What is the best snow foam & detergent for your car & why?
In a quest to uncover the best foaming cleaner for use on cars - particularly with various paint finishes and protective coatings, Car Craft Auto Detailing has delved into the range of “snow foam" products on offer from Supercheap Auto to pick out a selection of his favourites and explain how each one can benefit you during your maintenance washes.
Which snow foam is best?
The first thing to understand when trying to figure out which foaming wash is best, is that a great many of the detergents available at Supercheap Auto are able to be used as a foaming pre-soak when washing your car. As such, sticking to only those detergents that are marketed as being for use with snow cannons can mean missing out on some pretty darn good washes. Car Craft Auto Detailing has included a couple of products that you might not initially think of being usable with a pressure washer and shows that they can have some surprisingly good results.
Next, it is important to rule out heavy-duty decontamination car wash products that strip away any existing waxy residue or protective coatings. Instead, this review and comparison focuses on products that have been formulated to maintain or even improve the existing protection on your car's finish.
Finally, to determine which Snow Foam is best for your car, there needs to be a set of criteria by which the products are judged. Car Craft Auto Detailing outlines the main things he is looking for in a great foaming detergent as:
- Gentle and PH-balanced
- Designed not to strip protection off your car
- Easy to rinse
- Great lubrication
- Overall washing effectiveness
- Safe to use
Spoiler alert: There isn’t one single “best" foaming detergent that excels in all areas
The truth is, as Car Craft Auto Detailing explains, how good the result you get will be heavily impacted by a combination of your water purity, foam lance or snow cannon, the capabilities of your pressure washer, and most importantly what sort of result you are actually after with a foaming car wash. A petrol or industrial grade pressure washer will generally provide far better results than a less powerful electric washer, but it’s unreasonable to assume that everyone has the means or need to own a super-powerful washer. For this reason, it’s more important to tune your detergent and method to suit your washer.
Similarly, a huge impacting factor is the mineral content in the tap water you have access to. In many cases, people will want simple answers to questions such as “what dilution of detergent should I use with my pressure washer?" but Car Craft Auto Detailing stresses that if you want to extract peak performance from your washing products, you will always need to adapt and tweak them to suit both your environment and your requirements. After all, everyone has different circumstances, so a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t always feasible.
If your pressure washer isn’t very powerful, and your local water supply is high in mineral content, then it might pay to increase the concentration of your detergent - whereas with high-quality water, and a powerful washer you can often get away with using slightly more diluted product. Furthermore, your detergent concentration, washing technique and even the number of foaming pre-washes you do before a hand wash will vary depending upon your vehicle’s needs - a 4x4 caked in mud, for example, may require higher foam dwell time, more detergent, and perhaps even a second coating of foam in order to remove as much dirt as possible before moving to the hand wash stage.
Now that’s out of the way, it is time to examine the selected products in detail, so our host moves outside and breaks out the measuring jugs, and the pressure washer; ready to compare how they stack up when judged on the aforementioned criteria. Using a 1-10 ratio, Car Craft Auto Detailing mixes up each detergent and applies it to his car in turn - this way, we can see the individual foam characteristics of each detergent in turn.
Meguiar’s Soft Wash Gel
First up is Meguiar’s Soft wash. This is one of those detergents that isn’t actually marketed as a snow cannon or foam lance specific wash. But in the right dilution, it can provide some surprisingly good results. Full disclosure: Car Craft Auto Detailing has used this product for years now and absolutely swears by it as an all-round excellent car wash detergent. Meguiar’s Soft Wash Gel has a streak-free, residue-free finish and doesn’t alter your paint or existing paint protection, it is gentle, PH balanced, and easy to rinse.
Car Craft Auto Detailing explains that mixing in 50ml of softwash with 500ml of water will average around 70c to foam your car, and even if a little more detergent is needed to achieve a really thick foam, it still works out to be one of the most cost-effective washes on the market - even if your water isn’t the softest or your pressure washer isn’t very powerful. If you are someone who uses waxes, sealants or other premium coatings that you take care to maintain, then Meguiar’s Soft Wash Gel is perfect for you as a foaming pre-wash soak. It doesn’t degrade these coatings, while still loosening dirt and grime, and lubricating the finish - ready for you to apply your chosen product to top up your protection. If you want your foaming pre-wash to enhance your existing protection; however, this won’t be the wash for you.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash And Wax
Next up is Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash And Wax. Over-all, Car Craft Auto Detailing has found that wash and wax products tend not to foam up as much as other products when used in a foam lance or cannon. This product, however, produces surprisingly good foam, so can happily be used as a pre-wash foaming soak. Just like all wash and wax products, it’s important that you don’t let it sit on your paint for too long since that can lead to streaking in your finish, but when used correctly Ultimate Wash And Wax is an effective pre-soak foam, that leaves a beautiful wax finish to your paint. At about $1.20 per 50ml, it sits in the middle of the range of products tested today, but due to its additional wax effect, this can make it quite good value for money.
Overall, this product is a great option for people who either don’t currently apply a wax to their car and who want a little added protection after each quick wash, as well as people who do have a wax finish and would like a bit of a top-up on their coating. It isn’t, however, ideal for enthusiasts who have invested in a nano-coating or high grade sealant, due to the wax coating the existing coating.
Autoglym Foaming Car Wash
This is the most economical product being tested today, coming in at around 50c per wash. However, it doesn’t quite have the foaming power of the other foaming washes at the same dilution, and so it is worth increasing the amount of detergent used during your wash. This product has a more runny foam, which is preferred by some, and will rinse off beautifully. It is best used for maintenance washes on cars with a little existing paint protection and that aren’t extremely dirty.
Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo And Conditioner
Also, form Autoglym is a product that appears to secretly be a wash and wax product despite not having “wax” in its title. It leaves a pleasant, noticeable finish on your paint - with a bit of additional protection. At around 65c per 50ml, it is pretty good value for money, and although it applies quite thin, foam can be readily thickened up with a slightly higher ratio of detergent in your mix bottle. It is easily rinsed, and thanks to its additional protective qualities, can be used to great effect on cars with little to no existing protective coatings, or as a top-up to pre-waxed cars.
Bowden's Own Snow Job
Next up is one of the more well-known foaming washes - it produces extremely thick foam with impressively long foam dwell-time. If you aren’t washing an extremely dirty car, it may even be worthwhile to reduce the amount of detergent used per wash, and at around $1.35 per 50ml, this can help to keep your costs down. It isn’t specifically a wash and wax type detergent, although it does leave behind a little something to enhance your car’s finish all the same.
Overall, this is a great product for use in both a foaming wash and a wash bucket thanks to its safe and gentle formula yet capable cleaning power for lifting off stubborn grime. If you need a powerful wash that works really well with pre-protected cars, then this is a great option, whereas if you need something to actually add a protective layer to your paint, then you might be better off with one of the other detergents.
Bowden's Own Nanolicious Wash
Last but not least is this modern interpretation of the classic wash and wax product. It contains similar SIO2 based sealants, found in many high-end sealants today - giving your car a great protective coat with impressive hydrophobic properties. Just as impressive are its great suds and foaming ability - which is only a slight step down from Bowden’s Own Snow Job. At around $2.00 for 50ml, it is the most expensive detergent tested today, but thanks to its impressive foaming capabilities and its class-leading protective finish, it works out to be one of the best value-for-money washes tested.
Overall, if your car has an existing high-performing protective sealant then this is the detergent for you - it won’t harm or diminish your current coatings. Similarly though, this detergent is excellent for use where there is no existing protection since it leaves behind an incredible protective layer on your paint.
Car Craft Auto Detailing’s Conclusion
- If you want a wash that is gentle on your paint and existing protection, and wash your car before it gets out of had, then Meguiar’s Soft Wash Gel should be your top choice.
- For all those things but with an added wax and sealant, then you can’t go past Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash And Wax.
- If you aren’t a fan of thick foam, but instead want an easy to use and cost effective wash, then Autoglym Foaming Car Wash is a great choice. Similarly, Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo And Conditioner works much the same, but with an added layer of protection.
- If a thick snow foam is something you want, but struggle to achieve with your current pressure washer and water quality then Bowden's Own Snow Job will take care of it for you. It is also one of the more powerful cleaners tested today, so can be readily used on dirtier vehicles, with great results.
- Finally, Bowden's Own Nanolicious Wash is a great product that achieves the most durable and hydrophobic protective coating tested today, while offering similar cleaning properties to Bowden's Own Snow Job.
By simply tweaking your products or using them in slightly more creative ways, you can get excellent results from these and many other car wash detergents. Remember, there are plenty of car washes out there, and with a massive range of products available at Supercheap Auto, you don’t need to hunt far and wide for something that will suit your needs.
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