Stop looking for excuses and get your car washed today.
If you’re wondering how to wash your car without a hose or pressure washer I’ve got 5 solutions for you.
Everyone wants to the perfect setup or the best equipment before washing their car. Instead, you should focus on washing your car with the products and equipment that you have.
While it may not be the most efficient or effective wash in the world, your car will look better for it.
Table of Contents
How To Wash Your Car At Home Without A Hose
While a hose or pressure washer is definitely beneficial. There are at least 5 different ways that I can think of to wash your car without one.
Each of these car wash methods come with a list of pros and cons. Some will need a decent amount of equipment, while others need specific products.
That said, all these methods are super accessible. All products and equipment will be available in stores or online and shouldn’t cost you too much cash.
2 Bucket Wash
If you want to make your car look its best, the 2 Bucket wash is the best way to wash a car.
Using a pre-wash or pre-rinsing the car takes a lot of the contamination of the car before you touch it. This means the mitt wont get as dirty.
When working on cars that are heavily contaminated it may be worth investing into extra equipment. This is because without a pre-wash your mitts and wash buckets will get dirtier quicker.
The 2 Bucket wash would also work well in conjunction with some of the other methods on this list, such as pre-washing with a pump sprayer.
Equipment & Product Requirements:
- 2 Wash Buckets (Grit Guards Optional)
- Microfiber Wash Mitts
- Microfiber Towels
- Car Shampoo
Cost: The cost of a two bucket wash isn’t that bad once you get past the first wash. If you don’t have wash buckets, mitts or microfiber towels, the initial setup could cost you a $50-$100. But, after buying the equipment, the only recurring cost is the car shampoo.
You don’t need the “best” and most expensive to get started. Buy the equipment and products from your local discount stores or even amazon.
If you want to know the method inside out, I’ve already written an article on it titled “The best way to wash your car without scratching it”. However, that includes pre-washing with a hose/pressure washer.
What you want to do is setup 1 wash bucket with soapy water and another with plain water.
Soak your wash mitt in soapy water and wipe the dirt from the car.
Instead of putting the dirty mitt back into your soapy water, put it in your rinse bucket. This will rinse the mitt and keep the dirt out of your soapy water.
Keeping the dirt away from your soapy water will mean you’re less likely to scratch the paintwork of the car.
Using grit guards in both buckets will also help to trap any left over dirt. These are optional, but they work well. I’ve compiled a list of the best grit guards for two bucket washes already.
The 2 Bucket Wash will allow you to get all the dirt off your car in one wash. It also prevents scratching your car while washing it, thanks to the constant rinsing of the mitt.
Once you’ve got the equipment, the only real cost is the shampoo. This could cost you as little as $2.99 every 6 months. It depends on the quality of shampoo you use and how often you wash your car.
The biggest con has to be the fact that you’re stood washing your car for a considerable amount of time. Obviously this depends on how quick you work, how dirty your car is and a couple of other factors.
Not everyone wants to dedicate an hour or so to setup, wash and dry their car.
The initial cost is also a “con” but you’re buying equipment that can come in use in everyday life. This equipment will also be a staple in your detailing setup forever.
Recommendations: This is the best wash you’re going to get for your car. I always performing a 2-bucket contact wash, no matter what equipment or products you have. Especially if your car is heavily contaminated.
The Pump Sprayer is probably more of a pre-wash tool that should be used in combination with a 2 bucket wash.
I’ve included it in the list, because they can generate snow foam without the need for a hose or pressure washer. You could also use pump sprayers for Traffic Film Remover, Wheel Cleaner and Bug & Tar Spray.
Equipment & Product Requirements:
- Pump Sprayer
- Snow Foam or Traffic Film Remover
Cost: The cost of a pump sprayer can vary. I’ve already compiled a list of the best pump sprayers and hand foamers and found that a good one will cost between $35 – $70.
Of course, then you have to think about the product you’re going to use. You can buy some of the best snow foams for $20 – $40. Traffic Film Remover will also have similar costs.
Keep in mind you’ll still need to use perform an actual wash as well. This means you’re probably going to need a bucket, mitt and shampoo as well. Unless you choose another one of the washing methods on this list.
Using a pump sprayer is super simple. You’ll need to dilute the product you’re using with water. I suggest using the ratios recommended by the manufacturer.
Once you’ve got the solution sorted out pump the handle to build up pressure and then press the trigger.
Depending on the size of your pump sprayer and how well it retains pressure, you may have to pump it up many times in one go. This depends on the quality of the pump sprayer that you’re using more than anything else.
The biggest pro for the pump sprayer has to be that you can incorporate products such as snow foams into your car wash despite not actually having access to running water outside.
Being able to pre-wash your car will make it much easier to perform a contact wash and much safer too. This means there’s less dirt to wash away and will result in less swirls.
I think the price of a pump sprayer is enough to put a lot of people off. They’re a decent bit of kit, but they require a lot more effort than something like a pressure washer and often produce much worse results.
While they’re not the most efficient pieces of kit, they’re the best you’re going to get if you can’t use a hose.
Recommendations: I would actually recommend a pump sprayer. They’re used by professional valeters to apply Traffic Film Removers, Wheel Cleaners & other chemicals.
A pump sprayer on its own is not enough though. It should probably be an extra tool in your arsenal, rather than a go to.
Rinseless Car Wash
I’m a big fan of the rinseless car wash. I’ve written many articles on Optimum No Rinse and I cannot recommend the product enough. There are other rinseless wash solutions, but I believe ONR to be the best.
Rinseless wash is exactly what the name suggests. You can wash your car without rinsing it. This means no pre-rinsing and no rinsing the soap away.
It is a miracle product for those with no running water, or those that have strict water restrictions.
Equipment & Product Requirements:
- Optimum No Rinse
- Microfiber Towels
- Microfiber Wash Mitt
- 1 or 2 Wash Buckets
Cost: While it depends on the product that you buy, Optimum No Rinse isn’t going to set you back much at all. You’ll be surprised at just how far this product stretches. It’s surprisingly good value for money.
As for microfiber towels, you can spend a lot on high-quality drying towels, or opt for cheaper ones.
As long as the towels are 350+ GSM and don’t have any sharp/scratchy edges, it doesn’t really matter the price. Wash mitts are cheap too, but the more expensive ones may last longer.
I’ve already written a guide on how to use optimum no rinse and other rinseless car wash products. It’s the exact same concept as washing your car with soap, but instead of soap you use ONR.
All you have to do is put the product into a bucket mixed with water and use it to wash your car. Again, I’d recommend using the 2 bucket wash method to prevent scratches and contamination.
I also recommend drying your car off afterwards if you want the best results. Why would you go to the effort of washing your car if you’re just going to let it air dry and risk water spotting?
Eliminates rinsing from the car washing process. This makes it significantly quicker to wash your car.
Less rinsing also means less water usage. This is great for those with restricted water supplies or have to pay for utilities.
There’s very few rinseless wash products. Optimum No Rinse is one of the only ones because of this, optimum are able to ask whatever they want.
Optimum No Rinse is also much better when used to wash cars with light contamination. If you’re trying to wash a car that’s been off-roading or neglected for a long time, you’ll always be better with a pump sprayer and 2 bucket wash.
Recommendations: I recommend trying out ONR, especially if you’re someone that regularly washes your car. It’s a great product for maintenance washes, whether or not you have access to running water.
Quick Detailer / Waterless Wash
There’s definitely a place for quick detailers and waterless wash solutions.
Quick Detailers are often used as drying aids, clay bar lube or as a finishing touch before car shows to make your car shine. They aren’t really a solution that I’d use to wash heavily contaminated cars.
Equipment & Product Requirements:
- Quick Detailer / Waterless Wash
- Microfibre Towels
Cost: Depending on the quick detailer that you’re buying, they’ll set you back between $10 – $30. The price will vary brand by brand and based on the quantity that you’re buying.
Again, the microfiber towels don’t need to be anything special. As long as they can buff the product without causing damage to the paintwork of your car, they’ll be fine.
Quick Detailer is by far the easiest to use. You simply spray it on the area of the car that’s dirty and then buff it off with a towel.
Obviously, if possible, rinsing the car off before hand would make it much better and safer to use. But, that’s not why you came to this article.
You can apply quick detailer no matter where you are. It’s great for impromptu cleaning, whether it’s prep for a show or cleaning bird bomb off your car before it creates etchings.
These types of products should only be used on cars that are lightly contaminated and/or already clean. They’re great for removing light dust from the car, but anything else is likely to cause damage due to the lack of lubrication.
Recommendations: Quick Detailers & Waterless Washes come in use. They certainly have their place and i’d recommend picking one up to keep your car clean and even perform maintenance washes. But as I’ve made clear, if you’re driving 400 miles a week or going off-roading, they’re not going to do anything for you.
Use Garage Jet Washes
It’s a little strange rocking up to a petrol station with a bucket full of detailing equipment. I bet it’s not as uncommon as you’d think.
Using garage jet washes allows you to use industrial pressure washers without having to own one. You also don’t need to worry about the water bill whenever you’re using them either.
More often than not, they’ll also offer various wash options, such as rinse, snow foam, wash, wax and so on.
Equipment & Product Requirements: You can use as much or as little as you’d like. If you want to take detailing brushes, wash mitts or anything else you can think of, why not? As long as you can fit it in your car.
Cost: Speaking from experience, these things can quickly add up. They’re time limited jet washes and most of the machines normally work out at around 1 or 2 dollar per minute.
Normally, by the time i’ve finished, I end up to coming to the conclusion that I should’ve just paid my local roadside wash to do it.
That said, by detailing it myself, I know that it’s going to get done properly and the car is way less likely to get damaged.
Rock up to your local garage and park at the jet wash. Put some coins into the jet wash and now you have access to running water for rinsing, pre-washing, washing and even applying wax.
I like to use these machines a minute or two at a time. I like to pre-rinse and snow foam the car first. Then I’ll quickly switch over to soap and soap up the car.
After soaping up the car and soaking your wash mitt, you’ll be able to perform a quick contact wash. Try to keep the mitt as clean as possible or have multiple mitts to prevent paint marring.
Once you’ve washed the car thoroughly, put some more coins into the machine and rinse the car one last time.
From there, it’s up to you whether you decide to use the liquid wax that the jet wash offers. I normally take my own wax to apply afterwards, it’s much better quality and cheaper to use.
The best thing about using garage jet washes is obviously the ability to use running water. The fact that it also makes you pay close attention to the money you’re spending is good too.
I think that these machines are a little costly.
The other downside is that most people would be embarrassed to take their full detailing arsenal along and only “part” wash there car. It’s also possible that the garage staff aren’t best pleased with you and could hurry you along if it’s busy.
Recommendations: I recommend using these machines. They’re a good solution to not having access to running water. They’re also great for road trips.
I’m not a fan of the price, but they certainly have their place.
Pay Someone To Wash Your Car
While I’m not a fan of paying others to wash my car, I’ll do it on the odd occasion.
As long as you find a high quality detailer or a roadside car wash that you trust, I don’t see the problem.
I don’t recommend going to roadside washes that use brushes, or any of the drive through brush washes. That’ll just cause damage to your paint and leave you with a bigger problem than a dirty car.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to afford a proper detail though. A lot of them begin at $30 or $40 and that’s for an entry level service with no add-ons or upsells.