Updated: Jan 20, 2021
6 minute waterless...
At Swank Wash we call a spade a spade
It’s important to note that before we start, we’re not saying there is no place for waterless washes, quite the contrary. We think there is a place for them, just not here in the UK.
Is waterless is like six-minute abs?
Just like six-minute ab’s, common sense tells you that it’s not going to work, but you might still try it anyway, the big difference is waterless will cause damage to your paintwork if its dirty but six-minute abs might get you to do a sit-up. Waterless has become a new con, offering incredible results while taking as many shortcuts as possible - promising amazing results at prices better than you can believe. If it’s too good to be true it usually is.
Waterless wash products were originally developed for drier countries where better road conditions and warmer weather, leads to lighter road film which binds less tightly to the exterior of a car which means it can be removed without water, without causing too much damage.
In the UK, our roads are ladened with heavy road film, full of grit, salt, mud and grime, contaminants which bind tightly to the exterior of a car, making a waterless wash a damaging method of cleaning it, as any grit will heavily marr, scratch and swirl your paint as it’s removed. If your car has little to no value or has no value to you, then a waterless wash is a quick and easy way to get your car ‘clean’. But we believe the safest way to clean your car, without damaging the exterior is with a contactless pre-clean using snow foam which clings and breaks down toughened dirt, followed by a delicate double bucket, grit guarded hand wash to remove the remaining road film.
We are seeing waterless formulas becoming much stronger and more acidic with instagram and online adverts making wild claims about how amazing they are and how you must buy them now at 50% off! These products are not only loaded with acid cleaners but also poor quality silica dioxide formulas with strong bonding agents. Not only this, we often find cheap synthetic waxes that lock in bad contaminants and bind them to the paint rather than removing the contaminants before applying protection. The bonded contaminants are not properly removed during the wash process rather they are mixed in with the solution. You will notice an almost milky like haze or smearing on the surface from the mix of contaminants and waterless solutions. What you are left with is, a dirty car that has strong poor quality protection, mixed in with harmful contaminants, forming a layer of mirky protection that then makes a detailer's work even harder to repair the damage.
So why did great brands, such as Meguires start producing waterless wash products and methods?
Waterless wash products are derived from quick detailer products. They contain more lubricants which help try and prevent the marring waterless causes. In drier countries, where contamination from the environment is lighter, contaminants are easier to remove from the paint, as they are lightly bound to the exterior. In the UK it’s quite the opposite, our road film is thick and full of contaminants and it is bound tightly to paint.
If your car is on lease we would stress caution, as a paint inspection will be conducted on its return. Dealerships are hot on paint condition - as this is where they can make dividends on your lease and can determine whether they deem the car fit for resale or auction! We had to Stage3 wet sand a car before it was returned to the dealer to remove the damage caused by waterless washes. We removed a large amount of clear coat to repair the deep marring - it's no easy feat.
So is there a place for waterless?
Ultimately yes there is, but only under a few circumstances, in warmer climates where the road film is much lighter, if the car has been parked up in a garage and has a light dust (although we would recommend using a quick detailer product here instead), or if you have no access to water and are not bothered by the damage it will cause i.e on.a car with value less than £2000 with no emotional attachment.
As you can probably tell, we’re not a fan, due to the quality and standards we uphold at Swank Wash and due to damage we have seen waterless methods and products cause.