FAQ - Mothers


Mothers® Frequently Asked Questions

Your Questions About Detailing We’ve Already Answered

How often should I wash my car?

As often as practical. Most enthusiasts wash their vehicles at least once a week. Some folks wash their cars almost every day – no joke. If you don’t have time to wash it, try using Mothers® Waterless Wash & Wax, Instant Detailer, or Spray Wax to chase away light dust and detritus before your vehicle gets dirty.

What’s the best way to remove bugs and tar
without harming paint or removing wax?

Use undiluted car-washing soap (Mothers® California Gold® Carnauba Wash & Wax is safe for this process) to pretreat that bug graveyard before washing the whole car. You can use a 100%-cotton, microfiber or sponge applicator to wipe it on, or apply it with spray bottle (thinned enough so that it’ll squirt). It’s even okay to gently rub that soap into the offending stuck-ons with two or three fingers. Full-strength car soap will break down the dead bugs and tar without stripping wax or dulling paint.

If a little car soap is good, is a lot better?

Only in specific cases. Full-strength car-wash soap is good for pretreating the bug deathscape on your grille or super dirt elsewhere on your rig, and more potent batches of car soap will make short work of deeply dirty areas of your car. In most cases, however, too much in the mix can leave a film on your vehicle – that stuff is thick and clingy, and wants to stick around. Use about an ounce of car wash per gallon of water and you’ll be fine. Fortunately, Mothers® car-wash soaps – at any strength – will not harm your automobile’s paint.

Why can’t I use household cleaners to wash my car?

Household cleaning products – dishwashing detergent being the most common culprit – are specifically designed to do things that are bad for automobiles. In the case of dish soap, it’s designed to break down fats and sticky greases on your dishes: because automotive wax is essentially a grease, that dish soap will strip the wax coating you want on your paint, leaving it with little shine and no protection. Also, some household detergents have a micro-fine abrasive in them – these can permanently scratch your car’s paint’s surface.

Always use a high-quality commercial liquid car-wash soap, which should be formulated to remove dirt and grime without affecting your car’s essential coatings. The same goes for any other car cleaning – use car-cleaning products.

Should I avoid the free car wash at the gas station?
What about automated car washes?

In regards to the free gas-station wash, you get what you pay for. Many of those car washes use mechanical brushes, which will probably damage paint unless they’re being wielded by super-smart car-washing robots (in which case, the machines have already taken control). Most automatic car washes used recycled water too, meaning your prized ride is getting the same water applied to it as the rusty 1974 Plymouth Volare that went through in front of you. In addition, while filters will catch most particles, they don’t get everything, and they can’t filter out dissolved road salt and leaked automotive chemicals. Unless you’re driving your ex’s car, or you prefer to be scrubbed with recycled Plymouth rustwater, avoid the autowash.

What type of towels should I use to dry my car?

Long story short: soft towels.

Short story long: for years, Mothers® recommended 100%-cotton (no poly!) terrycloth towels for drying. They were the only game in town. Then microfiber towels came along. Now we recommend both (though we prefer high-quality microfiber). If you plan to use a “cotton” towel, you can test it to see if there’s any polyester (plastic) in it by holding a thread from the towel to an open flame. If there’s any plastic in that towel, the thread will ball up and leave a torched little wad of plastic, while 100% cotton burns to ashes.

Ultra-plush microfiber towels work as well, and many times better, then the best cotton. Microfiber is a poly product, sure, but the fibers are ultra fine and won’t damage paint. Microfiber towels come in various blends, qualities and sizes: a thick, soft weave of 80% polyester and 20% polyamide that’s about 16-inches square is ideal for drying. Microfiber towels have tremendous absorbency, wring easily and are scratch-free (once you remove the tag). You can dry an entire car with only one or two of them. Some people like to use larger microfiber towels to dry, and some are available with a waffle-weave fabric that’s super-absorbent. Whichever towels you choose, launder them separate from clothing or other towels, and without fabric softeners (which leave visible chemical traces on paint).

Why is there a price difference between
cheap car-care stuff and pricier products like Mothers®?

Do yourself a favor: think twice before smearing a $2.95 product on a $30,000 vehicle. It’s all about quality – once again, you get what you pay for. Premium ingredients cost more. Mothers® uses high-quality raw materials in our car-care products: just try a cheaper product and you’ll see the difference.

What is a clear coat?

“Clearcoat” is a name given to the multi-stage finish usually used by auto manufacturers, named after the top layer of a multi-stage paint (the clearcoat). First, a base layer of paint (basecoat), which contains the pigment (color), is applied to a primered body panel. Then, a top layer of clear paint (the clearcoat) is applied over the basecoat to add depth, brilliance and provide protection. Practically all vehicles manufactured today have a clearcoat finish.

How can I tell whether I have a clear coat?

Most vehicles have a paint code inside the door jamb or glovebox, or if it’s out of the box you can check the window sticker. The alternative is to check the cloth you’re using when polishing your vehicle. If the residue on the cloth is the same colour as your vehicle’s paint, then you don’t have a clear coat. That colour you see is the oxidized paint being removed by the car polish products. When a clear coat is present, it will keep the paint colour from transferring onto the cloth when polishing.

What’s the difference between a spray wax, spray detailer, and waterless wash & wax?

Car wax products are designed to make your exterior paint shine and that is something the products above all have in common. However, they each have specialized purposes as well, and it would help to know what you want so that you can make the right choice in product. A spray detailer like Mothers® Instant Detailer works best when you’re pressed for time, but still want to bring a quick shine to your exterior paint. It also removes light dust and fingerprints. If you have the time, but are too lazy to pull the hose around, waterless car wash products like our Waterless Wash & Wax are the best way to get a through clean and showroom shine. And finally, spray wax is the product you’ll use when you are looking for a longer lasting finish.

What is clay bar?

Clay bars and tools like the Mothers® Speed Clay 2.0 are used to remove tiny particles like sand, glass, and metal that become embedded in your vehicle’s paint over time. Claying achieves a super-smooth finish that regular car wash products simply can’t, by gently and effectively extracting microscopic dirt from your vehicle’s paint. If you are in doubt about whether you need a clay bar, simply run your hand across the paint after it’s been washed. Should you feel little bumps under your fingertips, then your paint would definitely benefit from claying. Remember that clay strips paint of wax as well, so be sure to wax your vehicle after each claying to reseal the paint.

What is the difference between a polish and a wax?

A good car polish is formulated to either reduce or entirely remove marks and scratches from the paint surface. Car wax products like Mothers® Pure Brazilian Carnauba Wax provides a hard layer of protection for the paint. The difference between the two products is basic – one restores, while the other protects.

How often do I need to wax my car?

Waxing frequency is usually decided by looking at the environment your car has to endure and the colour of its exterior paint. If your car is kept snug in a garage most of the time, you can go as long as six months between waxes. Cars parked outside have more contact with harsh conditions, like sun, rain, and dust, so you’ll have to wax it more often, even if you are using high quality car wash products and a good wax. The general rule is that cars in lighter colours should receive a wax job every 3-4 months. You can split that interval in half if you live in harsh weather conditions, or if your car’s paint is darker, like black or red.

Is liquid wax easier to apply than a wax paste?

Modern formulations mean that ease-of-use can be attributed to both liquid and paste waxes. It all comes down to preference. Some people prefer the process that goes with using a paste wax and also, pastes are known to last a lot longer than liquid waxes. This means that it’ll be easier on your budget. Paste waxes can last for as many as 12 applications when used on regular autos (buses, trucks, and boats will obviously use more wax), while liquid wax products usually last about 5 applications.