Bucket wash my car.
June 26, 2007 7:04 AM   Subscribe

How do I wash my car without a hose?

I hate paying for car washes. Even the do-it-yourself coin-op power washers annoy me. I would like to wash my car myself, but I live in an apartment building without a hose hookup outside. What's the best way to clean the exterior of my car using, say, a bucket of soapy water and a bucket of clean water?
posted by backseatpilot to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For washing, a big natural sponge and a wheel brush (maybe 2 wheel brushes, if you have a fancy grill, as your 'real' wheel brush can get kinda gross). For rinsing, a Super Soaker.

No, really. A Super Soaker.
posted by paulsc at 7:11 AM on June 26, 2007

How small is your car? There's a famous cartoon from the early 60s of someone washing their volkswagen beetle with a watering can.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 7:22 AM on June 26, 2007

Miss lynnster, how is that helpful, given that the article you link to uses a hose?

A super soaker would be brilliant. I think a bucket of water dumped over the top of the car a couple of times would work too. Not the most elegant or easy solution but worth a try once, I would think. I'm wondering if wiping the soap down off the car with a wet rag would work too.
posted by agregoli at 7:37 AM on June 26, 2007

If you're using enough soap to really remove the grime from your car, one bucket of rinse ain't gonna make much of a dent. You're trying to take a dump, but not pee while you're doing it - pretty much impossible.

I used to build automatic car washes. The "washing" part usually used at least three gallons of juice on friction washes, less on a touchless. The rinse part, however, was more along the lines of thirty gallons. Heck, the spot-free rinse, which is rinsing the hardwater rinse only, was upwards of ten gallons per car.
posted by notsnot at 7:44 AM on June 26, 2007

Disabuse yourself of the idea that cars actually need to be washed.
posted by interrobang at 7:53 AM on June 26, 2007

Well actually, I've never had access to a hose when it comes to washing my car. Always used buckets & in my experience super soakers don't have enough water. There are also these kinds of products, but I didn't like any so far. So, sorry if I didn't help.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:56 AM on June 26, 2007

AskMetaFilter: Trying to take a dump, but not pee while you're doing it.

But seriously, I think your best bet is to either not wash your car, or bring yourself to cough up the few dollars it would take to do it at a carwash.

Of course, if you have a friend in the town with a hose, you could just go over there and do it.
posted by DMan at 8:33 AM on June 26, 2007

I've tried doing it without a hose, and I just don't think it's possible to do it very well. Getting all the soap and soap-residue off uses a lot of water. You might be able to do it with buckets, but you'd better like really carrying them around.

I think your best bet is to find a friend/neighbor/acquaintance who has a hose and go over there and do it. Or just pay for the cost of the spray-it-yourself carwash.

At least during the summer, I've found that I can lessen my dirty-car aggravation by washing the windows more frequently than the rest of the car. That you can do easily with a bucket of water, a rag, and a squeegee, and from inside the car it'll seem like it's been freshly washed. (YMMV, of course, but I realized that what really bothered me most about having a dirty car was looking out through dirt-covered glass.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2007

When I was poor and in college, I found myself with the same need you describe.

I did in fact go out in the parking lot with a bucket and a sponge and a bottle of dishwashing detergent (I said I was poor, OK?!?) and proceeded to wash it in the pouring rain.

It worked great. It was maybe the best wash that car ever got. There weren't even any water spots on it afterwards.

The bad part was that midway through the washing, the rain turned into sleet and hail. So at first I kind of felt like that lady at the beginning of Cool Hand Luke, all soaking wet in front of everyone and feeling empowered by my bold choices, and by the end I just felt like I had gone ice fishing and fell in.

The car looked great though.
posted by zebra3 at 9:01 AM on June 26, 2007

For what it's worth, increasingly, pay car washes are more efficient than washing your own car because they capture and reuse the water.
posted by Good Brain at 9:09 AM on June 26, 2007

I have been known to scrub any particularly dirty bits of my car (mud spray, bird poop, whatever) with the window washer at the gas station. As long as it rains fairly often too, this is usually enough to keep my car quite clean. Not sure whether that blue stuff is bad for the paint job, though.
posted by vytae at 9:14 AM on June 26, 2007

I've never used a hose to wash my car.

My method is this:

1 bucket of warm soapy water. Rub the car down thoroughly with the soapy water with a sponge. When the whole car is soaped up, start at the beginning and wipe the suds off as best I can with a microfibre cloth, wringing lots of times. Grab another bucket of cold water, and a jug. Pour the cold water over the car, starting at the top, and letting the water wash the suds down the side of the car. Finish with a clean microfibre cloth for the dry/buff up.

Simple and effective. I've also been known to use clean water from a water butt for the rinse.
posted by Solomon at 9:18 AM on June 26, 2007

As long as your vehicle is not extremely dirty - there is a product called Dri-Wash that will leave your vehicle looking as if it had just been washed and waxed by pros–it does wax the surface as it cleans.

The product does not require any water during the entire cleaning process. Only a couple of clean towels are needed.

Of course this product costs money, and the cost per wash would basically equal what it would cost you to take your vehicle to a d.i.y. coin-operated car wash.
posted by cinemafiend at 9:42 AM on June 26, 2007

By the way, I have used the above product and loved the results...
posted by cinemafiend at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2007

Almost all car washes recycle the water - so environmentally speaking, they are probably better than borrowing the hose at a friends house.

You could also watch for the "free" car washes that school groups, youth sports teams, etc do on just about every warm weekend. For a few bucks donation to a worthy cause you'll have a clean car.
posted by COD at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2007

i'm in the same situation, and i always wondered if you could just rinse your car at the water pump...thing...(so my vocabulary's not spectacular) at the gas station? that idea probably won't go over too well if you're actually rinsing off soap suds, but for a basic dirt-off-car kind of rinse, would that work?
posted by mittenedsex at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2007

QEW (Quick easy wash) is highly recommended on the car detail forums. (autopia)

I have never tried it though.
posted by mphuie at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2007

I've heard, and about to try myself, Optimum No Rinse from exceldetail.com. People on the meguiarsonline, autopia, and some smaller forums talk about it. Supposedly one of the best no-hose no-rinse car wash systems out there, and relatively cheap as well. I picked up one of those weed killer things (pump spray on a 2 gallon bottle) to wet the truck, then i'll follow up with the soapy wash. Good luck.
posted by soss at 4:17 PM on June 26, 2007

Take it to a car wash if you can afford it. Please, for the environment.
posted by bluebird at 5:03 PM on June 26, 2007

Around here (Seattle) radio and TV stations are running a lot of PSAs telling us not to wash our own cars, but to take them to car washes. As bluebird says, it's an environmental thing. The soapy runoff is bad for the ecosystem. Commercial car washes can recycle the water instead of sending it off to poison the fish.
posted by litlnemo at 6:14 PM on June 26, 2007

Most of Australia is under water restrictions because of the drought that forbid washing cars with a hose.
It takes about 3 buckets, maybe 4. One warm with soap, two or 3 cold. Use a separate rag/sponge for the rinse to get rid of the soap, work fast so the soap water doesn't dry to a film before you rinse.
posted by bystander at 11:23 PM on June 26, 2007

Big sponge and slightly soapy water, scrub down the car (soap really isn't necessary)

Second and maybe third buckets, pour over the car starting from the roof, rinsing off dirt / soap.

Use a synthetic chamois to wipe the remaining water off the car, preventing streaking. Done!
posted by tomble at 11:25 PM on June 26, 2007

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