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What’s the difference between a hand car wash and a professional car valet?

Updated: May 10

What’s the difference between a hand car wash and a professional car valet?

Hand car washes have become a convenient way to get your car washed. If there is one nearby and you don’t mind driving to it and sometimes queuing the convenience of getting the wash done in as little as 5-10 minutes while you wait and generally for less than twenty pounds can be hard to resist. Right? 

But you might be asking what the difference with a car valet anyway?

The first and most obvious thing is that many professional valeters will offer a mobile service that comes to you. For busy people, this saves time as it can fit around your life rather than the other way around.

Hand car washing vs valeting process

The second biggest areas of difference are around the process and products used to clean the car. For example, typically the first thing that happens to a hand car wash is an application of dilute traffic film remover via a pump sprayer.

This process can have two effects. The first is that this strong caustic chemical is very good at removing grime but can also strip away any wax protection your paintwork has, leaving it exposed to day to day wear and the elements.

The second and more significant difference is that if this solution is applied to a dry surface, there will be some form of damage to the top layer of paint with the strength of the dilution dictating the severity.

The large buckets of water you see the hand car washes working from is often the same bucket of water that may have been used to clean the muddy, off-road 4x4 that might have been cleaned before your car. 

Professional valeters only use non-caustic, mild citrus degreasers or ph neutral snow foams and only ever on pre-rinsed, wet vehicles. The same scenario applies to wheels, where a good valet will use a specialist ph wheel cleaner which is more kind to the aluminum diamond-cut wheels. 


The shampoo used is crucial. It should not only be as close to ph neutral as possible, so a