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What protection really does and mean

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Protection” is an often used term in the field of detailing and valeting. But it is not always clear to everybody what protection really means, and what it does. Protection is a term used to clarify that a product is designed to form a barrier between a surface and contaminants from outside.

What is protection

The word “protecting” according to the Oxford dictionary means:

Keep safe from harm or injury

This means that the term “protection” refers to a barrier that protects the surface it is applied upon. For example: wax forms a barrier between dirt and the paintwork. Preventing the dirt and grime from coming into contact with the paint. Wax offers protection for paintwork against grime and dirt.

Putting protection in perspective

Contaminants lying on top of protective product
Contaminants lying on top of protective product

The term “protection” does not automatically means that it protects against rocks, sticks, scratches, dents and other situations or objects that can negatively affect a surface. To be sure what type of protection a product offers, either read the label or contact the manufacturer. The term “protection” should therefore be used a bit carefully, to prevent people from getting dissapointed when they find a scratch despite using a sealant or wax. Some ceramic coating have a very high hardness, meaning they can withstand mechanical abrasion better then some other forms of protection, but they need more care and attention to be applied properly.

In general terms, no protective product will protect against any form of dirt. But it will protect against that grime and dirt negatively affecting the surface. To put it in real life terms: your vehicle will still get dirty, just like normal. But the dirt will not get stuck in the paintwork and will be much easier to clean off. Because it doesn’t get stuck on the surface, and because it is much easier to wash off, it will much less likely affect the surface underneath.

An example: bird poo contains harsh chemicals that can severely damage the paintwork of a vehicle if left to long. If not removed in time it will cause a surface imperfection that either needs polishing, or even a spotrepair or respray. If the paintwork was protected with a protective product, the bird poo would not get stuck in the paintwork so easily, and washing it off would be much easier. The risk of the bird poo eating away at the paintwork would be much less likely. With a much decreased risk for a repair needed.

Another example would be that certain forms of dirt like mud is much easier to remove. Greatly decreasing the amount of “rubbing” it does on the surface. Therefore decreasing the risk that the removal will result in surface imperfections. Because the mud is easy to remove, it will less likely scratch the surface during removal.

Realistic protection

Different products form different types of protection, knowing what each product does can help to determine what product you are looking for.

Wax

Protects against:

  • Grime getting stuck on the surface
  • Dirt caking on
  • Bird poo getting stuck on the surface
  • Iron particles getting stuck in the surface
  • Tar spots getting stuck on the paint

Could protect against: (differs per product)

  • Chemical liquids attacking the surface
  • Acidic rain affecting the surface
  • Mud getting stuck on the surface
  • Certain forms of road-salt

Does not protect against:

  • Objects causing marks when rubbing the surface
  • Marks caused by rubbing abrasive particles during washing
  • Certain harsh chemicals
  • Heavy objects bumping into the surface
  • UV damage

Sealant

Protects against:

  • Grime getting stuck on the surface
  • Dirt caking on
  • Bird poo getting stuck on the surface
  • Iron particles getting stuck in the surface
  • Tar spots getting stuck on the paint
  • Mud getting stuck on the surface
  • Certain forms of road-salt

Could protect against: (differs per product)

  • Chemical liquids attacking the surface
  • Acidic rain affecting the surface
  • UV damage

Does not protect against:

  • Objects causing marks when rubbing the surface
  • Marks caused by rubbing abrasive particles during washing
  • Certain harsh chemicals
  • Heavy objects bumping into the surface

Ceramic coating

Protects against:

  • Grime getting stuck on the surface
  • Dirt caking on
  • Bird poo getting stuck on the surface
  • Iron particles getting stuck in the surface
  • Tar spots getting stuck on the paint
  • Mud getting stuck on the surface
  • Certain forms of road-salt
  • Certain harsh chemicals
  • Chemical liquids attacking the surface
  • Acidic rain affecting the surface
  • UV damage

Could protect against: (differs per product)

  • Marks caused by rubbing abrasive particles during washing
  • Certain harsh chemicals

Does not protect against:

  • Objects causing marks when rubbing the surface
  • Heavy objects bumping into the surface

Plastic protective film

Protects against:

  • Grime getting stuck on the surface
  • Dirt caking on
  • Bird poo getting stuck on the surface
  • Iron particles getting stuck in the surface
  • Tar spots getting stuck on the paint
  • Mud getting stuck on the surface
  • Certain forms of road-salt
  • Certain harsh chemicals
  • Chemical liquids attacking the surface
  • Acidic rain affecting the surface

Could protect against: (differs per product)

  • Marks caused by rubbing abrasive particles during washing
  • Certain harsh chemicals
  • UV damage
  • Objects causing marks when rubbing the surface

Does not protect against:

  • Heavy objects bumping into the surface

Protection and beading/sheeting

One of the many ways of protecting a surface is done by increasing the surface energy of the layer that is being left behind. This causes liquid to have much less grip on the surface. The liquid forms small beads (beading) that each have a higher mass then a flat sheet of water. This higher mass, combined with the increased surface energy allow the liquids to “glide” over the surface with more ease. While the droplets glide over the surface, they often drag dirt and other small particles with them. In a way you could say that the small droplets running off the surface help to clean a little bit. It won’t be enough to completely clean the surface, but the surface will be less dirty then when the droplets formed one big sheet that would dry up.

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