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Thread: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    How to clean your foam pad on the fly


    Video: How to clean your pad on the fly

    Here's a technique I've been showing for years on how to clean your pad quickly so you can get back to buffing out your car.


    How to clean your pad on the fly



    The above technique works with any of the below DA Polishers,

    Porter Cable DA Polisher
    Meguiar's DA Polisher
    Griot's Garage DA Polisher
    Shurhold DA Polisher





    If it works for you after watching the video, please post a comment to the thread for the video in the included link above.

    Thank you.




    When using a dual action polisher to remove below surface defects with any type of abrasive product you’re going to have two things building up on the face of the foam pad that you need to clean off.
    • Spent residue - From the product you’re using.
    • Paint - Small particles of paint that are coming off the car as you abrade the surface

    If you’re working on a clear coat finish then keep in mind you won’t see the paint residue building up on the pad because the clear coat paint is clear.

    Make sense?


    If you’re working on a clearcoat finish, all you're going to see is the color of the product that you’re using. For example if you’re using a white colored polish you’ll see white residue building-up on the pad.

    Now if you’re working on as single stage paint then you’ll see the color of the paint on the car on the face of your foam pad,. For example if you’re working on a single stage yellow paint system then you’ll see yellow paint on the face of your foam pad.

    The important thing to understand is that as you work on the car with your polisher you’re going to be removing a little paint and there’s going to be used-up product and paint building-up on the face of the foam pad. It's important to clean this gunk off your pad often.

    So the question is, how to you clean this gunk off the pad?



    The answer is there’s a number of ways to clean your foam pad, the three most common are,
    • Pad Washer
    • Nylon Brush or Pad Cleaning Brush
    • Terry Cloth Towel
    Out of the 3 options listed above, cleaning your pad on the fly is probably the most popular because it’s fast, and most people have a terry cloth towel in the linen closet that they can use to clean the pad.

    The best way to clean a pad is with a pad washer but before you can use a pad washer you must first own one. Pad washers are worth their weight in gold if you buff cars out with any kind of regularity. If however you’re just buffing out your own personal cars, then chances are you don’t own a pad washer but chances are very good you do own a terry cloth towel or two that you can use to clean your pads on the fly.

    Brushes work good if you’re using a rotary buffer but the only way you can use one with DA Polisher is to turn the polisher off, hold the polisher and pad in such a way that the pad won’t spin and then rub the brush over the face of the pad to scrape off the residue.

    While this works, it means turning the polisher off, (now you're not buffing out the car, remember the time issue?) and grabbing your brush and then brushing the pad. Nothing wrong with this but when you consider how long it already takes to do the cleaning step, (about 4-6 hours for an average size car and that’s if your good at this and if you work fast and don’t take any breaks. So stopping the polisher and using a brush to clean the pad works but it’s not as fast or effective as using a terry cloth towel.

    The whole idea and success behind the cleaning your pad on the fly technique is in that it allows you to clean your pad quickly, (that’s the on the fly part), and then quickly get back to work.

    Again, buffing out an entire car using a dual action polisher from start to finish is an all day job. There is no time for lollygagging. If you lollygag or take long breaks, you either won’t get the job done in one day or you’ll sacrifice doing a quality job during the cleaning step in order to get to the waxing step so you can put the car back into service.



    So let’s take a look at how-to clean your pad on the fly

    Cleaning your pad on the fly is where you take a terry cloth towel, usually a medium size hand towel works best, you fold it in two and then simply hold the towel against the face of the pad and then turn the polisher on and use your hand that’s holding the towel to push the towel into the foam. This will act to draw any excess liquid out of the foam and any excess residue off of the face of the pad.


    This is me using the Clean your Pad on the Fly Technique to clean my pad on the fly as we removed the oxidation off this Neon.






















    After polishing a section of the trunk lid on Harvey,




    Max's classic 1964 Ford Falcon Future, we took a brand new 100% Cotton Terry Cloth Towel and held it against the face of the foam pad and then turned the polisher on and pushed and smooshed the towel against the pad for about 45 seconds or so and here are the results.







    Question: Why use terry cloth instead of microfiber?

    Answer: Great question!

    100% cotton terry cloth is very good at absorbing liquid, so when you push the terry cloth into the foam the liquid in the foam will transfer into the terry cloth fibers through capillary action where the cotton fibers will more or less hold or trap the liquid inside of themselves.

    There’s more to it than that however, the nap of terry cloth, that is the little cotton loops, will help to slice into the caked and gummy reside which will loosen its hold so the residue will transfer to the towel as well as some will fall to the ground.

    Compared to most microfiber polishing cloths with a nap, not the type that has flat woven surface, the terry cloth nap, (the nap is the the little tiny loops of cotton fiber), is more stout and it’s this extra stoutness that enables a large, nap terry cloth towel to work better to break-up the residue on the pad.

    So it’s both the absorbency of the cotton fibers plus the larger size of the cotton nap that together make a terry cloth towel better for cleaning your pad on the fly.

    Does that make sense?

    The nap of 100% Cotton Terry Cloth Toweling


    Conversely, isn’t one of the reasons microfiber polishing cloths are so popular for wiping paint is because the fibers are microscopic in size and thus are more gentle to paint than larger cotton fibers? (The answer is “yes”)

    You can use what you like and make up your own mind. Besides the case I’ve made above for using terry cloth another reason is to save your microfibers for where they excel best and that’s wiping residues off polished paint.

    Some might also make the case that 100% cotton is better at absorbing while microfiber materials are better at adsorbing but that’s probably getting just a little too deep for what is actually a very simple method of cleaning your foam pads while buffing out a car.

    Try both the next time you’re working on a car and come to your own conclusion but for me I’ll use terry cloth towels for removing residues off my pads and I’ll save my microfibers for carefully cleaning residues off paint.


    Question: What about pad cleaning brushes?

    Answer: I touched briefly on this above, but let's drill down a little deeper. Pad cleaning brushes or even a nylon toothbrush work great for cleaning residue off the face of a foam pad when the foam pad is on a rotary buffer but they don't work well at all when the pad is on a dual action polisher.

    About the best you can hope for is to clean the very center of the pad when the tool is turned on but as you draw the bristles of the brush towards the outside of the pad the increased pressure over a small area, (the bristles of the brush pushing down on the foam), is enough pressure to engage the clutch in the tool and stop the pad from rotating.

    The brush only cleans the pad if the pad is rotating. Thus brushes don't work well for cleaning pads on dual action polisher when you're trying to clean the pad while the polisher is turned on. Give it a try sometime and you'll see exactly what I mean.

    For years when someone asks about the cheapie rotary buffers you can buy at Harbor Freight for buffing out paint, I would always mention that if nothing else, they make a great pad cleaner. That is take your dirty pads and one at a time place them on the backing plate of the rotary buffer and then use the rotary buffer to clean your pads. Rotary Buffers are direct drive tools and have a lot of power and a little brush held against the face of the pad isn't enough to slow the tool down so they work great for cleaning pads as well as removing a lot of paint quickly if you're using a RB to buff-out paint.




    The cleaning your pad on the fly technique works well for all the popular dual action polishers on the market including,
    • Porter Cable 7424XP
    • Porter Cable 7424
    • Porter Cable 7336
    • Ultimate Detailing Machine – The first generation was Autopia’s design. The second generation is a re-badged Porter Cable 7424
    • Meguiar’s G100a – Re-badged Porter Cable 7424, came with a lifetime warranty
    • Meguiar's G100 – Re-badged Porter Cable 7424, came with a 1 year warranty.
    • Meguiar’s G110 – Meguiar’s design
    • Meguiar’s G220 – Meguiar’s design – 220 Volts
    • Griot’s Garage Professional Random Orbital Polisher – Griot’s design
    Products mentioned

    Dual Action Polishers
    Porter Cable 7424XP
    Meguiar’s G110
    Griot’s Garage Professional Random Orbital Polisher

    Pad Washers
    System 2000 Pad Washer



    Grit Guard Universal Pad Washer



    Pad Brushes

    The Edge Foam Pad Conditioning Brush


    Duo-Spur at Autogeek


    Cobra Detailing Brush Kit




    Further Reading
    Tips & Techniques for using the Porter Cable 7424XP


    Resources
    Autogeek Online Detailing Forum
    Autogeek Online Store

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  2. #2
    Senior Member turbos17's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    Ok, I see the 100% cotton Terry cloth their, but wouldn't the lint get onto the pad after you did that? To me the lint is an abrasive material...hence why we don't use cotton towels to dry or buff our vehicles. Please explain as I may be missing something?

  3. #3
    Senior Member DLB's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    ^^^ I have the same question Mike.
    I have used the terry method before as you described here, but it does leave lint all over the pad - thus causing me to have to blow it off with compressed air. If I have to do that, I can just as easily go ahead and brush then blow it off (my usual method).

    DLB

  4. #4
    Junior Member John M.'s Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    great write up Mike! I wish I owned a air compressor or pad washer. One quick question, if you were to use a pad washer to clean the pad on the fly would you just switch to another pad while waiting on the freshly cleaned one to dry?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Rebelranger's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    I'll give this great idea a try. I have a few bags of old terrys that would seem to be good candidates to try this on. It also seems that if the terry is older, it would be prone to less lint-shed. I'll know later today..

  6. #6
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    Quote Originally Posted by turbos17 View Post
    Ok, I see the 100% cotton Terry cloth their, but wouldn't the lint get onto the pad after you did that? To me the lint is an abrasive material...hence why we don't use cotton towels to dry or buff our vehicles. Please explain as I may be missing something?
    Great question! Let me see if I can shed some light on the topic... (no pun intended :D )

    In my entire life I've never had a problem with any kind of fiber transfer from a terry cloth towel onto the face of a foam buffing pad when using the "Clean you pad on the fly" technique.

    It's possible if you're using a shoddy quality terry cloth towel so I'm not saying it can't happen, it's just never happened to me. I dedicate my towels into different categories and don't use the tatty towels for pad cleaning.

    See this article for more information on towels. Note what's written in the "Good Cotton Towel" category.


    The 4 minimum categories of wiping cloths


    Wiping cloths
    Just as important as any product or tool in your detailing arsenal are your wiping cloths. You can use the best compound, the best polish, the best LSP and of course the best buffing pads and top of the line polishers but if you're using any type of wiping cloth that is in some way, shape or form contaminated then you risk putting swirls and scratches into your car's finish. For this reason it's important to separate your wiping cloths into dedicated categories and have some type of labeling system so that you or others know what a collection of wiping cloths can be used on safely.

    The ultimate goal is to have confidence that when you go to remove your LSP of a finish you've toiled over all day long, that the end results will giddy with glee, not because the paint looks fabulous, not loathsome and infuriated because you just instilled scratches back into the paint you've worked on so hard.

    More than that, you want friends, family and even employees to be enabled to choose the right cloth in case they're are to perform any kind of detailing task with or without your supervision. For example, you're gone, a bird leaves a bird dropping on the hood of your girlfriend or wife's car and in their attempt to remove the bird dropping you don't want them grabbing the wrong microfiber polishing cloth and remove the bird dropping but create a new Saturday Detailing Project for you in the process.


    4 Categories Minimum
    Everyone should have at least 4 types of wiping cloths, some of you may have more categories like a dedicated collection of glass wiping cloths, or wiping cloths dedicated towards leather and vinyl dressings. These are the minimum, feel free to separate your wiping cloths as much as you like and places like Target offer plastic roll-around bins with drawers that you can label and store your different groups of wiping cloths. It's important to separate any cloth deemed worthing of wiping a high gloss finish from all the rest.


    Good Microfiber Polishing Cloths
    You can 'touch' paint with microfiber polishing cloths from this collection. These are the microfiber polishing cloths in your collection that are new or you have washed and dried and you trust them to be safe on a high gloss, polished finish.


    Tatty Microfiber Polishing Cloths
    These are washed, dried and clean, but their quality has fallen to a level that you have deemed them not worthing of touching a high gloss, polished finish. You don't throw them away because they still have value for wiping spray detailers or cleaner/waxes out places like door jambs, chrome wheels or bumpers, a roll bar, the paint on a boat trailer, or some components in the engine compartment. You might even keep them around for checking the oil or wiping grease off your hands after changing the oil. The point is they are still great at removing residue, just not off a swirl-free, scratch-free, high gloss surface.

    Good Cotton Towels
    While microfiber is superior at removing polishes, waxes and paint sealants off paint, and especially trace residues off smooth, high gloss finishes, there's still a place for good quality cotton towels. For example, cleaning you pad on the fly. Cotton towels with a large nap work better than microfiber towels. Some people prefer a cotton towel with a large nap to remove compounds because they offer a more aggressive bit but then switch over to microfiber for removing polishes and LSP's. Your good cotton towels should be clean and soft and worthing of working on paint in good condition or better.

    Tatty Cotton Towels
    Tatty Cotton Towels are cotton towels that are washed and dried but for whatever the reason, their quality is fallen off to far from what's acceptable to touch paint in good condition or better. They still have value however for mundane tasks like wiping excess tired dressing off the face of a tire, applying or wiping cleaners and dressings in the fenderwell area, applying or removing cleaners, dressings or cleaner/waxes in the trunk area or door jambs and engine compartments. The have value because they are absorbent, clean and ready to use and paid for. After some projects you might be better of discarding them versus trying to clean them well enough that they can be used again.

    If it's happening to you then by all means, you have multiple other options to clean your pads and avoid this single technique.


    Check out these before and after pictures from our Porsche Class!

    Pictures & Comments from October 17th, 2009 Saturday Detailing 101

    Dirty pad





    Using a slow speed, press the face of the pad against the Grit Guard insert and push up and down on the Grit Guard and this will pump cleaning solution up and into the pad to remove built-up polish residue.





    Then show the results live in real-time!




    Clean pad, ready to put back into service...



    If you do a lot of buffing, a pad cleaner will safe you time and enable you to work cleaner while getting more use out of your buffing pads.






    Quote Originally Posted by DLB View Post
    ^^^ I have the same question Mike.
    I have used the terry method before as you described here, but it does leave lint all over the pad - thus causing me to have to blow it off with compressed air. If I have to do that, I can just as easily go ahead and brush then blow it off (my usual method).

    DLB
    Either find some better terry cloth towels or try one of the other options I listed above.

    I've been using the "Clean you pad on the fly option" ever since I've been using rotary buffers and dual action polishers. I've been teaching this since I started teaching classes in 1988 and I probably have the oldest article on the topic on the Internet and show it in the DVD Richard Lin and I produced which to date is the only how-to DVD that starts with one car and ends with the same car and goes through the complete process of removing swirls and created a flawless show car finish including how to clean you pad on the fly.

    So it works for me and I've used a zillion different towels in my life and never had a problem with fiber transfer.

    Again, if the terry cloth towel technique isn't working for you, then you have other options, all you have to do is evaluate the options and pick one that works best for you.

    Here they are,



    Quote Originally Posted by John M. View Post
    great write up Mike! I wish I owned a air compressor or pad washer. One quick question, if you were to use a pad washer to clean the pad on the fly would you just switch to another pad while waiting on the freshly cleaned one to dry?
    I don't. You're supposed to lift your polisher up off the Grit Guard Insert so it's not getting more water on it and while still keeping it in the bucket with the lid closed bring the speed of your machine up and let centrifugal force zing the water out of the pad.

    This won't zing out ALL of the water but enough for me to either get back to work or take a clean, terry cloth towel and blot some of the remaining water out of the foam and then get back to work.

    Each person has to decide if my system will work for their needs and if not then devices their own system which may include waiting for the pad to dry or switching to a new pad or a used pad that's clean and dry.

    On discussion forums, there's a small percentage of people that trend towards making everything as complicated as they can.

    I'm just the opposite, I like to keep thins as simple as I can and that's why you'll often find me typing this,

    KISS = Keep it Simple Simon


    Of course people can make things as complicated as they like, that's what so cool about the freedom we have here in America, we have the right to our own personal preference when it comes to how we clan our foam buffing pads, (and wool pads too!), and each person can figure out a way that works best for them.

    The purpose of this article was to show people the way "I" clean my pads and people can use one of the many methods now listed in this article or come up with their own method. If someone does come up with their own method I would whole heartedly encourage them to write a how-to article on this forum and other forums and share your method especially if it's a better Mouse Trap.

    And don't forget the Meguiar's Softbuff 2.0 pads can simply be washed in a normal washing machine and then dried in a normal clothes dryer making cleaning your pads incredibly simple!

    From the above page...
    Meguiar's Soft Buff™ 2.0 Pads combine rugged durability with finesse. The pads are made with a high tech laminate backing that is machine washable!



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  7. #7
    Senior Member DLB's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    Thanks for the reply Mike.
    It may be the towels. I just picked up a bulk pack of them at Sam's club, so I am sure they aren't top quality.

    DLB

  8. #8
    Director of Training Mike.Phillips@Autogeek's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    Quote Originally Posted by DLB View Post
    Thanks for the reply Mike.
    It may be the towels. I just picked up a bulk pack of them at Sam's club, so I am sure they aren't top quality.

    DLB

    I used the "Clean your pad on the fly" technique for most of my detailing life and then when Doug Lamb introduced the Grit Guard Universal Pad Washer back in May of 2007 I got one and I've never looked back.

    The terry cloth towel method works but it doesn't even come close to how effectively the Grit Guard Universal Pad Washer works to remove built-up product residue and removed paint off the face of buffing pads.

    It's actually a combination of 3 primary components to the GG Pad Washer that makes it work so well,

    First you need a good soap solution to dissolve and emulsify any compound or polishing residue so it will release off the pad and the Citrus-based DP Polishing Pad Rejuvenator works extremely well.

    Water alone won't work very well and dish soap makes SUDS and you don't want suds in your pad washer. So for anyone reading this, when you get ready to step up to a GG Pad Washer be sure to include a jar or two of the Detailer's Pride Polishing Pad Rejuvenator which is more than a rejuvenater, it a citrus-based cleaner for pad washing.


    The next primary component that works so well to clean your buffing pads is the spring loaded water pumps that pump the cleaning solution up and into the face of your foam pad. That's why you'll see me pumping my buffer up and down when it's inside the pad washer because I'm working the spring loaded water pumps to force them to pump cleaning solution.


    And the next component that plays a huge part in getting your pads clean is the actual Grit Guard Insert and the Baby Grit Guard Insert inserted into the regular Grit Guard Insert,

    Here you can see my finger pointing to the Grit Guard Insert inside the bucket. Under it are 4 Spring-Loaded Pumps and on top of it in the center is the Baby Grit Guard Insert. Not you can see compound and polish residue inside of mine because I use it. :D




    Here I've grabbed a brand new full size and baby insert to show you up close the grill design.



    From an angle - As the foam pad spins over the top of the grill opening, residue is squeegeed off and falls through the openings to remove it off the face of the pad.


    Here I've cycled the pumps by pushing up and down on the Grit Guard Insert and you can see cleaning solution that has been pumped up into the air and captured on in the picture.



    Again, each person can find a way that works best for them, this thread was to show a basic method of using a clean, terry cloth towel but the best way to clean a pad, in my humble opinion, is to use a Grit Guard Universal Pad Washer with a scoop of citrus based pad cleaning soap.

    Click here to get information on how you can get your own Grit Guard Universal Pad Washer or get one as a give for someone else.


    Works with all buffers and polishers, here's a pad being cleaned using the Flex 3401 Forced Rotation Dual Action Polisher


    Before


    After


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  9. #9
    Junior Member John M.'s Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    Awesome! Thanks Mike! After seeing the GG pad washer in person at the Dallas meet, and especially after seeing what it did to that orange pad on the flex. I think I have an item to add to my christmas wish list :D

  10. #10
    Senior Member turbos17's Avatar
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    Re: How to clean your foam pad on the fly

    Thanks for the more in depth process. The Grit Guard Pad washer is cool, but I only do this on the side. So I am gonna have to hold off for now...maybe down the road sometime!

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