Waterless Car Wash Products – Do They Really Work?

Author: Rob Mobberley

In the last few of months it has been a rare occurrence if a week has gone by where we have not been approached by a company looking for us to stock their new “waterless” car washing product.

Some extol the virtues of the “environmentally friendly” properties of the product, although reading up on many these mainly relate to the fact that it is saving water, rather than the make-up of the product itself.

Others talk up the cleaning properties of the products, although very few seem to go so far as to guarantee not to cause swirl marks on your paintwork.

So far I have resisted these products – but am I being too traditional? I admit we have always believed that for the safest wash possible as much as the dirt and grime should be washed off the vehicle with water, prior to the use of a good quality car shampoo and lambswool (or microfibre) wash mitt.

I agree that where we are talking giving the paintwork a final prep, having been driven to a show, then a good quality detailing spray and microfibre cloth will work wonders to restore the shine, but to do a regular weekly wash with a waterless product makes me a very nervous.

Many of the products claim to contain advanced wetting agents and emulsifiers which are meant to soften the dirt and grime on the car and encase each particle in a microscopic lubricated coating and lifting it from the surface of the paint, ready to be wiped away with microfibre towel or other suitable material.

But can such ingredients really and truly prevent the particle from swirling the surface of the paint as it is being wiped away?

Having had so many approaches I have finally succumbed to the possibility there may be something in the claims made by the manufacturers of these products and have agreed to test one or two. As soon as I have finished testing I will let you know the results in a further blog post.

In the meantime I would be very interested to hear of your own thoughts and experiences with such waterless wash products. Have you found they live up to their claims, have you found that they do or don’t cause swirls, have you got any photos or video? Please let me know.


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  • After using on a trial base a few waterless products, I have come to my own conclusion that waterless has its place as you mentioned with cars that need a final prep to remove dust and fine dirt.

    I have found that ONR (Optimum no rinse) is a fantastic product. I have used it for many months and love the way it is mixed in a bucket like a traditional shampoo mix but then no need to rinse off like suds, just buff the car for a safe shine with a microfibre. This product really does bridge the gap between loads of water being wasted and a waterless system in my opinion.

    Very, very economical with little pollution into any storm drains.

    Roger Gale

  • Alan Smith

    I have used Pro Shine Waterless wash and wax,
    on my Toyota’s Metallic paint for four year and now on my Mercedes.
    I have not had any of the swirl damage that most seem to think will happen,
    just a really good shine,
    I have found it particularly useful after parking under sappy trees it get straight under the goo, wipes off then buffs up to a shine,
    gets the gunge and brake dust off wheels without the need of those acid type cleaners that I used to use just spray on all the wheels then wipe off
    buff to a shine, no scrubbing no gloves or goggles

    • John Watson

      I have been using a product called Showroom shine which is what Pro shine used to be called. I have used it on my 3 previous cars and Iam using it on my current car, It is an amazing product to use and none of my cars have developed swirl marks.I have a number of friends that wont use any thing else.
      The great thing is ,the more times you use it the less dirt seems to stick to your paintwork. I use it to clean all areas of my car including the windscreen with no smearing when it rains

      • Showroom Shine is not what ProShine Spray & Shine used to be called, regardless of what GL say.

        ProShine Spray & Shine is still available from their website http://www.proshine.co.uk

        It is better value that Showroom Shine, and still gives better results!

  • Jon Rome

    I have been using WoW (With out Water) for some months now. It was demonstrated at the Matching Green Classic & Sports Car Club Annual Show in July 2010 when it first went on sale.
    Unlike the other comments you have posted, this is truly waterless (well ok, you have to wash the microfibre cloths).
    It is simply a matter of putting a fine spray on a panel at a time, wait a few seconds, wipe off with one of the cloths supplied & then buff up with the other. It is extremely easy to use & I’ve found it even works on red hot paintwork.
    It is advertised as no scratch & I certainly think it lives up to the claim. I’ve taken off thick dried-on mud & seen no sign of scratching.

    It not only works well on paint but is excellent on chrome & glass, especially as apparently it contains no silicone.

    I use it on my everyday 4×4, 2 Jaguar XJS’s, Jaguar XK8 & Rover 2000. My wife refuses to use anything else on her Jag S type.

    Spiders are now living peacefully in my pressure washer.

    I’d put a couple of photos here if I knew how to!

  • Ashley

    Optimum no rinse is a great product and I’ve been using it for over a year and found not difference compared to doing a two bucket wash. To my surprise it does not cause swirls.
    But I will add it is not a true waterless wash because you still add it to a bucket of water as said above. The only difference is there is no rinsing.

    Great product if your on a water meter!

    • Doug Sinnott

      Go the whole hog,and go waterless,you won’t go back,I didn’t!
      See my comment!

  • i have used AquaZero on my Peugeot 207 for quite some time now & have been really amazed with the results that it has given I was a little hesitant when I first started using it but since I have started using the product at concourse events the car has won a few prizes which it never did before.

    I use the product all over the vehicle from roof to sill & everything in between (including the windows – inside & out).

    I would stongly urge anyone who hasnt seen the product to visit the site (www.drymotive.com) & if they require any picture give me a shout i’ll quite happily share with you how my car turned out

    email @ [email protected]

  • Jon Romer

    I have used a number of waterless products on my 17 daily Mercedes, my 42 4×4’s, my private jet and my 4 speedboats. My wife won’t let me near her 69 Porsches with anything else. I also find it works really well on my head – it is enormous and is good for large surface areas

  • Doug Sinnott

    I was a doubter I must admit!
    Having been cleaning my cars for over 40 years the traditional way,with shampoo,chamois leathers,good quality car polishes,and,of course,plenty of water,I couldn’t believe these products could be that good!
    However,watching a shopping channel one day,I watched a demo of “Showroom Shine”,a waterless car cleaner.
    My wife persuaded me to buy some,and once I’d used it,I was hooked!
    It does everything they claim,and,using microfibre cloths,it doesn’t scratch,it cleans off bird droppings,tar,etc.,can be used in bright sunshine(unlike some car polishes!),and it really does give a fantastic shine to your bodywork!
    It also can clean your double glazing,car windows,alloy wheels,chrome trim,mirrors,in fact most hard surfaces,and just makes life so much easier.
    So all you traditionalists,I’ve been using this polish for over two years now,in all kinds of conditions,and can’t fault it.
    Definitely no “swirl marks”,or white residue anywhere,and,NO scratches(I still don’t really understand how it works!),but,every 6 months or so,I do go over the car with the power wash,to clean the wheel arches,and the little crevices,and when dry,finish off with “Showroom Shine”,which is much better than doing it every week or so!
    And the car does keep cleaner,for longer,so you just can’t go wrong with this polish.
    Just try it,you’d be as surprised as I was!

  • Jack

    Greased lightning showroom shine is 10x better than a conventional car washing system

  • andy w

    Just ordered my second lot of showroom shine ( I may be spraying to much on), I am converted for use on the caravan with excellent results. I have done my partners car and mine with no sign of the dreaded swirl. alloys too come up good. excellent around door ways etc as now water spray into foot-wells or on seats.

    You need to have plenty of good quality micro-fibre cloths and don’t try to make them last longer than necessary, once dirty change immediately, keeping best clothes for polishing. used a total of five clothes to clean my Santa Fe progressively using the ‘polish’ cloth as the ‘cleaning’ cloth as they become dirty.

    Down side is not removing dirt from nooks and crannies, wheel arches, inner rims on alloys. but as an in-between quick valet the results are great.

  • Reg Hayes

    I have been using waterless wax products since March 2010 and that was the last date I washed my car with water, I still have the same car.

  • Alistair Scott

    People are getting too hung up on the possibility of swirls and scratches etc. Anyone who has used Showroom shine will know that very little effort is required to lift any dirt, gritty or not. I reckon that using a soapy sponge and water is potentially more likely to scratch the paintwork. If you follow the instructions by continually turning the cloth round to a clean area, there is absolutely no danger of damaging the paintwork. The product is brilliant, and at this time of year when the sun is low, no other product will give you such an immaculately clean windscreen.