The foam cannon car wash craze has been going on for years, but people still ask, “does using a foam cannon yield better results than a bucket wash?” There’s no doubt that using a foam cannon to wash your car or truck is the fastest way to get the job done. Not only is it super satisfying to coat your vehicle with a thick layer of suds, but those thick suds have lots of benefits! Foam helps the soap cling to the surface longer, giving you more working time before it dries or drips off of your vehicle. It also helps you see clearly where you’ve already scrubbed with your microfiber wash mitt or brush. But if you're looking for a brushless car wash solution, the truth about that process may surprise you. We're going to cover it all! Let’s dive into the difference between foam guns and foam cannons, plus how effective each option is for your situation!
What is the difference between a foam gun and a foam cannon?
Both foam cannons and foam guns serve the same basic purpose; to efficiently coat the exterior of your vehicle with thick, sudsy goodness with high lubricity truck wash soap without the need for buckets. Since foam guns and foam cannons accomplish the same goal, how do you decide which is the best option for your wash needs?
Let’s break it down.
Pressure Washer Foam Cannons & Garden Hose Foam Cannons
Foam cannons these days are made to be very sturdy and designed to be used over and over. Foam cannons for garden hose setups have become very reliable for people without a pressure washer. However, the best pressure washer foam cannons output way thicker foam than any garden hose foamer ever could.
For the average person washing their car or washing a semi-truck, foam cannons are going to be the best option. Foam cannons are both affordable and reliable options for any DIY car wash enthusiasts. The portability of foam cannons also makes them a good option for individuals without a permanent wash setup. For professional detailers who wash a lot of vehicles, the foam gun may be a better option for you if the goal is to maximize profits by reducing the time it takes to complete a wash job.
Some websites (including ours) refer to pressure washer foam cannons as foam guns. They mean the same thing. Kind of like calling a pressure washer a power washer. Or Fork Lift vs Hi-Lo. They’re the same thing, it’s just a regional difference in the term you use to describe it.
Here at Image, we actually have real foam guns as well. If you're serious about your wash game, keep reading.
Foam Guns & Lances - The Professional Option for Foam Washes
These foam guns are used by commercial truck washes, fleet washers, and professional detailers. Heavy duty industrial strength foam guns are designed to be used with pressure washers and replace foam cannons all together. These foam guns are used with downstream injectors to pump your favorite truck wash soap and other chemicals straight from the bottle, through your pressure washer hose, and then turned into super thick suds at the foam head connected to your trigger sprayer.
Here are the two best options for professional foam guns.
Double Barrel All-In-One Foam Gun With Rinse Barrel
Dual barrel pressure washer guns, like our Foaminator, are the best for maximizing efficiency and reducing wasted time. They also help to ensure consistent chemical dilution, so you always know you have the right ratio of soap to water. With less chemicals being wasted by “eyeballing it” to fill up soap canisters, you increase profits for your business. Since the Foaminator includes a foam barrel and a separate rinse barrel in one gun, there’s no need to constantly swap quick connect barrels or rinse tips. The top barrel has a foam head at the end which produces thick shaving cream type foam. In the middle of the gun, there’s a changeover valve that changes the gun functionality from the foam barrel to the rinse barrel with a simple quarter turn. This changes the suction pressure in your hose which stops the injector from being able to pull soap, allowing you to rinse from the bottom barrel without any additional steps.
“But what if I need to foam more than one chemical?”
The Foaminator works with all sorts of injectors. We offer them with a single injector (for use with one chemical at a time) or a dual injector that has a physical handle to choose which soap you want to pump through your foam gun. For truck wash bays that often use more than two chemicals to wash equipment, we also custom build injector boxes with multiple soap options. They include light-up push buttons to indicate which chemical you want to foam, with separate lines running from each chemical barrel or tote. If you were using 4 chemicals to wash dozens of trucks per day, you wouldn’t want to stop to fill up four separate foam cannons. That would be a massive waste of time. When it comes to commercial truck wash bays, time is money!
Pistol Pete - Professional Foam Gun
This is the best foam gun for professionals looking for a less bulky option. This style of foam gun comes with a quick connect socket that you can attach a foam head to and then swap it for your rinse barrel when you’re ready to wash off the foam. Since the foam head on the Pistol Pete is the same one as the Foaminator, you still get the same thick suds. Our Pistol Pete foam gun can be used with single injectors, dual injectors, or custom injector boxes with 3+ chemical options.
Do You Hand Wash After Foam Cannon?
This is where the biggest misconceptions come from. Foam cannons don’t replace using a wash mitt or brush. However, washing with foam can (in some cases) eliminate the need for hand washing. A lot of factors come into play here, so I’m going to break down some different scenarios. If you're looking for the best foam cannon car wash experience, here's what you need to know.
When You Should Hand Wash
If your goal is to wash your truck 100% clean with no road grime leftover, it’s time to hand wash. After foaming on your favorite truck wash soap, use your wash mitt to gently agitate the soap. Besides being super concentrated, truck wash soaps like our Platinum Wash or Wash & Wax are perfect for hand washing since they have a neutral pH and contain lubricants that gently encapsulate the dirt particles to prevent scratches to your paint’s clear coat as your mitt glides across the paint.
For very lightly soiled vehicles, you can sometimes get away with using these same soaps without a brush. This would mainly be an option for people who wash their vehicle multiple times per week or for vehicles with ceramic coatings.
Touchless or Brushless Car Wash
Touchless washes are a great option for a few different situations, but they do require different chemicals. Brushless truck wash soaps are a 2 step process. You start by foaming the first soap, a low pH acid, onto the vehicle surface. This pre-soak neutralizes the positively charged particles stuck to the surface. Once the first step has sat for a minute or two, you then foam the second soap over top of the first step. The second soap is a high alkaline soap with degreasing properties. That high pH neutralizes the first soap and negatively charged dirt particles, resulting in a neutral pH mixture on your surface. The chemical reaction between these two soaps breaks the static bond that makes dirt stick to your surface, so you can easily pressure wash it clean without a brush or mitt.
If your vehicle has a wax or ceramic coating, you can expect touchless soaps to get your vehicle 100% clean or very close to it depending on how well you rinsed.
If your vehicle doesn’t have any protective coating, but you keep up on weekly or bi-weekly hand washes, you can expect the brushless soaps to get your equipment about 90% clean with only a thin layer of road film left behind.
If you prefer to wash once a month and your vehicle doesn’t have a protective coating, we would recommend hand washing for the best results.
Check out our brushless car wash soap to learn more.
Benefits of Using A Foam Cannon vs Foam Gun
Now that we’ve touched on what the difference between a foam cannon and a pressure washer foam gun is, let’s dive into the pros and cons of each.
- Most affordable way to start foaming
- Doesn’t require a soap injector
- Garden hose and pressure washer versions available
- Covers vehicle in foam, eliminating the need for a sudsy soap bucket
- Easy to use options for pressure washer or traditional garden hose
- Pressure washer version lets you adjust foam production, dilution, and spray pattern.
- Kind of bulky
- Need to refill them when empty
- Foaming multiple soaps? You’re probably going to want one for each chemical.
- Should ideally be cleaned out regularly to prevent buildup
- Swapping cannons constantly means wearing out O-Rings quicker
Foam Guns & Pressure Washer Lances
- Most professional and durable way to foam wash
- Can be used in mobile wash setups or wash bays
- No refilling needed since it pulls chemicals directly from the soap container
- Produces thick foam that is perfectly diluted every time no adjustments needed
- Requires less maintenance than foam cannons
- Can be used to foam multiple chemicals without disconnecting anything
- More expensive than foam cannons
- Does require the use of an injector
- Requires a pressure washer
Ready to pick out the best foam cannon for your setup? Click here to browse our full selection of foam cannons and foam guns.