Quality waterless car wash products can be a good alternative to a classic wet car wash. They can save you a lot of time and effort too. There’s no hauling with hoses, buckets, pressure washers,…
They are surprisingly efficient as long as your car isn’t caked with dirt. You just need your waterless car wash product and a set of quality edgeless microfiber towels, that’s it!
An average car can be washed in under 20 min easy and you will hardly use any water! You can even do this in the comfort of your own garage.
Check out our selection:
Best No-Rinse With Wax
What are waterless car wash products?
Waterless car wash products are high lubricity pre-mixed products that use chemicals to wash and polish a car’s surface. The spray’s high lubricity chemicals encapsulate dirt and dust particles. They are easy to use: simply spray on and wipe off. No additional water or buckets are needed in the process. You just need some microfiber towels.
Typically waterless car wash products are sold in a ready-to-use spray bottle. Some have to be diluted.
Waterless car wash products started out as a gimmick, a novelty. It was a way for detailing companies to show that they were hi-tech, cool, innovating. Hardly anybody saw waterless car wash products as gamechangers or even as serious alternatives though…
How times have changed…
What are No-Rinse Wash car products?
No- rinse car wash products are pre-mixed chemical products which you use to clean your car with a minimum of water. When using a no-rinse product, a microfiber towel or sponge is dipped in a bucket of water with some no-rinse wash concentrate. Dirt is removed by gently swiping the wet towel or sponge over the surface. The surface is then dried with a clean, dry microfiber towel. When the towel or sponge is dirty, it can be switched for a clean one, or rinsed in a rinsing bucket and used again.
Water consumption is greatly reduced because only 1 or 2 buckets of water are required.
What are waterless 3-in-1 products?
Waterless 3-in-1 products do not only clean your car, but at the same time add an extra layer of shine. As a bonus, they also leave a protective coating on your car’s surface.
What are the benefits of Waterless car wash products?
First off all, you save a lot of time and money if you can skip your weekly trip to the car wash. Another major benefit of course is that, as opposed to a classic hand car wash with water, you don’t have to gather water hoses, pressure washer, buckets, towels… and put them back in your garden or shed afterwards. Let’s face it, it’s a whole bunch of stuff you need each time.
In addition, there are also a couple of other less known benefits:
Less Water Consumption
Over the last few years water shortages caused by growing water consumption and climate change have forced governments to regulate water consumption.
An ordinary garden hose uses an average 10 gallons (38 L) of water / min., depending on water pressure and type of nozzle.This adds up to a whopping 100 gallons (380 L) of water for 10 min. of hose washing! That’s why in some parts of the USA, during dry spells it is prohibited to wash your car with water.
Waterless car wash products offer a solution to this problem.
No Chemical Pollution
Some states are even restricting or prohibiting washing your car at home or on the street all together because of environmental considerations. The reason why, is a growing concern about the impact of car wash product runoff on groundwater, wildlife, the aquatic environment and the environment as a whole.
Water Availability Is No Issue
A growing number of people live in densely populated urban areas and have no front yard or driveway to wash their cars in. They park their car on the street or in an underground or public parking lot with often no access to a hose or bucket.
If they don’t want their paint marred and scratched by the local car wash, the only way for them to clean their car themselves is to use waterless car wash products.
To form rust, 3 elements are required: iron (steel), oxygen and water. Remove one of those three elements and rust cannot form. Iron (steel) is what most car’s body panels are made of and Oxygen is omnipresent in the surrounding air (hopefully). For obvious reasons, these elements cannot be eliminated.
This leaves water as the third and key element. To minimize rusting you have to “simply” avoid unnecessary contact with water.
Car body panels are shielded or sealed with a layer of paint to keep them from reacting with oxygen and water. In theory, if the car paint is in mint condition without any cracks or flaws, no rust can form even if the body panels come in contact with water.
This is far from reality though…Most cars, even if they look flawless, do not have perfect paint. Imperfections, scuff marks and water traps, especially hidden between or behind body panels make them prone to rusting.
Waterless car wash products minimize rust forming.
How did we make our selection of waterless car wash products?
We‘ve tested both waterless and no-rinse car wash products and chosen different types of products so you can select a product according to your specific needs.
The products that underperformed aren’t listed in our review. We only recommend “best” products, not second choices.
We did our tests on several types of cars: a red aging Jeep, a black metallic sports car and a light-blue classic car in mint condition.
Only the products that worked well on all three cars were selected. Between the selected products, only minor differences could be noticed. The products that contain wax gave a slightly more shiny and “showroom” looking result than the ones without. Generally though, they did a very good job.
Especially for the products containing wax, please read the product instructions carefully and follow our “how to” at the bottom of each product review. This is crucial to avoid streaking, especially on dark colored car paint.
Some customer reviews claim that waterless car wash products are not safe for your car because they scratch your car’s coating. However,scratching only occurs if you use the waterless product on a really dirty/muddy car or work with a dirty towel.
If your car is too dirty and caked with grime, first rinse it with a hose or pressure washer. Always switch to a clean side of your towel well in time to prevent surface grit marring and scratching your car coating, just like you would when washing with water.
When after pre-rinsing a dirt film remains, lift the dirt from the surface with your towel in a straight swipe-lift motion (see slow-motion video) instead of smearing it around. If you respect these simple guidelines, a waterless car wash shouldn’t be more of a scratching hazard than one with water.
Check out the waterless and rinseless car wash products that came out on top in our tests:
CCM’s Top 6 Best Waterless Car Wash Products
Best Waterless Car Wash Spray
- Type: wash
- Water needed: none
- Smell: Sour-Citrus Scent
- Content: 16 oz.spray bottle / 1 Gallon / 5 Gallon
Thanks to its formula with extra surfactants and lubricants, this waterless car wash spray easily lifts off dirt from the surface onto your towel without scratching. Just spray on and wipe off, simple as that!
We recommend this awesome waterless car wash product because it very gently removes any dirt on your car’s coating without scratching or marring it.
This product comes either in a light blue or a purple color, depending on the production run. We did not notice any difference in performance, though. Both colors performed equally good. According to Adam’s this product is produced in small batches to guarantee optimal shelf life and that it’s difficult to chemically always get the color spot-on. They confirm that there should be no noticeable difference between colors.
This product hardly leaves any residue. After using it you are free to apply your favorite wax or sealant because it leaves no protective coating whatsoever. It has a nice fruity smell too, like you’re on a tropical vacation!
Customers say it’s great to remove pollen from a dark car coating between car wash sessions. The smell seems to be a big selling point too. Many people buy it because it just cleans and it leaves no wax or coating so they can afterwards apply their coating or wax of choice.
- It doesn’t mar or scratch because it lubricates so well
- It’s really easy to use
- You can take it with you anywhere to do a quick fresh-up
- No buckets or water needed
- Made in USA
- Hefty price tag compared to concentrates. The gallon size is a great deal though
- A 16 oz. spray bottle only washes up to 3 cars, depending on contamination and size.
Like with any waterless spray, work in the shade so it doesn’t dry too fast.
Clean areas the size of a car door panel at a time, wipe dry with a clean, dry towel.
Swipe in straight lines applying very little pressure.
Always use quality edgeless detailing towels.
Fold them in half and again in half so you have 8 clean sides when you flip and fold your towel. If all sides are dirty, ditch it and grab a fresh one.
Never use a dirty side.
If certain areas of your car are caked with dirt or mud, it’s advised to first rinse off most of it with a soft hose or a pressure washer set at the lowest pressure setting. Avoid aiming at cavities or panel gaps that can trap water.
Best Budget 3-in-1 Waterless Car Wash Spray
- Type: 3-in-1 wash+wax+protect
- Water needed: none
- Smell: sweet
- Content: 16 oz.spray bottle / 0.5 Gallon / 1 Gallon
We chose this waterless car wash product as our Best Budget Waterless Car Wash Spray because it is so dead-easy to use and delivers awesome results at a very competitive price, especially the gallon size.
You have to simply spray it on and wipe it off. It’s easy to use any time, anywhere, as long as your car isn’t caked with dirt. Swift Wipe is safe to use on all materials: paint, coatings, plastics, chrome, glass…
No need for water, all you need is some microfiber towels to wash, enhance shine and protect in one simple step. It’s designed to produce a scratch- and swirl free shine and it protects your coating with optical select spray sealant.
If you want a budget-friendly 3-in-1 waterless car wash spray that can be used completely waterless with no buckets, hoses or pressure washer required, this is the one we recommend.
Customers say that this 3-in-1 Waterless Car Wash Spray repels instead of attracting dust. They are surprised by the ease of use and how long it protects. Many stepped up to the gallon size because it is an even better deal.
- Great value
- Completely waterless 3-in-1 application: wash, shine, protect
- We were amazed by the super slick and shiny result
- We love that it’s so incredibly fast and easy to use
- You can take it with you to use anywhere
- It contains optical select spray sealant for extra slickness
- A 16 oz. bottle only cleans up to 3 cars
- Best budget ready-to-use waterless car wash spray but still pricey compared to concentrates
- You will need 5-10 clean towels
Spray the surface till it’s completely wet and make sure you use a clean side of your edgeless microfiber towel to wipe it off for each area.
Work in areas the size of a door panel.
Never use a dirty towel. It’s the dirt particles on the towel that scratch your coating.
Best Overall 3-in-1 Waterless Car Wash Spray
- Type: 3-in-1 wash+wax+protect
- Water needed: none
- Smell: delicate, fruity
- Content: 12 oz. spray bottle / 1 Gallon
We chose Adam’s CS3 for Best Overall because this truly is a game changer compared to a classic waterless wash-and-wax spray.
It’s a highly innovative 3-in-1 waterless car wash product. It combines terrific wash and shine properties with a hydrophobic ceramic UV-protective coating. It’s basically the properties of Adam’s Waterless Wash combined with a ceramic UV-protective coating.
We really liked how this product performed in our tests. It leaves no streaks while cutting dirt, grime and grease with ease. Just spray and wipe, that’s it! It’s safe on all exterior surfaces like wheels, glass and chrome too.
For extra shine and protection, you can apply a second fine mist on the freshly cleaned area and wipe it down a second time with a clean dry towel. You’ll love the long-lasting, deep mirror finish! Water beads roll off like from a duck’s back.
Check out the gallon size, it’s only about 1/3 of the price of the 12oz spray!
Customer reviews confirm the slickness this product leaves on their car paint, just like we’ve experienced in our tests. People love how easy it is to use, and they’re absolutely right!
- Leaves a protective hydrophobic ceramic UV-protective coating
- Best 3-in-1 waterless car wash spray product on the market
- Ready to use, quick and easy
- Completely waterless: no buckets, pressure washer or hose needed
- You can use it anywhere, any time
- Made in USA
- Small 12 oz. bottle only washes 2-3 average size cars
- It isn’t cheap compared to a concentrate. The gallon size is a good deal, though…
Best Eco-Friendly Waterless Car Wash Product
- Type: wash and wax
- Water needed: about 1/2L to moisten some microfiber towels
- Smell: delicate, coconut
- Content: 16 oz. / 1 Gallon
This eco-friendly waterless car wash product has been around for ages. It has a large following and is still going strong. It’s great for washing cars, bikes, RV’s, boats and even airplanes without the need for a hose or bucket. This dual action wash-and-wax is a simple spray-on / wipe-off solution. It’s biodegradable and won’t irritate your eyes or skin.
This awesome waterless car wash product is sold as a 16 oz spray bottle or as a package deal including 144 oz of product along with a 16 oz spray bottle and 4 microfiber towels. With this combo deal you’ll be able to clean 24 to 36 cars. We can confirm that this is one of the best deals out there for sure…
Many high-rating reviews for this product come from people with large vehicles like RV’s because it’s so cost-effective and time-saving and does an awesome cleaning job. They love the fact that it leaves a glossy wax finish and repels dust.
- Fast, doesn’t need to be diluted
- No water needed except to moisten a few microfiber towels
- Leaves a protective wax coating
- Biodegradable, alcohol & ammonia-free, eco-friendly, no skin or eye irritation
- You can use it anywhere
- Great value for the complete kit
- Cleans 24-36 cars
- Made in USA
- Because it contains wax, it may in some cases need a little extra buffing to remove streaks on dark paint
Dip an edgeless microfiber towel in a bucket of clean water, wring it out so it’s wet, but not dripping.
Fold it in half and again in half so you have a total of 8 square sides you can use. Spray Wash Wax All on the square you want to use. Clean an area the size of a door panel. Wipe it dry with a fresh dry edgeless microfiber towel. Flip the wet towel to a fresh clean side and spray it with Wash Wax All, and so on… If you’ve used all 8 sides of the wet towel, change it for a fresh one. The same goes with the dry one. Never use dirty towels!
Although this product is meant to be used without rinsing, we do advise to use a soft hose or a pressure washer at lowest pressure setting to rinse off most sand and dirt before using these products if your car is really caked with dirt. Avoid aiming at panel gaps or cavities that can trap water.
It’s just common sense.
Best No-Rinse Car Wash Product
- Type: wash + shine
- Water needed: yes, 1 or 2 buckets
- Smell: Candy
- Content: 8 oz. / 32 oz. / 1 Gallon
- Type: wash + wax
- Water needed: yes, 1 or 2 buckets
- Smell: Fruity
- Content: 8 oz. / 32 oz. / 1 Gallon
These great no-rinse car wash products were developed by Dr. David Ghodoussi, the company founder. He received his Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in Polymer and Organic Chemistry from Oregon State University and his MBA from University of Memphis. He also holds Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering and in Chemistry from the University of California in Santa Barbara.
Through his scientific approach he managed to raise the bar for the industry. He’s often called the father of modern automotive coatings. His inventions, Optimum No Rinse & Shine and Optimum No Rinse Wash & Wax, contain special polymers which offer more lubricity during the washing process and lift contaminants off the surface.
This guarantees a scratch-free wash while leaving gloss and protection. Wash & Wax adds an extra layer of wax protection, while Wash & Shine cleans and adds shine so you can add your favorite wax if you want to. In our experience, both are great. It depends on personal preference.
One 32 oz. bottle contains enough product to wash about 32 cars. That is if you use 1 oz. per wash and discard the remaining solution when you’re done.
People who use it call it “miracle juice” because it’s so effective at such a low cost and with minor effort. We agree completely!
- Great value
- A bottle goes a long way ( up to 32 cars )
- Special polymers prevent scratching
- Lifts contaminants
- Cleans, protects and shines / waxes
- Not a completely waterless process
- You need one or two buckets
- Wash & Wax may need extra buffing on dark coatings because it contains carnauba wax
Here are two different ways to use Optimum No Rinse even more efficiently without scratching or marring your paint:
- Two-bucket method:
Use a rinsing bucket to rinse off dirt particles before dipping your sponge, towel or mitt back into the No Rinse solution bucket. (2 bucket method)
Use Grit Guards and a Wash Boards to keep dirt particles away from your sponge, mitt or towel.
The No Rinse solution will stay much cleaner and you will avoid recirculating sharp dirt and sand particles that might scratch your coating.
Always clean manageable sized panels at a time the size of a door panel to avoid your towel, mitt or sponge to collect too much dirt with the risk of marring or scratching. Dry with a clean edgeless towel immediately.
Optimum advises to use their Big Red Sponge, but in our opinion it’s just an expensive cut-up cellulose sponge and we’re not a fan because cellulose material causes scratches whatever you do. It’s just not the ideal car wash sponge material.
Take an in-depth look at better alternatives on CCM’s “Top 10 Best Car Wash Mitts“.
We advise to use distilled water for your solution because this leaves no residue.
The leftover soap solution can be stored and used for the next car wash.
Dirt particles will drop to the bottom of the storage container.
When you wash your car next time, the majority of the solution can safely be poured into your bucket, leaving only the contaminated bottom half inch or so to be discarded.
With this method over 40 cars can be cleaned with one 32 oz. bottle!
- Clean bucket method:
By far the most efficient and safe way to use the No Rinse products is to dump 5-10 edgeless microfiber towels in the solution and let ‘em soak, depending on the size of the car and how dirty it is.
Leave the towels in the solution and take one out when you need it.
Wring it out slightly so it still drips but doesn’t gush.
Fold it in half and again in half so you have 8 fresh squares to work with.
We recommend using only 4 squares (meaning one side of the towel) to have enough lubricity left. You’ll notice that from the 5th square on, the towel won’t have enough product left to have optimal lubrication.
Use each towel only once (4 squares) and NEVER dump it back in the solution. Instead throw it aside with the dirty towels. This way you’ll always have 100% uncontaminated fresh towels to work with from an unsoiled solution bucket.
After you’ve cleaned an area, immediately dry it with a fresh, dry edgeless microfiber towel. Same technique, fold it in half and again in half. You can use all 8 sides of the dry towel.
If you do want to use all 8 squares of the wet towel too, put some solution in a spray bottle and from the 5th square on, spray extra product directly on each fresh square to moisten it.
Whatever you do, NEVER bring a used towel back to the clean solution bucket!
What’s so amazing about this technique, is that after you’re done, your solution as well as any towels left in the solution will have zero contamination.
Cover the bucket and the next time just add some fresh solution and some clean towels and again you’re good to go!
It’s also nice that you’ll always have some ready made solution at hand to wipe away fingerprints or bird droppings.
But remember: don’t throw used towels back in the solution!
With this technique you’ll have no wasted product at all, which is awesome for the environment as well as your wallet!
Although this product is meant to be used without rinsing, we do advise to use a soft hose or a pressure washer at lowest pressure setting to rinse off most sand and dirt before using these products if your car is really caked with dirt. Avoid aiming at panel gaps or cavities that can trap water. These spots are very susceptible to rust.
Comparison Table Of The Best Waterless Car Wash Products
|Best Waterless||Adam's Polishes||Adam's Waterless Wash|
|Best Budget||Chemical Guys||Swift Wipe Sprayable Waterless Car Wash|
|Best 3-in-1||Adam’s Polishes||CS3|
|Best Eco-Friendly||Aero Cosmetics||Wash Wax All|
|Best No-Rinse||Optimum||No Rinse Wash & Shine|
|Best No-Rinse With Wax||Optimum||No Rinse Wash & Wax|
There was a time, not so long ago, when a handful of waterless car wash products had the market to themselves. That time is long gone. Every detailing brand wants a piece of the action in this fast growing market.
Each of our selected products have their advantages, depending on your specific requirements.
Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All is one of the original market leaders which is still going strong. It has a loyal clientele both in the car, boat and airplane market and because it delivers great results with all eco-friendly ingredients.
Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine and Optimum No Rinse Wash & Wax take a very different approach delivering awesome results with their rinseless wash products. You still need (a) bucket(s), but no hose or pressure washer. With its innovative polymer formulation, it packs one of the slickest lubrications out there providing a very effective anti-scratch barrier. Contrary to what you might think, it’s just as fast as the bucketless spray products. With the clean bucket method it is ridiculously economical too!
Chemical Guys developed a very affordable and easy to use 3 in 1 Swift Wipe Spray, and that says it all: you can very swiftly spray and wipe leaving a shine with its protective optical select spray sealant. It’s so easy it feels like cheating.
Adam’s developed its Waterless Wash for people who want to have the best, fastest and safest waterless car cleaning product without all the extra coatings and stuff combined. It’s also great for detailers who want to be free to choose any specific coating of their preference as a next step. It’s generally not the best idea to put a coating on top of a different coating. That’s why Adam’s Waterless Wash leaves an almost blank canvas.
Not the blank canvas type?
Want the best of everything combined, waterless, bucketless, hoseless and fast? Adam’s CS3 is the product for you. It’s spray-on, wipe-off and leaves one of the best protective coatings all at once!
It’s up to you to pick the product that you feel is right for you…
Can you always use a waterless car wash product?
No, you can’t. If your car is caked with dirt and mud, we recommend to do a pre-washing first: rinse off most of the dirt with a soft hose or a pressure washer set at the lowest pressure setting.
But, if your car is just a bit dusty after a recent wash, a waterless car wash is an excellent solution to get it showroom-looking again in a haze.
How Often Should You Use a Waterless Car Wash Product?
For optimal results, a car is best washed waterless every 1 to 4 weeks, depending on road- and weather conditions.
If you live in a dry, dusty desert environment, it’s OK to skip a few washes. On wet and muddy roads a week in between may be the maximum to keep up with the grime build-up.
Use common sense and rinse off any caked dirt first before using a waterless car wash product.
How do you use a waterless car wash spay?
No matter what car wash method or product you use, always park your car out of direct sunlight during the entire washing process! The heat of the sun softens car coatings, making them very vulnerable to scratching and marring. It also makes products and water dry too fast, leaving spots and residue that can be hard to remove.
Spray the surface till it’s completely wet and make sure you use a clean side of your edgeless microfiber towel for each area. Swipe in straight lines applying very little pressure. Work in areas the size of a door panel. Use a second towel to dry.
Tip: Fold your microfiber towel in half and again in half so you have 8 clean sides when you flip and fold your towel. If all sides are dirty, ditch it and grab a fresh one. Never use a dirty side. It’s the dirt particles on the towel that scratch your coating.
If certain areas of your car are really caked with dirt or mud, it’s advised to first rinse off most of it with a hose or a pressure washer set at the lowest pressure setting. Avoid aiming at cavities or panel gaps that can trap water. Rinse those areas with a soft water jet to avoid forcing water in places where it may get trapped and cause rust. This especially applies for older cars and classic cars.
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