Waterless car washes

Drive Magazine

By: Diana Faria

Ryan Knight’s customers are amazed when told that their car was washed without running water.

“A lot of them can’t believe it until they see it,” Knight said. “I can tell them about it, but it usually takes seeing the product in action to make them believe that it does work well…and it doesn’t scratch or leave streaks.”

Knight, 29, and his brother own and operate the Detailing Knights, a Brampton-based car detailing company Averaging about two jobs per day around the greater Toronto area, the Detailing Knights wash their clients’ vehicles on-site using waterless car washes.

Unlike soap washes, you only need a microfiber cloth or two and the waterless car wash to clean your vehicle. The product comes in a bottle and is sprayed onto the surface of the car, then wiped clean with the microfiber cloth. This method does not require any water other than the liquid product itself- hence it being “waterless”.

“We actually switched to waterless in 2009 once we found that the waterless meant…less water waste and we were able to be more mobile,” Knight said. “With the waterless car wash product, you actually get a higher quality clean because it’s applied by hand, section by section, and leaves a protective polish in the solution so the paint actually looks how it’s supposed to look rather than using water, where you’re slowly washing away the clear coat – that’s why cars dull over time.”

Ciara De Jong, manager of research and policy at the Toronto Environmental Office, says neither automotive soap nor washing your car is prohibited in Toronto. However, the water used to wash the car run down the vehicle and driveway can dump harmful contaminants into the storm drains.

“To my understanding, it’s more the diesel and oil and all the things that are on your driveway that end up being washed into the sewer,” she said. “It’s [also] a huge amount of water to wash your car. It’s not very efficient.”

Waterless car washes have been on the market for over a decade and according to De Jong, are “a good alternative.”

“With traditional washing of cars with water, we find you’d be wasting about 100 gallons of water or more,” Knight said. “With the waterless car wash, you’d only be using about six ounces.”

De Jong says that even though waterless car washes are not 100 per cent waterless, they do use much less water. When shopping for one, she also suggests looking for green options.

“Look for the ones that are 100 per cent biodegradable, environmentally friendly, ones that use reusable microfiber cloths to wipe on and then wipe off the product.” she said.

Two years ago, Sunny Yashpal created one of the few waterless car washes available on the market,goclean waterless. Goclean waterless car wash is a non-toxic, biodegradable product that can be sprayed on a microfiber cloth and then wiped on the vehicle to clean it, he said.

“One of the ideas behind the product was bringing a product into the marketplace that’s very user friendly,” Yashpal said. “You can use it on all kinds of surfaces- windows, metal, plastic or the wheels.”

When launching his product, Yashpal said there was a need for reasonably-priced products because waterless car washes were fairly expensive. Goclean waterless is available in Canadian Tire stores for about $15 each bottle.

Unlike other products that use toxic components to clean vehicle surfaces, Yashpal says his product is plant-based and is not harmful to the surface it is sprayed on to.

“We try to make the product as user friendly as possible, as green as possible, because that’s what our branding is- to make green products,” the 26-year-old said. “It is a product that readily biodegrades when you do apply it to a surface.”

The St. Thomas-born entrepreneur said that aside from washing your car, it also leaves behind a film that protects the surface of the car from further grime build up.

“Basically, it’s a film that is left on the surface of the car called a polymer film, and that is plant-based as well,” he said. “So it helps protect the paint and repel dirt and grime builds…It works on the windows too, it helps keep fingerprints off the windows.”

Yashpal says while other products also leave behind a protective layer,most of them stay on too long and yellows headlights and other plastics on the vehicle over time.

Since switching to waterless washes, Knight says washing cars takes half as long than with traditional soap and water.

“[It’s] much easier because when we were using water and soap and waxing before, it would take us about four to five hours minimum,” he said. “And now when we switch to waterless, we’ve cut it down to two hours or less.”

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