Our Advice

click here for specialist advice on classic car care


Below you will find information on what your car is made from, how it should be cleaned, decontaminated, polished and protected as well as advice on products and equipment, wraps and vinyl, scratch repairs and paint defects.


Our business was established largely in response to repairing damage in our bodyshop that was caused by hand and automatic car washes. Customers asked us what the alternative was, when they didn’t necessarily want to clean a car themselves, but wanted a careful car cleaning service.  

The most common types of damage caused by hand/automatic washes are:

  • early corrosion of alloy wheels; 
  • multiple scratches and swirls caused by passing through an automated machine that has previously cleaned a heavily soiled vehicle (grit transfer).
  • using truck wash (often highly acidic) which, if left to sit on your vehicle, can leave permanent splash marks on trim; 
  • jet-washed chips blowing out to big areas of delaminated paint and lacquer.
  • hose damages – scratches caused by the hose rubbing against paintwork.

Not surprisingly, hand and automated washes are about washing cars as quickly and cheaply as possible – products used and training are therefore not always the best.  In November 2018, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published a report on unregulated hand car washes. There are thought to be over 10,000 such businesses in the UK, many of which operate outside the law in terms of exploiting workers, paying no tax, failing to obtain planning permission and disposing of harmful waste into the environment.

HOW CAN WE HELP? Vintage Valets aims to provide a better service not just to customers, but to their vehicles, our staff, and the environment.


The majority of paintwork on modern cars is made up of a primer coat, a colour coat and a ‘clear’ or lacquer coat.  This is the case on all panels whether plastic or metal.  Generally speaking, the front and rear bumpers will be plastic with the rest of the car is either steel or aluminium.  The advantages of aluminium are that it is lighter and less prone to corrosion, but it is also more difficult to work with and can tear more easily in the case of dent removal.

The trim areas – often textured and grey or black, these can be moulded plastic, or plastic finished with a textured vinyl.  These are not generally clear coated.

Some cars may have additional panels that are different in colour from the main bodywork – they can often have a satin or matt finish and as such should not be polished, for fear of losing the finish.  Some may be carbon-fibre – a specialised finish, which, if of a good quality, can be polished successfully.  Carbon fibre can be prone to UV damage, lifting and bubbling.

Wheels are usually the original steel wheels (often with a pattern of circular holes), that sometimes have plastic wheel trims clipped to them, or alloys – that are either single coloured wheels or diamond cut wheels, which have a machine finished front surface and often a different coloured inside edge, often black.  It is worth understanding that all alloys are painted and clear-coated to protect them.


There is a real difference between ‘cleaning’ and ‘decontaminating’.  A basic valet will clean your car, but if you want to decontaminate -particularly prior to protecting your car – you will need to go further.  

CLEANING – There are still several ways to clean your car.  Using a wet method is good as it makes little contact with your vehicle’s finished surface.  Using snow foam is a great starting point – as the dirt sticks to the foam and slowly slides away from your car with little intervention.  You will need a specialised snow foam lance attachment to your pressure washer to use this. Rinse off with the pressure washer, taking care never to get closer than an arm’s length away.  Apply a shampoo (we use a lubricating shampoo) and use a wash mitt and a sideways, single motion starting at the top of the car. Sponges can attract grit, so we would not recommend them and use a grit guard in your bucket or use the two bucket method.  Once shampooed, rinse again and dry using a damp car-drying towel to avoid water deposits, which can be especially worse in areas with heavy limescale.

GREENER – The UK’s Pollution Prevention Guidance does not apply to householders washing their own vehicles at home – but for those who are more conscious about water wastage and the products that may end up in rainwater drains, we recommend the waterless ECO-wash. Lubricants in eco-wash, reduce the risk of scratching your car as you loosen dirt – but for heavily soiled areas a small spray bottle can be used. We have been amazed by how well this method works – technology and product research has certainly moved on.   

HOW CAN WE HELP? We sell Water-less Eco Wash by Bristol Detailing Supplies or we can carry out an eco-wash for you from £35.  We hope to start a mobile service in 2020. See Our Services.

DECONTAMINATING – A basic wash and wax may make your car look a million times better, but there will still be contaminants such as tar, grease, organic matter, and iron residue barely visible, yet damaging to your paintwork.  For example, iron residue from brake dust causes micro inclusions, leading to rust (particularly around the wheel arches); yellow pollen particles can anchor into paintwork and become acidic when mixed with water.  Loosening particles, followed by “clay-barring” is the best way to remove anchored particles . Polish applied to a decontaminated car will appear more glossy and if you are protecting your car, it makes sense to remove all contaminants instead of sealing that into the body work. 

Other more serious contaminants include cement dust (keep your car washed regularly if it is parked up-wind of a building project), dried paint spills, finger-prints caused by sun cream, and swirl marks (caused by washing). We are happy to advise and help on any of these issues.

BIRD DROPPINGS – Perhaps the worst contaminant – it is particularly important to remove these as soon as it is noticed.  Bird droppings contains abrasive and corrosive (some highly caustic) components. Most paint protection systems do not protect against damage caused by bird droppings – even ceramic coating.  

CUTTING, POLISHING & PROTECTING – A cutting compound is a mild abrasive that removes a fine layer of clear coat or paint, revealing a fresh, brighter layer underneath.  For obvious reasons, a car can only be ‘cut’ so many times and it is important to know the thickness of your layers. If there are 40 microns of lacquer on a modern car, a gentle hand polish won’t remove more than half a micron in several hours of polishing – meaning it would take years before you burn through the clear coat. Polish is also mildly abrasive – traditionally polish is a liquid product that smooths and glosses the finish before applying a harder wax that protects and seals your paintwork.  Modern polishes and waxes are sometimes combined with cutting compounds making them difficult to distinguish from one another. We tend to use cutting compounds by 3M or Nanolex, then a liquid Nanolex polish followed by a liquid wax by Bristol Detailing Supplies. We also use Eco-Touch spray wax.   It is worth noting that the best polished finish is achieved with a machine polisher – polishing by hand does not achieve the same results. Each detailer will develop a preferred use and product, so it is good to experiment with what works better for you.  We also facilitate the following protection, which can only be applied by qualified/approved businesses. Ask us about:

  • Supagard Paint Protection  
  • Ceramic coating  
  • Paint Protection Film

THE BEST PRODUCTS TO USE –  There are several brands that have an excellent reputation – Autoglym and Meguiar’s are two more mainstream brands, with Chemical Guys and Dodo Juice perhaps more specialist.  You will find a wealth of others’ along with reviews and opinions online. Some of the best reviewed products are actually Halfords own brand – so you might be surprised.  We use tried and tested car care products, developed by professional detailers at Bristol Detailing Supplies – we use their wax, shampoo, snow foam and all important ‘All Purpose Cleaner’, which is great for interiors and shuts as well as exteriors.  We also stock and sell a selection from their range, so come and visit – we are happy to discuss the best product for you. In addition, we use Eco-Touch environmental wash and wax products and some home-made, traditional recipes that we have developed in-house.  Please visit Our Products page for more information.  

BASIC EQUIPMENT – For cleaning your car, we would recommend two buckets with a grit guard and a soft cleaning mitt – never a sponge (one bucket is for rinsing only). If you can afford a pressure washer, make sure you read reviews online, and if you are buying a snow foam lance, make sure it fits the model of pressure washer that you have (we made that mistake at first!).  We keep a separate noodle mitt that we use for alloys only, as they carry a lot of dirt and brake dust that we don’t want to transfer to the rest of the bodywork, even in subsequent washes. You might also want to consider professional valeting car drying towels. For interior cleaning a magic sponge and a detailing brush to use with your vacuum.  We would only really recommend a steam cleaner or wet vac if you are going to put it to regular use.  We have both – so why not ask us to help? If you are considering buying a machine polisher, it is worth noting that this is a skill that needs honing.  You might want to try a few out before you buy and make sure you practice on ‘things that don’t matter’ before you start polishing your own car!  We are always happy to offer guidance.

WRAPS and VINYL DECALS – You should know if your car has a wrap, but if not, a careful examination of the gaps and edges should reveal whether there is a film applied to your car.  Any wrapped cars should be washed in a PH neutral shampoo or foam and a pressure washer should be used carefully. Non-solvent based cleaners should be used and non-aggressive polishing techniques with no cutting compounds used. If vinyl decals are present – IE not the full car, it is important to stay away from any edges. Wrapped cars cannot have paintwork damage repaired without the removal of the wrap from that panel and re-application after the panel has been repaired.  It is also crucial to have repairs carried out prior to any wrapping as they will still be visible through the vinyl and/or might increase corrosion if trapped under the wrap. Better automotive wrappers insist on cars being decontaminated and in many cases paint-protected prior to wrapping, or they cannot guarantee the paintwork won’t be damaged when the wrap is removed – even on brand new cars. If you are thinking about having your vehicle wrapped – do your research, choose your technician carefully, and seek advice and recommendations.  If you have had a car that has been wrapped or had vinyl decals you may notice thin scalpel blade slices in the paint work. If they are light and not through the clear coating these might be improved with a machine polisher.

HOW CAN WE HELP?  We can clean, decontaminate and protect your car – and help safely remove decals for you.  


Vintage Valets founder, Caroline Clennell has written a piece that can help you decide whether it is really worth getting the scratch on your car fixed or not.  Click here to read it.

HOW CAN WE HELP?  Through our partners, ChipsAway we can facilitate life-time guaranteed scratch and minor dent repairs to your bumpers, doors, wings and quarter panels!


We are happy to talk to you and help you resolve bodywork correction problems such as rust, orange peel, lacquer runs, fisheye, inclusion nibs, overspray or lacquer peel.