Hiding in the shadow of snow foam lays pre-wash, the less visually exciting method for softening and loosening larger pieces of dirt before shampooing a car. Snow foam is the darling of the pre-wash world thanks to how cool it looks in action, the plethora of fun colours and smells available, and the simple fact it works well.
Like the humble family saloon next to a flashy crossover, pre-wash is therefore left out in the cold, even if it's an arguably superior product. Pre-wash makes less mess, is quicker to apply, doesn't require a pressure washer (a pump sprayer will come in handy though) and has a clear cleaning advantage against tar spots, bird poo and ex-insects. This is also before mentioning that a decent host of pre-washes can be diluted to clean pretty much every external material found on a car.
Autobrite Direct LTD Citrus Wash is one such example, a pre-wash that runs the full spectrum of cleaning from gently lifting dust to heavy-duty degreasing via dilution. It seems to be a very logical purchase for car cleaning, but is it worth buying?
So it's not just a pre-wash?
Autobrite describe Citrus Wash as both a pre-wash and an all-purpose cleaner (APC) which makes it a very versatile cleaner on paper. This citrus theme isn't merely a marketing ploy either, it's loaded with citrus oils to work alongside the detergents and enhance cleaning ability.
Our current favourite APC, Bilt Hamber Surfex-HD, isn't marketed as a pre-wash and can pose a threat to any applied waxes if you're not careful. Citrus Wash is labelled a pre-wash and is LSP (last stage protection) safe so perhaps this can dethrone Surfex-HD as the most versatile cleaner on sale.
Does it smell nice then??
Not at first, but that's down to the beauty of concentration. The smell fresh from the bottle is more akin to orange-scented disinfectant, while the colour is an unflattering shade of yellow best described as 'dehydrated'.
Autobrite provides instructions for each dilution on the bottle so naturally, each one was created and applied via a pump sprayer to see how versatile it was. The weakest dilution is 100:1 - it's designed for incredibly light cleaning, no more than removing a light layer of dust from the bodywork. While the cleaning ability is rather weak here, it did lift the lightest of contamination, is incredibly economical and smelt faintly of oranges.
The most popular choice for car cleaning will probably be the general cleaner dilution of 1:50. Balancing economy with cleaning ability, this ratio is the best way of pre-washing bodywork. Applied out of direct sunlight and left to dwell for a few minutes, it softened stuck-on mud that was stubbornly clinging to the paintwork for removal with a pressure washer. It also produced a nicer orange scent that lingered in the air even after washing the residue away.
It was also in this ratio that Citrus Wash was tested via a pressure washer. It foamed up well and clung to the vertical surfaces surprisingly well, even if it was nowhere near as thick as a snow foam. It still helped loosen embedded grime and was much easier to rinse off than snow foam making it a time-saving choice for preparing a car for shampooing.
The 30:1 heavy cleaning ratio worked as a stronger cleaner and perfectly suited the lower arches, wheels and other grubbier areas. It smelt a little stronger, uses a little more product and is capable of loosening tougher grime. It's at this point Citrus Wash started to outperform a typical snow foam, penetrating deeper into stubborn contamination.
The final ratio tested was the 10:1 degreaser. At this dilution, it smelt like a disinfectant but the cleaning power was undeniable. Set to work tackling the built-up grease of an engine bay, the degreaser was able to penetrate this grime with the help of a detailing brush to agitate the cleaner. This is the strongest dilution offered by Autobrite, so why it comes with a sprayer head for neat application is a little puzzling.
There's an awful lot to like about this pre-wash and APC. It's good value for money, genuinely versatile and is even biodegradable. It also helps show that snow foam isn't the only way to prepare a car for shampooing, a good pre-wash may be a more effective choice because of how quick and easy it is to apply and remove.
In fact, the only real issue with this product is the slightly disinfectant-like smell that persists until the product is diluted. Hold your nose until then and this product is unbeatable.
|• Excellent and versatile cleaning ability||• Not biodegradable|
|• Good value for money||• Strong smell before dilution|
|• A genuine alternative to snow foam|
How we tested it:
To thoroughly test the versatility of Citrus Wash we tested all the recommended dilutions printed on the bottle, making sure to agitate the product with a detailing brush and removing it with a pressure washer:
► For light cleaning (100:1) we used a pump sprayer to clear away surface dust from a car.
► For general cleaning (50:1) we used both a pressure washer and pump sprayer to clean general muck off a car.
► Heavy cleaning (30:1) was tested using a pump sprayer to clean inner wheel arches and alloy wheels.
► Degreasing (10:1) was applied via a pump sprayer to an engine bay to see how it cut through toughened grease.