Tips, Tricks & Trends

What Is a Waterless Car Wash?

Washing your car is important in order to prolong the car’s paint job and a waterless car wash is a quick and easy way to get the job done. What is a waterless car wash? It’s just what it sounds like; a car wash without the use of water. To some, it may sound like weird magic, and to others, it might sound like an easy way to scratch your car’s paint. However, let’s examine the process of a waterless wash as well as the options currently in the market so you know what will work best for your car.

There are benefits to a waterless car wash

One of the main benefits of using a waterless car wash method is that you can wash your car in a pinch. Even if you live in an apartment and don’t have access to a water source or are on a road trip and need to wash your car quickly, a waterless wash could be the best answer to getting your car nice and shiny.

While you can always use an automatic car wash, those machines and large rollers tend to leave nasty swirl marks on your car, which can ultimately be very harmful to the paint. With a waterless wash, you can ensure that you’re doing the job correctly and not harming your car.

RELATED: Surprising Ways the Car Wash Could be Damaging Your Car

meguair's waterless wash
Meguiar’s Waterless Wash Spray | Amazon

What does a waterless car wash involve?

There are many different companies that produce waterless wash products and while some might be better than others, they all technically consist of the same types of products and do the same thing. The first, and most important, part of any waterless wash system is the cleaning product spray that is used. Car and Driver listed and ranked 10 different waterless wash sprays and stated that all of them essentially do the same thing, it’s just a couple of them left a better shine than others.

The waterless wash sprays all have a cleaning agent to lift the dirt and grime, as well as wax in order to make the paint shine at the end. The other components to a waterless wash are a lot of microfiber towels, ideally colored coded so you know which ones to use on the body panels and which to use for your wheels.

When you have everything you need for a waterless wash, the process is as simple as spraying on the product, wiping it down with the microfiber, and then rubbing it over with a clean towel to buff in the shine. It’s important to use microfiber towels as they are soft enough to not scratch the paint and are easy to wash.

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waterless mobile wash
Washly CEO Karan Walia, pictured, and co-founder Aysar Khalid. The York University pair recently launched Washly, a waterless mobile car wash that comes to you in Toronto. They take appointments with a smart phone app. May 16, 2012. STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR (Photo by Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

If you want a more complete job, then get an aerator pump

One handy tool that we found is an aerator pump that can more evenly and easily spray the chemical onto your car. AMMO is a detail product company that currently sells a complete waterless wash system that includes an aerator and collection of towels to make washing your car a convenient and simple affair.

There are other companies, like Chemical Guys and Adam’s that are also well-known for their detailing products, but it’s up to you as to which system and products work best for your budget and your car.

Does a waterless wash scratch your paint?

While all this rubbing and buffing without the use of water might naturally lead you to believe that a waterless wash can scratch your paint, the truth is that the sprays that are used typically have a high lubricity. As long as you spray on enough and are not in direct sunlight (so it doesn’t dry too quickly), your car’s paint should be just fine.

According to Fuel and Friction, any possible marring or scratching is typically due to improper technique or a poor choice in product. Don’t use a silicone-based spray as they can trap in dirt and cause paint issues later on. Otherwise, a waterless wash should be safe for your car.