How to Wash and Maintain a Ceramic Coated Car

If you’ve recently had your car ceramic coated, either by a professional or by yourself, then you’ll need to make sure you look after it properly. It’s not very complicated, as ceramic coatings actually make the vehicle much easier to maintain, however there are several things you need to keep in mind in order to get the full durability and performance out of the protection.

Rules for Maintaining a Ceramic Coating

Here are the most important things to remember when cleaning a ceramic coated vehicle:

  • Never take a ceramic coated car to an automatic car wash or cheap roadside hand-washing station.
  • Always pre-wash the vehicle before making contact with a wash mitt.
  • Use a pH neutral, pure shampoo to wash the coating.
  • Do not used wax-infused or gloss-enhancing shampoos, or any household products which will damage or clog the coating.
  • Use microfiber mitts to wash the car, and never use sponges or brushes.
  • Use separate tools and brushes to clean the paintwork and the wheels to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Don’t scrub at the paintwork with your wash mitt. Use plenty of lubrication and wipe gently to avoid scratches.
  • Don’t wash the car in direct sunlight because the water and chemicals will dry on the surface very quickly.
  • Use a microfiber towel to gently dry the car. Never water blades (squeegees), chamois leather or bath towels.

Here is a YouTube video on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel which shows how to wash a ceramic coated vehicle safely.

Best Products to Wash a Ceramic Coated Vehicle

In order to safely wash a ceramic coated car you’ll need the following products:

  • Pressure Washer
  • 3 Buckets (20 litre size) with Grit Guards
  • Snow Foam and Foam Lance
  • Citrus Pre-Wash Spray
  • pH Neutral Pure Car Shampoo
  • 3 x Microfibre Wash Mitt
  • Microfibre Drying Towel

I’ll briefly take you through why each of these products is so important, and some examples of the best options.

Pressure Washer

In order to effectively rinse loose dirt from the vehicle, you’ll need to use a pressure washer. Using a hose with an attachment to improve the pressure is the next best option but for the best results, think about purchasing a pressure washer. A budget friendly option if you don’t already own one is a Karcher K2.

Buckets

I’d recommend using three 20 litre buckets when cleaning a car:

  • 1 bucket is used for cleaning the wheels
  • 1 bucket is used for mixing up the shampoo when washing the paintwork
  • 1 bucket is used for rinsing the wash mitt between panels

Each bucket should also have a “grit guard” at the bottom to help keep the wash mitt clean throughout the process.

Here is a link to the bucket and grit guard option I use.

Snow Foam and Foam Lance

In order to safely wash the vehicle without inflicting loads of scratches and marring in the coating, the paintwork must first be “pre-washed”. This removes as much dirt as possible before touching the paintwork with a wash mitt. A good quality snow foam is essential when pre-washing a ceramic coated vehicle. One of my favourite options is Garage Therapy /ONE: Snow Foam. It’s not too aggressive, but will help clear most of the dirt during this stage.

In order to use a snow foam, you will need to also purchase a snow foam lance/ cannon. Here is a link to the snow foam cannon I use.

Citrus Pre-Wash

The snow foam should be sufficient to clean the vehicle in most situations. However, if the car is very dirty then you should also use a citrus pre-wash spray to help lift more dirt. Citrus pre-wash sprays are stronger than snow foams but still safe to use on ceramic coatings. For best results, spray the citrus on the dirtiest areas and then cover the car with snow foam as usual, allow to dwell for 5-10 minutes and rinse with the pressure washer.

Here is a link to ODK Breakdown Citrus. This should be diluted to 1:9 in a spray bottle or pump sprayer when used to pre-wash a ceramic coated car.

Car Shampoo

When washing a ceramic coated car it’s important to use the right type of shampoo. You should avoid anything that contains waxes or gloss enhancers as these will clog the coating. Instead, look for a shampoo which is pH neutral and pure. This will safely clean the vehicle and keep the coating looking fresh. My favourite option for this is Garage Therapy Car Shampoo. Simply add 20 mL to your 20 litre wash bucket and fill with cold or lukewarm water.

Microfibre Wash Mitts and Drying Towel

Using the right tools to clean the coating is absolutely essential, as improper equipment will cause scratches, swirl marks and marring.

Never use a sponge or brush to clean the paintwork. These tools are abrasive and will damage the coating. Instead, use a microfiber wash mitt, such as this Cyclone Mitt from The Rag Company. I’d recommend getting three of these mitts. One for the wheels, one for the majority of the paintwork, and a third mitt for the very lowest sections of the car which get the dirtiest.

When drying the car, you should also use a microfiber drying towel such as the Dryer Wolf from The Rag Company. This is a very plush and safe towel to use on a coated vehicle. Never use bath towels. squeegees (water blades) or chamois leather as these will also cause scratches and marring in the coating.

Check out this article on autocarehq.com for more information on the best products to use on a coating.

Step By Step Wash Process

Using proper wash technique is vital when cleaning a ceramic coated car to avoid damaging the surface. Here are all the steps involved and rules to follow.

  1. Clean the wheels
  2. Pre-wash the paintwork
  3. Contact-wash the paintwork
  4. Dry the vehicle

Clean the Wheels

For this step, you need to use a different wash mitt, and bucket as you are going to use on the paint. This is because you don’t want to contaminate the wash mitt you’re using for the paint with the grit and dirt from the wheels, or you run a high risk of scratching the clear coat. It’s a good idea to wash the wheels before the paintwork, because some dirt can splash up on the paint in the process, and you don’t want to muddy up the freshly washed paintwork. To wash the wheels, I first rinse them down. Then I use a wheel shampoo (in my wheel bucket) and microfiber wash mitt to clean the alloys.

Pre-Wash the Paintwork

If the car isn’t super dirty, cover the vehicle in snow foam and allow to dwell for 5-10 minutes before rinsing away thoroughly with the pressure washer. If the car has a lot of dirt, use your citrus pre-wash spray (diluted to 1:9) to cover the dirtiest areas, then layer the snow foam as normal over the entire vehicle, leave to dwell for 5-10 minutes and rinse.

Contact-Wash the Paintwork

Fill your two clean buckets with water. Add the pH neutral pure shampoo to one of the buckets and mix it up, this will be your “wash bucket”, the bucket with just clean water will be your “rinse bucket”. Dip your wash mitt into the wash bucket, starting with the roof, gently wipe the panel without adding any pressure and using straight-line motions. After each panel, rinse the wash mitt in the rinse bucket. Wash the dirtiest areas of the car last and use your second wash mitt if necessary should your initial mitt get too dirty. Once complete, thoroughly rinse the entire vehicle.

Dry the Vehicle

Use your microfiber drying towel to first dry the glass, and then gently pat the paintwork dry. Work from top to bottom and make sure you never drag the towel across the floor. Always use a separate towel for the wheels.

Topping Up the Protection

In order to add a sacrificial layer of protection to the coating to keep it fresh and performing properly, it’s recommended to apply some top-up protection. This does not need to be done every wash, but ideally at least once every couple of months.

To top-up a ceramic coating, you should only ever use protective products which are designed to be used over the top of ceramic coatings, and better still, stick to the same brand that your coating is from. I do not recommend using traditional waxes, or non-SiO2 based products on a ceramic coated car as these are likely to mask the performance of it and serve no real benefit.

Here are some of the most popular ceramic coating brands and the top-up protection products they recommend to be used on their coatings. Typically, these can be applied at least every couple of months for maximum performance.

 Coating BrandRecommended Top-Up Protection
 GyeonQ2M Wetcoat
Q2M Ceramic Detailer
 CarProReload
HydrO2
 GtechniqEasy Coat
C2 Ceramic Sealant
 Garage Therapy/THREE: Ceramic Sealant
/TWO: Sigma
 Infinity WaxSynergy QD
Synergy Vitality

How Often Should You Wash a Ceramic Coated Car?

A ceramic coated car should ideally be washed every 1-2 weeks and no less than once per month.

The exact frequency at which the car should be washed depends on a few different factors:

  • How much the car is driven – on average most vehicles drive less than 10,000 miles per year. If you cover more miles than this then the car should ideally be washed more frequently
  • What the weather conditions are like – driving in inclement weather or with salt on the road will mean the car needs washing more often
  • How the car is stored – storing a vehicle outside subjects the coating to much harsher conditions compared to if it’s stored in a garage

For example, if you have a ceramic coated car which is driven less than a few thousand miles per year, stored indoors and only driven in nice weather then you will only need to wash this monthly as the coating is not exposed to harsh conditions. Whereas, if you cover 15,000 miles annually, store the car on the side of the road and live in the UK then you will ideally need to wash it weekly.

Deep Cleaning a Ceramic Coating

Ceramic coatings will get clogged with contaminants and require deep cleaning periodically to maintain the high-level of performance. A “decontamination wash” should be performed if you notice that the water beading looks flatter and not as reactive as it did previously. Typically this should be done every 5000 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first.

Here’s how to perform a decontamination wash on a coating:

  • Once the vehicle has been given a routine maintenance wash (as described earlier in the article), dry the panels and then apply an iron fallout remover spray to the paintwork. Allow to dwell for the recommended time (usually 5 minutes) and then rinse thoroughly.
  • Dry the paintwork again and use a tar remover where necessary and rinse the vehicle again.
  • Use an acidic car shampoo, or water spot remover to address mineral deposits. Finally rinse and then dry the vehicle as normal.

After completing the decontamination wash, you should notice that the water is beading and sheeting more quickly. At this point it is recommended to add some top-up protection to the coating as described in the section above.

Here is a video showing the process.

If you don’t want to invest in all the products required to perform this type of deep clean, then consider hiring a professional detailer to complete this process. Auto Care HQ offers this service in the Cheshire area of the UK, starting from £90. Please call 07894 074109 to discuss or book.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to common questions you might still have about ceramic coating maintenance.

Can you jet wash/ pressure wash a ceramic coated car?

A ceramic coating car can be pressure washed without damaging the coating. Use a wide-fan nozzle (never a jet stream) and keep it at least 30 cm away from the surface.

Can I apply a wax over a ceramic coating?

Waxes should not be applied over ceramic coatings because they will inhibit the performance, offer very little durabilty and in some cases can degrade the coating itself. Instead, a ceramic-based top up spray should be used such as Gyeon Wet Coat or CarPro Reload. Please read this article on autocarehq.com for more information.

Can I use a clay bar on a ceramic coating?

You shouldn’t use a clay bar, mitt, or cloth on a ceramic coated car because it will break down the coating, or cause swirl marks. Instead, to decontaminate a ceramic coating you can use an iron fallout remover, tar remover, and water spot remover instead to safely remove contamination without using clay. Please read this article on autocarehq.com for more information.

Can I polish a ceramic coating?

A ceramic coated car cannot be polished unless the intention is to remove it. Polishes contain abrasives which will damage the ceramic coating. To fix minor scratches and swirl marks in the coating, use a non-abrasive solution such as CarPro Essence Plus to repair the coating. Please read this article on autocarehq.com for more information.

GET IN TOUCH

To book your car in for a valeting or detailing service get in touch today by either calling, emailing or completing the contact form and Heather will be in touch shortly

07894 074109
heather@autocarehq.com
8:30-6:00 Mon-Sat
Heather

Heather

Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on autocarehq.com and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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