How to Wash Your Car Without Water (and Why You Might Want to Do it)

How to Wash Your Car Without Water (and Why You Might Want to Do it)


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Whether you usually wash your car (or SUV, truck, van, etc) at home yourself, or take it to a carwash, you probably don’t get around to doing it as often as you’d like. A DIY wash job saves money, but not necessarily time—especially when you factor in all the hosing.

So, for a variety of reasons—including ongoing droughts and water shortages in certain parts of the country—some people opt to wash their car without water. But is this bad for your car? And does it work? Here’s what to know.

How to wash a car without water

Before getting into it, we should note that if your vehicle is completely caked in mud, dirt, and/or dust, you’ll probably need to use water. But for more routine washes, going waterless is a possibility. So what does it entail?

Instead of the usual setup involving a hose, a bucket of water, and cleaning solution, waterless car wash products are premixed and come in the form of a spray. The idea is to spray the solution on the parts of your car that need to be cleaned, and then wipe those sections clean.

In an article for Roadshow by CNET, Brian Cooley—who has used the waterless technique himself—provides a few pointers:

  • Use the right products: Waterless car wash sprays are not the same as general-purpose car sprays. “You need something that loosens and lubricates dirt so you won’t harm your car’s finish or get frustrated trying to remove stubborn grime,” Cooley writes.
  • Wipe with a microfiber towel: According to Cooley, not only are they super-soft, but they also quickly capture particles. Kitchen and paper towels, on the other hand, make the process take longer, don’t work very well, and, as a result, may make you think that you need to scrub harder than necessary, potentially damaging your car’s finish.
  • Towel properly: In addition to the type of towel, Cooley says that your technique is important, too. So what does a good towel technique look like? “You want to use a wiping pattern that doesn’t cross over itself while you relentlessly flip or change the towel,” he writes.

Is washing your car without water a good idea?

Like most things, it depends. If you live somewhere with water shortages, or are trying to cut back on your water usage regardless of location, a waterless car wash is a solid option in many situations. 

As we mentioned before, truly dusty/dirty/muddy vehicles will likely need some water. But for regular amounts of road dirt and dirt, a waterless car wash should do the trick, according to Cooley. Just be sure to buy the correct cleaning product and towel to get the best results.



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