Using A Brush To Wash Your Car: Why You Should Avoid It

There is a lot of equipment available for car detailing, including multiple options for car washing. Many manufacturers offer brushes, along with sponges and wash mitts to wash a car. So should you wash a car with a brush? When can you use a brush for car detailing?

Using a car brush to wash the paint of a car will lead to scratches and swirl marks in the clear coat, which can only be removed by polishing. A car wash should only be performed with a high-quality wash mitt and proper hand washing techniques in order to prevent scratches.

Even if brushes make it easier to clean a car, given that they sometimes come with an adjustable handle, you should never use them. The added ease of use comes at the cost of scratches and swirl marks, which will lead to expensive polishing work later on.

Why brushes scratch car paint

There are two reasons why brushes are not suitable for cleaning the painted body panels of your car. First of all, clear coat is extremely sensitive and everything rough will leave scratches. Second of all, wash brushes are almost always made from singular polyester bristles, which might not seem stiff and rough to the touch, but are extremely abrasive to the clear coat.

Moreover, the bristles that come in contact with the paint are the ends that have been cut off during manufacture. No matter how soft the material that the bristles are made of, the tip will always be sharp due to the manufacturing process, damaging your car.

Wash mitts, on the other hand, are woven in such a way that only the smooth sides of the fibers touch the paint, preventing scratches.

I researched car brushes on Amazon, with the results displayed in the table below:

Name of the brushBristles or microfiberSuitable for washing paint according to the manufacturer
Carrand 93039 20″Bristlesyes
CARCAREZ 10″ Car Wash BrushBristlesyes
Unger HydroPower Bi-LevelBristlesnot mentioned
DocaPole Soft Bristle Car Wash BrushBristlesyes
AutoSpa 93984 10″Bristlesnot mentioned, but comes with a extension pole, so it is likely
All popular brushes are made from bristles that will certainly leave scratches in the clear coat.

These brushes are just some examples of brushes on Amazon, of which there are many more that are supposedly suitable for cleaning car paint. Most manufacturers even indicate that they are suitable, even though they are not made from microfiber.

Considering that washing a car also involves some manual pressure, I hope that you can now see why it is not recommended to use a brush on the paint of your car.

Alternatives to a brush

Now, you might wonder what you can use instead of a brush to clean the painted body panels of your car. There are actually a few options suitable options for this kind of job that will not scratch your car’s paint.

Use this for handwashing your car:

  • Microfiber wash mitt
  • Microfiber wash mop
  • Microfiber towel

Microfiber Wash Mitt

A high quality microfiber wash mitt should be your go-to piece of equipment for a hand wash. As mentioned above, microfiber wash mitts are specifically designed to wash car paint without scratching it.

Of course, the microfiber must be of a high quality and be free of contaminants, so as to ensure the safety of the paint. If the wash mitt has been contaminated (such as through contact with the floor or improper washing after previous use) these contaminants can lead to scratches.

Microfiber wash mop

Honestly, I was not aware of a wash mop before I found it on Amazon during my research for the table above.

A microfiber wash mop is basically a wash mitt with a pole attached. This makes it a lot easier to clean the roof of a car, while also reducing the need for the washer to continually reposition around the car.

These products are safe to use, as long as the microfiber is of high quality and you treat it correctly, just as with the microfiber wash mitt mentioned previously.

Microfiber towel

Now, in theory, you can also use a microfiber towel to hand wash your car. The only problem is that it involves significantly more work than washing your car with a microfiber wash mitt.

A microfiber towel cannot take off as much dirt as a wash mitt per pass. This means that you have to clean the microfiber towel more than you would a mitt.

Furthermore, a microfiber towel is not as safe to use as a wash mitt. A wash mitt has a special fiber structure that removes dirt from your car and stores it deep within the fibers, so as not to scratch the paint while you clean. When you clean the wash mitt in your rinse bucket, it releases this dirt to the water.

This cannot be said for a microfiber towel as the fibers are not as long and have a different structure than the mitt. This increases the risk of scratching your paint as a result.

In summary, using a microfiber towel for a hand wash process is possible, but not advisable. It involves additional work, while also increasing the likelihood of scratches. Better to invest in a high quality wash mitt.

The use of the correct wash mitt alone does not guarantee that you will not accidentally scratch your car. It is also important to use a proper two-bucket-wash method, along with a good car shampoo and a pre-wash treatment.

Do the brushes at a car wash scratch car paint?

Brushes at drive-in car washes are almost guaranteed to scratch the clear coat of a car. Most car washes use brushes made from cheap plastics that are often not properly maintained. The dirt and contaminants inside the brushes are then brushed against the car paint, which results in lots of micro scratches in the clear coat.

So yes, car wash brushes also scratch car paint for all the same reasons as mentioned previously concerning the issues with brushes.

Another problem is that car washes often use very low quality brushes in order to maximize profits. Moreover, the brushes are rarely properly cleaned after every use, which results in large amounts of dirt, grime, and other contaminants being stuck in the brush. These contaminants are then rubbed against the car during the washing process, leading to scratches in the clear coat.

I have written a long and well researched article about all the reasons why car washes are actually not safe for washing cars. Check it out here!

Use a brush on these parts of your car

Of course, brushes have their uses, just not for cleaning car paint. But there are other parts of your car where using a brush can come in handy. It might even lead to a better result than using a wash mitt.

A brush is very useful for cleaning the following components:

  • Tires
  • Plastic panels
  • Dashboard
  • Seats
  • (Rims)

All of these parts of your car are relatively insensitive to scratches and have a rough surface, so using a brush on them, along with a proper cleaning solution, is safe and likely even more effective than using a wash mitt.

The rough surface allows the dirt to “hide” inside the material, making it hard for a wash mitt to remove effectively. A brush, on the other hand, is ideal for such a situation, as the stiff polyester bristles can get deep into the material to root out the dirt and grime.

Rims are a special case. Most rims, except for those made of cheap alloy, will be painted just like the body panels of your car. They will also have a few layers of clear coat on them that a brush can scratch. The risk for scratches is even higher if the rims are polished.

You can argue that nobody will notice, as it is just the rims, and I admit that you have a point here. So using a brush on your rims might be worth it for you. Nevertheless, I would recommend buying a special wheel-cleaning brush made from microfiber in order to minimize the risk of scratches.

Key Takeaways

  • Never use a brush on your car’s paint
  • Make sure to use a microfiber wash mitt for your hand wash
  • The brushes in drive-in car wash facilities will scratch your paint
  • Brushes are suitable for cleaning rough surfaces like your seats or the dashboard

Here Are All My Favorite Car Detailing Products

Proper car detailing requires a lot of products. Given that the market for car detailing products is huge and there are many different products available, it can be very confusing and hard to find seriously high-quality products online.

I want to make sure that you as my reader get great car detailing products, so I decided to list my favorite products down below. I am sure you and your car will love them! 🙂

Microfiber Wash Mitts: Microfiber wash mitts are the go-to piece of equipment for every car cleaning enthusiast. Without a proper wash mitt cleaning a car is impossible. These are my favorites:

  • Amazon Basics Deluxe Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • Armor All Microfiber Car Wash Mitt: Click here
  • The Rag Company – Cyclone Wash Mitts: Click here

Car Shampoo: Car shampoo is the only suitable shampoo for washing cars safely. Make sure to get a high-quality car shampoo to prevent scratches. Check my favorites here and get yourself a good car shampoo!

Pressure Washers: If you are serious about car detailing and about cleaning your cars properly, there is no way around a high-quality pressure washer. I know that they are expensive, but trust me, a good pressure washer is a game-changer. Check out my recommendations below!

  • Karcher 13246440 K 5 Premium Full Control: Click here
  • Greenworks Electric Pressure Washer GPW2003: Click here
  • Karcher K1700 Electric Power Pressure Washer: Click here

Paint Protection: Paint protection is something that belongs to every car detailing routine. As it is so important, there are many different products and many different use cases. Check the list below to find my favorite paint protection products.

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Jan-Lucas Ganssauge

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304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124