Foam Cannon vs Hand Wash: Which is Better?

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

foam cannon vs hand wash

Washing a car yourself is the most thorough and safe way to clean it if you do it properly and carefully. This can be done by washing by hand, using a foam cannon, or both.

Each method has distinct characteristics and benefits, which this article will discuss to compare the foam cannon vs. hand wash. Which method is best to use depends on certain scenarios and your preference.

Factors Foam Cannon Method Hand Washing Method
Initial Cost Expensive initial pressure washer cost Lower due to affordable cleaning equipment
Speed Faster cleaning due to quick foam application.

The foam can remove contaminants.

Takes more time because of manual soap application and contaminant removal.
Approach Less effort with the use of high-pressure sprays and contaminant-removing foam. More hands-on and more attention can be given to in car washing.
Ease of Cleaning Easier cleaning with the use of high-pressure water and foam. Takes more effort to remove contaminants.
Cleaning Results Can effectively clean when used correctly.

Prevents scratches and cross-contamination.

But in some cases wherein there are leftover contaminants, it would still require hand washing with the 2 bucket wash method.

Can effectively clean when done correctly.

But you have to be very careful to not cause scratches.

Water Consumption Consumes more water. Uses less water than the foam cannon method.

How Do Foam Cannons Work?


As a specialized tool for car washing, the foam cannon works wonders in cleaning a car. It can provide thick foam to encapsulate and lift contaminants on a vehicle. Users can leave it for 3 – 5 minutes on the car surface and rinse it off along with any dirt.

For the foam cannon to work effectively and perfectly, it must be used with a pressure washer and a special soap for foam cannons. It mixes the cleaning solution with water and air, which results in a thick foam spray.

The foam sprayed on the car would then attack the contaminants with high-pressure cleaning agents. They would then be easily removed with a spray of high-pressure water.

Pros of Using a Foam Cannon for Vehicle Washing


  • Easy Application With Excellent Coverage

With a foam cannon, you can easily apply foam cannon soap all over a car by pointing it toward the car and pulling the trigger to spray the foam. The foam cannon also makes it easy to tell where you have already applied the foam cannon soap. Meanwhile, regular soap is more thin and watery, unlike foam, which is thick and easily visible. So, you may lose track of where you already applied it.

  • Consistent Foam

The foam cannon can give a consistent foam bath for cars that won’t run out of surfactants. On the other hand, the soapy water tends to run out of suds when hand washing.

This is because regular car soap is designed to encapsulate contaminants. Each time you dip a contaminated wash mitt in the bucket, the soap will keep attacking its contaminants and diminish the suds.

But this wouldn’t be a problem when washing a car with a foam cannon, as you’ll always get the same foam consistency.

  • Contaminant-Busting Pressure

As you spray foam or water with the aid of the pressure washer, you also get the benefit of pressure that helps break down and remove contaminants. This would be especially advantageous when there are tough and caked-on contaminants.

  • Quick Cleaning

Using a foam cannon for car washing allows you to clean a car by spraying it with foam and water. Sometimes, there’s no need for hand washing anymore.

Moreover, it also allows you to spray up to 5 gallons of foam in just one minute. You also have a two-in-one device that sprays soap and water. So overall, a foam cannon can make car washing quicker.

  • Prevents Scratches

Compared to regular soapy water, foam encapsulates contaminants better, lubricates better, and provides more protection against abrasive contaminants. So when hand washing after using the foam cannon, you just have to wipe gently and no scrubbing aggressively is needed, which can lead to scratches.

  • Prevents Cross-Contamination

This pro applies when you’re not hand washing after using the foam cannon. Because, unlike hand washing, the foam cannon method doesn’t use buckets that can accumulate contaminants that can be spread on the car.



  • Expensive Initial Cost

If you don’t have a pressure washer yet, you’d need to buy it, as the foam cannon requires it to function. And the pressure washer comes at an expensive price.

  • High Water Consumption

The foam cannon makes use of lots of water to function, thus not good for your water bill and the environment.

Ideal Scenarios for Each Method

1. For the Foam Cannon Method


  • A pressure washer is available.
  • You don’t have much time.
  • You opt for absolute coverage.
  • The car has tough contaminants

2. For the Hand Wash Method


  • A pressure washer isn’t available
  • You can spend a longer time for car washing
  • You want to car wash with a personal touch
  • The car isn’t terribly contaminated

3. For Both Methods


  • The car requires more than hand washing.
  • There are contaminants missed from foam washing.


Which method to choose between the foam cannon vs. hand wash depends on the available cleaning equipment, a car’s condition, the amount of time you have, and your preferred cleaning approach.

But generally, the foam cannon can help make car washing easier and faster while preventing scratches and cross-contamination. Taking into account the aforementioned factors, benefits, and suitability will allow you to choose the best method for you.

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– Bruce Sonnier