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Car cleaning with mitt

How To Wash A Car Without A Hose

Having access to a driveway or hard-standing with a mains water tap available makes cleaning a car easy. Using a hose means dirt can be loosened before washing. Better still, a high pressure washer can really deliver, especially if used in conjunction with an inline snow foam lance for the very best pre-wash, prior to shampoo washing and car detailing.

Unfortunately, not everybody has that luxury which makes cleaning a car a little more time-consuming. Waterless car wash products are available for a light clean but are not that effective for more heavily soiled vehicles or for removing mud. Water is always the answer and it is still possible to give your motor a proper clean without the benefit of a hose pipe. Follow these recommendations for a professional finish:

You Will Need:

  • Two Buckets
  • Noodle or microfibre wash mitt
  • Wheel brush
  • Car Shampoo
  • Drying towel
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Tyre dressing

You Don’t Need:

A sponge. Although popular and available everywhere, sponges are not the ideal companion for car shampoo. Being of a dense material, they can trap grip between bodywork and sponge, creating unwanted swirl marks in the paint. A pukka wash mitt will draw grit into its fibres for a better result.

The Pre-Rinse

Draw water from an inside tap and pour copious quantities from the buckets over the car. This will help loosen any dirt and make the wash easier. Hand pump containers are available to provide a little extra water pressure but probably are not worth the expense.


It is good practice to use two buckets and the reason is simple: One contains the car shampoo mix and the other contains fresh water to rinse out the wash mitt frequently before every shampoo load to remove any grit that may accumulate.

Change the rinse water often.

Washing Technique

When mixing the car shampoo with water to get a nice foam going remember that less is more. Follow the mix proportion instructions on the label. It may be tempting to add a little more product but it serves no purpose; you’ll just have to buy more shampoo sooner. Always use a pH neutral formula shampoo that will not strip or breakdown any protection, like wax, previously applied to the vehicle.

After the pre-rinse, load up the wash mitt with shampoo and commence to washing, starting from the top down as this allows the run-off to further loosen any dirt further down, especially around the sills where it tends to congregate. Work systematically to ensure that the whole car gets cleaned. Rinse the mitt in clean water between shampoo loads to dislodge any trapped grit.

Clean The Wheels

Alloy wheels look good but unlike the steelies of old they are often of complex design. The same shampoo is fine but it’s a good idea to use a wheel brush designed for the purpose. It makes the job easier and gets into the angles. While there, give the tyres a wash-off too, an old mitt or sponge will be fine. That way, as part of an overall detailing, the rubber can be given a showroom sheen with some tyre dressing, applied with an applicator rather than spraying on direct; it will go further.

Once you’re satisfied that the car is clean, rinse off with another bucket of fresh water.

Top Tip: When reloading buckets with water, take the trouble to rinse them out first to remove any grit that may have been transferred from the wash mitt.


Leaving the vehicle to dry naturally is the easy answer but not the correct one. Allowing water to dry risks marring the finish with streaks, water marks and spots, especially in bright sunlight. That won’t do at all after all that hard work. Far better to dry the vehicle quickly using a fresh, clean high-absorbency drying towel that softly wipes away moisture.

Technique is important here too, always work from the top down, starting from the roof then towards the wheels, in sections. Water naturally follows gravity, after all. Remember the chamois leathers of old? The idea was to spread them across the surface and draw them back towards you. Apply the same principle to drying towels for the first sweep, shake the towel and then fold it for a final wipe over.

Don’t forget to open the doors to let any trapped water drip away and while there, clean and dry the inner seals too.

Top Tip: Don’t use domestic towels. They are often too hard and coarse. A good drying towel is a worthwhile investment. Use a separate towel to dry wheels.

After The Wash

Always rinse out the buckets and wash mitts afterwards to get rid of any residue. Wash the drying towels and any microfibre cloths used. Stand back and justifiably admire your handiwork and then ask yourself the question, ‘Have I really finished’?

Is it not a good idea to go a stage further and reapply wax or ceramic protection? Car bodywork is subject to all sorts of abuse from the roads, the weather, insect attack, bird lime and tree sap to name a few. Car detailing is about doing the whole job.

A vehicle so treated will be easier to wash subsequently at regular intervals because any contaminants cannot work their way into the paintwork. If, during the washing procedure, you do encounter swirl marks due to trapped grit scratching the paintwork then read this post for how to deal with it.

Wash Your Car Regularly

Road dirt is not only unsightly it can also cause damage paint over time. Dirt left on your car will erode any protection and conceal any minor damage through stone chips and the like, so regular washing is recommended.

Hoses and pressure washers may be labour saving but they also use vast quantities of water during the procedure. It’s more environmentally friendly, and also relevant to homes on water meters, to use the two bucket method. That way you will only be using litres of water rather than gallons. The car will still be just as clean.

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