Best Waterless Car Wash: Get a Good Wash Without Getting Wet
Check out our top picks for a one-and-done, waterless car wash in a bottle
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BY Rebecca Henderson / LAST UPDATED ON July 30, 2020
Even when water is scarce, you can still wash your car. If you’re looking for the best waterless car wash to use when the going gets parched, look no further. We’ve gathered our top three picks for the best water-free car wash products so you don’t have to ride around in a filthy vehicle. Read on to find out more.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy Waterless Car Wash
- No access to water. Washing your car in a driveway isn’t easy—or sometimes possible—when you live in an apartment or townhome. With a waterless car wash, you can still achieve similar results as you would with soap and a bucket, no hose necessary.
- Water restrictions. If you live in a place where each drop of water is precious, a waterless car-washing solution can be a life—and water—saver. Even if you purchase a product that requires dilution, you’re still using less water than you would normally.
- Protect your vehicle as an investment. Though it may not be listed as scheduled maintenance, keeping up on cleaning the exterior of your vehicle will go a long way when it comes to protecting your overall investment. Even a car that’s only been washed and never waxed will look better than one that hasn’t.
- Skip the local car wash. While many “touchless” car washes boast wondrous results, there’s no beating the results you can get if you clean your car by hand. Choose a waterless car wash as a way to save money and time. Not only can you avoid the car wash line, but you can also invest that money elsewhere.
- Spot treatment the car. Washing your car every week isn’t always practical. In fact, washing your car too many times can actually wear away at the clear coat faster than normal. To tide your car over until its next wash or wax, use waterless car wash supplies.
Waterless car washes often include a wax element that leaves the vehicle’s paint glossy and (somewhat) protected after use. Where water only removes contaminants, these waterless car wash and wax combinations soak into the clear coat. To be fair, there are many automotive washes that include wax as well.
Many waterless car washing products come packaged in a convenient spray bottle, ready to go at a moment’s notice. If you’re someone who likes to pick up a product from the auto parts store and use it in the parking lot, these types are for you. Most bottles include different spray patterns and a no-spray option.
Those washes that don’t come ready-to-spray are often bottled as a concentrate. These types of waterless car washes bend the “waterless” rules a bit since they need water to be diluted. All the same, you can get quite a few washes out of one concentrated bottle. Sometimes all you need is just a few drops.
This type of waterless car wash solution isn’t as mainstream as the spray-bottle kind, which may be surprising. These waterless car wash aerosols spray on as bottled washes do but can store better as long as you securely replace the cap. Like spray washes, you will need microfiber towels to apply and remove the wash.
An innovative approach to washing your vehicle, these wipes are similar to those you might use to wipe down household surfaces. They offer a convenient alternative because you can easily clean your car and then throw away the towels; there’s no need for dealing with microfiber towels. Most waterless car wash wipe packages are resealable as well.
Many of the waterless car wash types require microfiber towels. Waterless car wash kits include a few towels for convenience, along with the car-washing product itself in a spray bottle. Some kits, depending on price, will include an empty spray bottle along with a gallon or more of concentrate.
The folks at Aero Cosmetics know a thing or two about keeping cars clean, and not just in their hometown of San Antonio, Texas. They’ve been in the business since 1987. We recommend you take a look at their Wash Wax All waterless car wash kit if you’re not satisfied with our top picks.
Optimum is based in Memphis, Tennessee and has been serving its customers since 2001. If you’re looking for concentrated no-water car wash products, you might like its No-Rinse Wash & Wax.
Based out of Houston, Texas, Rain-X has over 40 years logged in the industry. Want a car care solution to tide you over between washes? Choose the 2-in-1 Exterior Detailer it offers. Just don’t go too long without waxing your vehicle.
Mother’s California Gold Waterless Wash & Wax is a great alternative to mainstream waterless washes. The company calls California home and has been serving car owners for years. You should also try its California Gold Pure Brazilian Liquid Carnauba Wax.
The guys—and gals—over at Chemical Guys beat the Southern California heat with their detailing products, among other things. With over 40 years of experience, they wouldn’t put out a product like their EcoSmart Drought-Buster Waterless Wash & Wax without knowing exactly what it’s like to wash cars under strict water restrictions.
- $5-$10: Most commercial waterless car washes will fall into this price range. They’re typically 20 to 30 ounces and packaged in a spray bottle for ease of use. Waterless car wash wipes and aerosols will also usually come in at this price point.
- $11-$20: Waterless car wash concentrates can be found for around $15. Most are sold in quantities of a gallon or so. If you’re looking for a value buy, concentrates are the way to go because they’re generally about half the price of a pre-mixed bottle of a high-quality waterless car wash.
- $21-$50: Accessories are the name of the game at this higher price point. You might be able to pick up a few microfiber towels with your new waterless car wash product. There are even a few kits that will include towels, along with a spray bottle, to dilute the included concentrate.
The best waterless car washes will include wax in their formula. While it’s not necessarily a wax you should rely on for proper protection, it’s at least enough to keep most road contaminants from sticking to the paint. Waterless car washes should also be usable on most types of exterior surfaces, from plastics to rubber trim pieces. You should be able to use your waterless car wash without having to worry about avoiding certain areas.
While you may be washing your microfiber towels right after you’re done cleaning your vehicle, putting harmful chemicals down the drain isn’t always responsible. Plus, those harsh chemicals could actually damage your paint, rather than clean it. Choose a biodegradable or eco-friendly waterless car wash to do your part in saving the planet.
You don’t want to finish cleaning your car only to realize you’ve left streaks all over the paint. Choose a waterless car wash that goes on tough but leaves no trace of its presence—except for a light coat of wax, that is. Even if you choose a waterless car wash product that doesn’t include wax, you will still want to make sure it wipes away clean.
Ease of Use
Choosing a waterless car wash already diluted in a spray bottle is perhaps the fastest way to a cleaner car. However, no matter what method you choose, it shouldn’t require a lot of preparation or effort in terms of application. A spray-on, the wipe-off formula is all you need to shine up your ride.
Slim, Ergonomic Packaging
It doesn’t matter if you have a small convertible or a large four-door truck; cleaning your vehicle with a waterless car wash means you’ll be using your hands quite a bit. It’s convenient to keep your car wash in the car as well, so choose a product that is slim enough to fit in a door pocket or behind the seat but also ergonomic in shape and design. Your hands will thank you.
- Scent: In order to distinguish themselves from the competition, many manufacturers will scent their waterless car wash for a more pleasant experience. If the smell is something you’re worried about, either speak with the manufacturer directly and ask if their product is scented or visit your nearest auto parts store to take a whiff of what they stock. Scents should not in any way affect the waterless car wash’s capabilities.
- Frequency of Use: Like anything else you use on a regular basis, buying in bulk can save you a ton of money. Concentrates will keep your budget happy and allow you to dilute per the ratio you desire. At the same time, if you’re only going to use the waterless car wash a handful of times a year, concentrates may not be the appropriate way to go.
- Commitment Level: Generally speaking, most people wash their car about as much as they visit the post office anymore. If you’re someone who wants to commit to washing your car on a regular basis, we applaud you! You’re taking the right step towards protecting your investment. However, if you don’t feel like going the whole nine yards, choose something like waterless car wash wipes that are convenient and disposable.
Waterless Car Wash Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Waterless Car Wash Advice
- Begin at the tallest point of your vehicle and work down as you clean. Due to gravity, any contaminants that you wipe off the surface of your vehicle’s paint will fall to the next tallest object. Working from the top down ensures efficient, thorough cleaning.
- If you’re serious about investing in a waterless car wash, buy microfiber towels in bulk. After you’ve washed them, you can use them again on your vehicle. They also come in handy around the house, for cleaning off mirrored surfaces and wiping down furniture, for instance.
- Keep the bottle of a waterless car wash in your vehicle, along with a clean microfiber towel or two. Whenever you have a few minutes here or there, grab the cleaner and microfibers and begin cleaning your vehicle. Begin with the windows and then work from the top down. It’s an easy way to keep your car clean.
- Not sure if you want a waterless car wash with wax? Purchase one with wax and one without. Use the one without wax first, After about a week, re-clean your car with the product with wax. The wax should bead water off the paint better but choose the product you feel brings you the best results.
- When applying waterless car wash, work in a small area about the size of a 2-foot by 2-foot square. A few sprays should be all you need, whether you apply it directly to the paint or to a microfiber towel. Work panel by panel as you move around the car. This will ensure you get full coverage.
Waterless Car Wash FAQs
Q: What’s the difference between waterless car wash and spray wax?
A: To the average person, there’s really not much difference between the two products. However, a spray wax product will obviously leave a waxy residue on your vehicle’s paint. Waterless car washes may or may not, depending on the product you choose. Spray waxes are mostly used to touch up a car that’s been freshly detailed, while waterless car washes are a way to cheat the wash and still achieve good results.
Q: Will waterless car wash products remove bugs, tar, tree sap, and any other stubborn contaminants?
A: Fresh bugs and dirt grime will likely be wiped away by waterless car washes, but don’t bank on removing anything other than loose contaminants. Tree sap, along with aged tar, often require a special product to remove. We recommend purchasing a clay bar to remove stubborn defects from your paint. Just make sure you know how to use a clay bar properly before you begin.
Q: Can’t I just dilute regular car washing products in a spray bottle and use it as a waterless car wash?
A: You could, but you likely won’t get the same results as you would with a waterless car wash, especially if the wax is one of the ingredients. Car washing soaps often require agitation to activate their cleaning powers and should be rinsed off after they’re applied to remove any leftover residue. Waterless car washing products don’t require that step.
Q: Won’t the microfiber towels scratch my paint if they pick up a sharp object?
A: Yes, any sharp objects picked up by the microfiber towels can scratch the paint. To avoid any potential scratching hazards, use one microfiber to apply the waterless wash and one to dry and buff it away. If you think the towel you’re using might scratch the paint, switch to a new towel.
Q: Can I apply the waterless car wash in the sun or on a hot day?
A: It’s not the best way to apply the waterless wash, but sometimes you can’t avoid the heat. Just be aware that if you do use the waterless car wash on a hot day, the product will likely dry up faster and may leave more streaks than usual. We recommend at least finding some sort of shade so you aren’t racing against the heat to apply the wash.
Q: Is waterless car wash safe to use on my wheels and tires?
A: Yes, most waterless car washes are safe on your rims and tires. If your wheels are especially dirty, we suggest spraying the entire thing down with a good amount of the waterless wax before using any microfibers. In fact, you might set aside one or two towels to just be used on your wheels since they carry the most dirt of any component on your vehicle.
Q: Why buy waterless car wash when I can just mix up a bottle of warm, soapy water?
A: You can certainly use soapy water to clean your car if you like, but waterless car wash products can be an environmentally-friendly alternative. You’ll use less water than you would with a bucket of soapy water and oftentimes the dilution ratio is already selected for you.
Q: Can I wax my car directly after using the waterless car wash?
A: It’s important to get your car as clean as possible before waxing it to ensure the best protection. Before you wax the car, we recommend using a product like paint remover or lacquer thinner to remove the stubborn contaminants that require a bit more elbow grease. You can also bring your car to the nearest detail shop and pay them to wax it for you, too.
Choose our top pick, Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax, the next time you need a quick, waterless car wash.
If you’ve got money on the mind, Armor All Ultra Shine Wash Wipes are a convenient option to save you time.