A touchless, touch-free or no-touch car wash is a popular alternative to car wash varieties that use brushes and bristles. Touchless washes use high-pressure water nozzles and cleaning solutions to remove dirt from a car's exterior. Only water and cleaning solutions, often based on mild acids and alkalis, come in contact with the car, and therefore there is no risk of scratching the finish or leaving brush marks.
There are many different kinds of car washes, and they can all be divided into two main categories: automatic and manual. Within those categories are the subcategories of self-service and full service, which mainly apply to manual car washes. Automated car wash systems can use a series of brushes as well as water and air jets to clean a car that passes through them. Or, automatic car washes can feature brushes that move automatically over a stationary car. In either case, brushes are used to scrub and cleanse a car's exterior of impurities like dirt and road salt. Some auto owners, particularly in the case of classic or antique car owners, may be uncomfortable letting their cars come into contact with what they perceive to be the harshness of automated brushing. They may also be uncomfortable subjecting their cars' exteriors to brushing by hand. In such cases, a touchless car wash may be an appropriate washing solution.
Touchless car washes use motors to move the nozzles back and fourth on tracks positioned around the parked car, and for larger touchless washes, rails are used to guide the moving car through a series of independent machines that apply each step in a sequence. These systems can use 300 to 400 gallons of water per car. There are usually four steps involved in the touchless car wash system. First, the car enters the wash area and is sprayed with water. Next it is covered in a specialized soap, which is left on the surface of the car for as long as a few minutes. Then, the wash applies a high pressure rinse, cleansing the car of dirt, oil, soap and any other substances that may have accumulated on the car's exterior. Finally, the car is dried via high pressure compressors that blow air over the car's surface. Often, touchless car washes offer extras, including laser wash systems, wax shining, hyper-concentrated sprays, solutions to guard against UV rays, soft water and undercarriage washes. They can be more expensive than other wash systems, but such costs can be outweighed by the benefit of touchless washing for some auto owners.