10 Top Tips to Avoid Swirls and Scratches when Car Cleaning

Author: Rob Mobberley

How to avoid swirl marks on you carOne of the questions we are asked, almost daily, is How To Avoid Swirl Marks when washing your car.

To help answer this question we have put together our “Top 10 ten tips to avoid swirls and scratches when cleaning a car”. First let’s have a quick look at exactly what swirl marks are and how they are caused. Swirls, also know as spider or cob-webbing mainly show up on bright sunny days. They are in effect small scratches in the clearcoat of your paint that are reflecting light in all directions.

This is why they look as though they are round as if someone has been using an abrasive pad in a circular motion. This is what has also given rise to the myth that they are caused by polishing in a circular motion. However if you were to look at swirls under a direct artificial light you would see the scratches go in all directions and only the sunlight reflecting makes them look circular. The main cause of swirls is using the wrong tools and processes during the washing of your motor.

  1. Our absolute Number One tip is therefore– Ditch your sponge – if you are still using a sponge to wash your car, ditch it immediately and start using a sheepskin, lambswool or deep pile microfibre wash mitt – sponges easily drag grit across your paintwork
  2. If using a bucket and water – get another one – use one for your shampoo mix and the other to regularly rinse out your mitt during washing
  3. If you can invest in a Grit Guard for your bucket – this will help prevent any grit in the bucket mixing back with the water and getting back into your wash mitt
  4. Do not use household detergents – these will strip off your cars paint protection (i.e wax or sealant) and leave paint surface exposed to elements, dirt and grime
  5. Always wash from top to bottom to ensure the grit and dirt is washed down off your paintwork
  6. Use a separate wash mitt/microfibre cloths on your wheels – do not use the same ones you use for your wheels on your paintwork – that brake dust can be nasty stuff
  7. Do not use any household cleaning brushes, pads, scourers or such like to get rid of stubborn marks on your paintwork – take time to look at appropriate solutions designed for the job i.e tar removers, bird muck remover, clay bars etc
  8. Although it may be obvious remember to tell the kids if they are washing your car – do not throw the dirty water in the bucket back over the car to rinse it.
  9. If using a hydrablade (silicone water blade) to get rid of excess water on your car – ensure you wipe the blade regularly to ensure no grit get trapped between the blade and the paintwork
  10. Use a deep pile microfibre drying towel to dry your car – not only will it dry in a fraction of the time, it avoid streak and if any dust or grit does blow onto your car it will pick it up in the fibres and keep it away from your paintwork

If unfortunately your paintwork already suffers from swirl marks there are a number of Swirl Remover products on the market that will help you remove or hide the swirls from your car – we will also be following this post in the near future with one on Swirl Mark Removal.

We hope you have found these useful. If you have any of your own tips you would like to share with others please post them through the comment link below.


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  • Andrew Heaney

    Swirl marks are already present, even on brand new cars. This is because water based paints leave holograms and the manufactures have to do so much buffing to bring up the gloss point that they end up leaving swirl marks.

    You will never get ris of them, and all waxes eventually wash off. What you really need is a waterless product that cleans, polishes and seals the paintwork…

    • Rob


      Agree that more and more new cars I see in the showrooms have swirls on them. I disagree however that you will never get rid of them. Even if they roll off the production line looking like that I fail to see why the dealers don’t so something about them. It is possible to remove them with the right products and a bit of time and then once removed look at the right products to seal, protect and maintain.

  • http://www.bilthamber.com/ Jay

    These are great tips to avoid scratches and swirls on paintwork. Using higher quality waxes and polishes also help, as does using microfibre cloths, which are perfect for buffing wax and polish. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  • Sarah Edwards

    Some really great tips here. If you do need to remove swirls and scratches on a car and not sure of the best way to do it – call in the professionals, like ChipsAway and make sure the job is done right in the first place.