What is a Touchless Car Wash? Are They Safe? Modern Solution for Protecting Your Car’s Paint

There are various car wash options available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. An automatic car wash is fast but may cause damage, while a hand car wash is thorough and safer but takes more time. A touchless car wash combines the benefits of both methods with a lower risk of damage.

A touchless car wash is an automated cleaning system that doesn’t use spinning brushes or cloth strips. Instead, it relies on high-pressure water sprays and potent detergents to clean the car effectively.

What’s It?

A touchless car wash, like most automated car washes, requires you to choose your preferred wash type and make payment at a machine. This type of car wash can be either in-bay or in a tunnel.

In an in-bay touchless car wash, the car owner drives in and remains in one spot while the car washing equipment moves around the vehicle to clean it. In a tunnel, the car is pulled through by a conveyor system towards the washing equipment.

However, unlike other automated car washes, such as traditional automatic and brushless automatic car washes, a touchless car wash doesn’t use spinning brushes or cloth strips.

While both cleaning methods effectively remove dirt and grime, they can potentially damage the car’s paintwork. As a result, a touchless car wash is a safer option, as it cleans the car using only high-pressure water and powerful car wash soap.

Are Touchless Car Washes Safe?

A touchless car wash eliminates brushes and cloth strips that can grind and smack dirt onto a car’s surface. However, it uses higher water pressure and potent detergents. This may make car owners wonder, “Are touchless car washes bad for paint?”

The absence of brushes and cloth strips in a touchless car wash reduces the risk of scratching. However, some risks remain. Touchless car washes don’t make direct contact with the car; instead, they compensate by spraying water at higher pressure levels than traditional automated car washes with brushes or cloth strips. The friction from the high-pressure water may also potentially scratch the car’s surface.

Touchless car washes also use powerful detergents to break down dirt, debris, and grime on the car’s surface. While effective, these harsh detergents can cause damage in the long run, especially with frequent use.

In summary, touchless car washes are somewhat safer than other automated car washes that use brushes or cloth strips. However, there may still be some chances of paint damage, albeit reduced. Touchless car washes offer car owners the benefit of quicker car washing with a lower risk of damage.

How Does a Touchless Car Wash Work?

How Does a Touchless Car Wash Work

To begin the touchless car wash process, first, approach the payment machine, where you’ll select your desired washing options. Make your payment in the designated slot. There are typically various options available, from a basic wash to additional features like extra soap layers, protective coating, tire shine, and more.

Once you’ve chosen the washing options for your car, drive into the bay or tunnel. When you’re in position, the touchless car wash will spray water on your car to loosen dirt and grime, followed by spraying detergent and then rinsing the car again. Rinsing is the final step in a touchless car wash unless you’ve opted for additional services.

Furthermore, some touchless car washes provide drying through blowers, while others offer hand-drying services. If your car is dried by hand, be sure to tip the worker as a courtesy.

Tips on Using a Touchless Car Wash

To safely use a touchless car wash and maximize its benefits, follow these tips to be prepared for your next car wash experience:

  1. Apply Protective Coating on Your Car Protective coatings like wax, polish, and ceramic coatings create a barrier against dirt, debris, and grime on your car’s surface. This prevents particles from sticking to your car and helps reduce the risk of scratches. Apply a protectant after each wash to ensure your car remains protected for the next touchless car wash.
  2. Have a Clean Cloth Ready for Excess Moisture There may be leftover moisture after the car wash, so keep a clean cloth in your car to wipe off any excess water.
  3. Take Advantage of Gas Station Touchless Car Wash Discounts Many gas stations with touchless car washes offer discounts on car washing when you buy gas. Fill up your tank and get a clean car while saving money. Search online for gas stations with touchless car washes nearby to find the best deals.
  4. Lower the Car’s Exterior-Mounted Antenna High-pressure sprays can damage exterior-mounted antennas, so lower them before the wash to avoid damage.
  5. Ensure Windows and Doors Are Closed Tightly High-pressure water can enter small openings, so check all windows and doors to ensure they are closed tightly and prevent water from entering and wetting the interior.
  6. Drive Slowly When Drying with Blowers If the car wash has blowers for drying, drive slowly past them to get the most out of the drying process. Don’t drive too slowly, though, as you may end up with only some portions of the car dry.

Touchless Car Wash vs. Other Automated Car Washes

Automated vs. Touchless Car Wash

Automated car washes offer car owners the advantage of quick and effortless car washing. Let’s compare the touchless car wash with other automated car wash types:

Traditional Automatic: Car Wash In a traditional automatic car wash, brushes spin along the sides of a car to remove dirt and grime. The downside is that these brushes can grind dirt onto the car’s surface and scratch the paint.

Brushless Car Wash: A brushless car wash uses long strips of cloth or synthetic materials instead of bristles to clean dirt and grime. It’s relatively safer than the traditional automatic car wash. However, the cloth strips can still smash dirt onto the car and potentially damage the paintwork. Additionally, there’s a risk of transferring dirt and grime from a previously washed car onto yours since the cloth strips can retain particles from other vehicles.

Touchless Car Wash: A touchless car wash uses high-pressure water and potent detergents instead of brushes or cloth strips. It reduces the risk of grinding dirt or debris onto the car’s surface and causing scratches. However, the high-pressure water and harsh detergents can still pose some risk to the paintwork, albeit lesser than the other automated car wash types.

In summary, each automated car wash type has its pros and cons. A touchless car wash is considered a safer option compared to traditional automatic and brushless car washes, but it still carries some potential risks to your car’s paint. Ultimately, it’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each car wash method and choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences.

Touchless Car Wash vs. Hand Car Wash

Touchless vs. Hand Car Wash

Touchless and hand car washes each have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s compare them to help you decide which method is suitable for you:

Touchless Car Wash Pros:

  • Quick and convenient
  • No direct contact with the car’s surface, reducing the risk of scratches
  • Uses high-pressure water and potent detergents to remove dirt and grime


  • High-pressure water and harsh detergents may pose some risk to the paintwork
  • May not be as thorough as a hand car wash in removing stubborn dirt and grime

Hand Car Wash Pros:

  • Safest method for paintwork when done correctly
  • Allows for thorough and precise cleaning, especially for hard-to-reach areas
  • Provides the opportunity to inspect your car for any issues or damage while cleaning


  • Time-consuming and labor-intensive
  • Requires proper tools, materials, and techniques to achieve the best results
  • Potential for paint damage if incorrect techniques or abrasive materials are used


How often should I use a touchless car wash?

The frequency of using a touchless car wash depends on various factors, including your car usage, local climate, and exposure to dirt, grime, and environmental elements. Generally, it is recommended to wash your car every two weeks or whenever it appears visibly dirty. However, if you live in an area with harsh weather conditions or heavy pollution, you may need to wash your car more frequently.

Are touchless car washes eco-friendly?

Many touchless car washes prioritize eco-friendliness by using biodegradable detergents and water reclamation systems. The water reclamation process collects, filters, and reuses the water, which helps reduce water wastage. To ensure that you are using an eco-friendly touchless car wash, look for one that promotes its environmentally friendly practices and uses biodegradable cleaning products.

Can a touchless car wash damage car accessories, like spoilers or decals?

While touchless car washes are generally safe for most car accessories, there is still a slight risk of damage. High-pressure water can potentially affect loose or improperly installed accessories, such as spoilers or decals. It is essential to inspect your car before entering a touchless car wash and ensure that all accessories are securely attached.

Can a touchless car wash remove stubborn dirt, like bird droppings or tree sap?

Touchless car washes may not always be as effective in removing stubborn dirt, such as bird droppings or tree sap, compared to a hand car wash. However, most touchless car washes use potent detergents, which can help break down and remove most dirt and grime. If you notice any stubborn residue after the wash, you may need to follow up with a hand wash or use a specialized cleaning product.

What should I do if my car has a matte or satin finish?

If your car has a matte or satin finish, it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for car washes and cleaning products. Touchless car washes may be suitable for some matte or satin finishes, but you should always confirm with your car’s manufacturer or refer to the owner’s manual. If you’re unsure, a hand car wash using appropriate products designed for matte or satin finishes is the safest option.

How can I maintain my car’s appearance after a touchless car wash?

To maintain your car’s appearance after a touchless car wash, consider applying a protective coating, such as wax or ceramic coating, to create a barrier against dirt and debris. Regularly inspect your car for any chips or scratches and address them promptly to prevent rust formation. Additionally, parking your car in a garage or under a car cover can help protect it from the elements and maintain its appearance.


In conclusion, a touchless car wash is a convenient and relatively safer option for those looking for a quick and efficient car cleaning method. However, if you prioritize the utmost care for your vehicle’s paintwork and don’t mind investing time and effort, a hand car wash remains the gold standard.

This article aimed to provide you with valuable information about touchless car washes and tips to ensure a safe and effective experience. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be able to make the most of your touchless car wash visits while minimizing potential risks to your vehicle.

Please feel free to refer back to this article whenever you need guidance on touchless car washes or want to refresh your memory on the best practices for maintaining your car’s appearance. Happy car washing!