Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (2024)

Written by Ryan GilmorePublished: 10 May 2022Updated: 31 May 2022

Look at the average car on a sunny day and you’ll probably see that every painted panel is scarred with small scratches and swirls that contribute to a rather flat-looking finish that can make even the most exciting colour look a bit dull. It may surprise you to hear this but the majority of those small scratches will have been caused when the car was being washed.

Related: Best waterless car wash products to slash water use

Think about it for a moment, why is there a booming market for grit guards, drying towels and shampoos all designed to minimise the risk of leaving small scuffs in a car’s paintwork? As you run a wash mitt over a car there is always a chance that a tiny piece of grit will get sandwiched between the two and leave a nasty scratch in the clear coat. It’s not the end of the world but get enough of them and you’ll need to polish your car.

Thankfully, there is a clever washing technique you can adopt to ensure that your car won’t get scratched; a touchless wash.

> The Ultimate Guide to Car Care

What is a touchless car wash?

As the name suggests, you don’t ever touch the car during the washing process. Instead, you replace your hands with a foam lance and pressure washer to douse the car in chemicals and let them do the cleaning. his will totally eliminate any chance of scratches as the most aggressive force you’ll be applying will be pressurised water.

How can I do a touchless car wash myself?

Your first check before attempting a touchless wash should be how dirty the car is. Heavily dirty cars won’t be suitable because the baked-in contaminants will need some mechanical scrubbing to shift, chemical cleaning alone won’t cut through them. If on the other hand, your car is only slightly grubby (or better yet protected with a good sealant), then a touchless wash will be entirely possible.

You’ll also need to make sure the car is out of direct sunlight and the panels are cool. The reason for this is that you’ll be increasing the dwell time of the cleaning products so they can properly work so you’ll need to prevent the chemicals from drying on the paint.

Step one: Rinsing

Using a pressure washer, wash the car with nothing more than water. Your goal here is to soften and dislodge larger bits of mud and grime making your life easier once you start using cleaning products. Most domestic pressure washers won’t pose a threat to the paintwork but remember 140 Bar is more than enough to clean a car.

Nilfisk Core 140 Bar High-Pressure Washer

The best pressure washer for a touchless wash

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Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (1)

Price: £168.99 | VIEW OFFER

Quite possibly the best small pressure washer for sale, we were incredibly impressed with this Nilfisk when we tested one last year. Easy to use and with a long hose, it’s a great tool to work with and comes with a raft of attachments, including a basic foam lance for touchless washes. It’s powerful too, offering 140 bar, 1800W, 465 l/h all thanks to a tough aluminium motor.

Read our review of the Nilfisk Core 140 Pressure Washer here

Step two: Prewashing

This is the fun bit, it’s now time to cover the car in a detergent-filled foam to lift and loosen any dirt the pressure washer just couldn’t tackle. Snow foam is incredibly easy to use and will gently lift away deposits that may pose scratch risks, just make sure to wash it all off before it dries and check the recommended dwell time to get the most from it.

Bilt Hamber Auto-Foam

The best snow foam for a touchless wash

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Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (2)

Price: £23.88 | VIEW OFFER

A top-performing snow foam, Auto-Foam from Bilt Hamber is easy to use, cleans well and is 100% biodegradable which makes it perfect for a touchless wash. Free from strong chemicals and entirely waster-based, this snow foam is gentle on dirt but still incredibly effective at cleaning. The foam may not be the thickest, but it is easy to wash away and it’ll take all the debris with it.

Read our review of Bilt Hamber Auto-Foam here

Step three: Washing

This step is the first main difference between a regular wash and a touchless car wash. Instead of filling buckets with shampoo, you’ll need to find one that can be applied via a foam canon. Once sprayed on leave the shampoo to dwell for a couple of minutes before rinsing off with water. There’s no need to scrub with a detailing brush, the detergents in the shampoos should be strong enough to properly clean the car while you watch on.

NanotechSST Nano Wash Auto

The best shampoo for a touchless wash

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Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (3)

Price: £14.97 | VIEW OFFER

A hidden gem of car care, Nano Wash Auto is a very good car shampoo and can be used via a foam lance. Very lubricating but not at all sudsy, it’s easy to rinse away and leaves behind a deep glossiness and some proper paint protection too.

Step four: Protecting

An optional but worthwhile step, adding protection using a pressure washer is a cool time-saver and will help keep your car cleaner for longer. These sealants may only last a couple of weeks at most, but they’re easy to apply and will produce a noticeable difference. Follow the instructions on the bottle and remember to thoroughly rinse off any excess product.

Autoglym Polar Seal

The best paint sealant for a touchless wash

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Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (4)

Price: £16.99 | VIEW OFFER

Applied directly to a freshly washed but still wet car, Polar Seal is a hydrophobic sealant that offers excellent short-term protection. Spray it everywhere (except the windscreen), rinse and your car is protected, all from a product that takes a couple of minutes to apply.

Step five: Drying

Potentially the biggest shift, if you decide to do a touchless wash, will be drying the car. Microfibres are great but still carry a minute scratch risk which is why air will be doing the heavy lifting here. For the ultimate peace of mind,a proper car dryerwill provide warm, filtered air to carefully dry a car, but can be quite expensive. Pet dryers or leaf blowers are much better value for money and do the same job.

WORX 18V LEAFJET Cordless Garden Leaf Blower

The best drying method for a touchless wash

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Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (5)

Price: £93.83 | VIEW OFFER

This WORX leaf blower may do without the heated and filter air but will still effectively dry a wet car without the need to touch it. It’s also cordless for better manoeuvrability and can be used to clean your garden of leaves come autumn.

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Touchless car washes: what is it and can I do it myself? (2024)

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