Pre-washing your car helps to prevent scratches and makes stubborn dirt much easier to remove.
The question is… what is the best pre wash for cars?
I’m sure that you’re already aware of snow foam.
It’s by far the most popular pre-wash product but there are many other options that are just as good, if not better.
Why Pre-Wash A Car?
There are many benefits to pre-washing or pre-rinsing your car.
The most obvious benefit is the fact that it’ll get rid of a lot of the loose dirt & dust without even having to touch the car.
This means you’ll have less dirt to wash off when it comes to the actual hand wash. Less dirt on the car means less dirt on your wash mitt, thus reducing the chances of creating paint imperfections.
Pre-washing a car isn’t going to completely eliminate the risk of scratching or swirling your paint, but it will limit the potential damage you can do.
While some pre-washes are great and can clean 90% of the car. They shouldn’t be used as a complete wash solution.
You will still need to perform a hand wash to make your car 100% clean.
Types Of Car Pre-Wash
You can use pretty much any washing product as a pre-wash solution, however, some are better than others.
I personally use Snow Foam, Traffic Film Remover, Bug & Tar Remover or even Iron Fallout Remover.
That said, here’s a list of all the potential pre-wash options:
- A Standard Rinse With Water
- Snow Foam
- Traffic Film Remover
- Iron Fallout Remover
- Bug & Tar Remover
- Pre Wash Degreaser
- All-Purpose Cleaner
I’m sure there are other products that people will use too. I’ve even heard of people using truck wash, but that will completely strip your car of waxes or coatings that have been previously applied.
A Standard Rinse
Depending on how dirty your car is, a standard rinse using a pressure washer or garden hose can be enough to remove a majority of the dirt.
While i’d always try to use a pre-wash product when possible, not everybody has the money or equipment to do so.
Rinsing your car with water is going to be better than nothing. That said, once you encounter thick dirt or road salt, it won’t be as effective as the other products on this list.
There’s a reason why snow foam is the most commonly used pre-wash product.
It looks good for photos & videos, cleans well, and is pretty satisfying to apply.
The problem with snow foam is the equipment that’s needed.
To get the best results, you’ll need a good pressure washer and one of the best snow foam lances.
Granted, you can apply snow foam using a foam gun that attaches to a garden hose or a hand foamer/pump sprayer, but the results will be very different.
Traffic Film Remover
Whenever you go to your local car wash, pay attention to what they’re using.
If they’re using a pre-wash that’s not snow foam, it’s probably traffic film remover, or “TFR” for short.
TFR is seen by many as a solution for “deep cleaning”. It shouldn’t be used for regular maintenance washes, rather deep cleans after winter or serious off-roading.
Cheap roadside car washes like to use this because of its immense cleaning power, but it can cause damage at high dilution ratios.
If you plan on using TFR, make sure it’s non-caustic. The caustic ones have been known to cause long term issues such as corrosion.
Iron Fallout Remover
You’ve probably heard of Iron Fallout Removers before.
Products such as CarPro IronX are known for their ability to clean wheels, but can also be used on the paintwork of a car.
Because these products are pretty expensive, I wouldn’t cover your whole car in it. However, using it on the fenders, front bumper & lower doors will help to remove stubborn brake dust & iron filings.
Bug & Tar Remover
I find myself using Bug & Tar Remover during the summer, for obvious reasons.
After a long summer drive, or bashing out back-roads, my cars always covered in bug splats and hot tar.
As long as you act quickly, bug & tar remover will do the job just fine. Don’t expect it to remove bug splats that have been on your car all summer though.
If you’re struggling with stubborn bug & tar, here’s a guide I wrote after removing thousands of bugs one summer.
Most people believe that degreaser shouldn’t be used on car paint, but, it’s great for stubborn dirt and contamination.
Whenever you buy a “pre-wash”, it’ll either be a low degreaser dilution, or an all-purpose cleaner based solution. Read the product information to find out which one it is.
As a detailer, I recommend you have some all-purpose cleaner and spray bottles in your setup.
It’s such a versatile cleaning product, it’ll clean literally everything. Interior, paintwork, plastics, wheels, and more.
Just change the dilution based on the surface and level of contamination and it’s a great little product to have.
You can do the same with degreasers, which is why these 2 products are often used in “pre-wash” solutions marketed by ValetPro and CarPlan.
The Best Pre Wash For Cars Is…
This is going to sound like an answer that you get from a politician, but, it really depends on your circumstances.
If you have a good pressure washer and foam cannon, snow foam is the best option.
If you don’t, you probably want to consider Traffic Film Remover or a Pre-Wash degreaser.
Iron Fallout removers and Bug & Tar removers are great in specific situations, but not for every wash.
All-purpose cleaner is just a versatile product I’d recommend having at all times. It can be used for everything.
If you have the money, experiment with the products and find out what works best for you.
How To Apply Pre-Wash Products
Every product on this list has a different application method.
As I’ve already stated, the snow foam is best applied using a foam cannon.
However, most of the other products will come in their own bottles or as a concentrate.
Whenever you get a product that needs to be diluted, you can either dilute it into a spray bottle or use it in a pump sprayer or foam cannon.
Products such as Traffic Film Remover, Iron Fallout Remover, Bug & Tar Remover & Degreaser are better used in a spray bottle.
Whereas All-Purpose Cleaner and Snow Foam are relatively cheap and allow you to cover your car in a matter of seconds using a foam lance, foam gun, or pump sprayer.