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How to Hand Wash a Car Without a Hose – The Complete Guide to Rinseless Bucket Washing

I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

Washing a car without access to a hose is an uncomfortable and unpleasant chore.

What if it doesn’t have to be?

The truth is, there is an incredibly easy process to wash a car without a hose and I’m going to share it with you.

I’m going to teach you a concept known as rinseless washing. It’s simple, convenient, and can be used when typical garden hose and bucket washing is unavailable. This system is great for washing your car or truck at your apartment, duplex, or anywhere traditional bucket washing is prohibited or unavailable.

What’s a Rinseless Wash?

In short, a rinseless wash is a cleaning and lubricating solution that allows you to wipe your car clean without the need to rinse it off afterwards.

A common method is to spray down one panel at a time with the solution and wipe the panel clean, discarding the towel once it’s dirty and/or saturated.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is gather up a few supplies and resources.


1. Spray off Loose Dirt and Debris to Reduce the Chance of Scratching Your Paint

I like to visit the local self-service car wash on my way home from work when I know I’m going to be washing my car.

It doesn’t take much time because you’re just spraying off the loose dirt.

Jam a few quarters in, set it to rinse, and clear as much gunk from the outer surfaces of your car as possible.

If you have a touch-less automatic car wash that’s still open, run it through on the cheapest setting and head home.

Depending on how dirty your car is, this can either be an optional or mandatory step.

If you’re car is dirty enough to see the dirt without looking for it, it’s mandatory to rinse it off first if you really want to reduce the possibility of scratching.

2. Prepare the Rinseless Solution

Make sure your Grit Guard is inserted and begin filling your bucket with warm water. The Grit Guard is completely optional since you’re not dipping your towels back in the water but will help if dirt still finds its way into the wash bucket.

Add the recommended amount of rinseless wash solution to the water. I use a 5 gallon bucket and Optimum No Rinse so the recommended amount would be a little over 2oz.

Submerge your microfiber washing towels in the bucket to soak. I like to fold them in half twice before submerging.

Fill your empty spray bottle with warm water and add the recommended amount of rinseless wash. For a 32oz spray bottle and Optimum No Rinse this would be 1/2oz.

3. Begin Washing One Panel

Always start at the top of the vehicle. This is usually the least dirty area.

Begin by spraying down the roof panel with your bottle of rinseless wash solution. We are just trying to pre-lubricate the panel. You don’t have to soak it.

Take a towel out of the bucket and wring it out just enough to stop it from dripping everywhere.

Wipe the panel in a single direction, making multiple passes until the whole panel has been cleaned. Try not to wipe back and forth to prevent grinding dirt into the paint.

Fold the towel to reveal a clean area if you see it’s getting to nasty.

Once the towel is dirty on all sides, discard it for a new one from the bucket. Do not put it back in the wash bucket for more water.

4. Dry the Panel to Reveal a Nice Water Spot Free Shine

Take out your microfiber drying towel, I prefer a waffle weave towel, and wipe up any remaining water on the panel.

Stand back and admire your nice clean and dry panel.

5. Move to the Next Panel and Repeat

Once you have cleaned and dried a panel, move to the next one. I prefer to work from top to bottom and front to back, saving the front and rear bumpers for last.

My typical washing pattern is roof, hood, trunk, front fenders, doors, rear fenders, front bumper, and rear bumper.

Remember to discard your towel when it gets dirty. For me this usually amounts to one towel per panel. Do not put it back in the wash bucket for more water.

Final Thoughts

At this point your paint is as clean as it would be if you bucket washed. It shouldn’t have taken any more time and, provided you used some finesse, should not have any new scratches or marring in the paint. You didn’t have to use a hose and you didn’t have to rush through a secret bucket wash.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you could take this opportunity to apply a new coat of wax or at least hit each panel with some quick detailer wax or sealant such as Meguiars Ultimate Quik Wax

If you have a chance to try this method, have used it before, or just have some other tips or tricks you’d like to share, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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