PetrolBlog looks at: waterless car cleaning

Once upon a time, I'd clean my cars every weekend. Those days are long gone, so perhaps a waterless car wash could be in order?

It's a measure of how far behind I am with fresh content on PetrolBlog that I used this car cleaning product way back in September 2011 when I still had the Honda Accord Type-Shed. It's also a measure of how different my priorities are these days when I remember that the last time I actually washed one of my cars was back in November. Oh dear.

Once upon a time, washing the car would be weekly chore. Actually no, it wasn't a chore, it was something I actually enjoyed. Today though, there are too many other things to worry about, meaning the weekly car wash has turned into the quarterly scrub, wash and polish. I guess the days when I reviewed new cars for PetrolBlog have a small part to play in it. A car would arrive spotless and then leave a week later covered in dirt.

Do I miss car washing? Not really. I mean I certainly don't miss the inane banter that used to accompany the spruce up. Remember this blog? But having said that, if I had a collection of cars as nice as FailCar, I'd probably be a little more proactive with my cleaning routine.

But with this in mind, perhaps I'm the perfect target market for a waterless car cleaning product? I've heard about these kind of things before, but it always stuck me as something quite ludicrous. I'd be more inclined to clean my car with a Brillo pad than use something that doesn't require water.

However, with an open mind, I gave a bottle of Mantis Instant Shine a chance. My initial trepidation was highlighted by the fact that I was only prepared to use the Accord as my guinea pig. With various hand-painted panels and a number of scratches already deeply ingrained into the paintwork, my state of mind was one of 'what's the worst that can happen'?

Well actually, I was pleasantly surprised. The Accord hadn't been cleaned for a few weeks and given the nature of the roads on Dartmoor, it was a little dirty, with dried-on mud around the arches and rear bumper. A perfect testbed!

The process involves spraying the 'radioactive-green' liquid over a small area at a time and let it soak in. You then give it a wipe using a soft microfibre cloth, before buffing with a second even softer cloth. It's that simple. Within ten minutes I'd completed the whole car, which I suspect is virtually impossible using the traditional bucket and sponge method.

When applied and removed properly, the result is very good. Streak-free paintwork and all but the most determined of bugs were lifted from the front bumper. It even worked well on the alloys, easily removing brake dust and road grime. I was also impressed with the product's water-repellent properties, with rainwater beading nicely a few days later.

It's not perfect. My personal fear of scratching the paintwork led to me using too much liquid. This resulted in me getting through an entire bottle of Instant Shine in just two car cleaning sessions. At £10 per bottle, it could get expensive. It's also quite difficult to get between the panel gaps. The good old fashioned 'bucket and sponge combo' is seemingly more adept at reaching the nooks and crannies. I'm also slightly concerned as to where small pieces of grit disappear to when cleaning. I guess it's the same problem with a sponge, but I can't help think that they remain sat on the cloth just waiting to scratch your freshly cleaned paintwork.

But in terms of what the product sets out to do, I think it's pretty good. If you need a quick spruce-up between washes, then it's ideal. Alternatively, if you live at the top of a block of flats, this may save you a few trips up and down stairs. It would also suit hire car companies, chauffeurs and anyone else who needs to make a good impression, fast.

I'll leave the final word to Chris Claydon of Shine My Ride, a good chap who earns his living from keeping cars spotless. Here's his summary on waterless car products:

Waterless wash products seem to be a very emotive subject in the valeting and detailing community. Go on a detailing forum, mention a waterless wash product, and stand well back because you will have lit the blue touch paper!

There are a number that are sold on some TV shopping channels at the moment, particularly Showroom Shine and Body Shield Pro. The demos often involve a seemingly very dirty vehicle, and the demonstrator goes on to clean every surface of the car to a gleaming shine in no time at all. Seem to good to be true?

Well, yes. And no. Remember that the cars presented will have been made 'artificially' dirty.  That is to say, it is not usually the accumulation of dirt from weeks of driving. Now I have tried one of these products, and in my personal opinion at least, they do have their place.  I have tried to clean a Mondeo estate with a few weeks worth of grime on it. It was certainly not as quick as the TV demo makes out, or use as little product. I would not use it to clean a heavily soiled vehicle again and I wouldn't recommend anyone to do so. That said, if you wanted to wash your car, and then run over it with one of these products, you will have a shiny and protected car. It is also a good one-step option for a vehicle with little dirt on it.

Purists look down on these products, but in my view they are surely still better than people using an automatic car wash, or the roadside hand wash with the scabby sponges!

Mantis Instant Shine is priced at £9.99 and available from JML and Amazon. I'd recommend getting the optional microfibre cloths too.

See below for what is possibly the worst selection of before and after images you'll ever see. Gok Wan can sleep well in his bed tonight.

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