Right out of the gate, the name ‘waterless’ car wash is a bit misleading, as liquid is still used, just in moderation. Cleaning a vehicle without water sounds nice in theory; something that can be done quickly and conserve resources at the same time. But how does a waterless car wash work?
The root of a wash without water is using pre-mixed spray with high lubricity that can be wiped off lightly dusted vehicles. This is a fancy way of stating that a polish and chemical detergent is utilized to restore the exterior in between major washes and details. The spray is applied directly to panels on the car, and wiped off using a microfiber cloth. This type of rag limits streaking and unwanted lines. Occasionally shop towels are used in the process, but not if a soft cloth is available. Terry cloth or any surface that is extremely forgiving is what is ideal.
“The effect of a waterless car wash is a ‘dry shine,’ meaning in theory, if done correctly, very little residue remains from the spray”
The effect of a waterless car wash is a ‘dry shine,’ meaning in theory, if done correctly, very little residue remains from the spray. After the detergent is applied, it is a good rule of thumb to have it wiped before it dries. Similar to soap that rests on a plate in the sink, if not wiped in time it will leave an unfinished ‘film.’ This makes your car even harder to clean the next time.
It seems impossible to rub away chemicals the wrong way, but this is actually a real problem with waterless car washes. Each spray should be swiped the same direction with the towel. This not only provides an even finish, it better accumulates the dirt and grime you are trying to eradicate.
While a traditional car wash shifts debris from your automobile, a waterless process ‘works’ by the polymers included in the spray restoring each type of paint and finish it comes across. Of course this isn’t successful 100 percent of the time, but chemicals without silicone are advantageous more often than not. Silicone is a deceptive additive to car cleaners because when applied it looks great, however the problem is the particles embed themselves in the paint making its shine fade with every successive use. This is known as ‘drifting’ and should be avoided.
Most people wonder who a waterless car wash is for, as many assume it is not effective at fully cleaning a car. These types of washes are extremely important to vehicles exposed outside frequently, and serves as an ‘in-between’ solution before you get it thoroughly detailed. Auto detailers are experts at providing waterless car washes because they can match specific pre-mixed sprays that are created for your precise model. Additionally, professionals utilizing these polymers give most cars the best shine they’ve had since you drove it off the dealership lot. Is the waterless option the best option for your vehicle? Well, this is something you need to discuss with your detailer and will depend on factors such as your driving habits, general condition of your vehicle and your local climate. Waterless car washes can be a fast and an intelligent solution if you care passionately about your exterior holding up in the long term.