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How to wash your car without water

You can still clean your car in a drought if you have the right product and the right technique.

In many areas drought has become a new normal, which makes it tough to keep your car clean. Perhaps you have a good car wash nearby that uses recycled water, but I find a lot of car washes do a lousy job for a lot of money while lazily attacking my car with a pressure washer. No thanks. The answer to this combination of pain points is a waterless car wash. 

Waterless car wash technique

A good waterless car wash technique will pull the dirt off your car with ease and leave a nice shiny wax coat. Done right, no part of your towel should ever be much dirtier than this.

CNET

Waterless car wash products have been around for awhile but didn't get a lot of shelf space since traditional bucket & hose car washing was so accepted. Now I suspect these waterless products are set for a swell of popularity in areas that face dry futures. I tried one and found that it worked well if you have good technique. Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Use a waterless car wash spray, not a general cleaning spray. 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.
  • Use microfiber towels, which are soft and excel at capturing particles. Kitchen towels or paper towels are going to do a lousy job in twice the amount of time while tempting you to scrub at your car's finish. 
  • Master good towel technique. You want to use a wiping pattern that doesn't cross over itself while you relentlessly flip or change the towel. The biggest single mistake people make when cleaning their car (or windows) is bad toweling technique, not poor choice of cleaning product.

I used Meguiar's Waterless Wash & Wax in the video because it was available in time for our shoot, but I wouldn't hesitate to try a waterless wash and wax product from Chemical Guys or Rain-X.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well waterless washing worked on my dirty car and how quickly it progressed. Note that all of this is different than using a spray detailer which is formulated for removing light dust and requires a different technique.