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Homemade Waterless Car Wash Recipe and Tutorial

Updated: Feb 14

In 2012 my husband, two sons and I left our home and moved into an RV. We spent 9 years traveling and working in 38 states. Throughout our extensive travels, we learned some nifty cleaning hacks like this homemade waterless car wash recipe. Today I am excited to share it with you.

When and Where We Learned About the Waterless Car Wash Solution

The winter of 2013 we spent in California after a drought (when is there not a drought in California?). We had just made what we call a hard and fast trip from WA to CA. Our travels south had been delayed in Washington by business and we wanted to get south before the big snow hit. We drove from Central Washington to Southern California in a day and a half with 1 truck and 1 SUV towing 2 trailers. When we arrived in Southern California our Pickup, SUV, and two trailers were filthy dirty.

After we spent a day getting everything sorted and set up it was time to get the vehicles cleaned up. Rhett (my husband) pulled out a hose, a bucket, and a bottle of dawn dish soap. He had the hose hooked up, the dawn in the bottom of his bucket, and was filling the bucket with water when a very nice older gentleman walked up with a spray bottle, some baby wash, and a jug of vinegar.

“Young man, let me teach you something,” he kindly said.

Rhett turned off the water and gave our RV neighbor his full attention as he taught him what I want to teach you; the recipe for a homemade waterless car wash. Then I’m going to teach you some tricks and techniques for using it to wash your vehicles.

Before and After of Washing a Black Truck with our Homemade Waterless Car Wash Solution

Before and After of Washing a Black Truck with our Homemade Waterless Car Wash Solution

Use the slider bar to see the dirty truck before and the clean truck after.

Waterless Car Wash Recipe:

Open the spray bottle and pour in 1 Tbsp of baby shampoo/wash and 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar. Top off to the 32-ounce line with water. Gently swirl to combine the ingredients.

1 Tbsp baby Wash/Shampoo

1 Cup Distilled Vinegar


Combine Solution Ingredients

Now that we have made the waterless car wash solution it is time to wash my dirty truck.

Microfiber Towels

My husband’s favorite type of towels to use when we wash our truck are Microfiber towels. Microfiber towels contain more than 200,000 fibers per inch of fabric and can absorb more than seven times their weight in water, making them much more effective than traditional cleaning cloths.

Traditional cleaning rags and chemical cleaners can't pick up every bit of dirt and often leave behind residues. Microfiber, on the other hand, traps dirt and liquid in its fibers, leaving behind a completely clean surface. Microfiber towels also don't leave behind lint or scratch surfaces, making them perfect for cleaning delicate surfaces like glass, mirrors, and vehicles. Because they absorb more liquid and dirt than typical cleaning cloths, they also give you a streak-free clean.

Rhett and I like to use Microfiber Towels to wash our truck with the waterless car wash solution.

Use Microfiber Towels

Washing Technique

Believe it or not, there is a bit of a technique to washing your vehicle using this waterless car wash. You don’t just spray down your truck and then wipe it all off, the trick is working in sections or vehicle panels.

Rhett and I like to use two towels at a time. Begin by spraying a section of a truck panel with the waterless car wash solution and then use the first towel to wipe and dry and the second towel traces to make sure it is streak-free. When the first towel becomes too wet and saturated I set it aside and save it for the especially dirty truck areas like wheels, running boards, and mud flaps. Then, as I move on I used my streak-free cloth as my main cloth and pick up a new streak-free cloth.

Spray on the waterless car wash solution.

Wipe off the waterless car wash solution with microfiber towels.

The front grille, headlights, and back of the mirrors are generally the dirtier parts of the truck. For us, these areas are generally covered with “bug guts.” I like to begin by running a cloth over the grill to get off the chunks of bugs. You will be surprised how much will wipe off with this first step.

I then spray down the front of the truck and back of the mirrors and saturate them with the waterless car wash solution. This initial soak loosens the bugs, dirt, and grime so they come off easier. Now that they are loosened it is time to use the same spray and wipe technique that we use on the main panels of the truck.

Cleaning the grille of our pickup with our homemade waterless car wash solution.

Cleaning the grille of a black truck.

Continue washing your vehicle panel by panel. Look at the vehicle from various angles to make sure you catch all of the streaks. The key to keeping your vehicle streak-free is the moisture on the towel. If your towel gets too wet swap it out for a dry towel. That’s key!

Rhett and Emmaline using the homemade waterless car wash to wash their black truck.

Cleaning a Black Truck

Once you have a particularly dirty and wet towel that has been swapped out you can use it on the running board and mud flaps. Like the front grille, I spray down the running board and saturate it once. Then I go over it a second time as I spray and wipe it down getting off as much of the dirt and grime as possible. Sometimes you may need to go over these areas a second time to get them perfectly clean.

Emmaline cleaning the running boards using the waterless car wash solution and a dirty microfiber towel.

Cleaning the Running Boards

Our homemade waterless car wash solution is also good for the wheels and tires. Once again, use one of the saturated dirty towels is best to clean the tires and wheels with. Be careful because this area of the truck has a lot of brake dust that you don’t want to breathe.

Rhett cleaning the wheels and tires of the truck with the same waterless car wash.

Don’t forget to clean your wheels and tires.

As part of the finishing touches make sure you clean off your backup camera and sensor.

Cleaning the Backup Camera

Cleaning the Backup Sensors

If you are enjoying our cleaning hacks make sure you check out our Cleaning category to make your cleaning life easier.

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