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What is Waterless Car Wash?

L. Hautzinger
L. Hautzinger

A waterless car wash is also known as a chemical car wash, and it uses chemicals, polish or wax to wash a car rather than water. This type of car wash originated in Australia and has gained in popularity as a good eco-friendly alternative to traditional car washes that waste water. A waterless car wash might be especially useful in a drought-stricken region where water scarcity is a problem.

There are many waterless car wash products on the market, and each product is unique in its active ingredient. The first type of no-water car wash products contain a chemical such as petroleum or silicone to break down dirt and effectively clean the car. A "greener" type of waterless products contain natural, organic ingredients that are biodegradable, petroleum-free and non-toxic, such as coconut oil. Another no-water formula is made from carnauba wax and is popular with car enthusiasts who enjoy a product that both cleans and waxes and can make a car shine.

A freshly washed minivan.
A freshly washed minivan.

Despite the many types of waterless products available, each effectively works the same way to wash a car. When sprayed on car, these agents bond with the dirt particles to loosen them from the car's surface. Then a soft towel — usually a microfiber type of towel — is used to wipe away the dirt particles. As a follow-up, a second microfiber towel can be used to buff away the remaining residue.

A waterless car wash may include waxing.
A waterless car wash may include waxing.

Compared with traditional car washes, these waterless car wash products can save consumers time and conserve water. The wetting and drying time is eliminated, so the time needed to wash an entire car using no-water products can be cut in half. Additionally, most waterless products point out that typical home car washes use as much as 140 gallons (530 liters) of water. Plus, traditional home car washing also can cause "toxic runoff" because the dirty water filled with dirt, grime and grease can run off the car and into the environment.

Despite these positive "green-friendly" benefits, waterless car wash products still have some skeptics. Many traditional car wash operators warn of the danger in using chemicals to clean a car's surface, which could cause significant damage to paint finish. Plus, with a wide range of no-water products on the market, many of them contain unproven or unknown ingredients. It is recommended that prior to purchasing any of these products, consumers should research each product's active ingredient to ensure that it is safe to use on their car with minimal impact on the finish.

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Discussion Comments


How is it possible to research the ingredients if most of the manufacturers do not provide the ingredient list?

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    • A freshly washed minivan.
      By: jamalludin din
      A freshly washed minivan.
    • A waterless car wash may include waxing.
      By: Leo Lintang
      A waterless car wash may include waxing.