Most people don’t realize that they use a whopping 40-100 gallons of water on average when they wash their car with a garden hose.
Knowing that water is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the US because of global warming, car wash techniques that use no water at all or just a fraction of a classic driveway car wash with a garden hose are becoming hugely popular.
The most effective of them all is without a doubt the rinseless clean-bucket technique with pressure washer pre-rinse. It’s much faster than the classic car wash technique and it’s much less hassle too. The result is just as good and it uses an average 1.5 – 4 gallons of water instead of 40-100 gallons!
There’s hardly any polluted water runoff either.
While waterless car wash techniques can’t be used when your car is very dirty, the rinseless clean-bucket technique with pressure washer pre-rinse can be used safely in all circumstances without scratching your car paint.
How you wash your car rinseless
1. Park your car in the shade, away from trees
The heat from direct sun softens your car paint in summer, making it more prone to abrasion and scratches.
Intense sunlight will also evaporate your product before you can work it, potentially leaving marks and spots. That’s why you should never wash your car in direct sunlight on a warm summer’s day.
However, in late autumn or early spring the sun is too weak to heat your car paint, so you should be OK. Gently touch the car surface to make sure it isn’t hot and use common sense.
If you don’t have a place in the shade, it’s better to wash your car on an overcast day or early in the morning when it’s cool.
It’s not a good idea to park your car under trees when you’re washing it either. There’s always stuff falling from trees like tree sap, dead foliage, bird droppings… If this stuff accidentally gets caught in your towel while cleaning, it will scratch your car paint.
2. Everything you need to wash your car rinseless
Right, now that your car is parked in the best possible spot, what do you need to get the job done?
- hose, pressure washer, 25° and 40° nozzles
- car wash bucket
- rinseless car wash soap
- 1 gal of demineralized water (optional)
- 8-16 edgeless microfiber towels
- budget microfiber towels (to clean your wheels with instead of using your more expensive edgeless microfiber towels, only use these if you don’t have scratch-prone custom wheels)
Here’s how to rinseless wash your car in 3 easy steps
Step 1: Pressure-wash your car
The first thing to do is to thoroughly pre-rinse your car with your pressure washer set between 1200 and 1900 PSI. Higher pressure might damage your car paint.
Use a 25° nozzle to blast your wheels and tires and a 40° nozzle for the rest of your car. The 25° nozzle enhances pressure to get that nasty brake dust and road grime off your wheels and tires, the dirtiest parts of your vehicle.
The 40° nozzle works faster and more efficiently on large surfaces.
Always keep your pressure washer nozzle at least 1’ away from the surface you’re cleaning to not use too much water pressure or accidentally scratch or dent your car paint with the nozzle.
It’s best to spray at an angle of about 45-60°. A 90° straight-angle approach blasts all sand and grit with full force onto your clear coat, actually sand blasting it, while a “softer” angle will blast dirt away from the car surface without scratching it.
Make sure to clean every inch of your car.
If there’s still coarse dirt left after the first pass, let it soften for a couple of minutes and blast it a second time to make sure all sharp sand particles are gone. This is essential to not scratch your car paint in the next step.
By the time you’re done, you’ll only have used 1.5-2 gallons of water pre-rinsing your car, 3-4 gallons if you need a second pass. That’s a huge difference compared to 40-100 gallons of water you’d need for a complete buckets-and-hose car wash! Besides a few ounces of water to add to your rinseless car wash soap, that’s all the water you’re gonna need.
Step 2: Soak your towels
You’ll need about 3-4 wet car wash towels for a small to medium size car, up to 8 wet car wash towels for a large van, Heavy Duty pickup truck or small camper.
No problem if you misjudge the number of towels you’re gonna need. If you have clean wet towels left, you can leave them in the bucket when you’re done and use ‘em for the next car wash.
Grab your car wash bucket and put about 8oz of water in per towel you’re gonna use. Although tap water works fine, we recommend using demineralized water because it leaves no mineral deposits or spots when dry. The minerals in tap water also diminish the cleaning properties of detergents, which is counter productive.
Add rinseless car wash soap as instructed on the label and swirl the bucket gently to mix the fluid.
Drop all the towels you think you’re gonna need in the car wash bucket with the soapy water and move them around till they are fully saturated.
Step 3: Wash your car with rinseless car wash soap
3.1. Grab a wet towel
Grab a wet towel from your bucket and squeeze it very lightly up to the point it stops dripping but it is still soaking wet.
3.2. Fold the towel
Fold it in half and again in half in the other direction, resulting in a hand-sized rectangular shape that is easy to use. If it’s dirty, you can flip it to a clean side. You’ll have four clean surfaces on each side of the towel, 8 clean surfaces in total.
3.3. Wash your car from top to bottom in sections of 2 x 2’
Always wash your car from top to bottom, not the other way round because the bottom part is the dirtiest. You don’t wanna take any dirt and sand that’s left on the bottom sections up to the cleaner top sections with the risk of making swirls or scratches. when wash wheels?
Work in sections of about 2’ x 2’ and swipe in straight horizontal lines, applying only very light pressure. Let neighboring sections slightly overlap. Don’t wipe in a round swirling pattern, because marring and minute scratches will be much more visible in full sunlight.
3.4. Wipe it dry immediately
When a section is clean, immediately wipe it dry with a clean dry edgeless microfiber towel.
You can reuse this dry towel until it is too saturated to streaklessly dry your car surface. When the time comes, dump it in the laundry basket and grab a fresh one.
3.5. When your wet towel is dirty, grab a clean one
When all 8 surfaces of your wet towel are dirty, toss it in the laundry basket, never put a dirty towel back in your bucket! That way your bucket and fresh, clean wet towels stay 100% free of dirt and grit.
Grab a fresh, clean, wet towel from your car wash bucket, lightly squeeze it, fold it twice and continue…
In about 15-30 minutes, depending on the size and complexity of your vehicle, your car should look squeaky clean!
What a difference some soap, towels and elbow grease can make!
It gives such pleasure and pride to admire your car after it’s had a proper car wash. It looks all fresh and shiny and it’s ready to enjoy on your next drive.