You might not know it, but you’ve used a form of the 1-Step truck washing process many times before. Imagine you’re at home, washing your car this weekend. You put some soap into a bucket of water and scrub away all of the grime before getting out the garden hose and rinsing it all away. In our world, that right there would be a 1-Step + Brushing process.  Now, that might not be mind-blowing, but it surely is different when compared to a 2-Step wash. So, what’s the difference? Is one better than the other? Let’s take a look.

Wait, there are three ways to wash a vehicle?

First, you can wash your vehicle or equipment using a 1-Step Touchless truck washing process or what we refer to a “55 mph clean”. At 55 mph it looks good going down the road, but once the vehicle stops, you can still see some road film on it. To use this process you would want to go for a high pH alkaline detergent and spray it onto the surface then allow it to dwell for a minimum of 45 seconds before rinsing. 

The second process is 1-Step + Brushing which is applying a similar high pH alkaline detergent, then utilizing a brush or mitt to create friction with the soap. Just as long as you didn’t miss a spot with your brush or mitt, you will produce a road-film free clean with this process. This process is very time consuming but definitely does the job. 

Pro-Tip! What products work well with brushing?

We call these bucket and brush soaps and a couple of our favorites are Hydro Magic with either a brush or a mitt, and E-Z Clean with a brush (E-Z Clean can dry out your skin if it soaks through a mitt). 

Some of our 2-Step Soaps can also be used as a 1-Step + Brushing OR as a 1-Step Touchless soap such as Panda, Film Fighter, and Grizzly. For polish-safe, we would recommend Panda, for other situations, Grizzly might be the best fit. With more hard water situations, Film Fighter might be the best choice.

The third process, our favorite, is utilizing a 2-Step Touchless truck washing application process. First, you would apply a low pH pre-soak (acid) allowing it to dwell for 30-45 seconds. Then, you would come right over top of the first step with a high pH alkaline detergent (soap) and once again allow it to dwell for 30-45 seconds before rinsing everything away. Done!

How does a 2-Step truck washing process work without scrubbing?

There’s a little magic that happens with a 2-Step wash. The pH (power of hydrogen) is a scale of acidity from 0 to 14 – Acids have a pH less than 7 and Alkalines have a pH greater than 7. A pre-soak, an acid, first removes minerals on the surface of the vehicle, and oxidation build-up caused by the sun’s UV rays beating down on the paint. Also, it neutralizes the negative charges on the surface.

Yes, we said negative charges! Road film is the combination of dirt, smoke and other contaminants from the vehicle itself or the atmosphere. As the vehicle moves, it generates friction and static electricity, which bonds all of the pollutants together like a magnet, which makes it incredibly difficult to remove them if you wait too long.

After the pre-soak neutralizes the negative charges in the road film, you directly apply a high pH (Alkaline) soap to attack the grease, oils, and other carbon based grime, while at the same time hitting the remaining positive charges, as well as neutralizing the overall pH (acid + alkaline = balance).

Because of all of this awesome science, your fleet is now sparkling clean with a simple rinse – use a pressure washer for even more cleaning power – without ever scrubbing one square inch. 

Pro-Tip! Will my soaps explode if I accidentally do a 2-Step wash in the wrong order?

No! This is actually an uncommon method used that we call Reverse 2-Step Washing. It’s for rare instances where the buildup of film is so heavy that the lower pH soaps simply can’t pass through to the negative charge.

Hydro-Chem Systems has been an industry leader in truck washing for 50 years. Trust our experts and get fast, reliable recommendations at (616) 531-6420 or email us at We’re here to help!

Schedule a Free Wash Review