A question I get asked on a daily basis is around snow foams and what is the best way to pre-wash a car to minimise the risk of scratches and swirl marks when washing a car. Essentially, what is the best way to to safely wash a car?
As with any question involving “what’s the best...”, the answer is always: “It depends”, usually followed by a couple of questions from my side.
Questions around existing waxes, sealants, coatings, PPFs or other protections usually go hand in hand with products used before and what is important to the person asking. Some customers like a nice scent, some love a thick, shaving cream like snow foam that is usually seen on social media. Others like a pre-wash that is quick but safe in direct sun light and so on.
While we stock a multitude of snow foams, today we are going to compare 2 of the well regarded Labocosmetica pre-wash snow foams #Primus and #Neve.
While we are at it, you will also learn the difference between a pH neutral and an alkali snow foam. You will find out what pH actually means when it comes to snow foams and why some of the outcry on social media can be ignored if used correctly.
There are parallels that can be drawn to other snow foams like Autoglym Polar Blast, Stjärnagloss Snö, ADBL Yeti, Maniac Snow Foam Pre-Wash as well as the two pre-washes from Bilt Hamber; Auto-Foam and Touch-Less.
What is snow foam and why is it advised to use snow foam as part of the pre-wash process?
It’s in the name. Snow-Foam produces a thick foam blanket of clinging foam, with the use of a Snow-Foam Lance, which will sit on the paint work encapsulating dirt.
Pre-washing is a must to help keep the infliction of swirl marks, scratches and abrasions to an absolute minimum. The key is to remove as much dirt as you can before actually touching the car with a mitt and shampoo.
When looking at Labocosmetica #Primus and #Neve, the main difference that is visible while reading through the product details is the pH grade. #Neve is pH neutral and Primus is alkali pH.
What about the pH? Is a pH neutral snow foam safer than an alkaline one?
Generally, a pH neutral snow foam like #Neve is the first choice for cars protected with ceramic coatings but also Labocosmetica’s easier to apply nano-sealants like #Cupido and #Revitax. The main reason is that dirt and contamination will not stick to protected paintwork easily and #Neve will have no problem loosening it prior the contact wash phase. This is why you read "self cleaning" on some coatings - They dont clean themselves but are much easier to keep clean.
#Neve, pH neutral pre-wash snow foam, is ideal for general maintenance washes that can be as frequent as weekly or fortnightly.
#Neve used in a foam lance can be used with a dilution ration between 1:10 and up to 1:25. The dilution depends mostly on the power washer, the foam lance set up and the water hardness. We advise to start off with 1:15 and adjust accordingly.
#Primus on the other hand is an alkaline pre-wash that brings much better performance when needed. This is certainly the case during the challenging weather conditions we experience during autumn and winter but can also be the right choice if the car has not been washed for a few weeks and traffic film has settled on the car.
Primus is also the first choice for vehicles with a ceramic coating that has lost its hydrophobic capabilities and requires a deep clean. #Primus should not be confused with other powerful pre-wash foams that are corrosive and can damage trim and paintwork.
In addition, #Primus used with a standard trigger sprayer with a dilution of 1:10-1:20 provides stunning pre-cleaner performance for spots or areas that require more attention that pH neutral snow foam applied through the foam cannon would not be able to tackle safely. The same dilution can also be used as a wheel and tyre cleaner during maintenance washes. #Primus is extremely versatile and can be used as a snow foam, like a citrus pre-wash as well as wheel and tyre cleaner.
Why is there a difference in the foam consistency?
Besides the different cleaning abilities of #Neve and #Primus, one other difference is the foam itself.
pH neutral snow foams provide more compact foam that looks like whipped cream when applied. The reason for it is that pH neutral pre-washes need more time to loosen dirt and contamination and therefore need to remain on the paintwork for longer. The thick, shaving cream like foam will help with this emollient action.
#Primus on the other hand, does not need to remain on the car for that long due the alkali pH. Primus will penetrate through grime and contamination in about 3-5 minutes. A good indication of the best time to rinse #Primus is when the foam starts to run down onto the ground.
The difference in foam thickness between the pH neutral #Neve and alkali pH #Primus is also the reason why an alkaline foam should be applied from bottom up as the foam has less time penetrate and act. Generally, vehicles are dirtier on the lower 3rd of the paintwork and applying foam from the bottom up will give the foam the needed additional time foam when foam runs down from the upper part of the vehicle.
A pH neutral foam like #Neve can be applied in any way as the more compact foam stays on the vehicle for a prolonged amount of time before being rinsed off.
Is #Primus safe to use and will it strip waxes or sealants?
An argument that can be found online is that alkali snow foams strip waxes and can damage paintworks and trims. Labocosmetica is the only manufacturer with VDA certification. This certification from the German Car Manufacturing Association has tested all Labocosmetica products on every material used by German car manufacturers, including the chrome surrounds that can cause issues when chemicals are being used that are too harsh. #Primus is also safe on motorbikes, quads and other vehicles.
#Primus is safe to be used on all surfaces including plastics, chrome, paintwork, glass if used as advised.
#Primus will also not strip any waxes, sealants or coatings. What can happen is that some waxes or spray sealants can degrade over time which is generally not an issue as such products can be re-applies within a few minutes. We have seen no degradation with Labocosmetica #Cupido or even the new #Perfecta SiO2 Quick Detailer.
The best examples are ceramic sprays, quick detailers or spray waxes. These products can be applied in minutes and it would be a pity to use a foam that is not as strong as needed to not affect the sealant but on the other hand leave the paintwork dirty, running the risk of causing scratches and swirl marks when going over the car with a mitt.