Do Not Wash Your Car – Waterless Wash It

Waterless Wash Mustang

Here’s the deal… too many car enthusiasts wash their cars every single week. That’s all fine and well – I used to be the same. But the reality is, unless you live in a climate where it rains every day, it’s actually unnecessary, wasteful and probably worse for your car.

Ferrari 328 GTS Concours

I have a good friend who owns a pristine Ferrari 328 GTS. I’m telling you, this is a gorgeous multiple-concours-winning car. One day he told me that he had never actually washed it. He told me it was all waterless wash and quick detailing. I couldn’t believe it. I had always been under the assumption that if you didn’t have tons of suds over a car wiping it down would scratch it. Turns out that’s not true. It’s all on what technique, gear and solutions are used.

The RallyWays Miata at Coronado Speed Festival

When I bought the RallyWays Miata I decided to do the same. I’ve now owned the car for nearly two years and it’s always perfectly clean yet I have only washed it twice – Once when I first bought it and a second time after a long road trip to Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. That last one was only because I drove through plenty of dirt roads and the lots at Mazda Raceway were all dirt.

Where I live it rarely ever rains. This makes the task of waterless washing or quick detailing relatively easy. In fact, if a car hasn’t been through a rain storm, you don’t have to wash it. And if you really want to, you can still safely waterless wash a car that has been through one.

The difference between quick detailer and waterless wash.

The main difference between a quick detailing spray and a waterless wash is mainly how slick the chemicals are. Waterless washing solutions are generally more soapy and require a bit more work. They are meant for safely washing a very dirty car.

Quick detailer spray is generally not as slick, is often more readily available and often less expensive. Quick detailer is mostly designed for a quick wipe-down of a dusty car. It’s not as effective on a really dirty car as waterless wash is. Again, this will all depend on the quality of either solution.

For waterless washing or quick detailing to work well, you need 3 things

  1. Make sure you keep your car waxed. A slick car is easy to clean. Quick detailing and waterless washing save a lot of time, so taking the extra bit of time to wax often becomes easy. Yes, you can wax after quick detailing or waterless washing your car. You don’t need to wash the old-fashioned way.
  2. Always have enough quick detailing spray and waterless wash on hand. Depending on how much cleaning your car needs, you can choose which option would be best for the given situation.
  3. Have lots and lots of microfiber towels. Keep the ones you use for quick detailing separate from the ones you use for removing wax or polishing. Having plenty of microfiber towels is key. By changing the towels out more often than you may think you avoid scratching or adding swirl marks to your paint.

That’s pretty much it. When learning how to quick detail it’s probably safest to start with waterless wash and leave the quick detailing spray for when you have more experience. Waterless wash is slicker and better for when the car is dirtier so it’s a bit harder to screw up. Quick detailing however, you need a little more finesse.

Regardless, many car enthusiasts refer to waterless car washing and quick detailing as two different things. There’s a reason I have them both in this same article. For me, they are one in the same. I use the same techniques for both. The only difference is I’ll use a waterless wash solution if the car is quite dirty and a quick detailer solution if it’s just minor dirt.

Apart from having the right gear there is one more important bit of info you need to be successful. It also comes courtesy of my Ferrari friend:

Touch your car’s paint the way you would touch a baby’s head.

That’s how you avoid adding scratches to your car. This applies to quick detailing as much as it applies to a traditional car wash. You know those videos where the bikini car wash girl is washing a car and rubbing the paint like she’s polishing the floor? …after having dropped the sponge on the ground. Yep. Nope.

The process for waterless washing or quick detailing for me is relatively the same. Some people like to pre-soak the microfiber towels beforehand, but I don’t like to do that. I just use spray method.

Let’s go through the process in a few steps…

  1. Have your microfiber towels ready. I usually have anywhere from 10 to 20 towels ready.
  2. Fold over the towel you will use a few times to a comfortable size – very important.
  3. Spray a small area of the paint, maybe 2 square feet, generously with quick detailer or waterless wash.
  4. Without using any pressure, glide the first towel over the paint using its own weight. This is to pick up big particles. Flip the towel over and do it again.
  5. Fold the towel over to hide the now dirty section and get ready to use a bit more than just the weight of the towel.
  6. Spray more if necessary and then using a rolling motion run a clean section of the towel over the paint to pick up more dirt.
  7. Fold the microfiber towel over and do it again until the surfact is completely clean.
  8. Always use a linear motion – in other words, no “wax on, wax off”. You actually want to wipe in the same direction the wind travels over the car.
  9. Change your towels often and don’t ever wipe again with a surface of the towel you’ve already used once.
  10. Finish off with either a layer of quick wax or just leave as-is if your paint has enough wax. I almost always finish off with a layer of quick wax because it helps me get rid of any streaks left by the quick detailer. You can of course also wax with traditional wax and not quick wax.

So why waterless car wash?

There are many good reasons for using waterless wash or quick detailer. People always push the idea that you help save water – which in all fairness is specially true in dry climates like Southern California.

Sometimes, people live in communities where washing a car is not an option or not allowed, as is the case in many apartment complexes.

In any case, my biggest argument for waterless wash is that it saves time. The fact that you don’t have to set up for washing and then you avoid the whole ordeal of drying the car and putting all the crap you have to use away, saves time.

Meguiar's Ultimate Quik Wax - Dani

I can usually quick detail and quick wax a car in one hour. Doing that using a traditional water washing method would take 2-3 hours. Yes, quick wax could be argued to not be a durable as good ol’ paste wax, but the fact that you do it more often will keep your paint better protected. In the long run, it’s better.

What to buy

For quick detailing my favorite solution is Chemical Guys Synthetic Quick Detailer. Many quick detailing solutions come with carnauba. Since I almost always wax afterwards anyway, I prefer the non-carnauba quick detailers. Below is a link to buy the product. Note that you can buy the small 16oz bottle to try it out. However, you will go through that pretty quickly. The gallon of the stuff is where it’s at.

Click on the link above to go to the product page for Chemical Guys’ Synthetic Quick Detailer. If you buy any recommended product using one of our links, you help RallyWays as we get commission for the sale. Note however, we only recommend products that we love and use ourselves. This gallon of GC Synthetic Quick Detailer is exactly what I use. I just pour it into smaller leftover 16oz spray bottles.

Meguiar's Quik Detailer Mustang

Also read: Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Wax Full Review

Here’s Dani quick detailing her Mustang with Meguiar’s Quik Detailer spray. I will also often use Meguiar’s Quik Detailer spray when I don’t have GC’s Synthetic Quick Detailer handy. I like them both. The only reason I tend to prefer the Chemical Guy’s detailer is because I buy it by the gallon, so it’s a little bit cheaper.

For waterless wash I’ve been really liking Pinnacle Liquid Crystal Waterless Wash Concentrate. It’s really slick and works wonders. Unlike the quick detailer mentioned earlier, this one comes in a smaller bottle. However, it’s a concentrate, so you mix it with distilled water to make a solution right before using it. The ratio is 1 ounce to 32 ounces of distilled water (1/2 ounce to 16 oz). While the bottle of this Pinnacle Waterless Wash is around $25, it will yield the equivalent of 32 bottles of 16 ounces. Since the 16 oz bottles of quick detailer are usually $5, that’s $160 worth of a detailing solution for just $25! Such a good deal! Plus, this Pinnacle stuff smells awesome too.

Last, but certainly not the least, if you plan on having any success waterless washing and quick detailing you need a healthy collection of microfiber detailing towels. In fact, those are likely more important than the quick detailing solutions posted above. You need to read on then…

Head on then to our article about microfiber towels

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