When it comes to washing your car, there are three things you have to keep in mind: cost-effectiveness, formula strength, and ease of use. Because of that, it’s no wonder most car enthusiasts opt for a waterless car wash.
There are some regions of the country that experience drought and aren’t allowed to use water in a frivolous way. There are also places that don’t have access to a hose for washing their vehicle. In some cases, a waterless car wash is the only option available.
The Best Waterless Car Wash
So fear not Californians and Apartment people, let’s look at these eco-friendly washes and see which works best for you.
1. Aero Cosmetics Waterless Car Wash Wax Kit
The Aero Cosmetics waterless car wash is one of the best selling car wash kits out there, and given the fact that it’s plant-based and eco-friendly, we are not surprised by its popularity.
You can use this wash on both dry and wet surfaces – the results will be incredible either way. It doesn’t contain ammonia or alcohol, so you can rest assured knowing that your car paint won’t get damaged.
The liquid can be used both as a car wash or as a wax. All you have to do is spray it onto the surface and wipe it with a microfiber cloth. As if that’s not enough, the car wash leaves behind an anti-static UV protective coating, which means that your car won’t be damaged by the sun afterward.
The kit includes 1 gallon of the car wash, as well as an additional spray bottle that contains 16 oz of the liquid. You will also receive four microfiber cloths and one mini scrubber. The manufacturer will also send you different guides that will help you clean your vehicle as effectively as possible.
2. TriNova Waterless Car Wash and Wax Kit
TriNova is a well-known brand in the detailing space, and their wash and wax kit is yet another fan favorite.
This kit contains a highly-concentrated waterless car wash liquid that will remove any dirt from your car without scratching or damaging the paint. The kit comes with a full bottle of the concentrate that will allow you to make about 30 bottles of car wash.
You don’t need use any water with this liquid (except to make the car wash), nor will you need to have buckets or other cleaning supplies. The kit also comes with a cloth (microfiber) that will safely and gently clean the surface of the car without much hassle.
On top of washing your vehicle, it also gives your car a long-lasting shine. What’s even better is the fact that it will last for up to 3 weeks. However, bear in mind that those promises are hard to keep if you live in a particularly rainy area.
The TriNova car wash can also clean chrome surfaces, and shouldn't leave leave any streaks. Nevertheless, some users find that it can leave streaks on glass. It’s better to pay special attention to those areas while cleaning or opt to use another detailing product for windows and side mirrors.
3. Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash and Wax
This car wash is highly-concentrated, so you won’t have to use much force to lift the grime and dirt from the surface. All you have to do is spray a little bit onto the surface and gently wipe it with a microfiber cloth. Afterward, your car will have an incredible shine that will last for weeks due to the hydrophobic wax layer that’s left after cleaning.
Regarding cost-effectiveness, bear in mind that one bottle of this liquid will allow you to wash about five average-sized cars. Nevertheless, it depends on the amount of dirt, grease, and other particulates on the vehicle. So, if you use it between regular car washing sessions, it will probably last you longer than other similar waterless car treatments.
This wash will not scratch your car or damage it in any way. Furthermore, you can use it on a variety of surfaces, including chrome and plastic trims that go around your vehicle. It won’t even damage cars with a clear coat finish, nor will it scratch those with a glossy finish.
4. Chemical Guys Waterless Car Wash
The Chemical Guys EcoSmart is a unique formula that will allow you to remove dirt and grime from just about any surface on your car.
The formula is eco-friendly and safe to use, no matter if you have a dark-colored or a light-colored car. Once you spray it on, the highly-potent formula will carefully lift the dirt from the car surface without damaging the paint. Afterward, you can use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe away the dissolved dirt.
However, what’s great about this particular waterless car wash is the fact that it will wash, wax, and protect your car at the same time. You can use it on both dry and wet surfaces, and you don’t have to worry about using it only in the shade.
The formula contains all-natural carnauba, which will give your car a great shine. The manufacturer also used anti-static technology that allows you to keep your vehicle in top-notch condition for at least a week, as the formula will repel dirt and dust.
5. Griot's Garage Waterless Car Wash
The formula of the Griot's Garage is powerful enough to get rid of light dirt, yet it will not scratch your car or damage the paint. The wash also has a pleasant scent to it as well.
However, if you want to avoid streaks that can happen on dark-colored cars and windows, it’s best to use the two-towel method. Spray the car wash onto the area you want to clean, then remove the dirt with one microfiber towel and use the other one to buff away any streaks before they dry. This method offers the a better shine and the best results.
That doesn’t mean that this spray will always leave streaks, but it can happen, especially on windows. Application style is usually the issue if streaks are present. Scroll down to our application method below to see how to apply a waterless wash properly.
Finally, the best part about this car wash is that you can buy a few versions of it. You can get different bottle sizes, as well as kits. There are two kits available, and both of them come with Griot’s microfiber cloths.
What to Look for in a Waterless Car Wash
A waterless car wash is an eco-friendly alternative for people who don’t have access to a readily available water source. With that said, it’s not as straightforward as you might think. Some washes contain waxing ingredients, others have higher lubricity. You also have to consider the type of dry wash to use and which would work best for your specific vehicle.
Types of Dry Car Wash
A waterless car wash typically includes a wax element leaving the vehicles paintwork glossy and relatively protected. Unlike water-based washes that remove contaminants exclusively, a dry car wash can include wax to soak into the clear coat. In all honesty, there are several dry car washes incorporating some form of wax as part of the treatment.
2. Spray Bottle
The majority of dry car washing products arrive packaged in convenient spray bottles. Truly there really isn't a better way to go about application. With that said, even spray bottles have their pluses and minuses. For instance, some come as a concentrate like trinova that you then put into the bottle. Others come as an all-in-one like Meguiar's/
Waterless car washes that are not available in spray bottles are typically available as a concentrate. This format bends the “waterless” rule somewhat because it requires water for the concentrate to be diluted. Nonetheless, you can obtain several washes from a single concentrate bottle, and in most cases all you need is a few drops of concentrate to wash a car.
Aerosols are not as popular as the spray bottle alternative, which is rather surprising. A waterless aerosol alternative operates in the same manner as a spray bottle dry car wash; however, aerosols are stored more easily. Similar to spray washes, you will require a microfiber towel for application and removal of the wash.
One of the most innovative approaches to waterless car washing is the use of wipes. This type of wipe is similar to what you might utilize in household cleaning tasks. They are very convenient as you can reach difficult areas of the vehicle, then simply throw away the towels.
Unlike sprays and aerosols, there is no need for microfiber towels and the packaging is resealable. Then again the "eco-friendly" aspect is somewhat diminished.
6. A Kit
The majority of dry car washes use microfiber towels; however, some kits can be used that include towels along with the spray bottle for convenience. The kits vary and are dependent on the price and can include a spray bottle, along with one gallon or more of concentrate.
Waterless Car Wash Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Can a Dry Car Wash Scratch Your Vehicle's Paint?
A: Avoiding scratches is a simple matter of common sense and using proper technique.
We suggest towels that have a minimum weight rating of 300 GSM, which is grams per square meter.
Next, when you wipe any waterless car wash formula off of a vehicle's surface, do so using light strokes so you can pick up dirt. There's no need for aggressive rubbing of the formula onto the surface of the car.
Handle things in a 'wipe and lift' manner so that there aren't any contaminants dragging around the vehicle surfaces that could cause a scratch.
The picture below displays how microfiber works. The microfiber (top) takes contaminants in and traps them. Where-as the cotton (bottom) would simply press the particles into the paint and cause scratches and marring that you're trying to avoid.
Finally, use sound judgment. If you're dealing with any surface with a lot of dirt, then you obviously need to go through a pre-rinse. I can hear people now "Doing a pre-rinse defeats the whole purpose behind a 'waterless' car wash."
Respectfully, we don't agree with you. As with any form of washing your car, be it waterless, rinseless, or using a two bucket wash, you still need a method of removing heavy contaminants before you clean your car. Otherwise, you're definitely going to run into issues with scratching your paint.
Q: Is a "Quick Detailer" the same as a "Dry Car Wash"?
A: Generally speaking dry car wash products will offer you more cleaning power than you'll get from quick detailers. Waterless car wash products are combinations of pH builders, lubricants, and surfactants that help break down particulates more effectively.
Quick detailers, however, get used primarily to just add a gloss or high-shine to the paint. They're not engineered specifically for cleaning purposes.
Q: Are All Dry Car Wash Products the Same?
A: There quite a few differences among the variety of waterless car wash products that are out there. The following are some questions you should ask when you look over the broad spectrum of available products:
- Petroleum-distillate based or water-based?
- Full ingredient disclosure?
- Does it contain any protective agents, such as PEG, teflon, carnauba wax, etc?
- Does the formula use isopropyl alcohol?
- Usable on both windows and paint? For instance ammonia can damage window tint.
- Does it have dyes or fragrances? If yes, are they natural or synthetic?
Q: Are Waterless Car Washes Really Better for the Environment?
A: The best way to analyze this is comparing a dry car wash against the other ways of detailing your vehicle.
Bucket and Hose:
- From 80 to 110 gallons of water for each wash (International Car Wash Association data)
- The discharge of car oils, brake dust, and soapy suds into the environment
- Water sanitation energy and costs
- Packaging disposal
Commercial car washing:
- Disposal of big packaging quantities
- 20-40 gallons for each wash
- The energy used for running equipment and reclaiming the water
Waterless car washing:
- From 3 to 5 oz of dry car wash formula per vehicle
- Packaging disposal
These comparisons demonstrate how a dry car wash has minimal environmental impact. The savings in terms of energy, water, and chemicals only get compounded when you consider the millions of vehicles being washed yearly.
How to Perform a Waterless Car Wash
If you're looking to do a dry car wash then you'll be happy to know all you'll only need a few microfiber towels and waterless car wash product. Microfiber towels come in a number of thicknesses/weights, and for a car wash you should use towels that are at least 300 GSM. Anything thinner could cause damage to your car.
Before using the product, you should first pre-rinse the vehicle. This will get rid of any dirt and particulates that could scratch as you use the product.
1. Take a microfiber cloth, fold it in half twice. This will give you eight useable sides to scoop up the dirt and clean the car. Use clean towels only, so that the dirt particles don't scratch your car.
2. Work systematically on each part of the car: windows, hood and trunk, roof, the upper half of each door, the lower part of each door, the bumpers and the wheels.
You will need several cloths. When a cloth becomes dirty switch to a clean one. Wash the microfiber cloths when you are done.
3. Spray the car wash solution onto the folded cloth, and onto the part of the car you are cleaning. Wipe the area of the car with the folded cloth, then buff using a second (clean, dry) cloth.
4. When wiping, move the cloth in a straight line, and wipe gently, do not apply a lot of pressure.
5. When the leading towel gets dirty, switch to a clean side. If you folded the cloth properly you will have eight sides to choose from. You do not want to rub dirt from the towel onto the car.
Repeat the spray, wipe and buff process across the whole car in the systematic way detailed above. Detailers recommend working top-down, hence the upper and lower half of your doors. This will prevent the re-introduction of particles.
For visual learners, the video below goes over this process:
Using a waterless car wash is a great eco-friendly approach to cleaning your car. For people who don’t have access to a water source with a hose, it’s a great alternative.
Most formulas won’t damage your paint job, nor will they leave streaks that you cannot buff away. Still, it’s best to treat this type of car wash as something that you can use for maintenance.
Waterless car wash shouldn’t be used on extremely dirty vehicles – it just won’t work. However, light dust, soft mud, and bird droppings will be cleaned in a matter of minutes.