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The usefulness of the foam gun or foam cannon has been hotly debated amongst car enthusiasts and detailers for years. Some argue they are useless, other swear by them.
The simple truth is that the use of a foam gun or foam cannon is all about satisfaction.
Sure, there is some merit to the fact that foamed car shampoo will stick to the car longer allowing the chemicals in the soap to dwell longer and work their magic. The real benefit, however, is the pure enjoyment and satisfaction you get when you blast streams of silky white foam across your car.
Think about bubble baths. Do the bubbles in the bath get you any cleaner? Not really. Do they make the bath better? Absolutely! I don’t care how you old are.
I think everyone should try one out if they can. No, you wont use it all the time. No, it won’t make washing your car faster. Yes you’ll go through soap faster. What it will do, though, is make taking care of your car more enjoyable. We all know if something is more enjoyable we are more likely to do it.
Now that I’ve sold you on the idea of the foam gun, or painted myself as a crazy, lets talk about the finer details of these toys. I mean tools! Yeah tools…
Foam Gun vs Foam Cannon/Lance
Simply put a foam gun is meant to be used on a regular water (garden) hose. Foam cannons, also called foam lances (though a lance is technically the wand part of the pressure washer that attaches to the foam cannon), are used on pressure washers.
Both can be equipped with quick connect fitting to make for a quick swap to pure rinse water.
Naturally, the foam gun on the garden hose is not going to generate near as much foam as the foam cannon on a pressure washer. It’s also markedly cheaper since a quality host only cost around $25 and a quality foam gun is around $50. The setup and faster and easier as well.
If you already own a pressure washer that you wish to use for car cleaning or auto detailing then the natural choice is the foam cannon. If you don’t and don’t want to shell out for one then the foam gun is what you should be looking for.
Another consideration with the foam cannon is that setup time takes a little longer since you have set up the pressure washer as well versus just rolling out a water hose.
Types of Foam Guns
If you look closely there are only a handful of foam gun designs on the market. Most foam guns are just relabeled versions of the Gilmour line of foam guns. Functionally there are really only two varieties on the market, adjustable and non-adjustable.
If you want simplicity and cost savings, get the non-adjustable. If you want adjustability buy the adjustable. If you want good warranty support buy one branded from a reputable company like Gilmour, Autogeek, Adams, etc…
Types of Foam Cannons
Just like the foam guns most variations of foam cannons are just rebranded or copied MTM line of foam cannons. Like the foam guns the two major varieties are adjustable and non-adjustable.
One thing about the foam cannons that’s a little different than the foam guns is that the quick connect fittings provided with each foam cannon can vary greatly between brands. This is because there is no standard fitting for pressure washers. You want to make sure any foam cannon you buy has a quick connect that will fit your brand of pressure washer or you’ll need to buy one that fits separately.
How to Use a Foam Gun
1. Use a car wash shampoo that’s formulated for creating lots of suds. My personal favorites are Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam (smells great!) and Mckees 37 Xtreme Foam Formula.
2. Measure out the car wash soap needed for the right dilution ration according to the directions on the bottle. If you just wing it you risk not using enough soap and not getting the rich thick foam you’re after or using too much and clogging the siphon on the foam gun.
If you plan to stick with the same shampoo you can mark your bottle with a marker showing how full to fill with soap before adding water. This will save you time in future setups.
3. Add shampoo and water to the bottle on the foam gun and stir the mixture or gently swirl the bottle.
4. Attach the bottle to the foam gun and ensure the nozzle and sprayer are securely attached to the foam gun body as well.
5. Begin spraying your vehicle. I recommend starting from the top and working your way down.
6. Set the foam gun down (gently so as not to hurt the plastic bottle) and start wiping the vehicle down with your preferred wash mit.
7. When finished disconnect the foam gun body from the sprayer using the quick disconnect and proceed to rinse the vehicle.
Pretty simple eh?
A foam gun is not a detailing necessity. It is, however, a useful and satisfying tool for cleaning your car or impressing your customers. If you can spare the change I would buy one and try it out. If you don’t like it you can always flip it or give it to a fellow car enthusiast.
You can see the top foam guns and foam cannons that I think are worth considering in my article Top Foam Guns and Foam Cannons.
As for soap my personal recommendation is Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam. You can check it out in my article Best Car Wash Shampoo and Soap.