$4.99 Shipping over $49 w/coupon DI499 | 3,000+ Products | 97 Brands | 12,000+ Reviews | 1,900+ Detailing Articles
Close Menu
Clean ⋅ Shine ⋅ Protect
Cookies are disabled in your web browser. To shop with Detailed Image, please turn cookies on and then refresh the page.

How the California Drought Affects Detailing



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!

Eric Schuster Envious Detailing
Eric Schuster
Envious Detailing
Orange County, CA

9 comments on How the California Drought Affects Detailing

  1. Jonathan Hue says:

    The rule we have now in San Jose is “No car washing with potable water”, but using recycled or gray water is ok. So it’s ok for me to use say, two gallons of reclaimed wastewater from my R/O filter for a rinseless wash with ONR, and then to use another eleven gallons in the washing machine to wash all the microfiber towels I used, but it’s not ok to use a total of four gallons of water by using my pressure washer and foam cannon for a conventional wash.

    It’s unfortunate the rules are written this way, but they have to be, otherwise you have people letting their hose run for 30 minutes with the water running down the driveway and into the gutter. Many people just can’t grasp the concept of “limited resources”.

  2. Its crazy how some of the laws are conceived and enforced! I agree, 5 gallons of pressure washer use is FAR less than the 10 minute showers people take 1-3 times a day! Maybe it should be “you have 200 gallons to last a week, use it wisely” I wonder how many people would skip the shower and wash the car instead! HAHA

    But, this is where more and more coatings will be used with more frequent waterless washing will come into play. Waterless washing every 3 days isn’t as harsh on a coated car compared to washing twice a week traditionally with a hose and bucket on a non-coated car! To each his own, there are options luckily!

  3. Amay says:

    I’m just glad that for now in Los Angeles, I am still allowed to use my hose and 2 buckets as long as there’s a shut-off nozzle on the end of the hose. I will continue to do that until LA restricts car washing completely. I feel like using ONR on the underside of the rear bumper or the side sills is just asking for trouble.

  4. Michael G says:

    I am in California as well and there of course water restrictions as to which days are allowed to water the lawn, sprinklers and so forth. Although I am a big fan of rinsleess washes, it’s kind of double edged sword. What I mean by that is now there is a load of towels that need to be washed. So in reality does it really save that much water versus using a 2 bucket with an auto shutoff trigger of some sort on the hose? Now I am not a mobile detailer. But for a mobile detailer then yes a rinsless or waterless system makes sense.

    • Jim Harper says:

      Probably you are still way ahead with a rinseless wash. Assuming you can control water level in your washer its still probably less than 30-40 gallons.

      People lose all rationality in a drought, though. Try running a fountain with a net loss of 6 gallons per day, or discussing with someone the economics of buying a 55 gallon rain barrel.

      • Michael G says:

        You are right about that. I don’t wash the small load of towels that I do use immediately after as the load is too small. I will wait until a larger load piles up and then wash. But I do have to say that there is a water savings. For example over the 4th of July holiday weekend, I was able to wash both of my cars with 2 gallons of water and some Meguiar’s D114. I still had quite a bit of solution left that I did save. So there is a potential to save water versus a regular wash. Giving it some more thought, the total amount of water used (rinseless solution and washer machine) is probably about the same as filling up 2 buckets for a standard 2 bucket wash.

  5. Jonathan Hue says:

    Modern HE washer: Water factor of 2.8-3.3, 11-13 gallons per load
    Non-HE washer: Water factor of 8.5-10, 35-40 gallons per load

    Water factor = # gallons of water used per cubic foot of laundry capacity

    I go through about half my MF towels (20 or so, plus about three big waffle weave drying towels) doing a rinseless wash more or less following the Gary Dean method. Then I use a few more applying Sonax Brilliant Shine and doing the interior, so I’m forced to do a load of laundry after one wash.

    I have an HE washer, but I contend I could do two conventional washes (foam cannon + pressure wash rinse) using the same amount of water I use for one rinseless wash, once you include the water used for washing all the MF towels. I could get through at least four conventional washes before having to do a load of MF (mainly because I ran out of clean waffle weave drying towels).

  6. Tony Pies says:

    Maybe it’s time to think about ESCAPE FROM LA….. Pretty soon that tap is drying up….
    Only person will be left is Tom Selleck and his Almonds

  7. Ron Ayotte says:

    I have clients that live in townhouse condominium complexes that have stated in their HOA rules and regulations that one cannot wash their cars on the property. Fortunately, these clients have garages. I give them a sample of ONR and teach them how to wash their cars inside their garage out of sight from the “HOA stormtroopers”. The irony is that they are required to water their patch of lawn and shrub areas to maintain the visual aesthetics and can use as much water as they want…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Commenting Rules

  • Try to keep your comments as relevant as possible.
  • Don't be abusive: no personal attacks or any other nastiness.
  • Feel free to express your opinion, but do so in an eloquent way.

If you do not respect these rules your comments may be edited or even deleted.

My Offers
15 Off Sitewide Fathers Day Sale
Quantity Discounts - Buy More, Save More!
Free Stuff
Big Discounts While Supplies Last - Clearance Items - Shop Now
Close overlay