Serve Car Wash

A lot of people take the middle road when it comes to getting their car nice and shiny. They go to a self-wash car wash that usually features a pay-as-you-go timer and a pressure washer with a button of some type that allows for switching from soapy water to clean water.

These types of car washes provide the best of both worlds with a high-pressure spray and suitable cleanser and being up close and personal with the car exterior. With the sprayer, you can bombard the pesky animal droppings and blast away at the dirt in the wheel wells while giving the rest of the car a good once-over to get rid of the week’s dust.

1 Machine Washing: The Unmanned Automatic Car Wash

It’s probably a true statement to say that most people use a combination of at least a big car wash and hand washing. Unmanned car washes are usually found at gas stations, and you pay for the car wash when you pay for your gas, so they are convenient. There usually is an attendant if you need help, but the person won’t be touching your car.

If you really just want to get the dust off the car and don’t need the whole nine yards, going through an automated car wash that just cleans the outside and blow-dries your car at the end is a great way to go. They usually don’t cost a lot and they’re quick.

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