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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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