The best snow foam for pre-washing your car

Snow foam hugely reduces the risk of scratch damage when washing your car. For perfect paintwork, a pre-wash product such as snow foam is essential.

CAR team testing snow foam on a Volvo XC40

by Tim Pitt |

At CAR, we like snow foam. It does serve a functional purpose, which we’ll get to, but first and foremost, spraying a car with a cloud of foam ejecting from a pressure washer lance really appeals to our 12-year-old selves. It’s fun.

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Why use snow foam and how does it work?

Contrary to what many assume, snow foam is not car shampoo. Instead, it’s used before washing your car to dislodge dirt. Apply it via a pressure washer and snow foam lance, leave for up to ten minutes, then rinse away. It means when you reach for the microfibre cloth or wash mitt, you won’t grind grit into your paint, causing scratches and swirl marks.

In addition to reducing the risk of scratching paint, the removal of surface dirt and the loosening of stubborn muck makes the contact wash stage much faster and more effective. You won't have to work away at those bugs that have seemingly turned to concrete on the front bumper.

While snow foam does have its specific purpose, many people can and do use it as a cheat substitute for shampoo. Feel free to use it as such, just be aware snow foam is not a silver bullet and can't clean as well as a subsequent wash by hand.

What snow foam is best?

Bilt Hamber Auto Foam (5L)

The best snow foam
Bilt Hamber Auto Foam (5L)
Amazon

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Bilt Hamber isn't one of the better-known brands in car care u2013 even the packaging for its snow foam is understated. However, the cleaning performance speaks for itself.

In our experience, no product is more effective at shifting dirt than Bilt Hamber Auto Foam. It works hard on stubborn road grime without removing any waxes on the paint. You won't get the fluffy 'blizzard' effect of some snow foams – essentially just an aesthetic issue – but you will end up with a showroom-clean car. A biodegradable formula means it won't harm the environment, either.

Vary the concentration between one and five parts per hundred depending on how grubby the car is. And it's fast-acting too. You only need to wait five minutes after applying it before washing it off.

Pros Cons
• Great at shifting dirt • Pricier than many products
• Gentle on paint and wax
• Biodegradable

Autoglym Polar Blast (2.5L)

The best snow foam for thickness
Autoglym Polar Blast (2.5L)
Amazon

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The Autoglym Polar Collection is a range of three products u2013 also available in a box set u2013 designed to give your car a complete clean. Polar Blast snow foam is the first stage in the process.

Polar Blast is a rich snow foam that is gentle on paintwork. A recommended dilution ratio of 100ml per litre of water means a 2.5-litre bottle should provide 25 treatments. You need to leave the Polar Blast on for longer than the Bilt Hamber Auto Foam - about 10 minutes - but it's a high achiever too, working effectively to remove top-layer grime and loosening more determined stuff. It's pH-neutral too, so you don't need to fret about it removing a previously-applied layer of car wax.

After rinsing it off, you can follow up with Autoglym Polar Wash, then Polar Seal (for a glossy finish that repels dirt, making washing easier next time). Autoglym holds royal warrants for supplying car care products to the Queen and Prince Charles. If it's good enough for the Windsors...

Pros Cons
• Good cleaning ability • The Bilt Hamber Auto Foam cleans better
• Looks great, with plenty of foam • Other products are cheaper
• Combines with other Autoglym products

Koch Chemie Gentle Snow Foam

The best snow foam for protecting existing sealants
Koch Chemie Gentle Snow Foam
Amazon

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If you've had your car ceramic coated or waxed and you're worried about stronger chemicals breaking the protective coating down, you're best off looking for a milder pre-wash. Quite possibly the softest snow foam on the market, Koch Chemie's Gentle Snow Foam (Gsf) is designed to lift and remove bits of debris without stripping away any sealant or wax you have applied.

The snow foam is an excellent, biodegradable option and really good value for money considering the dilution rates required. In our testing, 20ml per litre (as stated on the stylish packaging) was more than enough to deliver a thick, clingy coating of foam that also features a really nice cherry scent. If you're after more cleaning power without lifting away sealant it can be used in conjunction with Koch Chemie Green Star, a mildly-alkaline APC that'll cut through grime and doubles as a rust inhibitor.

That's not all, if you add 50ml of Gsf to 10-litres of water, it can be used as a pH neutral car shampoo too, making it even better value for money.

Pros Cons
• Gentle on sealants and waxes • Not the best-known brand
• Excellent foaming abilities • Other products are cheaper
• Doubles as a shampoo

Car Gods snow foam (5L)

The best snow foam for scent
Car Gods snow foam (5 litre)
Amazon

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This snow foam from UK brand Car Gods 54 strikes a great balance between performance and price, making it ideal for regular use. If you're the kind of person who washes your car every Sunday morning (who needs lie-ins, right?), it's all the product you need.

Car Gods 54 has a good reputation among car detailing geeks. This pH-neutral foam goes easy on paint and wax but does a good job at shifting dirt. The five-litre container offers good value, with a dilution ratio of 100ml per litre of water equating to 50 washes, or more if you have a hatchback. That's nearly a full year of Sundays.

It's less thick than premium-brand snow foams and doesn't cling quite so readily but smells like oranges which give it a few more points.

Pros Cons
• Good value for money • Less thick than pricier foams
• Cleans well
• Gentle on paint and wax

Meguiar's Ultimate Car Snow Foam Kit

Best snow foam kit
Meguiar's Ultimate Car Snow Foam Kit

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New to snow foam? Assuming you already have a pressure washer, this starter pack from Meguiar's contains everything else you need. It includes a 946ml bottle of foam concentrate, a lance with an adjustable nozzle and brass neck, a one-litre mixing bottle, a roll of thread tape, plus adaptors for Ku00e4rcher K Series, Bosch and Nilfisk pressure washers.

You expect high quality from Meguiar's and this package delivers. The snow foam lance feels built to last, while the thread tape ensures a drip-free seal. The 'Ultimate Xtreme Cling' foam supplied also lives up to its name, creating a dense blanket of foam that clings to car bodywork, and then rinses away grime. A great gift for the car enthusiast in your life – or for yourself.

It's pH-neutral but needs a higher concentration than the other snow foams here of 1:5 (100ml of snow foam to 500ml of water). Thus, you do go through it faster. But once you've gone through it you can always replace it with one of our award-winners above. The real gem in this kit is the quality foam cannon with its set of universal adaptors.

Pros Cons
• Fits a numerous pressure washer brands • Only a small bottle of foam supplied, and higher solution to water ratio than the others here
• High quality components
• Foam is rich and effective

Turtle Wax Hybrid Snow Foam (2.5L)

Best dual-use foam
Turtle Wax Hybrid Snow Foam
Amazon

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This Turtle Wax product can be used either with or without a pressure washer, making it a great budget option. Simply add the product to a bucket of water and use a wash mitt to clean your car if you don't own a pressure washer. Effective on all external parts of your car, it even has a nice bubblegum scent.

As one of Turtle Wax's Hybrid products, it has polymers in the solution that bond firmly to the car's surface and create a hydrophobic layer, making it harder for water and dirt to adhere to the surface. It's streak-free after drying too.

We like the effective technology in the solution, but the application demands some light scrubbing, which the others here do not.

Pros Cons
• Good value • A 'premium' foam performs better
• Can be used without a pressure washer • A pressure washer will give much better results

Related: The best car polish | The best wash brushes for car bodywork and wheels

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.

Autoglym Polar Blaster

The best snow foam lance
Autoglym Polar Blaster
Amazon

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If you champion Autoglym's Polar Blast as a top snow foam pick, why not get the matching foam lance to get the best results possible. It's a well-made, affordable and well-designed foam lance, making use of brass for the body and featuring a large container with markings for Autoglym's Polar Collection (although no other makings are present). It also features a clever pivoting mechanism to ensure you get full coverage as you angle the pressure washer. Finally, it also features a quick-release mechanism to make cleaning snow foam way easier.

MTM Hydro Foam Cannon Wand

The best premium foam lance
MTM Hydro Foam Cannon Wand
Amazon

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This is a serious bit of detailing kit and comes with a price tag to match. Still, for that money, you'll get really rich foam and outstanding build quality. The body is brass and has the best adjustability for any snow foam lance we've seen. While it lacks any markings on the side and the opening for filling the container is small, it's still a top choice because of how thick it can make snow foam.

Related: The best car cleaning kits for comprehensive car care | How to clean and sanitise your car interior

Do I need a pressure washer to snow foam my car?

Snow foam and pressure washers have traditionally been inseparable like French and Saunders or Shrek and Donkey, but that’s not the case anymore. New methods of foaming your car have been discovered that quite often only require a hose, perfect if you don’t fancy spending close to £100 on a decent pressure washer, and that’s before you factor in the snow foam lance.

Adam's Standard Foam Gun

Adam's Standard Foam Gun
Amazon

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If all you have is a garden hose and tap, then you can still get a decently thick snow foam coating with a foam gun. This option from Adam's Polishes may look a little expensive, but it's far cheaper than a good pressure washer, is well made, has an adjustable nozzle and can be used for applying other car cleaning products too. While the foam won't be as thick as that from a pressure washer, itu's the best foam you'll get from a tap and a top recommended product.

Demon Shine Demon Foam With Snow Foam Gun

Demon Shine Demon Foam With Snow Foam Gun

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Another, more basic way of using a tap to get snow foam is this budget option from Demon Shine. Simply insert a hosepipe into the sprayer and it'll produce a relatively thick foam. It's an ok choice but limits you to Demon Shine snow foam is inefficient with the product and the inconvenience of carrying around 2-litres of foam will get tiresome quickly.

Ryobi 18V ONE Cordless 22bar Power Washer

Ryobi 18V ONE Cordless 22bar Power Washer
Amazon

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Don't even have a hosepipe? There are more and more cordless power washers popping up on the market that can pressurise water from any source of water (including a bucket) which allows you to apply snow foam to a car from nearly any location. They're not as powerful as a corded pressure washer and the foam's thickness suffers slightly because of this, but a power washer like this Ryobi is better than nothing. It certainly topped our triple test.

Venus PRO Foam 2 Litre Compression Sprayer

Venus PRO Foam 2 Litre Compression Sprayer

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There are even ultra-low tech and affordable ways to snow foam a car without the need for either a pressure washer or even an outdoor tap. This handheld compression sprayer may not produce the thickest foam, but it's quite a clever option in a pinch. It can also be used for applying other cleaning products to a car too which makes it a great bit of kit to have regardless.

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).

Application

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. 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 gunk even if it’ll also damage the paint over time.

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