Its nothing new, California is in a tough spot regarding water scarcity. The drought is pushing for more and more water restriction. Car washes have always used reclaimed, and recycled water in their operations, so those businesses are not necessarily hit by any water restrictions, but detailers, mobile car wash businesses face strict restrictions for waste water runoff and water use. While the cars do not need to be clean to operate, you don’t want to let your car go either. I suggest a waterless wash system when water restrictions have washing cars at the bottom of the list of necessary uses of water.
While I have always implemented a traditional hose and bucket method for washing cars, I have adopted a waterless wash to my regimen in order to do my part in using less water. There is no substitute for a pressure washer and 5 to 10 gallons of water, but waterless washes come in very handy when the car is new, hardly dirty, or simply put, no water is accessible. I see more and more detailers using waterless washes, but this comes at a risk when cars are filthy. In order for a waterless wash to be used, the car cannot be covered in heavy grime without risking damaging the finish and introducing tons of swirl marks and fine scratches. Typically, I tell my clients to only use a waterless wash only after a couple of drives, or when the car is heavily dusty, not dirty. If you can see dirt build up, its best to break out the hose and bucket, or at least knock off the loose dirt first, then proceed to a waterless system. I will typically do this on cars that are coming in for heavy correction jobs that are filthy and need lots of dirt and debris flushed out from the cracks and crevices.
I think looking at things long term, more and more waterless and rinseless systems will be implemented. Products like ONR and waterless wash products will become the norm, and traditional wash methods will be used less and less as the waterless needs increase. Whether there is a drought or not, its a good idea for the mainstream detailing companies and mobile car washers to adopt a waterless or rinseless system if no only for the sake of not saving water, but for adapting to ever changing business operations! Will detailing die off if water cannot be used, absolutely not! Will the process change if water cannot be used, most definitely!