Undoubtedly, the most visually thrilling part of any car cleaning task is covering a car in a nice blanket of the best snow foam. Its job is to penetrate the muck that you intend to wash off, helping soften it and even loosen it. This is all in the name of reducing the risk of scratches occurring should you accidentally drag a big piece of grit across your clearcoat.
Left to dwell for a few minutes, the detergents within snow foam will work their magic and should leave your paintwork far easier to clean with a quality car shampoo. You won't have to work away at those bugs that have seemingly turned to concrete on the front bumper.
The best snow foams at a glance:
• Editor's pick: Bilt Hamber Auto Foam - Buy now from Amazon
• Best snow foam for beginners: Autoglym Polar Blast - Buy now from Amazon
• The best gentle snow foam: Koch Chemie Gentle Snow Foam - Buy now from Amazon
Best applied via a pressure washer, snow foam is by no means necessary but is a useful addition if you care at all about swirl marks in your paintwork. We're huge snow foam lovers here at CAR, it's a useful and fun method of car cleaning, and we've spent ages finding the best examples.
The best snow foams
Bilt Hamber isn't one of the better-known brands in car care, even the packaging for its snow foam
- Great at shifting dirt
- Gentle on paint and wax
- Not the thickest foam
The best snow foam for beginners
The Autoglym Polar Collection is a range of three products (also available in a box set) designed
- Great for snow foam newbies
- Looks great with plenty of foam
- Requires more products to dilute
The best gentle snow foam
If you've had your car ceramic coated or waxed and you're worried about stronger chemicals
- Excellent foaming abilities
- Doubles as a shampoo
- Will struggle on really dirty cars
The best simple snow foam
This cherry-scented and concentrated offering from 26JPN requires only 50ml of product to achieve
- Gentle but effective formula
- Nice thick foam
- No fancy extras
The best fun snow foam
Snow foam is already the best part of car cleaning, but zany colours and a bold scent can make it
- Top cleaning performance
- Fun to use
- Custard smell is acquired
What you need to know about snow foam
Does the snow foam lance matter?
Yes. While the right pressure washer and snow foam may be at the forefront of most people’s minds when they’re trying to produce a thick foam, having the right snow foam lance is just as important. Most mid-range pressure washers will be supplied with a small foam lance, but it’s certainly worth looking at an aftermarket foam cannon to get the best foam possible.
There are a number of things worth considering when it comes to an aftermarket foam lance, the most important part being the connector. Not only is it worth spending a bit more to get a quick-release connector and ensure that the body is made from metal (brass is a top choice), but you must find one that fits your pressure washer. More often than not you’ll need to find the correct adapter for your pressure washer, something that’ll require you to check your pressure washer’s handbook.
Smaller considerations include the capacity, how wide the mouth is and whether there are any markings on the container for easy dilution. While it may sound like a lot of work, this is how you get the best foam lance possible. These lances will have greater adjustability, will be better made and help produce the thickest foam possible. We’ve already put together an article on OEM snow foam lances, so instead here are the best aftermarket snow foam lances.
When to use snow foam
You should also pick the right conditions. As with washing your car in general, applying snow foam in blazing sunshine won’t produce the best results. The foam may dry before it has fully taken effect, or leave unsightly detergent marks where the water has evaporated. A mild, cloudy day – or a parking spot in the shade – works best.
Mix with water
Unless you use a ready-mixed snow foam such as Turtle Wax, you’ll need to dilute the product with water. See the instructions on the bottle for the correct ratio. Then use the lance to spray foam onto the dry car (wetting the bodywork first encourages the foam to slide off).
Try to achieve an even layer of foam across the whole car, including the wheels. Don’t pile it on too thickly or you will simply waste foam. Feel free to agitate the bodywork with a wash mitt, the snow foam will provide plenty of lubrication. Then leave the car for between five and 10 minutes before rinsing the foam away with water. Now you can actually wash the car, but the pre-treatment with snow foam should make that quicker, easier and produce better results.
What are the alternatives to snow foam?
While snow foam is the coolest of the pre-washes, it’s not the only option available for decontaminating a car before cleaning. Pre washes for example also help decontaminate the bodywork so there’s no risk of scratches once you go made with the wash mitt, just without the cool foaming effects. All purpose cleaners (APC) are another good choice and work similarly, albeit more for more generalised cleaning. Note that both will still require water to clean the car's surface.
And if you’re dealing with cement mixers, vans, armoured tanks or other suitably industrial vehicles, a traffic-film remover filled (TFR) loaded with caustic acid will remove industrial gunk as long as you don't care about shiny paintwork.
Ryan Gilmore is the Deputy Autos and Tools Editor for CAR, specialising in car cleaning and hand tools. With an MA in Automotive Journalism, when he's not testing buckets he can be found looking at old Porsches.