This guide will show you how to do a rinseless wash on your car. I use this same method on my professional jobs and also to wash my own car. This method is also the same drought-friendly rinseless wash method many mobile auto detailers in Southern California use to avoid water and chemical runoff.

A rinseless wash has its limitations. Rinseless washes are safe only for relatively clean paint. If your vehicle hasn’t been washed in over a week (or over 3 weeks if garaged), then it’s generally recommended you do a pre-rinse first.

Items Required

-2 buckets

-6 to 20 Light-colored microfiber towels

-6 to 20 Dark-colored microfiber towels

-Spray bottle

-High lubricity car wash soap (the soap should feel very slippery when you touch it) like Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash.

-Wheel cleaner like Meguiar’s Non-Acid Wheel and Tire Cleaner

Waffle weave microfiber drying towel(s) or any car wash drying towel(s)

-Soft-bristle: wheel brush and lug nuts brush


First, fill each bucket with about a gallon of water. Next, add 1-2 ounces of car wash shampoo to one bucket.

Soak the dark colored microfiber towels in the bucket without shampoo. These will be used to wash the wheels.

Next, soak the light colored microfiber towels in the bucket with shampoo. These will be used to wash the rest of your car. It’s important to separate the towels you use on paint and towels you use on wheels because wheels contain brake dust, which has tiny shards of metal and glass that can scratch your paint.

Fill your spray bottle with water. Add about an ounce of car wash shampoo to the spray bottle.

Set aside the drying towels or drape one over your shoulder for quick access.

Cleaning Wheels/Tires

Using your preferred wheel cleaner product, spray the first wheel you’re going to detail. Make sure to spray the outer surface of your tires too but not the tire treads. Use the pre-soaked dark colored towels to wash your wheels and tires. You’ll need a soft-bristle brush for lug nuts and most wheel designs. Don’t let wheel cleaner dry on the the wheels or tires; keep applying more product to keep the surface wet if it dries. Wipe with your pre-soaked towels and agitate with a brush. Cleaning wheels in the shade is a good idea because it gives your wheel cleaner a longer dwell time.

Once the wheel and tire is cleaned to a level you’re happy with, start wiping dry your wheels and tires while they are still wet with clean dry microfiber towels.

Repeat this process for the other wheels.

Rinseless Wash

Next up is the car wash. Make sure to start at the top of the car and to wash and dry one panel at a time, working your way down.

First, generously spray your soap/water wash mix onto the panel. The more you get on there, the lower your odds of scratching the paint.

Next, get one of your pre-soaked light colored towels and fold it over twice. This gives you 8 total clean surfaces. Starting at the top of your car, work your way across the panel in straight lines. Wash in straight lines. Hold the towel loosely and change the position of your hand often. Also, check the towel often. If it is soiled, then flip over to a clean side or grab another pre-soaked microfiber towel. Put soiled towels aside for cleaning later.

This is what separates this rinseless wash method from the traditional two-bucket approach: there is no dirt or grime from a sponge or wash mitt being reintroduced back into the wash bucket because the microfiber towels are pre-soaked in a clean mix of car wash soap and water and never put back in that clean mix once they have been used. This gets rid of any possibility of dirt getting into the wash bucket and any need for grit guards or dirt traps.

Once the panel is clean, use the microfiber waffle weave towel (or any clean dry microfiber towel) to dry and buff the panel in one step. Don’t let your soap/water mix dry on the paint. If it does dry, then apply a little bit more product, then buff dry with a clean dry towel. Make sure to wash and dry each panel individually.

That’s all there is to it!

If you know someone who wants to wash their car in an eco-friendly way or someone who doesn’t have easy access to water, then please pay it forward by sharing a link this page. Thanks!

Categories: Exterior