Can I Wash My Car Without Drying It?

Finding the time to wash your car on even a semi-regular basis can be challenging. That’s why I like to use a quality wash product that makes the process easier, like Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax. 

But also having the time to dry it properly? 

That could be a ‘bridge too far’ for many.

But can you wash your car without drying it? 

We all know that you should dry a car after every time you wash, but can you wash your car without drying it and avoid any damage to your car’s paint or any other problems?

Let’s find out!

Why Dry Your Car After Washing?

If you’ve ever washed your car and let it “air dry” then you’ll probably know the answer to this question already.

Without proper drying, what happens is that the water spots/beads that are left on your car after the washing process leave unsightly residue on your paint finish.

When the water evaporates, minerals/compounds in the water are left behind (as they don’t evaporate) leaving a finish that often looks a bit like this:

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On dark paint finishes especially, these “water spots” (more correctly mineral deposits left behind after the water evaporates) can look worse than your paint job might have looked before you washed your car! 

Will ‘Failure To Dry” Damage Your Car?

This depends somewhat on where you live.

In some parts of the world, the water you use to clean your car will be relatively pure and any minerals or compounds dissolved in it (that would be left behind when the water evaporates) will only cause aesthetic issues.

However, there is a risk that the minerals in the water in your area might, over a sufficiently long time frame, cause damage to your car’s paintwork … or at the very least bake themselves onto your paintwork so well that it can be hard to remove.

Sometimes car detailing enthusiasts can get a bit carried away in terms of overestimating the risk from not doing everything “by the book”, but there is undoubtedly some potential risk to your paint that comes with allowing repeated depositing of minerals and compounds from evaporated water. 

Make Drying Your Car Part Of Your Washing Routine

As annoying as it is to do, you really should try to make drying your car part of the washing routine.

To make this easier on yourself, invest in a decent drying solution.

I use a jumbo, high-quality micro fibre towel like this:

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Here’s a link to a popular option available on Amazon.com

I’ve never found the old school chamois leather to be particularly effective for drying compared to micro fibre towels.

Get a big one … or even two so you can mop up most of the water with the first and then properly dry with the second. 

One product I wouldn’t recommend using is one of those silicone water scrapers/blades. These have a tendency to pick up dirt (especially if improperly stored or maintained) and then what can happen is that when you use the scraper any ingrained dirt or grit winds up scratching the heck out of your paintwork … not nice at all. 

I have seen some people recommend using something like a leaf blower – or even a hairdryer on an extension lead – to blow away most of the water and then dry using your cloth/towel of choice from there. Sounds like fun, but a quality drying cloth or towel (or ideally two) will do the trick just nicely. 

Controversial Opinion Alert

Feel free to troll me in the comments for saying this, but in my view it is still better to wash your car and not dry it, than to not wash your car at all.

Water spotting from the washing process is unsightly (and there can be a risk of damage in the longer term due to compounds in the water) but rolling around with a car caked in dirt and grime is almost certainly going to be worse, especially if you are dealing with things like bird dirt that can be even more damaging to your paint finish.

Don’t feel too guilty if from time to time you have to wash your car without having the time or wherewithal to properly dry it … there are far greater automotive sins you could be committing. 

Conclusion & Recap

If you’re wondering “can I wash my car without drying it?”, then the answer is that you can but you really shouldn’t.

If you wash your car without drying it, you’ll get that unsightly (and potentially damaging, at least in the long term) build up of minerals and compounds that were dissolved in the now-evaporated water. This leaves unpleasant looking ‘water spots’ on your paintwork.

If you’re short on time and need to clean your car quickly to remove something more damaging to your paint, like a heavy coat of mud or bird dirt etc, then don’t worry about washing your car and not drying it.

However, for routine washing you should definitely look to take the time and dry your car properly, making this part of your washing routine.

My recommendation would be to invest in a quality micro fibre towel/cloth for drying (or ideally even two of them). This will make the drying process much faster and easier. For a standard sized car, it probably shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to fully dry your car. 

Do you dry your car after you wash it? If so, what’s your hack/trick for faster and more efficient car drying? Leave a comment below – it would be great to hear from you. 

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