The Easiest Way to Wash Your Car This Summer Using No Water

Waterless Car Wash
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Personally, I enjoy washing my car and shining it to a degree that I need ski glasses just to be able to look at it in direct sunlight. But for most people, the thought of grabbing a bucket and a hose is more of a chore than a joy. Plus, washing your car with your own two hands is A) more complicated than you think, and B) actually illegal in some parts of the country, thanks to water restrictions. 

I know what you're thinking, but God forbid you risk taking your car to an automated car wash. The best (and most eco-friendly!) way to wash your car this summer is... without water.

How in the hell do you wash a car without water?

OK, if your car is filthy, as in mud-caked-everywhere, hasn't-been-washed-since-2015 filthy, you don't have a choice: water is in your future. On the other hand, if your car's just a little gritty, you should get what's called a waterless wash.

It's a spray-on solution that lets you clean your car wherever you want. There are no harsh chemicals like you'll find in an automated car wash, and you're not rinsing all the pollutants on your car down into the sewer, like you do when you wash with water in the driveway.

Next time you're on Amazon shopping for dietary supplements and Nicolas Cage merchandise, search for "waterless car wash" and give it a go. I've tried it, and it works. Really well.

Fold a rag over a bunch of times
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 1: Get with a good towel, and fold it a few times

Don't use cotton if you can avoid it. Buy a good set of microfiber towels. They're much less likely to scratch your paint, and if you do happen to wash your car the traditional way at some point, they hold a lot more water when you're drying.

Remember, you're using the towel to remove dirt from your car, so it's going to get dirty. Fold it over a few times so you have multiple sides you can alternate between. You can get away with just one towel if it's large enough. I use two.

Pre-treat bug splatters and the like
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 2: Pre-treat bug splatters and the like

Some things, like bug guts and souvenirs deposited by birds, are harder to get off. Walk around your car and spray them with the waterless wash in advance. Wipe it up, and if you can, use a separate towel for this step -- otherwise you're putting your hand right in everything when you turn the towel later.

Washing your car without water
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 3: Spray on, wipe off

It really is that simple. Starting with the roof, saturate the paint with the waterless wash. The dirt lifts and sits on top of it, and then "friction modifiers" keep everything slippery enough so you can easily wipe the dirt off your car. Always wipe in a straight line, using slow strokes with little to no pressure; you want to remove the dirt, not grind it into the paint. 

Check your towel often, turning as necessary
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 4: Check your towel often

After every wipe, check to make sure the part of the towel you're using isn't soiled. If it is (and it eventually will be) simply turn the towel to a clean section. That's why you folded it in the first place, after all. How often you turn it will vary depending on how dirty your car is, but at a minimum, expect once per body panel.

Clean your wheels last
Aaron Miller/Thrillist

Step 5: Clean your wheels last

Brake dust and other road grime is a pain to clean, but it's also very dangerous for the health of your paint, and it's not the best for you, either. Whatever rag you decide to use for your wheels, remember to never use it again for anything else. Period. So long as you're careful not to scratch the paint, you can get away with retired socks here. Just spray your wheels down like you did the rest of your car -- or a little bit more, since you know your wheels are dirtier -- and wipe up. If I'm cleaning inside like this, I generally do the wheels twice, just to make sure.

And that's it. The end result is a perfectly clean, shiny car like mine. Even if you take your sweet-ass time about it, it's faster and easier than washing your car with water. You're also saving the planet, which is nice.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook. As you might have guessed, it rained about 30 minutes after he finished washing his car for this piece.