We purchased all of the products mentioned in this post at full price, and did not receive any sort of discount in exchange for a review. We’re providing our honest review of products we use in our everyday life.
As a self-proclaimed car care enthusiast, I tend to get all worked up over the mundane details of a simple car wash. But, if there’s anything that’s understood by car cleaning freaks like myself, it’s that the devil is in the details.
What a lot of people don’t always realize is that every single time we touch our car’s paint, we’re entering into a dangerous world where the slightest of errors can cause damage.
One of my favorite pros to follow in the automotive detailing industry is Larry Kosilla with Ammo NYC. I’ve learned so much from him over the years, but the one thing that stuck with me the most is the fact that “dirt = rocks.”
Over time, chunks of rocky material (like road surfaces) erode into smaller pebbles which ultimately become small granules. These granules mix with dust, water, and soil and get kicked up and onto our cars while we drive. When we wash our cars, we remove that filth and in the process run the risk of dragging the dirt and tiny bits of rock across our paint which can cause damage.
Usually that damage manifests itself as the all-too-common swirls that can be seen in the paint of some cars under certain lighting conditions. Those swirls, sometimes referred to as “love marks,” are literally small scratches that have been etched into the paint by dirt as it’s dragged across the paint during a careless washing process.
A proper car wash routine first seeks to minimize the risk of causing such damage to the paint by using an extremely careful and rigorously followed process.
What exactly that process should entail is subject to disagreement among the various experts in the industry, but many of the principles are the same. One of which, and arguably the most important of which, is the principle that minimizing the amount of times we have to touch the paint is the best place to start.
Enter the latest revolution that has changed the detailing landscape over the past several years – the foam cannon.
The idea is actually fairly simple. If you can take a really sudsy soap concentrate and mix it with water right as it comes out of a hose or pressure washer, then you can douse your car in a rich foamy lather (that coats the whole car like snow, hence the nickname “snow foam”) without ever needing to touch it. If the soap is potent enough to loosen and lift away dirt from the paint, but is also pH balanced so as not to remove existing waxes, then you’ve got yourself an end-to-end car wash without ever having to touch the paint. Just spray it on, let it soak, and power wash/rinse it off, and you’re good to go.
The problem, though, is that while the concept is simple, it’s really difficult to find the perfect soap chemistry that produces those results. Ever since this idea came about, the market has been saturated with products from different brands that all seek to do this with varying degrees of success.
Some products are too weak and run off the paint too quickly to remove all of the dirt. In this case these products do work well as a prewash that removes surface dirt, but still require a hand wash to get it all off.
Other products are too strong and cling to the paint long enough to remove the dirt, but also strip the paint of waxes that we want to keep. These products can be used to prep a surface for paint correction or for applying a base ceramic coat or sealant, but definitely aren’t suitable for a routine wash.
The goldilocks-approved perfect mixture has proved to be elusive for a long time, but one company, Griot’s Garage, thinks that they’ve nailed it. Griot’s Garage has become a major player in the car care and detailing industry, but for a long time were noticeably quiet with no snow foam products to offer. However, a couple years ago, they finally came out with their first offering – the Griot’s Garage Foaming Surface Wash.
Designed to be used with a foam cannon pressure washer attachment (they have one of their own, but it can be used with others), they say it produces a dual-layer foam. The primary foam clings to the paint to softens the filth, while the secondary foam runs off the paint, safely carrying dirt away.
They also released another product called Foaming Poly Wash that’s designed to be applied with the foam cannon immediately after rinsing the Foaming Surface Wash.
The Foaming Poly Gloss is supposed to increase the gloss of the finish and help the car stay cleaner for longer. It does this by adding a hydrophobic layer to the surface that causes water to bead up and run off the car more easily. Not only does this help prevent water spotting, but it also helps keep dirty water that’s kicked onto the car while driving from drying onto the paint.
That all sounds really great, but does it actually work? I’ve been using both products regularly for over 6 months now, and I’m here to share my thoughts.
I’ve been using it with the cheap and cheerful Greenworks 1600 PSI electric pressure washer I’ve had for several years. It’s not much but it gets the job done. I wouldn’t want much more than that anyways – the goal is to give a little more oomf to the water than just a regular hose, not to blast the paint down to bare metal.
Attached to the pressure washer I use an MTM Hydro foam cannon to mix in the soap and do the spraying. The fitting on the foam cannon didn’t quite fit with the pressure washer, but throwing on a 1/4″ male to 1/4″ female quick connect NPT coupler from Home Depot did the trick.
Using the system with the Griot’s Garage Foaming Surface Wash worked well enough. It took a bit of tweaking at first to get the setting on the foam cannon just right so that it wasn’t using all of the soap too quickly but also wasn’t too watery. I’d suggest that once you find the right setting to mark it somehow so you can find it again next time.
With the right settings, the soap performs as promised – it forms a rich snowy lather that clings to the paint for a looooong time. They say it will dwell on the paint for up to 10 minutes, but I found that it will actually hang there for much longer than that.
Taking a closer look at the foam on the paint I found that their description of the two-layer foaming action appears to be accurate. You can definitely tell after the initial foam layer has run off that there’s a second layer clinging to the paint surface. To show this, I sprayed half of a panel, waited a few minutes, then sprayed the other half.
After rinsing with the pressure washer, I found that it did a pretty impressive job of cleaning the car. But, I also found that the results definitely depend on how dirty the car is and how long it has been since the last wash. If the car was washed more recently and had a reasonable amount of dirt on it, then the foaming wash alone can get the car nearly 100% clean. But, if the car is absolutely filthy with crusted on dirt, then the foaming wash serves as more of a prewash, and still required that I follow with a hand wash.
Overall though, the Foaming Surface Wash performed admirably, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re thinking of adding snow foam to your regular wash routine. I truly believe that this Griot’s Garage product is one of the best snow foam products on the market right now.
The Poly Gloss, however, I’m somewhat mixed on. It did perform exactly as described when mixed properly. Water clearly beaded better after application, which greatly improved the drying process as all that I needed to do was blow-dry the paint with my cordless battery powered leaf blower.
If I didn’t use the Poly Gloss, I still needed to dry by hand with a drying towel and drying aid. Not only does this take longer, but it also increases the risk of damaging the paint (yes, there’s still risk even with a high lubricity spray-on drying aid).
While this is worth it for the drying benefit alone, I didn’t find that the Poly Gloss hydrophobic property lasted long enough to have any significant impact on keeping the car cleaner longer. The paint remained hydrophobic the first time it gets wet after the wash, but after that the hydrophobic property was lost.
Because of this, I would only recommend using the Poly Gloss if you intend to use forced air to dry your car. If you’re still hand drying, then you’d probably be better off either applying a ceramic coating or at the very least a paint sealant.
What do you think? Is a snow foam wash worth adding to a car wash routine? Have you used either of these products or do you have another brand that’s your go-to? Let us know!