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Soft Cloth Car Wash: Everything You Need to Know

Everything You Need to Know about Soft Cloth Car Wash

Soft Cloth Car Wash: Everything You Need to Know

If you like the speed and convenience of automatic car washes, a soft cloth car wash is an option. Naturally, you’ll want to know something about them before you pay for the service, such as: are soft cloth car washes safe? To help you decide, our guide looks at all you need to know about this service, from the pros and cons to environmentally friendly alternatives.

Also, if you’re interested in keeping up with green car wash trends, download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide:


What Is a Soft Cloth Car Wash?

It is one of the car wash services that relies on automated equipment to clean your vehicle. The soft cloth car wash is also known as a “soft touch” because the emphasis is on gentle cleaning methods even though cloths touch your car’s bodywork. These cloths look much like oversized fringed curtains made of a soft felt material.

How does it work? You simply select your wash preference and remain inside your vehicle as it passes through the tunnel system. Once you start the car wash, the cloth strips spin quickly. The combination of soap foam, water, and mild friction from the cloths rids your car exterior of dirt, salt, and grime. Then, a rinse and dry cycle completes the process.

Pros of Using a Soft Cloth Car Wash

Here are some advantages of automated soft cloth car washes over other methods:

Saves Time

The type of car wash is ideal if you’re short on time. You can get your car cleaned in under 5 minutes. It depends on which wash package you choose. For example, the express-wash option is the quickest. It usually includes a pre-soak, foam bath, cloth wash and rinse. Then, a powerful air dryer finish. It’s a fast and hassle-free experience.

Prices From $10

The soft cloth is a good choice if you don’t want to spend too much money at the car wash. Most places offer different wash packages ranging from the lowest-price basic exterior to a more expensive wash with add-ons, such as a clear coat sealer wax finish or a tire shine.

Prices vary depending on location and the business, but you can usually get a soft cloth exterior wash and hot air dry for around $10-$12. Expect to pay around $25 for an under-carriage wash, tire shine and wax treatment.

Opening Hours

Soft cloth car washes with automated entry systems allow the owners to increase trading potential by running a 24 hour car wash. If you want to wash your car at midnight, no problem. Just bear in mind that if there is a problem at the car wash, there might not always be an attendant to help you out.

Soft cloth Car Wash Cons

If you take pride in your car’s appearance and its polished paintwork, you’ll want to know: are soft cloth car washes safe? Here are some points to consider:

Do Soft Cloth Car Washes Scratch Car Exterior?

Are car washes bad for your car? Any type of car wash equipment that touches your car exterior increases the risk of leaving micro scratch marks on the paintwork. This may be more noticeable with certain paintwork colors. If you’re concerned about this, you might feel happier choosing a touchless washing system. For example, a touch-free laser car wash removes dirt and grime without cloths or brushes.

Chemical Detergents

Be mindful of the soap foam detergents and conditioners used at a soft cloth car wash. Some may contain harsh chemicals that could dull the shine of your paintwork over time. Look for greener alternatives that are kinder to your car and better for the environment. For example, a steam hand car wash is safe and effective when it comes to removing road dirt, grease and salt marks from your car.

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Excess Water Usage

The soft touch car wash might be more eco-friendly than power-washing your car on your driveway or using a touchless car wash, but some still use around 98 gallons per minute (gpm). Furthermore, not all businesses use reclaimed water. If you want to do more for the environment, there are good eco alternatives, such as a waterless car wash.

Cloths Need Regular Maintenance

A soft cloth car wash can potentially clean many cars per hour. However, if the cleaning equipment is not properly maintained, it increases the risk of dirt transfer between vehicles. Over time, the soft cloths can accumulate tiny bits of dirt and grit. When dirt particles mix with the foamy soap solution used to wash your car, it can have an abrasive effect on paintwork. If this puts you off, explore other options, such as a brushless car wash.

Soft Touch vs Touchless Car Wash?

Soft touch vs touchless car wash – which should you choose? If you don’t want cleaning equipment physically touching your car, a touchless car wash is an obvious answer because it doesn’t use cloths or brushes. Instead, it relies on the high power of pressurized water and detergents to jet dirt off your car exterior. However, here are points to consider.

Cleaning the Windshield

The car windshield attracts a lot of dirt, grime, and road salt during winter. In the hotter weather, dust can obscure the glass.  Whatever the season, you can keep the worst at bay with your windshield wipers. However, dirt can gather on the upper areas outside the arc of the wipers. A soft touch car wash can make a difference if this is the case. The individual soft cloth strands gently apply friction directly onto the dirty windshield. Friction and foam effectively remove thick layers of dust and other grime. For seasonal tips, see our guide to car washing in winter.

Better Coverage

A touchless car wash uses powerful foam detergents but may struggle to reach certain areas. On the other hand, the soft felt material of a soft touch car wash is better at cleaning those hard-to-get places, such as the front of your license plate. The powerful swishing action of the soft cloths combined with deep-cleaning foam should break down dirt particles to leave your license plate spotless. However, even automated cloths can miss hidden dirt. If you have time and the equipment, a do it yourself car wash makes it easier to thoroughly clean your vehicle.

Fingerprints and Stubborn Smudges on Dirty Door Panels

The soft cloth vs touchless car wash debate includes the best way to remove sticky fingerprints from car door panels. These prints can be remarkably resilient. Sometimes, pressurized water from a touchless car wash isn’t enough when you want a spotlessly clean vehicle. To achieve the cleanest results, the soft cloth curtain moving back and forth over the car exterior and foam detergents are powerful enough to do the job.

Soft Cloth Friction to Remove Tree Sap From Car Paint Bodywork

Some trees are prone to dripping sap. If you park under one, you’ll likely end up with sticky tree sap all over your car and it’s not a good look. Furthermore, once tree sap hardens, it’s tricky to shift. In this situation, when it comes to soft touch vs touchless car wash, the former is much more efficient when you want to remove tree sap stains.

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Bird Droppings on Car Roof: Soft Touch Car Wash vs Touchless Car Wash

Bird droppings are bad news for paintwork. When put to the test, powerful cloth friction is better at removing bird droppings from the car roof than a touchless car wash. In particular, the soft-pile fabric of micro-fleece soft cloth strips is excellent at shifting demanding stains such as bird droppings.

Dried-on Bugs and Insects on Windshield, Hood, and Roof

Using windshield wipers can smear dried-on bugs, making the problem worse. However, the high level of foaming produced in the soft touch car wash and the powered friction of the cleaning cloths are usually tough enough to remove bug splats from your car. The cleaning chemicals in a touchless car wash may not be enough to remove bug splatter on your vehicle.

When you’re comparing car washes for removing stubborn contaminants, you might find that these automated washes don’t quite achieve what you’re hoping for. On occasions when you need to pay special attention to detail and apply a little elbow grease, you may prefer a self service car wash.

Specialist Soft Cloth Strips for Rocker Panels

This lower part of the car is a dirt magnet, picking up mud, salt spray, etc. Therefore, it demands extra cleaning power to make a difference. Soft cloth strips designed to clean rocker panels can achieve excellent results. Whereas a touchless car wash using water jets can sometimes miss the dirt.


The soft cloth car wash has a reasonably good washing technique for an automated service. Moreover, soft-cloth automatic technology is constantly improving to give you cleaner results while minimizing the risk of damage to paintwork. It’s certainly a gentler option than the spinning plastic bristle brushes found at some automated washes.

This type of car wash is also affordable and quick. It cleans fast in 4 steps: pre-soak, friction wash, rinsing, and drying. However, due to water usage and chemical foam soaps, it’s not always the most environmentally friendly choice. Furthermore, if you want attention to fine detail and a brilliant finish, an automated drive through car wash is not for you.

If you want a superior clean and value for money, seek out a hands-on service where the professionals take good care of your car. DetailXPerts offers a green business that uses steam technology for exterior and interior detailing – better for your car and the environment.

If you’re interested in the latest water-saving car wash technology, download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide:

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