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How to Wash Your Car Without A Hose: A Simple Guide

Is it too cold outside to wash with a water hose? Maybe you don’t have access to one, or maybe you simply need to limit water consumption. No matter your situation, today I’m going to show you how to wash a dirty car step-by-step (without a hose) using rinseless wash products and couple of gallons of water.

Okay, but what if you don’t access to any running water? That’s where waterless car wash products come in. Because believe it or not, there is a difference between rinseless and waterless products!

Waterless car wash products come in spray form and aren’t designed to be diluted—what’s in the bottle is what you get. I like the waterless cleaner by Chemical Guys, and keep a bottle in my console and garage (for times I’m feeling lazy in the winter).

Chemical Guys Sprayable Waterless Car Wash

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Chemical Guys Swift Wipe Waterless Car Wash

On the downside, I have a large truck and can easily use half a bottle of this stuff with one wash. You can find waterless wipes on the market too, but they can be risky to use. You can easily scratch your clear coat any time you run a microfiber cloth or disposable wipe across dry paint (even if the wipe is somewhat moist).

Spraying liquid on a vehicle is much safer than relying on a cloth being wet enough or soft enough.

Rinseless products are not waterless…and that’s a good thing

The safest way to wash your vehicle without a hose is to use a rinseless car wash product like ONR. This stuff is super-popular, works well…and is pretty easy to find online.

Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine

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Optimum No Rinse.

Keep in mind: Regular car shampoo isn’t the same as a rinseless wash solution; rinseless products contain a higher percentage of lubricants you need to safely wipe away dirt without water. With any rinseless product, there is a slight risk of scratching the paint even with the slickest lubricants and best dirt-encapsulating technology.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, follow this tutorial to get your car looking clean again….no hose needed :) But first, here are a few necessary supplies to grab.

What you’ll need

  • 2 gallons of plain water
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Two empty buckets
  • ONR or another rinseless wash solution
  • Wash mitt or microfiber towel
  • Several microfiber towels
  • Pump sprayer (optional)
  • Spray-on quick detailer (optional)

If your vehicle is extremely dirty, the best way to safely wash is using a hose and running water (or if you have no other options…an automatic car wash).

Step 1: Park in a garage or covered area

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to work indoors if it’s windy or cold outside. Be sure to work in sections and work quickly so soap won’t dry on contact. If you must work outside, find a shaded area if in direct sunlight or a covered area if you can.

It’s also not a bad idea to grab an old bath towel to wipe up spills whenever you wash in a garage.

Step 2: Fill 2 buckets with water and dilute your products

Dilute ONR or your rinseless product in a 5-gallon bucket using the recommended dilution ratio using tap water. If you have hard tap water, it’s a good idea to buy a couple gallons of purified water to avoid water spots. One ounce of ONR per gallon of purified water is a good starting point. In the other bucket, simply add a gallon of clean water and set aside. I like to use plastic disks called grit guards in my wash bucket; these devices help keep your wash mitt away from dirty water at the bottom.

If you need to remove traffic film on your vehicle—a thin layer of brake dust and other road particles—use your empty spray bottle to add a product called Super Clean at a 5:1 water-to-solution ratio. Super Clean is a gentle degreaser that helps remove traffic film (that car shampoo can’t).

Quick Tip

Purchase spray bottles with measurements to make diluting products simple..

If you don’t have traffic film, you can mix the rinseless product in your spray bottle or a pump sprayer for pre-treating.

Step 3: Pre-treat your vehicle

To begin, pre-treat the first panel to loosen surface dirt with either your rinseless wash product or Super Clean. Start at the top of the vehicle, since you always want to work from the cleanest part if the vehicle to the dirtiest. Wait 5 to 10 seconds.

I like to use my Solo brand pump sprayer instead of a spray bottle in this case because it allows me to work quickly; instead of squeezing the trigger multiple times, I just hold down a button!

Step 4: Hand wash each panel

After pre-treating, dip a clean microfiber towel or wash mitt into your wash bucket, and gently graze it across the pre-treated panel.

Before moving to the next section, dip the dirty mitt or towel in your clean bucket of water, and re-dip into your wash bucket. Using a wash bucket and rinse bucket to wash is a technique called the two-bucket wash methodand can help your soap last longer.

Cleaning wheels and tires without a hose

Products like ONR can be used on wheels as well, but aren’t designed to deep clean tires. if you decide to clean your tires, it’s wise to reserve one 5-gallon bucket just for tires. Having a dedicated tire bucket prevents cross-contamination with your main wash bucket. Keep those brushes and dirty wheel rags separated!

You can technically use degreaser to clean wheels even without a hose, but it depends on how dirty they are. You’ll want to rinse off heavy brake dust because you’ll likely go through a bunch of towels (and get dirty in the process).

Step 5: Dry with a microfiber towel and touch up where needed

Rinseless wash products are designed to trap dirt and remove it in one step, but I sometimes will follow back up with a clean, but damp microfiber towel to soak up any residue.

You can also use a detailing spray to wet your drying towel during this process as you inspect your work. As a best practice, never graze a dry or stiff towel across a dry car surface; you can leave swirl marks if you missed a few dirt particles during washing.

Rinseless washing shouldn’t replace traditional washing

Think of rinseless washing as a temporary alternative to your normal wash process for certain situations. For the best results possible, you’ll still want to use soapy water and a hose most of the time, especially to remove sand, loose dirt, mud, bugs, and everything else.

Rinseless wash products can do damage if used to remove heavy mud or salt. In this case, use a pressure washer or find a self-serve car wash bay to remove the heavy stuff. Snow foam and normal car shampoo are much better at carrying away dirt than rinseless sprays, even though they require water.

Want to wash less frequently? Use a paint protection product

If you can’t use a hose on the regular, at minimum protect your paint! A protected car stays cleaner for longer AND it reduces your chances of water spots. On the spectrum of paint protection, you have waxes, sealants, coatings, and paint protection films (which provide the best protection).

Chart: Longevity of Paint Protection Products in Detailing

Since modern ceramic coatings can be extremely hydrophobic, I recommend this solution if you don’t have access to a hose but want to wash less frequently.

Check out our post on ceramic coatings for beginners where we break down what to know, our recommendations, and how to get one applied. Most can be applied by even a beginner.

Good luck, and happy detailing!

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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