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Best Waterless Car Wash of 2021: Do They Actually Work?

For as easy as modern technology has made it to run your vehicle through some type of automated car wash, there are still times when a quick wash, touch-up, or even a detail needs to be completed quickly and conveniently. Waterless car wash products can probably provide the solution you need to eliminate the trip, time, and possibly some cash to get it done.

Waterless car wash products are not true replacements to more complete car washing methods and full-on detailing jobs, but they can and do work well for quick touch-ups, with fairly minimal dirt buildup, or when space limits capability.

Many of these waterless products contain wax and protectant components to add additional layers to the product you buy. They are often quite affordable and readily available at most automotive retail locations, meaning that you can get even more bang for your buck than just the ability to get some cleaning done with limited working space.

The Best Waterless Car Wash Products

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1. Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine

Optimum No Rinse Car Wash is a respected product for both professionals and detailers alike. Its low price, very good reviews, and superior cleaning and protecting abilities make it a favorite for those who want an all-purpose product that will do a complete job.

Its advanced formula uses substantive polymers that bind to the surface’s paint, creating an exceptionally-lubricated surface while washing. This prevents scratching during the cleaning process, and this layer is what remains to produce a brilliant shine behind after the cleaning session is complete.

Optimum’s product is safe to use as well. It can be used on almost any surface, including vehicle paint, wood, and fiberglass. Additionally, the water that is used to mix with the product is completely safe to use on the front lawn or to dispose of as any other dirty water would be.

2. Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax

With Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax, you get an inexpensive product that cleans and protects without anything more than a microfiber cloth and the product itself. It is one of the easiest products to use on our list since spraying and wiping is the only necessary steps.

Meguiar’s advanced formula provides both a high-lubricity barrier for a no-scratch finish and a spot-free shine. The polymers with which it is made leave behind a synthetic wax for advanced protection and a glossy finish that is safe for both clear coat finishes and glossy paints.

It can also be used on more than just vehicle paint. It is safe for glass, plastic, chrome, and other polished metal surfaces. Meguiar’s also ensures that less is more: when used as directed, an entire 26-ounce spray bottle can wash three or four entire cars.

3. Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax ALL Car Wash Kit

The question of, “what’s in a name?” is answered with Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All waterless car wash, since it is a wash and wax product rated for airplanes. It can be used on a variety of surfaces, but it has been used by several United States armed forces branches for their vehicles and aircraft for years.

It comes in a huge, 128-ounce container and only needs to be sprayed on and wiped. It is formulated to leave behind a UV protective coating, and it is safe to use on existing waxes and ceramic coatings. Furthermore, it comes in a kit with the microfiber cloths necessary to get the job done correctly.

A huge benefit of this product is that it is water-based, meaning that it is better for your paint and for the environment. Its biodegradable formula does not irritate eyes or skin, and if any part of your washing and waxing experience is unsatisfactory, Aero Cosmetics will correct any issues you may encounter.

4. Chemical Guys EcoSmart – RU Waterless Wash & Wax

Chemical Guys markets their EcoSmart – RU waterless wash & wax product as a total car detailer in a bottle. Seeing as how it cleans, waxes, and protects your vehicle while at the same time being eco-friendly, we would agree.

It is versatile, able to be used on both a wet and a dry car, and it can be used in direct sunlight or shade. Like most other products on this list, it comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle that simply requires buffing away after application, though it can be used in tangent with water if dilution is required.

Made with natural carnauba, it also combines hyper-efficient lubricating agents with gloss enhancers to protect your vehicle’s paint and make it shine after use. To make it even more versatile, it can be used on almost any surface including glass, wheels, and plastic. 

5. Griot’s Garage Spray-On Car Wash

Griot’s Garage offers high-end products that work well and are highly-rated, but they often get overshadowed by the likes of Meguiar’s, Chemical Guys, and Mother’s. Despite its competition, Griot’s Spray-On Car Wash shines, both literally and figuratively.

It is made with carnauba wax, a must-include staple in the vehicle detailing world, and its high-lubricity, no-scratch formula ensures that no damage will occur on your vehicle’s paint. After application, its non-streak makeup will leave a bright, glossy shine and a protective layer from its carnauba compounds.

Griot’s Garage Spray-On Car Wash is a bit more expensive than some competitors, but its easy-to-use spray-on formula is highly-rated by both regular consumers and professionals. 

Traditional vs Waterless Car Wash

waterless car wash

Most everyone knows what a traditional car wash is. Car washes can take many different forms from a two-bucket car wash to a fully automated wash that uses brushes, and many variations in between. A waterless car wash aims to remove dirt but while using little to no water.

Some “waterless” car washes are not completely waterless. Some types of these products require mixing with a small amount of water, creating a solution that can be applied to a vehicle without having to use additional water to rinse. These are often referred to as “no-rinse” waterless car wash products. 

Other types of waterless products are called “spray-on” washes, and they only require two steps: spraying or application onto the dirty surface then wiping clean with a microfiber cloth. There are several other notable differences between 

Speed

Regardless of whether you buy a true waterless product or a no-rinse product, waterless washes save several steps that are required in a traditional car wash. Initial rinsing, soap application, and final rinsing can all be eliminated depending on the waterless product you choose, and only having to deal with a one or two-step cleaning process will always save time.

Effectiveness

The toughest car washing needs will almost always require traditional washing methods. Waterless car washes are only intended for lighter work though some can tackle “moderate” cleaning jobs. If used appropriately, waterless wash products can remove light dirt as well as traditional car washes.

Cost

In addition to saving on running water costs, waterless wash products are usually quite inexpensive. They are widely available and are not so specialized that they have to be reserved mainly for professionals. Most products only cost as much as one trip to the touchless automatic wash down the street.

Environmental Impacts

Conserving water or not using water at all has obvious environmental benefits, and wasting water will be a thing of the past. Some places even have water restrictions in place, and therefore necessitate using waterless products if you need to wash your vehicle.

How Does It Work Without the Water?

Water carries out two main jobs when you use it to wash your vehicle. Firstly, it encapsulates and loosens the dirt on your paint, carrying it away and off the surface. Secondly, it helps produce soap suds, which in turn, produce the lubricity – the slipperiness – of the cleaning solution so that the washing cloth or sponge can glide over the paint surface and avoid scratching it.

Waterless washes use high-lubricity compounds to substitute for actual water. These compounds both lubricate the paint surface and encapsulate dirt and grime, taking them away as you wipe the solution away.

Beyond these hyper lubrication compounds, waterless washes contain many of the same ingredients as regular car wash soap. Many contain synthetic and natural waxes, synthetic polymers to protect paint after the application, and some contain a higher concentration of natural ingredients or water-based solvents than others.

Tips for Washing Without Water

For best results, always read the instructions. Reading the instructions is the thing that nobody wants to do because the task at hand seems so straightforward. A proper application will ensure that the product works to the best of its ability. Not allowing it to do so will hinder its effectiveness and will be a waste of money for you.

Not even the best waterless car wash products can always be true replacements for water. Manufacturers warn against using waterless washes on thick dirt and mud. This is because there is no primary rinsing of thick buildup, and waterless compounds can quickly become saturated. Rinsing a vehicle thoroughly before using a waterless product can provide an acceptable avenue for use.

Understand the product. Similar to regular vehicle wash soaps, waterless wash products can serve multiple purposes beyond cleaning. Many are wash and wax products. Some have added protectants. Others can be used as boosters on top of existing wax and coatings. Reading the product description and listed uses will give you the best idea of how it can meet your particular needs.

Final Thoughts

Waterless car washes are an affordable, eco-friendly, and effective way to clean your vehicle, particularly in an area where space is limited. Eliminating steps accompanying a traditional car wash also saves time since many waterless products only require users to spray and wipe clean.

Though not all waterless products are truly waterless, no-rinse waterless products offer nearly the same ease and effectiveness as a true waterless product. The use of hyper-lubricating compounds in these products is what enables waterless washes to work as well as they do, and many contain additional wax and protective compounds to provide a solid alternative to traditional washing methods.

Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.

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