Touchless car washes that spray liquid after liquid to “presoak”, “power wash”, “sealant”, “protective coating” and other things, how does this work? Does spraying X liquid after Y liquid after Z liquid really clean and do anything to protect a car’s paint?

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Edit: as in no need to really dry/wipe off the prior application? Or is it really just a soap and wash that gets most of dirt off?

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X liquid gets things loose so Y liquid can spread it apart when scrubbed. Then your car is clean. Then they spray on Z liquid which acts like plastic wrap. Sticks to the car but let’s other things slide off.

It is basically soap, hot water, and some wax dispersed in water. Yeah, they could just call things what they are.

Well for starters it’s important to accept the fact that a lot of products make tall claims. Not that they’re outright lying but they oversimplify the process a lot.

But generally cleaning chemicals can loosen up dirt and oil and foreign objects on the car’s surfaces, which makes them very easy to wash off. Then there’s liquids that harden into a transparent coating which protects the paint underneath to a certain degree as most wear and tear and scratches happen on the surface layer. Of course they don’t offer perfect protection, they’re after all just very thin films of material. Some may also provide protection against UV rays which can damage paint, much like the same way sunscreen does which is also transparent but it definitely blocks out those wavelengths.

That’s the simple explanation. The real explanation involves a lot of chemistry.