For a long time I have been watching both amateur and professional detailers post pictures of their car covered in a thick layer of foam and been jealous of their results – my basic Gilmour Foam Gun that connects to a regular hose spits out plenty of soap, but did not achieve anywhere near the same results. These professionals achieving the super foamy “covered in snow” washes were using special foam lances (also called foam cannons), and not just a basic sprayer like the Gilmour gun. These foam lances require a pressure washer to use, and therein lies the rub. Living in a small townhouse where the HOA takes care of the exterior of my home, I didn’t really have the desire to amass a large, loud, and expensive gas-powered pressure washer simply to wash my car every few weeks – that seemed like overkill…but when my GIlmour gun broke after 5+ years of faithful service, I started doing some research. Was a giant, noisy, expensive, gas-powered pressure washer really required to achieve that awesome foam coating I see on the internet all of the time? Are there at least some more compact (and cheaper) pressure washers out there so it doesn’t rob me of precious garage space if I do buy one? Alas, I stumbled upon several low cost & compact electric pressure washers on Amazon for a fraction of the price gas powered ones. Reading reviews on my favorite detailing sites made me nervous these electric units wouldn’t be strong enough, and the pros all recommend gas pressure washers. Most foam lances require a minimum of ~2 gallons per minute (GPM), but the more basic (and affordable) electric pressure washers are generally around 1.2-1.6 GPM, well below the 2 GPM minimum. Would an electric pressure washer be strong enough? Not even Amazon reviews could provide clear guidance, so I rolled the dice and placed my order to find out, choosing the GreenWorks GPW1501 13 amp 1500 PSI 1.2 GPM Electric Pressure Washer due to its compact size, built-in extension cord, and sub $80 price point. If it didn’t work, I could either return it, or at worst only be out $80. The pressure washer did come with its own foam/soap adapter, but to give my experiment the best chance of succeeding I also picked up a Chemical Guys TORQ Professional Foam Cannon and a gallon of their specially formulated Honeydew Snow Foam Cleanser, which set me back another $99.
Thanks to Amazon Prime, my new toys arrived in a little under two days, and it was time to see if this would all work. The reviews I had read were inconclusive at best as to whether a measly 1.2 GPM would be sufficient for a foam cannon, but I had my hopes. I hooked everything up and was pleasantly surprised by how compact the GreenWorks pressure washer was, and how long the extension cord was too – perfect for those with limited space and no exterior outlets (the included cord reaches from inside my garage to the driveway just fine). The foam cannon instructions advise to use 1-3 ounces of soap, which is difficult to gauge, so I just put about about a finger width of soap in the bottle and fired it up. If you haven’t guessed based on the first picture in this blog post – it worked! The car was coated in a thick layer of foam that clung to the car while the chemicals could do their work. Rather than the suds slipping right off like a basic foam gun that is shooting out mostly water, the foam cannon is shooting out mostly soap, hence why it sticks to the car more. Because the pressure washer uses less water, it’s actually a little more drought-friendly and there is less wasted water during both the soaping and rinsing stages of the wash. The lower GPM of the electric pressure washer isn’t actually a bad thing in this case, as it results in a more concentrated soap to water ratio. The only downside is that you probably need more soap than a gas washer, so plan on closer to a minimum of 3 ounces otherwise you’ll run out of soap before you’ve covered the entire car.
So it shoots more soap and uses less water which is great – but wait, that’s not all! As a longtime follower of the two bucket method of cleaning a car, I discovered this foam cannon really minimizes if not eliminates completely the need for a wash mit in the first place. I decided to skip using a mit and just see how clean the car would be after. I sprayed on the foam, waited ~5 minutes for the foam to do its work, then pressure washed it off…low and behold, the car looked spotless! Had all of this bucket filling and mit-scrubbing madness been a mistake? This was both easier AND quicker. Thinking maybe I was just lucky since my car was already pretty clean by most people’s standards (and coated with CarPro Reload sealant), I tried it out on my wife’s car next. Her black Ford Focus hadn’t been washed in ~2 months, and it really showed. I refilled the foam cannon with a decent amount of soap (my first attempt ran out of suds about 80% of the way through), sprayed the car in foam and waited about 5 minutes like before, then sprayed everything off – and once again the car looked just as clean as the two bucket method I had been employing previously. Amazing!
So my $200 experiment turned out to be a great success. My compact and fairly low PSI & GPM electric washer was able to achieve plenty of pressure to get the job done without being a nuance or requiring any fossil fuels. Beyond just a new toy, the benefits of this setup are a long list, too:
- No scrubbing = no risk of marring your paint
- Less time to wash
- Much less water used
- Easy clean-up
- No buckets needed
- Pressure washer can be used for other things (patio, driveway, etc.)
- Easier to clean hard to reach areas (wheel wells, undercarriage, etc.)
- No need to scrub wheels or use harsher chemicals to eliminate brake dust
- Professional level results
- Cool “snow foam” pictures for Instagram
While I’m sure a gas-powered pressure washer would achieve even better results, the electric pressure washer achieves at least 80% of the results and is only about 20% of the cost. For the amateur detailer like myself that has limited space and budget, it’s a perfect solution. If you don’t have any outlets or space, a Gilmour Foam Gun & Two Bucket method is fine too, but if you want to step it up a notch without breaking the bank, then an electric pressure washer and Chemical Guns foam lance is a great solution.
Got any tips for a newbie at using a foam cannon? Have a favorite soap? Give me some pointers in the comments!