First Carwash for my 2017 Golf Alltrack – How to Avoid Swirl Marks

Back to Black Paint (And Other Dark Hues)

Swirl marks are super fine scratches on the surface of your car’s paint. They are most commonly caused by wiping your car with a dry towel when it’s dusty, or by improper washing and drying techniques. Every time you wash and dry your car, you mar the paint surface with microscopic scratches (micro marring). source

swirl marks
swirl marks ugh

Having owned a black car for 17 years, I know about dark colors like black and dark blue, and how they are affected by different washing techniques.

Job #1 is avoiding swirl marks. Job #2 is making the car look pretty.

Trust me, swirl marks kill your soul, and you should do everything you can from the first day to avoid them.

My Volvo came with swirl marks, so I never had a chance with her. They’re Satan’s revenge on dark-colored car enthusiasts for having fun. This time it’s different.

Avoiding Swirl Marks — Tips

This Cars.com article on washing and paint care has some good advice:

  • remove as much dirt as you can with a hose* before you touch the car with anything else
  • use two buckets — one for clean, soapy water and the other as a rinse to get dirt off your washing mitt or towel
  • keep dirt out of the washing process at every step — swirl marks are from contaminants in your washing mitt/towel
  • use car-washing soap, not dish soap
  • use the softest materials you can find
  • pat and dab to dry, don’t rub
  • blow away water with air if possible
  • avoid car washes

Drying a black car incorrectly can be dangerous territory too, so use the right products. “If you are going to use a towel, use a proper scratch-free microfiber drying towel, often in the form of a waffle-weave microfiber drying tower. These are nice because they have less friction points and wick away water,” said Jim Dvorak, product specialist at Mothers Polish.

Technique is important, too. Lay the microfiber towel over a spot and pat it so you’re not dragging the towel across the surface. This blotting technique prevents the towel from dragging across the paint and reduces potential scratches. It’s a technique Phillips uses for black cars.

I just bought Chemical Guys brand Mircofiber Towels from Amazon because what I had (clean cotton rags from a hoodie) wasn’t good enough.

Fluffer Miracle Supra Mircofiber Towel, Blue
Chemical Guys Fluffer Miracle Supra Mircofiber Towel, Blue (24 in. x 16 in.) (Pack of 3)

My 2017 Alltrack’s First Wash

*Beware cold water from the hose hitting hot glass. I cracked a windshield once doing this.

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