Eco-Friendly waterless car wash is, unfortunately, one of the best kept secrets in automotive care and maintenance. For the sake of the planet, your pocketbook and your busy schedule, we hope to change this because for the vast majority of drivers it is unquestionably the best way to wash a car.
We believe that everyone should be using waterless car wash simply because it is cheaper and faster than other car wash methods. But if you live in a drought-prone area, like we do in Santa Barbara, or in places where there are often water shortages, like much of the desert Southwest, using waterless car wash is a no brainer. The same is true if you are an eco-conscious or eco-friendly consumer. Waterless car wash is a great way to save water, especially at home. See for yourself why you should go waterless:
What did we do?
We identified the leading waterless car washes and tested them against one another to see which produced the best wash and finish at the best price. We then tested this car wash and wax against two other car wash methods – traditional hose and bucket at home and driving to the local car wash.
What did we learn?
- At home Eco-friendly waterless car wash products can, in many cases, clean cars better than commercial car washes and traditional hose-and-bucket driveway methods.
- Waterless washes with eco-friendly products were faster than traditional driveway washes, cheaper than commercial washes and traditional driveway washes and better for the environment than both.
- Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All – the best car wash and car wax for the money
- Green Clean Waterless Car Shampoo Superior
- Ecosmart RU by the Chemical Guys
Traditional car wash methods can be slow, expensive, and bad for the planet. According to some estimates, between 40 and 150 gallons of water can be used in a single driveway car wash. Even the most frugal at-home washers likely use around 15 gallons or more. Worse yet, the untreated water that runs off can accumulate in local waterways and is filled with harmful detergents, gasoline, oil, exhaust fume residues, and other chemicals that can poison wildlife and damage the environment. If you live in a drought prone area, at home washing can be highly discouraged. Some cities, such as San Jose, California have gone so far as to ban the practice of the at home car wash altogether. Even if you don’t live in such places, you may not have access to hoses or driveways in the first place.
Commercial car washes are generally better and can use less water. According to the International Carwash Association, the average commercial car wash can use between 12 and 72.5 gallons of water per vehicle, depending on the type. Waste water can also be directed through special sewer systems allowing for proper treatment and disposal.
Still, taking your car for a wash takes extra time, can be costly (at ~$15 a piece), and the environmental impacts are substantial. If we assume 2.3 billion car washes annually and an average of 38 gallons per wash, the amount of water used by the US commercial carwash industry would total around 87.4 billion gallons annually. Driving to the car wash alone can release harmful pollutants into the air and costs around $0.54/mile according to the United States Internal Revenue Service. Moreover, because we also care about saving lives here at Driving2Save, it is worth mentioning that if you choose to drive to a local car wash, you could be putting yourself at an increased risk for a car accident, as about 77% of car accidents happen within 15 miles of home. So, how do we make washing a car faster, cheaper, and greener? And safer too?
THE SOLUTIONS WE TESTED
We set out to test the potential for an eco-friendly, cost effective product line that’s been gaining traction in recent years – the waterless car wash. Much like a conventional countertop cleaner, these products are formulas that are sprayed on and wiped off to remove dirt and grime from your car. Follow the wipe with a quick buff and your car is cleaned and/or waxed with no water necessary. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the car and amount of dirt and grime.
There are conventional waterless carwashes as well as an array of “eco-friendly” products on the market. To help you make a more informed choice we tested out five different positively reviewed formulas and paired them against a conventional product, Meguiars Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax. Meguiars does not advertise its ingredients as eco-friendly.
We started with a round of intensive market research to get to know the industry, leading suppliers and customer and other reviews of various products. Using this information, we selected five of the top eco-products for testing – most of which are available on Amazon. The products we examined were: (1) Ecotouch Waterless Carwash, (2) Ecosmart RU by The Chemical Guys, (3) Green Clean Waterless Car Shampoo Superior, (4) Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All and (5) Ecogreen Autoclean Freedom Car Wash.
To get an overall idea of how the products performed against each other, we first tested them out on a “moderately dirty” 2017 Honda Fit, owned by one of our employees.
A different product was used on each panel and compared side by side. Since is difficult to analyze differences in a quantifiable way, we came up with some of our own ease of use and quality measures: How well does it lift dirt? How much pressure needs to be applied? How smooth in the finish? How is the shine? How does it smell? Does it work on windows and tires? How eco-friendly are the ingredients?
After comparing each product on the Honda Fit,
we narrowed our initial five products down to our three favorites, and put them to the test against another employee-owned car, a “road-trip dirty” 2009 Volkswagen Jetta,
with caked on stains from dirt, sap, and some unlucky insects. If stains remained after the first round of washing, a second round of spot application and heavy wiping was used. We also used this opportunity to compare each of the three against our conventional product, Meguiars.
This allowed us to pick our favorite performer, which we then tested on a “slightly dirty” Porsche Boxster to evaluate the finish and overall clean on a car where any imperfection would stand out.
We were pleasantly surprised with the results!
At the start of the test, we were unsure if we would see clear differences between the products. In some tests, the products performed similarly. For example, no product was able to remove sap, and all products required a second spot treatment for some of the caked on stains on the VW Jetta. In addition, each of our recommended products performed similarly on windows and tires, lifting dirt and/or brake dust while leaving a nice shine. However, when it came to overall ease-of-use and quality of the finish throughout the car, three products stood out, and one was a mutually agreed upon clear-cut favorite – Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All. Products that did not make our recommended products list left the car with a tacky or sticky finish and/or failed to lift dirt effectively. We were surprised to find that all three of our “eco-friendly” recommendations outperformed the conventional, similarly priced alternative, Meguiars.
Our Recommended Products:
$36.95 for 144oz. Kit [Microfiber Towels, Sponge, Spray Bottle Included]
This product lifted dirt easily and left the car with a lasting shine that consistently left us impressed. It had the smoothest finish among all examined products. We enjoyed scent and felt that the wash was a cut above the rest. One minor downside – if you buy the gallon (good for 32-48 washes), you may have to purchase your own spray bottles for a couple bucks. Made with carnauba wax, natural clay, coconut and sunflower oils, and UV light inhibitors, the product is nontoxic, 100% natural, and easy on the hands. Moderately priced, and worth every penny. It worked great on the Porsche.
Overall Grade: A
$43.47 for 16oz ($2.72/oz) On sale for $16.97 for 16oz ($1.06/oz)
Green Clean was our second favorite product. We gave it points for its pleasant smell and visually appealing packaging and bottle. It also easy lifted up dirt easily, and left the car with a good finish. However, the clean and buff required a little extra elbow grease and the finish was not quite as smooth as Nature’s Green Magic, leading to its 2nd place finish. The product performed well for the “eco friendliness” of its ingredients. It is 100% biodegradable, using plant-derived surfactants and other nontoxic ingredients to wipe away dirt. Not a bargain, but a strong performer.
Overall Grade: B+
$16.94 for 16oz ($1.06/oz)
Rounding off our top three recommendations was Ecosmart RU. It provided a nice clean, and performed as expected, with similar results to Green Clean Superior. There were some areas on the Honda Fit and VW Jetta that required a spot treatment after the first wipe. Meanwhile, it finished 3rd on the smoothness scale. Ecosmart RU had an enjoyable scent and a moderate price point. However, it did not include an ingredient list to verify its “greenness,” nor did it did not advertise itself as 100% natural or biodegradable like Nature’s Green Magic or Green Clean Superior. Still, a great middle-of-the-road option.
Overall Grade: B
CONCLUSION: GO WATERLESS!
Like many consumers in this market, we went into our test not knowing what to expect from the waterless car wash. We emerged firmly convinced that waterless car wash is the best way to wash and wax a car for most drivers. We were pleasantly surprised by many of the products we tested. There were some let downs and surprises, but overall, we couldn’t help but be happy with our clean cars when we were done. There are many reasons to go waterless: It’s faster than traditional methods, cheaper than commercial carwashes, better for the environment, and looks great. Waterless car washes are truly a must for those that live in drought-prone/water-shortage areas (and are looking for ways to save water) or in cities without easy access to a hose or driveway. That said, the product is so good that we believe most people should go waterless regardless of where they live. Moreover, given the ease of use and substantial benefits, it’s worth it to go the extra mile and purchase products with eco-friendly ingredients, like the three we recommend above.