How to Decide Which Car Wash is Best for Your Car: Touch-Free, Friction, or Self-Service

January 31, 2024

Is it important to choose the best car wash for your car? You bet it is… 

Let’s face it. Your car’s paintwork has to put up with a lot. From bird droppings to acid rain, UV rays to salt—there’s a lot that causes the luster to fade over time. And, while keeping the surface clear of grime and dirt is essential, even the act of cleaning can play a significant role in reducing your car’s great looks. 

Not All Car Washing Methods are Made Equal

  • Touch-free vs. friction, vs. self-service
  • Choosing the best car wash for your car
  • Hang on… Isn’t doing it by hand the best car wash for your car?

Touch-free vs. friction, vs. self-service

When it comes to fast car cleaning (hand washing aside) you’ve got three options:

  1. The touch-free car wash
  2. The friction car wash
  3. The self-service car wash

Each has pros and cons and, if you care about the look of your ride over time, then you need to know what these are.

Touch-free car washes use a combination of pressure washers, pressurized air, and chemicals. Nothing physically touches the car during the process (very different from car washes that are advertised as “brushless”, as these will have other cleaning aids that do come into contact with the surface).

The pros: Convenience, speed, and cost less than paying for a professional hand wash service. 

The cons: Many use harsh chemicals that cause microscopic damage to the paintwork. Not super-effective for very dirty vehicles.

Friction car washes use either brushes or soft strips of cloth to remove dirt. The car either goes through the wash on a conveyor belt or machinery will move the brushes around and over the car. Such washes often have a series of air blowers at the end to remove the excess water.

  • The pros: Cheap and fast.
  • The cons: The abrasion is very damaging to paintwork, and they tend to use harsh, chemical-heavy cleaning products. Dirt from previous cars often remains on the bristles/cloths, which increases the abrasion and paintwork damage.

Self-service car washes provide you with a high-pressure hose and various tools to clean your vehicle. You carry out all the work yourself.

  • The pros: You’re in full control, they’re convenient, and give you access to high-level tools without the expenditure of purchasing your own.
  • The cons: High-pressure water jets can cause damage to the paintwork if not used carefully. You risk getting wet and dirty. The cleaning products/detergents in such washes often contain harsh chemicals.

Choosing the best car wash for your car

Knowing which of the washes is the most damaging will help you decide which one to choose.

Let’s rank them in order of the least to the most damaging to paintwork:

  1. Touch-free car washes cause the least damage to paintwork
  2. Self-service washes, when used sensibly, come in second place
  3. Friction washes are by far the most damaging

Hang on… Isn’t doing it by hand the best car wash for your car?

Before we go, let’s just confirm one thing. Gentle hand washing is by far the best way to keep your car clean if you want your super-shiny paintwork to remain that way. But a word of warning… No one—and we mean no one—will wash a vehicle as carefully as you, the owner, will.

So, even if you opt for a paid hand car wash, those guys and gals are never going to provide the TLC that you would during the process. Also, most hand car washes take advantage of high-pressure hoses and the potential damage they can cause.

We’re not saying that a hand car wash service is bad (indeed, it’s far preferable to any of the other types). However, you should be aware of the pitfalls.

Discover Why a Paint Protection Product from Auto SuperShield Dramatically Improves Paintwork Longevity

OK, so we’ve determined that hand washing is the best car wash for your car. But—and this is significant. We don’t always have the time or inclination to spend the couple of hours+ that it takes to do it This is the major factor behind the popularity of automatic car washes, despite the stresses they put on the paintwork.

However… Adding a paint protection product, such as PPF (often called clear bra) goes a huge way to negating the problem.

Ready to find out more? As one of Florida’s leading paint protection providers, Auto SuperShield can advise on the best type for your needs and carry out the ultimate installation service.

Head to for more info.


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