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Do Car Wash Brushes Scratch Paint? A Risk to Your Paint or a Safe Cleaning Tool?

Automatic tunnel car wash

A common worry about automatic car washes is "will they scratch my car's paint."

A car wash can scratch your car if the brushes are not properly cleaned. Foreign materials in the brushes can act like an abrasive, almost like sandpaper, and leave fine marks in your vehicle's clear coat (top layer of paint).

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    Tunnel Car Washes with Rotating Brushes

    Tunnel car washes will scratch your paint, perhaps not immediately, but almost certainly over the long run.

    Any abrasive material―dirt, grime, sand, salt―that builds up on the exterior of your car can scratch your car when scrubbed with rotating brushes.

    In addition, despite how often those automatic car wash places claim to wash their brushes, there's never a 0% risk of getting dirt or grime in the brushes that will rub off onto your car.

    Tunnel car wash
    Tunnel car wash

    Do Soft Cloth Car Washes Damage Paint?

    Soft cloth car washes are not as abrasive as rotating brush car washes but can still damage your paint.

    They can cause clear coat or swirl scratches that are caused by the friction of the cloth on your car.

    They aren't as visible as more severe scratches, but a soft cloth car wash will ruin your shiny car look over time.

    Do Manual Car Wash Brushes Scratch Paint?

    Manual car washes have brushes that you can use to get of stubborn grime.

    While you can undoubtedly exercise more caution manually brushing your car, there are still the risks of swirl scratches or micro-scratches forming, which can harm the aesthetic of your vehicle.

    The brushes are best suit for tires and rims and not for paint.

    If you want to brush your car manually, always make sure you rinse it off first.

    Car brush at the car wash
    Car brush at the car wash

    That will remove any dirt or grime buildup on your car that will get scratched into the paint and reduce the risk of noticeable brush scratches.

    What Is The Safest Way To Wash A Car?

    If you're concerned about the paint job on your car, handwashing is the best way.

    Using microfiber wash mitts is the least impactful way you can wash your car.

    It would help if you also used a thick, concentrated soap with wax to help protect the coat on your car.

    Never use soap with a degreaser like your standard dish soap.

    That will destroy the wax and make your car more susceptible to scratches in the future.

    Washing a car with microfiber wash mitts
    Washing a car with microfiber wash mitts

    Car Wash Brush That Won't Scratch?

    Any abrasive or hard-toothed brush will scratch your car, even if it's just those micro-scratches or swirls.

    If you're not bothered by these potential aesthetic factors that will influence your car value down the line, then a sponge or standard mitt is best for washing; however, for those wanting to keep their paint coat beautiful, microfiber wash mitts are the least invasive way to touch your car.

    A dirt lock insert in your wash bucket can help remove any dirt or debris that may get on your mitt and scratch your paint.

    How To Wash A Car With A Brush

    To wash a car with a brush, pick a brush with nice soft teeth that aren't abrasive.

    If you've used the brush in the past, wash it out thoroughly, so you're not scratching your paint with dirt hiding in the brush.

    To wash your car with a brush, follow these steps:

    1. Pour the amount of soap you need as instructed into a bucket
    2. Rinse down your car
    3. Dip the brush repeatedly into the soapy water and brush your car
    4. Use gentle, steady brushes and avoid abrasive movements

    Hand Washing

    When it comes down to it, hand washing your car is the best way to go to save your paint coat. Having the right tools for the job will help you avoid scratches and keep your vehicle pristine and shiny.

    Microfiber Wash Mitt

    A microfiber wash mitt is usually a spongy-feeling tool with lots of dreadlocks.

    This is the least invasive way to wash your car and must be microfiber. Anything else will give your vehicle those dreaded swirl scratches.

    Microfiber wash mitt
    Microfiber wash mitt

    Microfiber Wash Mop

    A microfiber wash mop is another excellent option to wash your car, giving you extended reach and versatility.

    Just be sure, as with all your washing tools, that you always keep the head of the mop clean.

    Any dirt buildup can cause scratches and make cleaning more difficult. Apply consistent and even pressure, but don't push down too hard on your car to avoid swirl scratches.

    Microfiber Towel

    By now, you can probably guess that anything with microfiber in the name is suited for washing or drying your car with little risk.

    If you're using a microfiber towel to dry your car, exercise caution in how hard you're dragging on the surface of your vehicle and keep the towel clean after each use.

    A regular bath towel is not the same as a microfiber towel and will quickly scratch your car.

    Car Wash Scratched My Car What to Do?

    If you've got some scratches from a car wash, there are several ways to get rid of them.

    Clean off the area by rinsing it to remove dirt, apply some car soap, and dry the area.

    This method won't deal with deep scratches, but car soap is formulated to protect the clear coat on your car and may help.

    Car polish applied to the affected area in an up-and-down potion via a microfiber pad is another option for getting scratches out.

    Buff the area using a circular motion with a microfiber cloth to remove excess polish.

    Touch-up paint is helpful for scratches and can be applied after the area is cleaned and primed.

    Once you've neatly painted over the scratch, you should put a layer of clear coat over the affected area and buff the area with a polishing wheel. Washing your car afterward helps ensure a uniform shine across the car.

    Why Brushes Scratch Car Paint

    Abrasive materials in the brush, as well as the brush's hardness, scrape against the car's surface, causing scratches in the paint coat.

    What Type Of Car Wash Is Best?

    As it stands, the best type of car wash is a hand wash.

    Regardless of how soft their brushes are, any automatic one will scratch your car over time. Handwashing offers you complete control over the method and materials you're using on your vehicle.