Lots of water, buckets, a hose, and plenty of time are the usual ingredients to a DIY car wash. Not anymore....
Most of the time, keeping your car clean in Malaysia seems like fighting a losing battle. The weather is always working against you, either spewing dirt, grease, and grime onto your freshly perfected paint during a rainstorm or burning any wax protection off under the scorching sun, revealing the vulnerable clear coat underneath.
Naturally, when you have a dirty car, you get it washed. But washing itself can get tiresome if the results are so quickly made meaningless the next time a storm rolls in (and that won’t be a long wait). For a lot of us, the reason we get the ‘malas nak cuci’ feeling comes down to how inconvenient it is - either to do it ourselves or drive somewhere (and wait) while someone we pay does it for us.
It’s also a little intimidating. There’s all this gear you might need to get, techniques to learn, products to buy - all to do a half decent wash job. And what if you live in an apartment or condominium with no access to free flowing water near your car? Can’t break out the hoses and buckets there…..
This is where rinseless washing fills the gap. To me, it’s a miracle method, a game changer, and it’s what I’ve been using to regularly wash my car in about 30 minutes (45 if I take my time; about 15 minutes is my recorded fastest). It’s so quick and easy that going back just doesn’t make sense.
Unfortunately, rinseless washing in general hasn’t penetrated the mainstream yet, but has become very popular with the enthusiast community, therefore products for this wash method aren’t available over the counter. It’s ironic that only detailing enthusiasts seem to be familiar with rinseless car washing because (you'd think) its convenience and ease would appeal to the average consumer much more than the usual car wash products.
What Is A Rinseless Wash?
Wash. Dry. Done.
It’s basically that - like a normal wash process but minus the usual rinsing. It involves mixing a highly concentrated product with (usually) just a half a bucket of water as your wash solution. I’ll get into product recommendations later, but they all share a common instruction set. Learn how to use one, you can use them all.
The rinseless wash product, once diluted with the correct ratio of water, both lubricates the paint surface as you wash and neutralises the dirt/grease/grime that’s on the surface, then allows it to flow down off the car onto the ground.
By just removing the rinse part of the process, there’s so much you get back in return. Much less water is used, obviously, and you’ll also need much less time and effort set aside to clean your car. All things considered, you’re also spending much less money on a rinseless wash. Again, why would I go back?
Rinseless vs Waterless
It’s surprising to learn that more people have heard of a waterless wash but not a rinseless wash, but both work on the same core principles. The primary drawback of waterless washes is the cost, because you could be burning through an entire spray bottle of waterless wash liquid for a just couple of uses or less.
In the case of a waterless wash, this is because all the bottle’s content (and only that) is what is used for both lubrication and cleaning. Without lubrication, you’ll be abrading the paint and causing scratches and swirl marks, so it’s even recommended to be extra generous with the waterless wash liquid, and each bottle could cost between RM60 to RM100 per bottle - for just a couple of washes!
With a waterless wash, you spray it on and gently wipe away the dirt as it is soaked in, but because a rinseless solution is meant to be diluted in clean water anyway (which amplifies the lubrication), much less of the actual product is used.
How To Use A Rinseless Wash
This is usually where a long list of dos and don’ts follow, with specific instructions on how you’re to avoid scratching the paint along the way. However, rinseless washing couldn’t be more different, because it’so much simpler.
There are, of course, variations on how to perform a rinseless wash, but after about 2 years of this being my dedicated wash method, I’m just going to detail what I think to be easiest and most trouble-free.
Step 1: Let’s start with tools and equipment. You’ll need your actual wash solution, so dilute this in a bucket of water filled with about 2 litres of water. Certain products vary with this ratio between product and water, but about one capful of product should be enough, at least for my product of choice: Optimum No Rinse.
Step 2: You’ll need a clean microfibre wash mitt for the wash and a large microfibre towel to dry the paint afterward (an absorbent and plush high quality one made for soaking up water is recommended). And that’s pretty much it. Let the mitt soak in the rinseless solution for about 5 minutes before starting.
Step 3: Squeeze some water out of the wash mitt before going making first contact with the car itself, but don't wring out too much. You’ll still want it dripping droplets (not streams of water/solution) and clean the car with it, going over every surface panel by panel. Try not to press down as you’re gliding the mitt over the car, using instead the weight of mitt and the fluid it’s holding to apply pressure. I usually start with the top portion of the car and work my way downwards.
Step 4: Once you’re done with a panel or certain portion of the car, or if you need extra lubrication (or if the wash mitt is getting a little too dirty), dunk it back in the rinseless wash solution and make sure the dirt particles are agitated out from the mitt into the solution before carrying on to the next part of the car.
Step 5: You don’t want the rinseless solution to dry on your car’s paint, so it’s a good idea to use your drying towel to dry off that cleaned portion of your car before proceeding to the next. This is also dependent on ambient temperature, humidity, and exposure to direct sunlight.
Step 6: I always keep a couple of cheap microfibre towels handy for the wheels, and leave this part as the final step in the wash process since they’re always the dirtiest part of any car. Using the same process as the wash mitt, I’ll first let my dedicated wheel cloths to soak in the rinseless wash solution before squeezing out any excess waster from those cheap towels, and get to work on wiping the wheels. You’ll notice that you might need a little more wash solution to lubricate the wheel cleaning process, so feel free to go back to your bucket for more. Once clean, dry as normal.
What It Can’t Do
Unfortunately, as versatile rinseless washes are, it cannot replace conventional car wash methods in a few instances. First of all, a car should already be relatively clean before attempting this wash method, which is probably why it’s so popular with enthusiasts like me who wash their cars at least once a week - we never let it get properly filthy.
Some off-roaders might cry out that “we don’t even know what a dirty car is”, and that’s probably half true. Really dense dirt and grime should use dislodged with a pressure washer and perhaps a good snow foam wash, but once the heavy stuff is off, rinseless washes can definitely take over the more regular, less intense ‘maintenance washes’.
This is left for last intentionally, because it's also the most important part of the equation. Being relatively obscure apart from some detailing enthusiasts, rinseless wash products aren’t so easily found. In Malaysia, the number of products you can source can probably be counted on one hand.
However, luckily for me, a product called Optimum No Rinse (or ONR) is available through online purchase via Lazada or Shopee. It’s made by an American company called Optimum Polymer Technologies and is regarded as one of the original pioneers in this category. Even after many years on the market, I would argue that it’s still the best out there.
One 32 fluid ounce bottle (946ml) of this should cost around RM70 to RM80, but even with regular washes, it will last me over a year if used in the correct manner. That’s an incredible value especially considering how simple it has made my car wash process and the other off-label uses it has, which I’ll cover in a follow-up article. It really is the Swiss Army knife of car washing/detailing.
It lets me spend less time washing my car and more time enjoying it. I love that.