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Going green has never been more popular than it is right now. Consumers are actively looking for ways to cut down on their carbon footprint and are eagerly gravitating toward more environmentally friendly choices. This may explain the draw of a waterless car wash.
Like most environmentally conscious people, the idea of a car wash with no water has probably peaked your interest. But the concept sounds almost too good to be true-getting the benefit of a clean car without the added guilt of all the water that is inevitably wasted. And if we have learned anything from the internet, if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. This saying does not mean a waterless car wash is something you should rule out before you understand the details, it simply means that you should do your research.
Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of the waterless washing process can help you make your own decision if it is right for you and more importantly, right for your car. In order to help you figure this out, we have broken down the process below.
How Does a Waterless Car Wash Work?
The process of a washing a car without water is pretty simple and requires two basic tools–a high lubricity spray and microfiber towels.
High Lubricity Spray
The products used in this type of wash are more advanced than the regular car wash soap most of us are used to. To work with limited water, the product must contain high lubricity chemicals. This ensures the product is able to glide over the surface of your car easily, without putting your beautiful paint job in danger. These high lubricity chemicals encapsulate dirt and dust particles, which are then removed with a towel. This is similar to how water works to remove dirt.
While waterless cleaning products may be made yourself, and with the increase in DIY tutorials in magazines and online you may be interested in doing just that, we highly recommend purchasing them from a reputable manufacturer instead. There are a number of high-quality products readily available. Our favorite brands are Meguiar’s, Chemical Guys and 3D Auto Detailing Products. A gallon of cleaner costs around $30 and can wash your entire car five or six times.
High quality and soft microfiber towels are essential to cleaning your car well. We prefer towels with a minimum weight of 300 GSM(grams per square meter); anything less than this can damage your car. Because of their high absorbency and softness, microfiber towels can easily pick up the dirt and dust trapped by the cleaner.
Clean towels are essential as a dirty one can actually scratch your car. Make sure you have a number of clean towels ready before starting the process of cleaning your car.
The process of washing a car without water can be broken down into three simple steps.
- Spray the high lubricity product on a folded microfiber towel. While this may seem like micromanaging, we think the best way to fold a towel for waterless washing is to fold it twice in half to create eight usable sides. Spray the towel with the product and gently wipe the dirt and dust on the car. Typically, car detailers start at the top of the car and work in sections so as to not waste any product due to runoff.
- Follow the first wipe (from the microfiber cloth with the product) with a quick buff from a clean and dry microfiber towel. Always wipe gently and in only one direction. Don’t go in circles as that can just push the dirt around instead of wiping it off the car. If possible, wipe in a straight line with the direction of the wind.
- Repeat this process over the entire car, remembering to always use the clean side of the microfiber cloth to buff. Using a dirty towel will reintroduce dirt onto your just cleaned car. In addition, we recommend using a separate microfiber towel when cleaning the brakes since the pads often contain chemicals or fluids that you would not want on your car.
The most obvious advantage of choosing to get a car wash without the use of water over a traditional wash is the environmental impact. The amount of water used in other methods of car washes is staggering.
- Washing your car at home with a hose and bucket uses approximately 80 to 140 gallons of water per wash. This does not include the water used in the water fight that often breaks out if kids are present.
- Bringing your car to a traditional commercial car wash uses up approximately 45 gallons of water per wash.
- Having your car washed with a waterless car wash requires the use of only a few buckets of water. It is important to note that the water used in a waterless wash is used to rinse the microfiber towels; it is not used as part of the wash itself.
With the increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, as well as the restrictions being placed on water usage in cities and towns across the county, saving water has become a major part of people’s lives.
Another advantage is the ever-expanding list of products. Soaps, waxes, and sprays are available to meet your car’s specific needs.
The final advantage to waterless car washes is the flexibility that comes with them. Because these types of washes are not reliant on a water source (usually in the form of a garden hose), you have the freedom to wash your car anywhere, as long as you have the required products and microfiber towels. It also takes less room to wash a car with this method so that commercial workers can work in more narrow spaces. This means that businesses can fit more cars in their car wash at one time than a traditional car wash with the same amount of square feet.
Car washes without water are ideal for those who wish to remove only visible dirt from their car. For those with dirtier automobiles (i.e., caked on mud or dirt), this process is not for you. This means there may be a time when your car is simply too dirty to be washed.
While the waterless part of this wash is advertised as a more eco-friendly way to clean, it is important to note that the products used contain chemicals. Often times, these chemicals are so harsh they can actually strip the protective polishes and sealants from your car. While not true for all brands of waterless car cleaner, many contain agents that are not biodegradable and can be harmful to plants or animals.
A Waterless car wash is often advertised as a way to get your car cleaner than you could from a traditional car wash. Many of the cleaning products contain filling agents (similar to wax), which hide imperfections in the surface of your car, thus making your car appear cleaner. Over time, you may embed dirt or other contaminants into the surface of your car, instead of washing them away as you intended.
When used in the process of washing your car, water works to loosen stuck on dirt helps soap foam up and creates a lubricated surface to minimize the friction produced during the washing process. While the products used in a waterless wash have a high lubricity, your car can scratch more easily if washed incorrectly. As mentioned above, the process of wiping in a straight line when performing a waterless wash is very important for this very reason.
The final drawback of this type of wash car wash is the time. Many commercial car washes advertise how quickly you can be in and out of the washer since they know that many of their customers are stopping in on their way to or from work. A waterless car wash takes substantially longer and requires more work from the detailer or attendant.
The choice is ultimately yours.
Are you interested in helping to save the environment, one gallon of water at a time? Or maybe you are worried that the harmful chemicals used in the high lubricity products can do more damage than a few hundred gallons of water?
To make a decision, you will first need to figure out your options. We outlined this new and innovate type of car wash in general terms; many of the facts we presented may not be relevant to your specific car wash. A simple internet search will tell you what businesses in the area offer these services.
Once you have this information, it is up to you to contact them. You can ask them any questions you may have about the products that they use, the method they use to wash and the time it takes from when you arrive to when you drive your newly washed car off the lot.
Knowing the facts will help you feel confident in your decision, whatever it may be.