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What is contamination

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Contamination is a word that is used frequently in the world of detailing. It refers to the matter on top of a surface that shouldn’t be there. They are contaminating the surface, or you can say that they are contaminants. The removal of these contaminants results in a perfectly clean surface. A surface in which the only variable you have to take into account, is the material of the surface itself.

Why is contamination bad

It is mostly about control. When you look at water behavior of a surface, this will be influenced by the contaminants on the surface. Let’s say you want to know if your wax needs to be replaced. One of the easiest ways of doing this, is looking at the sheeting and beading. But when you judge, are you judging on the interaction between water and wax? Or water and contaminants? Or a mixture of both?
That is a matter of uncertainty that you don’t want.
Another example is the stage of polishing. You want the polish to be the only substance interacting with the paint. Because you know how to control the behavior of a polish. But when there are contaminants, you have particles that you don’t know how to control, and don’t know if they can be controlled. So they’re a matter of substance present that you can’t control, and you don’t know what it does or can/will do. This takes away control. And this is bad.

Another point is the long term effect of certain substances on the surface. Certain chemicals can damage the surface. These chemicals should be removed before they can do any harm. In some cases this can be corrected, but preventing is better then having to correct it.

Another example would be the application of a protective product. When the manufacturer designed his product, he didn’t create it to bond with grime, dust and sand. He made it with the aim of bonding with the surface it is made for. When you apply a protective product over a surface full of contaminants, the product won’t bond properly because it isn’t designed to interact with sand, dust and other contaminants.
This will result in much shorter durability, and negatively affected performance.

What are contaminants

That list is very long, because when you talk about grime, you are talking about a very large group of materials that apply to the term. This list includes road dust, carbon deposits, dust, salt, rubber, exhaust fumes, etc. To keep the list a bit more simple we can divide it into:

  • Fallout (Iron oxide)
  • Dust
  • Sand
  • Mineral deposits (from water for example)
  • Acid stains (from slightly acid rain)
  • Tree sap
  • Oils
  • Tar
  • General grime
  • Insects

But that list can be made very long, as the word “contamination” can also be used to refer to the presence of a protective product. If that product is unwanted, it will count as a contamination. When your layer of protective product is worn, and needs to be replaced it becomes an impurity, an unwanted substance/material on a certain surface. So in that situation, even the protective product can count as a contamination.

Where does it fit in

Contamination is something that occurs normally. Simply be being exposed to the environment will cause a surface to become contaminated. The dusty wind, rain, insects, pollen in the spring etc. So even an unused car, parked outside will get contaminated. With the weekly wash, most of that contamination will be removed, but it also depends on the protective product. The harder the layer, the less contaminants can bond. So you can say that simply washing the car is part of decontamination, however, just washing it will only remove a part of the contamination and will have little effect on certain materials.
This is why we use processes such as claying, fallout remover, traffic film remover etc. to remove these unwanted particles. In the weekly wash, decontamination doesn’t fit anywhere really. On the decontamination page, there will be more information on when to do it and how to do it.

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