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Are Touchless Car Washes Safe?

Are Touchless Car Washes Safe?

Touchless car washes are becoming increasingly more popular. Many people don’t enjoy cleaning their cars and instead hand over responsibility to someone else. But are they as safe and sanitary as they are made out to be?

Touchless car washes that are well-maintained and calibrated are safe for your vehicle. They tend to be the least damaging to the vehicle’s paint and do not come with the risk of whirls or scratches, as can be found in some brush-based car washes.

Maintaining a clean car with a good finish gives us a rewarding driving experience, and it also raises the resale value of your vehicle. However, most car owners worry about how safe touchless car washes are. In this article, I’ll highlight the safety level, benefits, and tips on maximizing the effectiveness of a touchless wash. 

What Are Touchless Car Washes, And How Do They Work?

As most of you are already aware, there’s more than one way to keep a car clean! Each type of car wash uses a different approach, each with its own varying levels of effectiveness.

A touchless car wash cleans your car using several high-pressure water jets and detergents. The only point of contact with your vehicle is between the detergents and water.

Touchless car washes use a mixture of cleaning solutions to make up for the absence of friction generated in contact-based cleaning. The high and low pH detergents used are capable of removing dirt.

  • When driving into a touchless car wash, a sensor guides you to an ideal washing position. An automatic robot then pours water on your vehicle to eliminate grime on the surface. 
  • Next comes the cleaning detergents, which are then rinsed away. Once this step is complete, unique treatments such as tire foam or liquid wax follow.
  • The touchless car wash uses blowers to apply hot, dry air and dry off the vehicle. In some places, the drying process is manual.

Benefits Of Using Touchless Car Washes Systems

One main advantage of a touchless car wash is the absence of contact between your car and other surfaces!

Other benefits of using them include:

  • Touchless car washes are cost-effective, as they typically charge less to clean your car!
  • Since there is no contact with surfaces, the paint and exterior finishing on your car remain untouched.
  • The cleaning process takes far less time than hand washes.
  • It’s perfect for maintenance clean-ups in between comprehensive washes.
  • It minimizes chances of damaging car parts that are loose such as antennas. 

Are Touchless Carwashes Bad for Your Paint?

Touchless washing systems are often considered safer for your paint, but there are some risks. For instance, some touchless car wash places are not well maintained, resulting in scratched paint or exterior damage. 

Here are a few other categories that you may want to take into consideration.

#1 High Water Pressure

Touchless car wash systems use water with more pressure compared to systems that use brushes.

This additional force can displace debris across the surface, leaving some scratches on the paint. Over time, this pressure can be abrasive on clear paint.

#2 Strong Chemicals

Most of the chemicals used to remove dirt are powerful detergents. No guarantee continued use will not affect your paint. 

Despite the rinsing procedure, some residues may remain. The acidic components can damage your paint with time.

#3 Stripping Protective Coating

Using touchless car wash systems regularly degrades or strips off the wax or ceramic coating on your car.

This minimizes the longevity and effectiveness of the protection on your paint.

#4 Treated Water

For the machine to work correctly, the water used undergoes conditioning. This softens the water by introducing some salts and eliminating some minerals.

The conditioned water can circulate the system faster, creating the high pressure that’s required. When the water gets reconditioned, the salt concentration builds up, leaving a coat of dry salt on your car’s paint.

Are Touchless Car Washes Safe for Convertibles?

There is some controversy over convertible tops that come into play when considering driving through a touchless war wash. 

  • A hardtop is firm and can handle strong waters, but water will blow away the cloth top if the pressure is too strong.
  • Soft tops are typically light and more delicate. Additionally, the fabric requires contact wash so that the friction and detergent can loosen the dirt particles. 

There’s one way to determine whether your convertible can withstand the pressure of a touchless wash…

Refer to the user manual or contact the manufacturer’s customer support!

How Effective Are Touchless Car Washes?

Faced with a decision between hand wash and touchless wash, your choice depends on some factors such as time and your preferences. 

A touchless wash may miss some hidden spots if your car is too dirty since the system is programmed to move systematically.

However, it offers more protection to your exterior paint coating.

Safety Considerations for Using a Touchless Car Wash

Here are a few safety considerations and tips to keep in mind when using a touchless car wash:

  • Remember to fully shut all doors are put all of your windows up.
  • Avoid visiting the touchless car wash if you have faulty doors or windows.
  • As you dry your car, move at a slow pace so that all sides are properly dried.
  • If your antenna is on the outside, remember to lower it.
  • Have a clean, dry cloth to remove extra moisture around the doors, especially in cold months.
  • Many car wash services are also attached to a gas station. If you purchase gas first, you may be able to get a discounted price on the car wash!
  • Find out what kind of soap the car wash place uses to clean vehicles. Some soaps can damage your car’s exterior coat.
  • Enquire from other customers who use the car wash about their experience with the car paint condition. If there is any reported damage, seek another alternative.
  • After the clean-up, you can ask for a wax coating on your car. It minimizes fading when your car gets exposed to UV rays and repels dirt particles.
  • Having a ceramic coat provides extra protection and helps to remove any dirt residue left after the wash. You can have this layer reapplied to get a mirror finish.


Proper car maintenance is essential, but it can be tedious sometimes. Besides giving your car a clean, shiny look, touchless car wash systems are both time and cost-effective.

It’s vital to consider the type of equipment used by the car wash facility, as poorly maintained systems can cause more harm than good. 

So, are touchless washes safe? Simply put, yes, they are safe. However, limit use, as they are best suited for maintenance washes.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!