Steam + Waterless Washing: The Future Of Vehicle Cleaning?

November 19, 2019


Steam + Waterless Washing; The Future Of Vehicle Cleaning?


You may have heard of ‘waterless’ washing products for vehicle and also probably heard of a steam cleaner. While these are not new topics unto themselves, the combination of the two may soon be the new trend in washing vehicles. How do we currently clean vehicles then?


Conventional Washing


We are all familiar with the traditional method of washing a vehicle. Water is used to pre-soak the vehicle, soap (and recently foam) is then applied, followed by a through rinsing with water with a high pressure or garden hose. This method has been around for about 100 years, but uses a large amount of water per wash, between 60L to 300L depending on the method used.


Locally in Gibraltar this fresh water comes from a desalination plant, and an inefficient piping system that suffers from leakages. Using the River Basin Management Plan 2015-2021 (Dept Of Environment Gibraltar 2015) as a reference, it is estimated that 2.8kg of CO₂ is required to produce 1000L of water. What does that mean then?

  • A conventional wash can consume up to 840g of CO₂ per wash;
  • And a waterless wash consumes approximately 4g of CO₂ per wash!!

That represents a HUGE cut in the carbon footprint of vehicle cleaning in Gibraltar. This sounds too good to be true and begs the question, are these products just as effective? Will they scratch the paint surface? What if the vehicle is really filthy?


Chemistry to the rescue:


Waterless or polymer based systems do not require pre-wetting the surfaces. Polymers in these no rinse washes have the capability to bond to dirt particles and act as a barrier between them and the paint. The grime and dirt is then trapped in the polymer, and a high-grade microfibre towel removes the dirt, cleaning and protecting the paint finish with no need to use a large amount of water to flush the dirt off the vehicle. Most of these polymer products are very safe for the vehicle and the environment, as well as being a very effective cleaner.


What if the vehicle is really dirty?


Caked on mud and sand will require more lubrication in the form of liquid. High pressure jet washes using over 2500psi are great for removing said dirt, at a safe distance from the vehicle. However, dirt often remains in the joints and small cracks in the bodywork, allowing bacteria to survive and grow in these regions, not to mention interiors!


Welcome Steam Cleaning


Firstly what is steam?

There are 3 types:

  • Wet steam: Contains >5% small water particles
  • Dry steam: Contains <5% small water particles
  • Superheated steam: Temperature >150°c


Using a combination of the 3, and new technology avaialble to steam machines, it is now possible to remove caked on mud and sand from vehicle exteriors. Steamers, when combined with the new polymer type technology used in ‘waterless’ products, have enormous potential to change a heavily water dependant industry.


Steam uses only a fractional amount of water compared to traditional methods, 1 litre of water equates to approximately 1,700 litres of steam. With their powerful action they can also be used to decontaminate vehicle interiors of microorganisms such as:

  • Bacteria
  • Yeasts
  • Fungi


These microorganisms cannot be seen by the naked eye, and are present everywhere. To remove bacteria, most cleaning products will do the job but specific bacteria such as Botulism and Bacillus Careus from foods required long period of heat application to kill them. This is where steam cleaning comes into its own, using the right techniques and temperatures, sterility can be achieved in vehicle interiors. This not only kills bacteria in your interiors, but helps prevent colds and infections too, keeping the whole family (and planet!) healthier.




Using steam combined with polymer technology is advantageous not only to our environment and health, but also in leaving a mess-free finish whereby contaminants are not spilt onto public highways causing traffic hazards in themselves. Steam technology is now powerful enough to clean vehicle exteriors and remains in a class of its own to clean and decontaminate interiors of even the most stubborn bacteria.


Thank you for taking the time to read up on our latest blog! We hope you gained some insights into what will become a valuable tool for vehicle cleaning, especially in water-scarce regions of the globe.





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