Best Waterless Wash for Cars (Tips for No Scratches!)


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Keeping a car clean can be a lot of work.  Surely the only safe way to wash a car is with the two bucket method? Is there really a shortcut to washing your car that won’t ruin your shine?  Here is the best waterless wash for cars.

I’ve done the research so you don’t have to,  I’ve contacted manufactures if I had any questions as part of my research, I watched tons of YouTube videos.  And I’ve tested the most popular waterless car washes on the market today.  

I’m confident that using a waterless wash on a you car is safe provided you use the right technique and products.  And provided your car isn’t too dirty.

A word of warning!  You can ruin your shiny paint if you don’t learn the proper techniques.  (More on that later)

Best Waterless Wash for Cars

What is a waterless wash?

A waterless wash is a spray you can use to safely (without scratching) wash your car.  It contains a large amount of lubrication to greatly reduce the possibility of scratching or swirl marks.  They also add a protective layer of wax that delivers a decent shine. So you don’t need to follow up with a separate wax.  You also don’t need to dry your car.

READ MORE: What’s the Fastest Way to Wash a Car?

When should a waterless wash be used?

They are mostly used by people who don’t have access to a bucket and water hose.  Some states and countries have strict laws against the use of water for washing your car.  You may have a hosepipe ban in your area during a period of drought. A waterless wash is perfect in these situations. 

 Another great use for a waterless wash by the way is to clean your door sills after a full bucket wash.

Have you ever washed your car with the two bucket method only to discover you missed a bit?  A waterless wash is a great way to fix that too.

READ MORE: What’s the difference between a waterless wash and a quick detailer spray?

When should a waterless wash NOT be used?

Because your car can lose its natural shine so easily, it’s probably best not to use a waterless wash on a very dirty car.  If you can first clean your car with a pressure washer and maybe with a foam cannon you would greatly reduce the possibility of scratching or marring your paint.

The importance of using good microfibre towels.

You will scratch your car if you use a sponge or an old rag.  A sponge will just push the dirt along the surface of the paint and scratch it badly.  You must purchase a number of good-quality microfibre towels. Microfibres will trap the dirt and help keep it away from the paint.  Microfibre Towels are one of the most important tools in car detailing.

What’s the worst that can happen if a waterless car wash is used?

You can scratch your paint and cause its shine to fade.  If you don’t use enough product or if you use the wrong types of cloth or cleaning technique.  But it’s not the end of the world. The shine can be restored again by polishing it yourself or using a professional car detailer.

If you have an old and beat up car and you don’t care that much about it’s shine then a waterless wash is perfect for you.  And you don’t have to worry too much about technique either.

Will a waterless wash scratch my car?

If used properly you won’t cause much scratching to your car if any.  By scratching I mean the light marring that results in the loss of shine to your clearcoat.  Use good quality microfibre towels and once the towel gets dirty flip over to use a clean side or grab a new clean towel.  Use plenty of product and don’t scrub your paint.  

Tips for using a waterless wash

  • Tip 1.  Read the instructions for whatever product you buy.
  • Tip 2.  Use plenty of product and cover the entire surface.  
  • Tip 3.  Don’t use it on a windy day because the fine spray will just blow away.
  • Tip 4. Try to wipe in one direction and curl the microfibre towel as you go.
  • Tip 5. Use as little pressure as possible and don’t scrub.
  • Tip 6. Turn the towel to a clean side after each wipe, or use another towel.
  • Tip 7. Use plenty of clean microfibre towels.
  • Tip 8.  A trick I like to use in winter when the car gets very dirty is first to wash my car with a foam and a pressure washer.  This removes most of the heavy dirt that could scratch my car. I then remove the rest of the dirt with the waterless wash.  The great thing about this is that I don’t have to get my hands wet in the freezing weather.  

Why not use a spray wax to wash a car?

A spray wax must be used on a clean car only.  It doesn’t contain any lubrication to protect from scratches.  I use a spray wax every time I give my car a full bucket wash. Some spray waxes can be used on a wet car.  These save you tons of time and really do a great job. Click here to read about my favorite spray waxes

Optimum No Rinse or ONR

OK, so this strictly isn’t a waterless wash.  You add some of the product to a bucket of water and wash your car with that.  But you don’t need to rinse after so it saves an awful lot of water.

Click here to see Optimum No Rinse on Amazon

It works like a lot of the other products here.  It encapsulates the fine grains of dirt allowing you to wipe away the dirt without scratching your car.  The fibers in the microfibre will then contain the dirt.  

Many detailing experts recommend that when using ONR that you also use a spray container of the solution.  You simply spray the surface you are about to clean with the solution and allow it time to work. Then you can use your bucket and microfiber to wipe away the dirt.  

ONR is very highly respected in the industry as a one-of-a-kind product.  Many pro detailers have tested it and continue to use it on their own cars and on their customer’s cars.

One possible downside of ONR, when compared to other products, is that it doesn’t add any shine to your vehicle that I can see.  

MEGUIAR’S Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax Review

This is a true waterless wash from Meguiars.  And like a lot of Megs products it’s very good and you always have confidence that the product has been tried and tested before being released to the public.  I got about 3 washes from one bottle but I was using a lot of the product.  

Click here see Meguiars Waterless Wash and Wax on Amazon

To use MEGUIAR’S Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax I used plenty of microfibre towels.

It leaves behind a great shine too.  Much better than ONR as mentioned above.  

Meguiars claim “No scratch formula safely washes and waxes 3-4 cars without water in just minutes (*when used as directed)”.

Instructions from Meguiares website…

To use this spray, simply mist onto the surface of the vehicle and wipe away using a premium microfiber towel like Meguiar’s Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels. Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax’s unique chemistry contains lubricants to ensure a scratch-free finish when used as directed, as special cleaning agents safely loosen and then gently remove the dirt. Follow with a quick wipe from a clean, dry microfiber towel, and the surface is left with a beautiful, glossy, just-waxed finish. Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax is also safe to use on wheels, rubber, plastic, vinyl, and glass. Save water and safely maintain a clean car! Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax will soon be your favorite detailing spray!”

Adams Waterless Wash Review

I’ve always been happy with products from Adams so I was happy to give this a try.   I used Adams Waterless Wash is this way and had great results. I also used it to remove light dust and dirt from my car.  

View Adams Waterless Wash on Amazon

Like all waterless washes, it can be used all over your car, even on the glass.  It becomes really slick when buffed and delivered fantastic shine. This product protected the existing wax I had on my car and added some of its own which gave great results.  

You can get around your car really fast with this product, so it’s perfect for quick dusting on a summer evening.  My car was always hydrophobic when tested with water after use.   

Wash Wax All Review

This was the first waterless wash I ever used.  I used it only on my wife’s car initially. My car was black and I didn’t feel safe using it.  But my wife had a white car and I thought I would give it a try. I was very happy with the results once I learned the proper techniques.

View Wash Wax All on Amazon

But at first, I didn’t use enough product and ended up scratching my wife’s car (not that she would notice).  The lower part of the car on the sides had completely lost its shine. It had really bad swirl marks. In fact, I could see swirls and scratches over a lot of the car.  I then learned that this was caused by not using enough product and not using the proper technique.

The wrong way is to use just a small number of clothes and keep using them even when they get very dirty and saturated with product.  Just because the towel is wet does not mean it’s protecting your paint.  

The right way to use any waterless wash is to cover the panel in the product and use one horizontal wipe with a clean microfibre cloth.  You should see a lot of dirt on the cloth. This part of the cloth should never touch the car again. Turn it over and use a clean part of the cloth to do the next wipe.  When the panel is done, use another clan side to buff to a shine. You could go through a dozen cloths cleaning your car this way but it’s the best and safest way to avoid scratching.

I actually enjoy polishing cars so I had no problems getting the shine back again.  I then applied the correct methods and the white car held on to its shine really well from then on.

The Forensic detailing channel on YouTube goes into great detail on how to use ONR

https://youtu.be/G4tOlMA2yXw

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