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Decontamination : Part 4 – The Myth(?) Of The Strip Wash


This is a 4 part series where Rodney Tatum covers various steps in the decontamination process. Click here to check out each article as they are released.

As a detailer, I developed a habit of creating processes that yield overlapping results.  It brings peace of mind that a thorough job is completed.  I wanted to showcase a final reason why I do not believe in using just one (supposedly magic) product to replace a process of stripping and overall cleaning the paint bare.

When it comes to stripping protection, most people focus on waterbeading (hydrophobic) as a barometer. Waterbeading – those water droplets that form into tight balls when it rains.


no beading

Notice the standing water in the second picture.  The droplets are relatively flat compared to the first picture.  You do not see the uniform round balls.  I cannot say with 100% certainy just from this observation that there are no remnants of a wax, sealant, or even ceramic coating on the second car.  There is a difference between stripping a product to the point that it loses its hydrophobic qualities and stripping to total removal. This is my concern when consumers and some professionals are purchasing car soaps marketed for the removal of waxes and sealants.  Products like Chemical Guys Clean Slate car wash soap, in my opinion, are great to compliment or add to an existing regiment, but not as a substitute for essential steps to remove bonded contamination including waxes and sealants.  When I use products like this that are stronger than your typical car soap, it is with the intention of cleaning a very dirty car that is going to be stripped anyway.  I am going to introduce at least a clay bar treatment in the process.

I believe the chances are these strip wash soaps are moderately removing or degrading, but not necessarily completely removing waxes and sealants.  Even a clay bar on its own may not remove a strong sealant with 100% certainty.  Another challenge with using a product that is likely PH Alkaline is the residue (if not thoroughly rinsed) of a strip wash (dawn, strip soaps, automotive all-purpose cleaners) may leave a residue that affects the hydrophobic properties of paint protection.  This makes it even more difficult to judge the effectiveness of these problems.

I am not saying these products do not work at all.  I am saying how well these products can work is an unknown based upon the potentially the number of times these specialty soaps are used, the quality of the wax/sealant, and the duration the wax/sealant has been on a car.  This is important because waxes and sealants are not classified as bonded contaminants, but in a technical sense, they are the most important bonded contaminant to remove.  A product that is meant to provide a sacrificial barrier over your painted surface may still be doing its job if you are applying a sealant designed to last for longer periods of time.

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
YouTube | Facebook

3 comments on Decontamination : Part 4 – The Myth(?) Of The Strip Wash

  1. David G says:

    Hi Rodney – great series on the front end of the detailing process. However, this last one was also of keen interest to me, and, it left me hanging! I suspect this could be a lead in to another blog topic, but you highlight that strip washes may not remove the previously applied protection layer completely, and then what? Do you use strip washes? Should anyone use them? Which ones work the best? What are the proper steps to check if there is no more protection left? Do you rely on claying and then polishing as the only steps you take for previous protection removal? Do you prefer to use IPA or paint cleaners? Sorry for all the questions – this is an obvious area I’m very interested in. Again – thank you for all of your great articles.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      Thank you! That is a good point. I do plan on writing something about my detailing processes in the future. I often do not use strip washes. When I do it is a situation which the car is very dirty and potentially pulling waxes or sealants is a secondary by product. Usually it replaces a pretreatment of APC. I still am going to clay and likely use an iron remover.

  2. Hi Rodney.

    Great articles. I just started professionally this year and I still learning. I had doubts on the part of stripping the waxes and sealant and you help me to clear those doubts. Thank you, I’m waiting for more articles like this ones.

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