I often get told in this job that a hand car wash is much cheaper than us. Then, on the flipside I work a lot of time correcting damage caused by use of hand car washes.
Many of the so-called "No Scratches, No Brushes Hand Car Washes" make big promises but most struggle to live up to their promises.
I recently took our company van through a hand car wash just so that I could see the methods they used and inspect for damage after just one wash. One thing I noticed was that they had all their sponges in one container with water in, this was where they washed the sponges and kept them until they needed them again for the next car. In short it is inevitable that some grit is going to be in that container and get rubbed along your paint work, over time causing your cars paint to look dull and lifeless.
I have corrected work for customers who have had bigger grit particles rubbed over their paint at hand car washes and ended up needing extensive machine polishing or even a partial respray
The next thing I noticed was that they used a caustic traffic film remover, which in itself isn't too bad if used correctly. However, they are using it indiscriminately so it may damage your car without them even noticing. Caustic traffic film removers can dull paintwork and with multiple uses can make your plastics go white.
I also saw a Range Rover recently that multiple scratches on the rear quarter window caused by a hand car wash, on its own this damage will cost hundreds to replace
Just through what I noticed on their methods, it is easy to see that in just a few washes a cars paint can become dull because of a large amount of small scratches in your paint.
We use tried and tested methods to ensure that any cleaning equipment such as wash mitts etc are completely clean and lubricated when they come into contact with your paint. This means absolutely no scratches on your paint, which keeps your car looking far better.