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3 ways to wash your car without water

An old favorite, a detailer’s secret, and a new product, make it easier than ever to keep your ride shiny without a trip to the car wash


Car enthusiasts, who have cars they drive only on dry days, don’t need automated car washes. They like to hand-wash their cars anyway. One issue collectors and enthusiasts do have is keeping a car looking perfect without going through the whole car washing procedure. Just like racing develops products that can later be used in street cars, enthusiasts and car-care manufacturers have developed tricks of the trade that are now starting to become useful to many average car owners.

Starting with the least dirty a car can be and be properly cleaned without water is the dusty car. Dusty cars in arid areas, as well as pollen covered cars in many areas can be cleaned quickly and easily using a car duster. The most popular brand is known as The California Car Duster. The duster has a special paraffin baked in so that the cloth duster head can collect dirt and dust and remove it from the car. The duster actually works better over time, which is a nice touch.

Moving up the slightly dirty car ladder is the soap stained, or water splashed car. This is a car that came out of a cheap automated car wash still a bit dirty looking. Black cars and other dark colors look the worst when not perfectly clean. The fix for these sorts of dirty cars is detailer. This type of product is also popular at at car shows. Also called instant detailer, this is a spray you apply like glass cleaner and then simply wipe off with a quality microfiber cloth or similar. The detailer contains enough water and mild detergents to take away mild dirt, soap, fingerprints, and dust. The results are excellent and the car is left looking very good. These products are not for removing dirt from cars that have been driven in snow or have not been washed in a long time.

Recently, products that could actually wash a car without any water have been released by reputable car-care suppliers. Designed to remove real dirty from a genuinely dirty car, they do work as advertised. Applying the product is simple. Spray it on the car and wipe it off with any microfiber or similar cloth. The liquid is lubricating to some degree, very different from the feel of an instant detailer, which feels “dry” even though that seems to make little sense. The cloth will get dirty and require frequent turning and changing as the car is cleaned. Unlike wax, the product does not need to be worked in and then removed later. It is a one step process. A light buff with a clean cloth at the end removes any residue and polishes the car nicely. An added feature of the product made by Prolong is that the car is left with a pleasing smell.

For the most abused car, or one that has already had the paint oxidize beyond a smooth finish, there is no washing without water. However, for cars they keep in good condition, or driven in arid areas with water bans, these three methods do work.

Washing ones car without water is not a gimmick and it really can be done.