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7 Tips for Washing a Car at Your Condo or Apartment

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 to keep my car clean at my old apartment because I didn’t always have a hose. The good news? You have a few options.

In this blog, I’ll break down 7 practical ways to wash your car when living at an apartment or condo.

1. Use a waterless car wash spray

chemical guys swift wipe waterless car wash review

You have to find ways to wash your vehicle with minimal water at many apartments and condos—which is where waterless wash products come in.

I really like the spray-on waterless product by Chemical Guys out of the few I’ve tried. This product is affordable and provides good lubrication in my opinion, which is key when using sprays in place of soap and water. Keep in mind, most detailing sprays are not designed to remove dirt, but rather fingerprints or dust. Always check the label to ensure the spray is actually a wash-and-rinse product.

Chemical Guys Waterless Car Wash Spray

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Chemical Guys Swift Wipe Waterless Car Wash

Only use waterless car wash sprays to remove a thin layer of dirt. You may create swirl marks or scratches with even the best spray-on products if you have heavy dirt on the paint layer

If you protect your vehicle with a ceramic coating that has self-cleaning properties, sprays may be more practical to use regularly; this is because heavy dirt accumulation will be unlikely.

While I don’t use sprays as a replacement for washing with soap and water, they’re handy to use in between washes.

2. Use a no-rinse wash concentrate

For anyone in an apartment, I highly recommend a rinse-less car wash concentrate called ONR (Optimum No Rinse). This product works similarly to spray-on car wash products when diluted, but it is generally a more affordable ounce-for-ounce. Since ONR isn’t a surfactant but rather soy-based, it can be used on glass and your interior because it contains no silicone. While you can spray it on once diluted, most people use a bucket.

Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine

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How to use Optimum No Rinse

optimum no rinse

Step 1: Measure and mix

Add one cap of ONR per 2 gallons of water inside a clean bucket. You can either mix ONR in a wash bucket or a pump sprayer. If you have hard water, use purified water for best results. To work clean, I use a separate bucket of clean water to rinse my towel in between passes—what’s referred to as the two-bucket method.

Step 2: Apply with a microfiber towel

Dip your microfiber towel in the bucket, or spray on ONR to begin and work from the top of your vehicle down in straight passes. Once soiled, dip the dirty towel into a bucket of clean water. Always use a separate towel and bucket for wheels since you don’t want to contaminate your paint with wheel grime.

It’s safest to use a microfiber towel with ONR, not a sponge. Sponges tend to slide dirt around, not lift it…so you run the risk of leaving behind swirl marks.

Step 3: Dry with a clean microfiber drying towel

Use a moist drying towel to remove the product and work in sections as you go. With any product like ONR, apply it in the shade and out of direct sunlight so the product won’t dry on contact.

Quick Tip

Lubrication is key whenever washing your vehicle without rinsing with water. Even though no rinse or ‘rinseless’ products contain lubricants for the purpose, they shouldn’t be used on heavily soiled vehicles. If you have stuck-on mud or road salt, always wash and rinse with soap and water.

4. Find a self-service wash station

You can always look for a self-service car wash facility if your apartment doesn’t allow car wash products on the premises.

Start by coating your vehicle in soap and wheel cleaner, and wash by hand the rest of the way. Even though these machines set a timer by which you must wash rinse and wash in the same cycle, it’s worth the extra few dollars to purchase a rinse cycle separately.

Quick Tip

For best results washing at a self-service wash bay, bring your own brushes and a wash mitt—never use public brushes on paint to avoid scratching.

Look for an apartment or condo with a wash station

Many apartments now offer wash stations for all residents; if yours does not, ask your community manager about adding this amenity.

To me, it was totally worth finding an apartment with a car wash station and I saved money throughout the year. If a neighboring community has a car wash station, see what their policy is for non-residents and if you can work out a deal.

6. Use eco-friendly wash products 

It’s a good idea to use eco-friendly car wash products if you are washing your vehicle at an apartment complex. Since runoff into storm drains often gets treated by the town or city, be mindful of what you use and where runoff will end up.

7. Consider renting a garage  

If you regularly garage your vehicle, it will stay cleaner! Consider renting a garage or carport if one is available. It’s much more comfortable washing and drying your vehicle inside of a shelter, and your vehicle will stay cleaner for longer.

In winter months, garages are helpful because you have a place to both wash your vehicle (with one of the waterless methods I’ve covered) and protect it with your favorite wax or sealant.

Always protect your paint 

Especially if you must leave your vehicle outside 24/7, take the time to protect your paint with a ceramic coating. While you can use sealants and waxes, ceramics generally last the longest of most coatings on the market. 

Check out our guide to ceramic coatings for beginners to learn how to apply one. Some vehicle coatings are even self-cleaning, which means water won’t just bead up…it will run right off your vehicle.

Check out our Washing and Detailing for Beginners video course if you need help on how to properly wash and protect your vehicle. These best practices make washing a lot easier…and you’ll love the results.

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

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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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