Home » How To Hand Wash Your Car Even If You Don’t Have Access To A Hose

How To Hand Wash Your Car Even If You Don’t Have Access To A Hose

Onr Topshot

Like many slightly nerdy dudes who traveled far from home for higher education, I had no hose in college. [Editor’s Note: I’ll admit, I never considered the implications of hoselessness when I was in college. – JT] See, most people who rent apartments or stay in dorms simply don’t have an easy way of washing their cars because a traditional wash requires water to rinse and taps in communal parking areas are far and few between. Plus, washing cars at home is often restricted in areas where water conservation is paramount. The problem is that spray-on waterless car wash solutions can be a bit janky and spending money at the coin-op every week blows through a lot of dough. So what’s a hose-less car owner to do?

Meet Optimum No-Rinse, a nifty little solution that’s become an indispensable part of my cleaning arsenal. First, disclosure. I’m not sponsored in any way by Optimum Car Care, I just like their shit. Apparently so do a lot of detailers, with Obsessed Garage having called Optimum No-Rinse “the standard” for rinseless car wash chemicals.

Now, there are other rinseless car wash options out there and McKee’s 37 N-914 is good stuff, but I just keep coming back to Optimum No-Rinse. I’ve found that it does a better job than N-914 of dragging dirt down to the bottom of the bucket, so it’s my go-to for casual washes when I don’t have the time or resources to use multiple towels.

Ah yes, nice and dirty

My test subject this week is a Ford Bronco Sport which happens to have a black roof that shows every single speck of dirt. The close-ups you’re seeing are on the moonroof panel as it shows dirt to the camera better, and a fresh rainfall yesterday left the top of this compact crossover looking pretty grimy. Let’s break out a bucket and get to work.

Pouring Optimum No-Rinse

While it can be a good idea to pre-mix some Optimum No-Rinse and water in a spray bottle and mist over the car before washing, it’s not really necessary unless you’re working with really well-corrected or really soft paint. For a casual wash, here’s what you do. Start by mixing one ounce of Optimum No-Rinse per two gallons of water, or about 30 ml per 7.56 L of water. Next, pick a wash mitt. I like to use a good microfiber chenille wash mitt as they do a great job of trapping dirt deep within the mitt, preventing it from scratching your paint as you make your way down each panel. Let the wash mitt absorb the solution, then pick a panel and start wiping.

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While it’s common cliché to wash a car using small, circular motions, horizontal sweeps are much better for the paint as any swirls that may happen are easier to buff out when they’re in one linear direction. Of course, the paint on my 325i is already swirlier than a marble cake, but it’s a good tip to keep in mind when cleaning nice paint like on this Bronco Sport.

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Once you’ve made your way down the panel, grab a drying towel and gently lay it across the panel to absorb the wash solution. Done right, you shouldn’t introduce any scratches or leave any water spots behind. Best of all, this panel-by-panel approach means that you can use Optimum No-Rinse in direct sunlight, perfect if shade isn’t really an option. In addition, this rinse-free car wash solution doesn’t leave any white residue on unpainted plastics, perfect for rubber bumper MGBs and modern crossovers alike.

Finished result with Optimum No-Rinse

Would you look at that! Other than the odd speck of dust that fell while I frantically clambered back up to a height where I could ensure proper photo focus on the moonroof panel, that looks pretty good to me. Best of all, there aren’t any streaks or weird spots going on. I used to get glass streaks all the time with the older formula, but the reformulated version solves my only complaint with this stuff. At $18 for a 32-ounce bottle on Optimum’s website, it’s also pretty good value compared to what hitting the coin-op costs these days.

Of course, there is one other party trick that Optimum No-Rinse has up its sleeve. If you draw up a much stronger mix of it, you can use it as a clay lubricant. Optimum suggests two ounces of No-Rinse to one gallon of water, or 60 ml per 3.78 L of water. I’ve tried this out before on my old G35 with a clay mitt and it worked beautifully.

While I definitely wouldn’t use a rinse-free car wash on heavy dirt, it works great for light weekly or bi-weekly washes. If you don’t have a hose or otherwise can’t rinse off your car at home, don’t fret. A rinseless wash is exactly what you need to enjoy a lovely afternoon of cleaning your car.

All photos by Thomas Hundal

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17 Responses

  1. I use a small pressure washer that plugs into the cigarette lighter to wash my work truck when I’m away from home. One wash bucket and a small collapsible brush and it works out pretty good. No the pressure washer is not going to blast road grime off but it works well for rinsing. I found it online for $40 and I can use any car wash detergent. It keeps my Chevy Express cutaway with 18ft box looking clean and helps with the D.O.T. inspector

  2. Been using this stuff for years, as recommended by a detailer friend. Its great. They have a wash and wax solution thats green now and does a really great job as well.

  3. I want to make a note for our fellow apartment dwellers out there: Be careful with waterless washes. I know that this isn’t one, but I just want to put it out there.

    In my younger years I sold FW1 waterless car wash and wax. The premise was that you got six car washes and waxes in a single can, and each wash lasted a month.

    FW1 touted the stuff as being able to repel dirt and water, leaving your car clean for a whole month. And because it repelled water, it could be used like RainX. Oh, and it has chemicals to remove and repel brake dust from wheels.

    FW1 also marketed the stuff as having “lubricants” in them that prevented paint swirls during cleaning. You got all of that for $8 a can.

    Well, the cans over-promised and under-delivered. It took an entire can just to clean my Smart, and it was clean for barely a week. It also left more paint swirls than an automatic car wash after a muddy truck went through.

    I did find things that the cans were good for. They did vanquish brake dust, usually for about a week. And they were good for spot-cleaning an already clean car for a car show.

    TL;DR – Test a waterless car wash on something that you don’t care about first.

  4. I use Quick Detailer a lot. There are plenty of brands, but Meguiar’s is the only brand I’ve used. It’s great for when you’ve been working on your car and need to get the greasy handprints off, but I also use it for a lazy car wash when I don’t feel like getting out the bucket and hose. If your car isn’t filthy, it’ll get you like 85% of the way there, or about to what your daily would look like two or three days after a real good wash & wax. Just spray it in and wipe with a microfiber cloth.

  5. Did you actually buy it from Canada? Didn’t UPS hose you on the (non-existent) duties and taxes, and their brokerage fee on top of that and the HST on top of that?

    1. This may sound crazy, but up here in Soviet Canickistan, you can head down to your local Ukrainian Rubber Products and a variety of vehicular care and maintenance products can be purchased right in your prefecture. (If anyone knows what I’m talking about, I apologize in advance)

      1. We used to have Western Auto in the US but now we have to travel north to Canadian Tire for that strangely eclectic collection of low quality goods.

  6. Wow, good point… I genuinely don’t know how I washed my car when I was at university… did I take it through a car wash? Seems unlikely as it would have come out of my beer fund. I must have cleaned it somehow. The interior probably didn’t get cleaned ever. But then again I didn’t have two filthy mess making monsters that I helped create back then

  7. I simply drive my car through a car wash. Or if it’s not dirty enough to warrant that (maybe there is just some obnoxious bird shit on it), I’ll use a self-service pressure washer like you find at a petrol station. Problem of hoselessness mitigated.

  8. I’ve been using ONR for over ten years now. It was a lifesaver in college (I’m a clean freak) and even now that I’ve got a house, I still use it to wash my car in the garage when it’s cold out. I just run a couple space heaters and its the perfect temp for a car wash. If there’s salt on the roads I hit up the touchless wash down the road to get the salt off the undercarriage though.

  9. Before I clicked I was positive there was going to be pee involved.

    My next thought was… patina doesn’t start with a car wash, and patina is king.

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