Touchless vs Soft-Cloth Car Washes

by Lori Straus

With spring-like weather finally here, you can no longer deny the layer of dirt on your car. However, with physical distancing still in full force, you’re likely considering an automatic car wash to clean up your vehicle. And why not? Automatic car washes are convenient and save you the physical effort of washing your vehicle yourself. You’ll generally find two kinds of automatic car washes: touchless car washes and soft-cloth ones. We’ll summarize the important points for each one here.Automatic car wash in action. Car wash concept. Automated technology

Soft-Cloth Car Washes

Soft-cloth car washes use foam applicators injected with soap and water to wash your car. Ideally, the car wash should suds your car up nicely at the beginning, let the soap rest on your vehicle, and then begin wiping. This lets the soap work away at the dirt so that when the car wash scrubs away at it, there’s less damage to your vehicle.

24 June 2019 - Calgary, Alberta Canada - Entrance to Touchless carwash in CalgaryTouchless Car Washes

Touchless car washes use a combination of high-pH and low-pH chemicals to dislodge dirt from your vehicle’s surface. Any washing is done using high-pressure water.

How Dirty Is Your Car?

If your car is only slightly dirty, and its finish is less than 10 years old, a touchless car wash should work just fine. The absence of scrubbing means you won’t risk dulling your vehicle’s finish.

However, if you haven’t washed your car in a while, a soft-cloth car wash will do a better job of cleaning it.

How Concerned Are You About Damage to Your Vehicle’s Coat?

This is perhaps the most controversial point between touchless and soft-cloth car washes. On the one hand, you have those who say that soft-cloth car washes have come a long way from their bristle-brush predecessors, and therefore damage to your car’s finish ranges from minimal to almost none. Those who prefer soft-cloth car washes point out that touchless car washes, when used frequently, can more quickly wear away at your vehicle’s finish.

However, proponents of touchless car washes say that the finish on your vehicle is wearing away already, and even though a touchless car wash may—with frequent use—speed up that process, it won’t cause swirl marks that can dull the finish on the vehicle, especially on dark-coloured cars.

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Ask your friends, family, and colleagues for recommendations, read online reviews, and check your owner’s manual, but also ask others who drive your make and model of car. There is no guarantee that any kind of car wash will leave your vehicle unscathed, but with a little research, you can reduce those chances considerably and have a clean car you can be proud to drive around in the glistening sun.