How To Wash Your Car Just With Water

Nowadays there are many alternatives for washing your car. From amazing benefits to improved formulas, car shampoos have developed a lot in the last years. Still, many car owners wonder if washing their cars just with water is a good option, and even more, how to do it.

You can wash your car using only water and following these steps:

  • Use a good hose with high pressure
  • Don’t use too little nor too much water
  • Steer clear from using sponges
  • Be careful when rinsing the engine
  • Avoid washing the car on a hot day
  • Dry the car manually to prevent watermarks

Washing your car with just water may not be as effective as other methods, but with a few tricks, it could suffice your needs.

Washing your car with just water: a guide

Washing your car with just water is one of the many options around. To successfully do this, there are several aspects to take into consideration before diving in. 

Water pressure

Only using water leaves out many of the necessary characteristics of washing your car. One way to improve this is by using high-pressure water. Using a good hose or even a pressure washer can completely change the quality of the wash, as it helps better remove some of the contaminants. 

If you use a not-so-powerful hose, the water may not be strong enough to clean the surface of the car.

Water quantity

Apart from the pressure of the water, another aspect to consider is the amount of water used. If you use too little water, you might not be able to cover all the surface with enough water to remove the contaminants stuck to it. As there is no other product included, the wash depends solely on the water.

In contrast, using too much water would be a waste. Being conscious about consumption is also important, and spending unnecessary water is something that should be avoided.

Don’t Use Sponges

Watching your dirty car covered with water might make you feel like using sponges to scrub it, but don’t do it! Since there is no product to help remove dirt and other contaminants, using sponges would actually mean rubbing those contaminants onto the surface of your car. 

Sponges tend to hold tiny particles in them, which at the moment of scrubbing could cause damage to your paintwork. Instead, use microfiber products or washing pads. These tools will improve the quality of the wash without harming your car.

Moreover, never use any type of contact washing technique on your car if you are cleaning it soley with water. Water does not provide nearly enough lubrication for a contact wash to be safe, no matter if you are using a sponge or a high quality microfiber wash mitt.

Look Out For The Engine 

Nowadays, most engines are built to withstand the direct contact of water without suffering any damage. However, there are still lots of electrical connections and wires that could be affected by water. A good way to protect these delicate parts could be using plastic films or bags to keep water from reaching them.

Another aspect to consider is the pressure of the water. Although the previous recommendation was to use high-pressure water, I must advise you otherwise here. Such pressure of the water could compromise the integrity of the engine. Avoid hitting it too hard, and you will be on the safe side.

Consider the Temperature Before Washing The Car Just With Water

The best conditions to wash your car would be on a brisk day and away from direct sunlight. If the car is not hot to the touch, then you are good to go. On hot days, the water will quickly evaporate from the surface of the car, leaving unwanted marks. 

Furthermore, water and hot air is a duo meant for disaster. This combination could very much harm the integrity of your windshield and windows. Temperature changes are no allies of glass. 

Dry Manually

Even if you avoid washing the car on a hot day, don’t leave it to dry in the open. Evaporated water causes water spots and streaks, which you would surely prefer to avoid. A microfiber towel is of great help to perform this task manually.

Is Only Water Car Washing Really Effective?

Using just water to wash your car may not cover all the checkmarks on your list. For some contaminants, using just water could be enough. With enough pressure, dust and other superficial substances can be removed from the surface.

Cleaning a car just with water is an effective method to clean it from superficial contaminants like dust. Cleaning the car from substances like grime and oil is not possible with water alone. These contaminants can only be washed off if a car shampoo or a grease cutter is used.

As you see, the problem comes with grime, oil, and more resistant contaminants. Water lacks some of the qualities of car shampoos, which make the cleaning of the car easier. A full wash using nothing but water falls short when it comes to removing these stronger contaminants.

Especially oily and greasy substances are impossible to remove with water alone. To clean a car from these substances, you need to use a car shampoo or grease cutter in order to break down the molecular structure of the contaminants.

For a superficial wash, in which the car is not too dirty, and dust is the principal contaminant around, using just water could do the job. If the car is covered in dirt, mud, and grease, then this method will leave a lot to be desired.

If you are an invested car owner who want the best care for your car, you might feel the need to add some other product to the process. Although in some mild cases, water can be all you need.
Nevertheless, if you want to properly clean your car, you should make sure to use a good car shampoo and a contact wash technique. This will also get rid of the road film, that is stuck to the car even after a great pre-wash procedure.

Also make sure to protect your car after a wash! If you are in a hurry, you could consider using a car shampoo with wax inside. I have written an article about how effective these types of shampoos are, so make sure to check it out by clicking here.

Why Should You Wash Your Car Using Water Only

One of the main reasons this trend appeared was due to the regulations of some municipalities. In some districts and counties of the United States, the law forbids any car wash products like car shampoo to reach the sewers.

Institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) look after the environmental impact of certain products in the US. For the zones where the EPA has prohibited these substances, washing cars with just water may be a solution.

If you want to know more about these regulations, you can click here.

Another reason would be the necessity of saving money. You might feel that the detailing of your car doesn’t need a well-rounded car shampoo. In this case, water suffices the needs without causing an increase in the money spent on car detailing. For a more intense wash, car shampoo is a good addition.

Just understand, that a proper car wash including car shampoo does not have to be expensive. I have broken down the cost of DIY detailing in this article, so make sure to check it out by clicking here.

Some owners prefer to go for a car wash only with water to avoid the hassle of choosing a quality product for their wash. Nowadays, there are many products that can help you perform this task. The formulas, the added products, and the variety of alternatives can be daring. 

Due to this, washing the car with just water may feel like the go-to option. Moreover, using an automatic car wash is just not safe for your car, as I have explained in this article. Make sure to check it out by clicking here.

In some cases, washing your car with just water can be a way to correct little details about the vehicle you might not feel great about. For instance, if you had your car washed, and there are still things you would like to improve, you might work your way around with water to obtain the desired results.

Comparing Only Water Wash With Car Shampoo Wash

When it comes to the care of your car, it is not so much a question of right and wrong, but about the benefits each product or method can offer you. There might be some owners vouching for the only water wash and some other demonizing it. The best way to better understand them is to compare them.

In the table below, you will see a comparison between the two methods, rated on a scale from A to F.

Contaminant removalCA
Paint protectionFD
Level of LubricationDA

Contaminant removal

When using only water, some contaminants may be too difficult to remove. Contaminants such as grease and grime will not go away without the use of car shampoo. These shampoos have qualities that can help disintegrate the contaminants for better results.

Paint Protection

Most car shampoos are just meant to clean a car. Nevertheless, there are some car shampoos that include added chemicals that can protect the paint for some time. This protection is paramount to the conservation of the paintwork. When using only water, no product or chemical is there to help the paint of your car.

Rubbing Capabilities

When using only water, you will damage the surface of the car while rubbing. Water does not provide nearly enough lubrication for a contact wash to be safe.

For that, you need special tools such as microfiber mitts and car shampoo to wash the car. Car shampoos reduce the tension between the car, the water, and the rubbing utensil to make the cleaning easier and safer, so you are highly unlikely to scratch the delicate clear coat.


In some cases, you will need to wait for the water to wear down the contaminants. This is not the fastest way to remove debris from your car, but when using only water, it might be the safest. With car shampoos, these contaminants are disintegrated faster, and you can also attack them manually with a wash mitt to clean the car thoroughly, safely, and fast.

Key Takeaways

  • Washing your car only with water requires high pressure
  • Using sponges damages the exterior of the car
  • Be careful with the engine when using water on it
  • Car shampoo improves the quality of the wash
  • In some zones, you might be obliged by law to wash your car with just water
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge