Can I Wash My Car With Just Water? (Car Washing Do or Don’t)

Regularly washing your car is important if you want to maintain it in good condition. However, the abundance of car washing products available today can be overwhelming. From soaps to pre-soaks and conditioners — it’s hard to guess what you really need to buy and what you don’t. So maybe, now and then, you ask yourself the question, “Can I wash my car with just water?”

Can I wash a car with just water.

Luckily, this article will provide you with a detailed answer to this question. What’s more, it will shed light over the dos and don’ts on using water to wash a car.

When Can I Wash My Car With Just Water?

To save time and money, some vehicle owners wash their cars only with water. Still, you should steer clear from this practice since it leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, water-only car washing doesn’t effectively remove grease from the vehicle’s surface.

Nevertheless, you can wash your car with just water when your automobile is mildly dusty. If, however, it’s covered in dried mud and dirt, this cleaning strategy will fail to work.

When Do I Have to Wash My Car With Just Water?

In some cases, you may be obliged by law to use only water when you’re washing your car. Several U.S. municipalities do not allow car washing soaps to run into sewers and storm drains. That’s because many of the substances found in these detergents can harm wildlife and decrease the quality of water.

So, if you live in a place that has such laws, you will have only the following car washing options:

  • Rely on a commercial wash
  • Wash your vehicle on a surface that will absorb the water
  • Wash your car only with plain water

Dos and Don’ts of Using Water to Wash Your Car

Using plain water to wash a vehicle may seem like a straightforward process. However, if you are not careful, good old H2O can damage your engine or windshield. Luckily, you can avoid such scenarios by knowing the dos and don’ts of using water to wash your car.

Do Invest in a Pressure Washer

The first step to a perfectly clean vehicle is getting the dirt on its surface to loosen. Unfortunately, pouring a bucket of water over the automobile won’t be enough to remove stubborn dirt like grime, for example. Therefore, you will need to bring out the big guns.

Hosing the car is good, but pressure washing it is better. Typically, a car pressure washer has a power of 1,500 PSI (pounds per square inch). In comparison, that of a garden hose is just 40 PSI.

Using pressure washer to clean the car.

In addition to being more effective, pressure washers are also more efficient. Their water flow (GPS) is almost five times lower than that of an average garden hose.

So, if you want to water-only wash your car, invest in a quality pressure washer.

Don’t Wash Your Car on a Hot Day

A common mistake many vehicle owners make is to wash their cars on a hot day. Because of the high temperature, the water will quickly evaporate from the car’s surface. As a result, the automobile will become covered in annoying streaks and water spots.

The combination of cold water and hot air can also damage your windshield or windows. When these car parts are exposed to such temperature fluctuations, they can easily crack.

Therefore, before you start pouring water over your vehicle, make sure its surface is not hot to the touch. It’s always best if you wash your automobile on a cool day, away from direct sunlight.

Do Control the Amount of Water You Use

If you use too little water when you’re washing your car, you won’t loosen the dirt on it. However, using too much water is also a bad idea simply because it’s wasteful. So, you will need to find a balance between the two.

Fortunately, controlling the amount of water that comes out of a pressure washer is easy. If you are relying on a plain garden hose, you should invest in a sprayer nozzle. Still, aim for one that has multiple watering patterns, such as full, shower, or vertical. That will allow you to fine-tune the water flow easily.

Cleaning car with a sprayer nozzle.

Don’t Use a Sponge

As it was already mentioned, water alone is not that effective at loosening mud and dirt. That is why you may be tempted to scrub the car with a sponge. Don’t be, because doing so  traps dirt particles that can leave washing marks on your paintwork.

There are many other car washing tools you can use that are less likely to trap tiny debris. Here are some of the best ones:

Washing a car with a microfiber car wash Mitt.

Do Be Careful When You Are Rinsing the Engine

The engine and engine bays of most modern vehicles can be safely washed with water. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you can just carelessly rinse this part of your car. There are many wires and electric components next to the engine that may be damaged when they get wet. Therefore, you should wrap them in plastic bags before you start pouring H2O over the car.

Also, don’t rinse the engine or engine bay with a pressure washer. Since this is a powerful piece of cleaning equipment, it may force water into some sensitive components of the vehicle.

Do Dry the Car

Leaving your freshly-washed car to air-dry may leave water spots on its body. So, always take the time to dry your automobile with a microfiber towel. To wipe the windows, you can also rely on a squeegee or other cleaner tools.

If drying your vehicle by hand sounds like torture to you, get yourself an electric car dryer. It will dry not only the vehicle’s surface but also water trapped in its nooks.

The Best Way to Wash a Car

To truly clean your automobile, you’ll need to mix water with quality car wash soap or shampoo. Aim for one that has good streak and water spot resistance.  Still, avoid car wash soap alternatives such as dish liquid or hand soap as they may damage your car’s finish.

The best way to wash a vehicle is the two-bucket method. For it, you will need the following things:

  • Water
  • Car wash soap/shampoo
  • A garden hose (preferably one with a sprayer nozzle)
  • Two buckets
  • Car wash cloths or mitts
  • Microfiber towel

This cleaning method consists of these five simple steps:

  1. Loosen the dirt – Remove dried mud and dirt from the body of the car with water. Use a hose or a pressure washer. 
  2. Wash with soap and water – Mix water and car wash soap in the first bucket. Gently scrub it over the vehicle’s surface using a mitt or a cloth.
  3. Wash with water – Fill the second bucket with plain water. Then, dip a mitt or a cloth in it and scrub the car’s surface.
  4. Rinse – Carefully rinse the body of the automobile with a hose.
  5. Dry – Hand-dry every panel of the vehicle with a microfiber towel.

To Sum Up

Water-only car washing is effective but only to a certain limited extent. While it may remove dust, it will fail to clean grease and road oil, for instance. So, if you want to make the exterior of your vehicle spotless, rely on a detergent. If local laws prohibit you from doing that, simply head to the nearest car wash.

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