washing car without water

How To Correctly Wash Your Car Without Water In 7 Easy Steps

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When you wash your car, you need water, right?

That might be the expectation, but it is not the truth. The truth is that you can wash your car without water and still get amazing results (think of it like dry-cleaning, but for your vehicle).

Washing your car without water means that you don’t have to rely on a water source, you cut down on your water usage (helping the environment), and there is no runoff from the vehicle (this also protects the environment and saves on clean-up time). It could even be said that washing your car without water is easier than washing it with water.

How To Wash Your Car Without Water: A Step-By-Step Guide

Washing your car without water might be a brand-new concept, but it is an easy one to grasp once you know how to do it, and you will never go back once you find out how easy it is.

Simply follow my simple step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Make Sure A Waterless Wash Is Right For Your Vehicle

Washing your vehicle without water can be fun and easy, but not if your car is caked in mud. Waterless washing can deal with many types of dirt, but if the dirt is caked on or thick, then you will need to rinse the car first, and that defeats the concept of washing without water.

If you have been off-roading or got stuck in some mud, this method is not for you.

If you have minimal dirt on your vehicle, proceed to step 2.

Step 2: Choose Your Product Wisely

You need the right product for the job, so don’t go into your local automotive store and choose the first that you find. Here are some tips to get exactly what you need:

  • If you want an extra layer of protection, choose a waterless cleaner with wax in it.
  • I always recommend using a cleaner that comes in a spray bottle for extra convenience.
  • Choose a UV formula for even more protection.
  • Check the label to ensure that it is right for your type of vehicle.

If you are ever in doubt, you can ask someone for help. Below are our three favorite waterless car wash products.

Step 3: Assemble Your Equipment

You have your waterless cleaner—now, all you need is something to apply it to the car with. You have two main options here: a microfiber cloth or a chamois.

Basically, what you are looking for here is something to absorb the cleaner as it is applied and a fabric that will not scratch your vehicle. Both of these cloths will do the job, but be sure to look for a microfiber cloth with a minimum weight of 300 grams to lift the dirt and dust from your vehicle better.

Pro tip: Buy multiple cloths so that you can move from one to the next as they become too soiled.

Step 4: Divide Up Your Work Into Stages

Take your vehicle and divide it up into sections. You can do this by defining the sections as areas of the car: roof, side, back, etc., or you can work in parts: roof, glass, wheels, bumpers, etc. Whatever works best for you is what you should do.

The benefit to breaking up the job into sections is that it reduces the chance of you missing a part, and it allows you to better portion your cleaner and cloths. If you begin to work and find that the cleaner is being used too quickly, you can dilute it a little (a little water in the process is okay here). You can also allocate cloths to certain parts or sections.

This technique also allows you to utilize additional products and cleaners. If there is stubborn dirt on the car door, you can spray it with another cleaner and let it soak while you concentrate on the back bumper.

Dividing up the work allows you to stay in control of the process.

Pro tip: Start at the top of the car and work your way down as much as you can. This limits the transference of dirt from dirty to clean areas.

Step 5: How To Apply The Cleaner

There are likely instructions on the product instructing you on how to apply the cleaner, but it is never a bad idea to go over that, just to make sure that your vehicle is as clean as it can be.

Because you are working in sections, you know how much fluid you should be using for each section.

Spray the fluid so that it covers the entire area, using a little more where there is more dirt (the cleaner should come in a spray bottle, and I recommend transferring it to one if it does not).

Pro tip: Your wheels are usually the dirtiest part and should be left till last. Be sure to keep a little more fluid for this part of your car.

Step 6: How To Use Your Microfiber Cloth Or Chamois

I recommend folding your microfiber cloth in half (or even into four). There are two main benefits to this. First, you have more control over the cloth when there is a smaller surface area to apply to the body of your car. Secondly, you can control how soiled the cloth becomes, and you essentially have four sections of cloth to switch between (or eight if you folded it more).

When it comes time to wipe the cleaner, wipe it off the car in one direction. If you go back and forth or in a circle, you are only going to move the dirt around and re-apply it as you switch from one direction to another.

If the dirt does not come off, you can re-apply the cleaner and wipe it again. When the cloth becomes too soiled, unfold and refold it to find a clean section or switch out the cloth entirely.

Step 7: Repeat As Necessary

Is your vehicle still dirty?

If it is, repeat the necessary steps to get that flawless shine.

If it is not, go and relax after a job well done.

A quick video tutorial for a waterless car wash.

Is It Safe To Wash Your Car Without Water?

The main worry when people are not using water to rinse off their car is that the paintwork is going to become scratched. This is avoided in one of two ways.

If there is a lot of abrasive dirt on your car (maybe it is covered in mud), then a waterless wash is not right for you. Prevention is the best cure.


If there is only a little dirt, you do not have to worry about scratches. Most, if not all, of the products on the market contain a lubricant. When it is sprayed on your paintwork, it creates a barrier between the potentially abrasive dirt and the paint beneath. When you wipe it off correctly, it is not going to scratch.

The Pros & Cons Of Waterless Washing


  • You can wash your car anywhere without having to worry about a water supply.
  • You use less water.
  • Less dirt and grime are washed into drains or into the ground below.
  • You have less to prepare before you wash.
  • Most waterless wash products have wax or UV protection.


  • Waterless washing is not effective for muddy or very dirty vehicles.
  • It takes longer to waterless wash than it does to wash with water.
  • You need to buy a specific product—you can’t just use soapy water.

Steven Doyle

Steven Doyle is a freelance writer specializing in high-quality information-driven content. Not only does he write about durable and buy-it-for-life (BIFL) products, he gets hands-on to find the very best.

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