Mini Valets are offered by many of our members as an entry level service. The principle is to offer a relatively quick and cost effective service. Even though these are the most basic service our members offer, they are still leagues ahead of automatic car washes in terms of care, safety, and thoroughness. Each member offers slightly different services, some take less than half an hour and cost in the region of £20, while other ‘mini valets’ can take three times as long and cost three times more.
The key elements to a mini valet are safe and thorough external clean, often combined with a basic interior vacuum. Below is a typical list of external processes offered in a mini valet:
The first step in every service, be it a mini valet or a top end correction detail, is to remove grit and grime from the vehicle body ‘contactlessly’ – that is to say without touching the car and risking paint swirls.
Snow Foam is a term applied to a genre of foaming detergent cleaners that can be sprayed onto a vehicle using a pressure washer with a specialised lance. The principle is that the bubbles in the foam help the detergents remove grime by a mixture of chemical and physical reactions. In the image Tim of Envy Valeting in Gosport is using his own bespoke Snow Foam, called Bubbly Jubbly, on a classic Jaguar XK150 FHC.
Some professionals prefer to use none-foaming pre-wash treatments, which though less enthralling to watch, perform essentially the same job.
You may see car-park cowboys and automatic washes applying similar-looking products to cars. Appearances can be deceiving, as the cheaper products used in these cases are often much stronger than those used by pros, as a consequence they remove any wax or protection the car has, as well as dull the paint work and accelerate the fading of rubber and plastic trim.
A term you may hear in reference to the pre-wash stage is ‘TFR’ which stands for traffic film remover. This can be used safely in small doses on wheels and lower parts of the car, but as it is inherently more aggressive than snow foam and other pre-washes it has to be used cautiously and diluted correctly, while there is a difference between good TFR and cheap low quality TFR . You will often find less professional services cover the car in strong TFR – the reason being that it is a quick, cheap short-cut to making the car clean. They get your car cleaner quicker, saving time and money, thus making more profit at the cost of your cars paintwork.
Once the pre-wash stage has been completed, every mini valet will include a hand wash. This is where the training and experience of a professional is clear to see in contrast to the untrained ‘valeters’ operating out of car parks. At this point many may assume you grab an old sponge and wipe over the car – job done. Not so, for starters sponges and chamois leathers are actually ill-suited to washing a car, despite being the traditional tool of choice. The reason being that they retain dirt and grit, so having removed some grit from one part of the car, you wipe another and swirl marks appear as the grit scours the surface of the paint.
Each member will have their own preferred tool for the hand wash, ranging from a simple micro-fibre chenille mitt, up to exotic natural wool mitts. In the image a luxury wool mitt is being used by Tom of TK Detailing in Basingstoke to wash a Porsche 911. These are all far superior to sponges, rags, and chamois leathers. The use of proper automotive pH neutral shampoo is also essential for a proper cleanse.
But a safe main wash requires more than fancy tools, the correct procedures are just as important. You may have heard of the ‘Two Bucket Method’ – which is a simple but vital system whereby there is one ‘clean’ bucket and one dirty. The wash mitt is soaked in the clean bucket that also contains an automotive shampoo. It is then used to clean half, or even quarter of a car body panel, before being dunked in the ‘dirty’ bucket where all the grit is religiously removed. It is then soaked in the clean bucket again before being used on the car. This is the safest way to ensure swirls aren’t left on the paint. Even the buckets used aren’t conventional, they have ‘grit guards’ in the base, which ensures all the solids removed from the car drop to the bottom of the bucket so they aren’t reintroduced to the mitt. Professionals will often use a third bucket dedicated to heavily soiled parts like wheels and wheel arches just to be extra safe. The image shows a typical twin bucket set up, using large labelled buckets for the ultimate safe wash by Josh at Formula Clean near Oxford.
The final step in the washing phase is to focus on areas that require special attention. Wheels are often a long and tortuous component to clean, but professionals have a number of tools in their arsenal to do the job safely, thoroughly, and efficiently. For heavily soiled wheels, particularly with baked-on brake dust, an iron remover is used. This a remarkable genre of products that uses Ammonium Sulfanylacetate and similar derivatives to break-down iron deposits from brake pads. A strong unpleasant smell and a purple bleeding effect is characteristic of these products as shown in the picture of Josh of Formula Clean applying his own formulation.
Though iron remover makes wheels easier to clean, there is no substitute for good old fashioned elbow-grease, as demonstrated in the image with Steve of 3C Valeting in Perth. There are a number of specialist tools professionals use, ranging from basic brushes that allow them to clean all the crevices, right up to specialist ‘Wheel Woolies’ that are an industry favourite. The quick video below is by Tom of TK Detailing in Basingstoke – it shows just how involved it can get.
This is just a quick guide to some of the processes employed during a professional mini valet, but with luck it shows there is more to washing a car than meets the eye. So before getting your car washed at the supermarket or putting it through an automatic wash, do consider that there are far superior options out there, which are safer and more thorough without costing the earth. Often it is the little details such as cleaning inside the petrol cap, as demonstrated by Will at Dream Clean in Penicuik, or cleaning both the inside and the outside of the glass that make all the difference.