If you live in an apartment that doesn’t have a wash station, it can be difficult to keep a clean ride. Speaking from experience, it was a lot more difficult keeping my car clean at my old apartment due to this, but there are a few things you can do with or without much water.
In this blog, I’ll break down 7 creative ways to wash your car when living at an apartment or condo.
Tip 1: Ask Your Apartment Manager About Water Access
For starters, it’s probably best to check with your apartment or condo manager to see if there is a water spigot anywhere on the property that you can use. Some apartments I’ve been in have these to assist landscapers when watering plants, but it’s worth asking.
If they do let you use a sigot with a hose, just be sure to be careful about letting soap enter storm drains, as this can be a problem in some cities (EPA regulations). If not, that’s okay too. There are a few more ways I’ll mention below to keep your car clean that don’t using a water source.
Ask about installing a wash station for cars if your community doesn’t have one – maybe ask if a survey can be sent out. If there is enough interest, may times apartments or condos will add these types of amenities especially if they don’t cost a lot (really just a hose and water) in order to attract future residents. If you are at the end of your lease, it’s worth doing some research on other places to see if this amenity is offered.
Tip 2: Consider a Waterless Car Wash Product
If you typically don’t let your vehicle get too dirty, you may want to try a good spray-on waterless car wash product. I recently reviewed Chemical Guys Swift Wipe Waterless car wash in a review post here, and think it’s pretty good for the money.
There are other good spray-on products you can check out as well, like:
- TriNova Waterless Car Wash
- Adam’s Waterless Wash
- Chemical Guys Eco-Smart Waterless Wash
- Meguiar’s Waterless Wash
The key to using these spray-on products is to make sure you use enough product. I like to use them in-between washes, but if you live in an apartment they can definitely help on smaller vehicles. You might want to purchase these products in bulk if you drive a larger vehicle.
Recommended for: Cars with a thin layer of dirt. If you use touchless car washes in town, this is a good solution for in-between washes, but not as effective as others.
Tip 3: Apply ONR (Optimum No Rinse)
This is probably the best method I’ve found if you are dealing with a lack of water or space (even more so than a spray on waterless product). ONR or Optimum No Rinse is a popular rinse-less product that lubricates well, allowing for less water to be used overall without scratching your clear coat. This stuff can be used with a minimal amount of water (less than about a gallon) and obviously doesn’t require rinsing off.
Just fill a bucket with water from your sink and grab a couple of high-grade microfiber towels or mitts. Below is a video that illustrates how this product works:
You do have to be careful, and it’s not recommended if you have a lot heavy mud caked on. For most people, it works well as long as you take your time and use plenty of product. Here are a couple of products that are nice to have when washing in a parking lot using this method:
- (1) bottle of Optimum No-Rinse Solution
- (1) or (2) buckets with a grit guard (so your mitt or towel doesn’t touch the bottom on the bucket)
- Distilled water (for spot-free washing)
- Clean microfiber towels or wash mitt
Tip 4: Consider On-Demand Detailing
While I’m always in favor of washing my car myself, living in an apartment can make it a little inconvenient at times. For this reason, you may want to try an on-demand auto detailing service in the area. Many mobile car wash companies will come to you these days, have mobile apps, and usually do a pretty good job for a basic routine maintenance wash.
Tips before scheduling:
- Make sure your apartment community allows this type of service before booking.
- It’s okay to select a local detailer without a huge web presence. Many times the attention to detail and personal touch of a CEO/owner is much greater than that of an employee who is working for a large mobile detailing company.
- Always check reviews online
Tip 5: Find a Self-Service Wash or Wash Station
This is really a last resort or alternative option. If your apartment won’t allow you to even bucket wash, another option is to find a self service wash station. Many do not allow buckets, but is worth finding out if you live in an area with a lot of these self service washes.
You might also want to check out other apartments that have wash stations you can use. I have personally considered this route, and while I wouldn’t recommend using these amenities if you do not live there, it is an option to consider.
One strategy is to work out a deal with the apartment manager. Offer to pay them to use their car wash facility throughout the year. My last apartment had one of these stations, and it really does make it easier to keep your ride clean. Most also have commercial vacuums you can use as well.
Tip 6: Purchase a Small Pump Sprayer
Especially if you do not have access to water, a small pump sprayer like the iK Foam 9 on Amazon can be a good alternative depending on how you use it. These are good for spraying suds on small sections of your vehicle in combination with a product like ONR. While they don’t offer much water pressure, they are pretty effective at simply coating your car with soap or other products.
Just fill it up in your sink, and carry it outside.
Use Two Sprayers for Washing and Rinsing
One problem I’ve found with washing a vehicle at my apartment is cleaning wheels and tires. One idea to try that I’ve seen is to dilute a degreaser or multi-purpose wheel cleaner into a pump sprayer for cleaning wheels and tires. Most of these sprayers have long lances (arms) which allows you to clean inside of the rim.
After agitating with a wheels brush (or wheel wooly), use a second sprayer filled with clean water for rinsing. Really with any product that you have to rinse off (that produces suds), having some fresh water to avoid suds from drying is important.
Tip 7: Find An Open Area and Clean Up After Yourself
If your community manager allows, always make sure you do your best to clean up after yourself if you are using soap or harsh chemicals. Harsh chemicals can be a huge liability for apartment complexes, especially if they enter storm drains that enter creeks or rivers. Check out these 15 eco-friendly detailing products if this is something your apartment complex may be concerned with. It may help your case.
You may want to even drive over a tarp (when using degreasers), or even wash from inside a garage (if you have one at your condo or apartment).
Many of these solutions for washing your car at an apartment require that you really take your time to avoid scratching. Lubrication is the key to avoiding scratches, which is why waterless products can leave swirl marks and scratches when used incorrectly. If there is ever any friction between your wash mitt and your car’s surface, you need to use more product. Applying pressure is not needed since the soap does all the work, and never apply pressure to a dry car!
I hope this post gives you a few ideas for washing a car at your apartment. Check out these 17 interior detailing tips the pros keep a secret to clean up your interior once you’re happy with the exterior!