Is Optimum No Rinse really the Swiss Army knife of the detailing world?
Optimum No Rinse (or ONR for short) is the pioneer of rinseless washing. Before ONR, we had no choice but to break out the hoses and buckets every time we wanted to wash a car. Thankfully, Optimum has changed the industry. Read on to see why I love this stuff, as well as 7 alternate Optimum No Rinse uses.
About Optimum No Rinse:
Optimum No Rinse is one of the few products that I don’t think I could live without. It truly is the Swiss Army knife of detailing. Aside from being the best rinseless wash product in my opinion, there’s also a bunch of additional Optimum No Rinses uses that you may not have heard of. Even when doing a traditional wash, I almost always grab a bottle of ONR for some aspect of the job.
There are 2 reasons why I trust Optimum No Rinse not to scratch my paint:
1. Dr. David Ghodoussi is the founder of Optimum Polymer Technologies. Yes, you read that right – he has a Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in Polymer and Organic Chemistry. He worked for over 12 years as an Organic Chemist overseeing research and development focused in polymers and automotive paint formulations.
2. I’ve been using it for years now and as a paint correction specialist, I know a swirl mark when I see one. I’ve spent hours polishing the paint on my vehicles and any new flaws would be instantly noticeable. It should be noted that 2 of my 3 vehicles have been ceramic coated during some (but not all) of this time.
The Best Way To Use Optimum No Rinse:
I prefer to use the Garry Dean Wash Method when it comes to rinseless washing because I feel it provides the least amount of risk in terms of swirl marks, scratches, and marring.
You can read more about this procedure along with the differences between rinseless washes and waterless washes here:
The biggest differences between the Garry Dean Wash Method and what Optimum recommends on the bottle are: a) the use of a pre-rinse and b) replacing the sponge with multiple microfiber towels. I feel that both of these changes will help to reduce the risk of swirl marks greatly. Any contaminants you may have picked up on your towel won’t have a chance to scratch your car because they aren’t being reintroduced into your wash bucket. This is huge!
Dilution ratio and towels:
Optimum recommends using 1 oz of ONR for 2 gallons of water. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be an exact science. Some people feel the need to carefully measure everything but you don’t need to get crazy. Here’s a tip that I’m sure you’ll find helpful in getting your mixture right every time – the cap on the ONR bottle is 1/2 an ounce. That means 2 gallons of water will require 2 capfuls of product. Simple!
I use a 32 oz spray bottle with the same dilution (or stronger) for the pre-rinse. As for towels, I just use some decent quality generic ones for washing (those Costco towels your Grandma bought you will work just fine). My current towel of choice for drying is the Creature Edgeless from The Rag Company. I prefer a soft, fluffy towel for drying since there’s a bit less lubrication during that stage.
I work my way around the vehicle by washing one panel at a time. Spray the pre-rinse on the entire panel, then wash from top to bottom. Keep an eye to make sure the towel isn’t getting too dirty (if it is, fold it over to a clean side).
Now, instead of rinsing the soap off like a traditional wash, you can simply take your drying towel and dry off the panel. Be careful not to let your drying towel swing over to the dirty panel adjacent to the one you’re working on.
Voila! You have a clean and dry panel. In good weather, I can usually wash an SUV with this method in 30-45 minutes. That makes rinseless washing a big time saver especially if you factor in not having to set up a hose or pressure washer.
Optimum No Rinse leaves a clean, streak-free finish. It smells good when you’re using it too! One of the biggest benefits to ONR is the fact that you can use it in whatever weather you’re willing to work in. I’ve used it both in direct sunlight in the heat of summer and in sub-freezing temperatures in winter. As a matter of fact, it’s ALL I use in the winter.
You don’t have to worry about the product drying on the surface when using it in direct sunlight. If this happens, just spray your pre-rinse on the panel again and it will reactivate so you can wipe up any remaining residue. Try doing that with a traditional car soap! You can even use your remaining pre-rinse as a detail spray after drying to clean up any streaks or smudges you may have missed. ONR is essentially foolproof to use.
Optimum No Rinse is also a fantastic solution for washing motorcycles and vintage cars that you may not want to spray with a hose. Water tends to find its way into all of the nooks and crannies when you spray these vehicles and that can make getting them completely dry a pain. Many older classic cars will have worn out seals in the doors, windows, sunroof and even the trim. By using ONR you’re avoiding any use of pressurized water so drying the vehicle off is no longer a problem.
Washing your vehicle in the winter can be difficult or even downright impossible. Rinseless washing is the perfect solution to this problem. The main issue with winter washing revolves around the hose itself. It’s usually frozen; and even if it’s not, you don’t want to spray it inside your garage or soak your driveway with standing water (that’s a great way to end up with a skating rink when the temperature drops!).
By using ONR, we completely bypass that step. Believe it or not, I wash my 4runner outside on my driveway all winter long. I wouldn’t suggest doing it in the extreme cold, but for mild winter days it works great.
Using ONR in the winter time does require some common sense though. It’s likely that your vehicle will be covered in road salt and other grime so I don’t recommend going straight to wiping the dry surface. Instead, I add an additional step for safety in the winter and it’s so simple that anyone can do it whether you live in a house or apartment: Power wash it first at your local coin-op car wash!
Just use the rinse water without their soap and never EVER use their brushes! All we need to do here is rinse off the grime before we do our rinseless wash. This adds the safety of a traditional wash and keeps all of the benefits of a rinseless wash!
I also like to spray the vehicle down with a stronger all-purpose cleaner first to help break down the dirt and grime. This procedure should also be used when you’re dealing with an extra dirty vehicle. Common sense is the most important part of rinseless washing. If you have any doubts about whether it’s too dirty or not, don’t take the chance – just rinse it off first.
Can You Use Optimum No Rinse On Ceramic Coated Vehicles?
Many ceramic coating manufacturers will tell you not to use anything other than their coating-specific soaps to wash your car. That’s not necessarily your only option. There’s a common misunderstanding that regular soaps, waxes, and sealants will harm your coating. But that’s not what’s happening at all!
Think of how strong your coating is (isn’t that the whole reason for making that expensive investment in the first place?!) In most cases it’s a hard, ceramic layer that prevents against UV rays, chemicals and even wash marring. So how could a little spray wax damage your coating?
Quite simply, it won’t. What it will do however, is cover up your coating’s fancy hydrophobic properties (water beading) with its own. So it will appear as though the coating is gone and you’re back to bare paint with wax on it, but in reality, the coating is still completely fine – it’s just underneath the wax!
Although waxes and gloss enhancers won’t actually harm a ceramic coating, we still don’t necessarily want to use them. You paid good money to have that coating installed and you don’t want to cover it up with an inferior product.
So the question still stands. Is Optimum No Rinse safe for coated vehicles? In my experience, yes, it is. I’ve been testing it on 3 different coated vehicles for close to a year now and have not seen any difference in the performance of the coating.
The reason being that although ONR does include gloss enhancers, they’re rather minute in reality. I think they’ll likely burn off after only a few hours of sitting in the sun. I wouldn’t recommend using it unless I’ve done so myself, and I can confidently say that it’s been perfectly fine on the 3 Gtechniq coated vehicles I’ve been keeping an eye on.
While Optimum No Rinse isn’t a particularly expensive product to begin with, you’ll see that one bottle will last you a very long time because you’re diluting it. Some quick math: at 1 oz per use, a 32 oz bottle will last you 32 washes… and although Optimum recommends using 2 gallons of water, in my experience you can easily get away with 1 gallon for most vehicles. That bumps it up to 64 washes per bottle.
That’s not even factoring in the many alternative Optimum No Rinse uses. This product can replace quite a few others if you want it to. It would be an interesting experiment to see if you can take care of a car completely with nothing more than ONR. I think it could be done. Here’s a list of some awesome alternative Optimum No Rinse uses:
Alternative Optimum No Rinse Uses:
Quick Detailer: Dilute to 8 oz per 1 gallon and use for touch ups. This also works great for quickly cleaning door jams and fender wells.
Clay Lube: Dilute to 2 oz per 1 gallon and this will replace your typical clay bar lubricant.
Window Cleaner: ONR is surprisingly a fantastic window cleaner. For mildly dirty windows, just use your pre-rinse mix. You can step up to the quick detailer dilution of 8 oz per gallon if you need to. If you’re having a hard time getting rid of streaks, add more water to the mix.
Mild Interior Cleaner: ONR is totally safe to use on your interior. It’s great for wiping dusty panels and cleaning mildly dirty leather. It leaves behind a clean, natural finish. Use your pre-rinse or quick detailer mix depending on the level of dirt.
Drying Aid: I like to use ONR as a drying aid on ceramic coated vehicles. I also like to use 1 or 2 sprays on my wheels before drying them. It makes it easier to get them streak free and won’t affect satin or matte finishes.
Boost Regular Car Soap: Even when doing a traditional wash, you can add an ounce to your regular soap water. It will soften the water and add lubrication to your regular soap which makes it safer on soft paints.
Clean A Lightly Dusty Engine Bay: As long as you stay on top of cleaning your engine bay rather than let it get really dirty, you can actually use ONR for a quick touch up. It works great to wipe the dust off the plastic that modern engines are commonly covered with, and it’s totally safe on any surface it may come in contact with in there. If your engine is dirty, you’ll want to step up to proper cleaners though.
In conclusion, as long as you’re open to rinseless washing I honestly believe Optimum No Rinse is the best product out there. It can be hard to wrap your mind around the process if you’ve used regular car soap your whole life, but it’s worth making the switch. You save time, money, and even the environment.
Many neighborhoods will ban the use of your hose in order to conserve water. ONR allows you to wash your car legally in spite of that. I don’t think there’s any other detailing product out there that has opened up as many possibilities for me as Optimum No Rinse. Even if you’re not completely sold on the idea of rinseless washing, the multiple alternative uses along with the overall low cost make it worth trying out.
- Being dilutable makes it very cost effective
- Extremely versatile
- Safe for ceramic coatings
- Nice scent
- Foolproof to use
- Saves time
- Environmentally safe
- Perfect for winter or condo/apartment washing
- Safe to use in direct sunlight
- Great for vintage cars and motorcycles
- Safer than any waterless wash
- Softens water
- Not always 100% safe to use as directed in some cases
- Cleaning ability is a little weak for some dirtier jobs
- Users that are dead set on traditional washes may have a hard time getting used to it
Are you as much of a fan of ONR as I am? Tag me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or leave a comment below with your favorite way to use it!
eryckSeptember 28, 2021 at 1:01 pm
do you recommend using regular or distilled water?
rodney waligoraOctober 10, 2020 at 12:19 am
Is ONR safe to use on Acrylic Lacquer refinished paint? Definitely looking to avoid the water hose down on my classic old cars sprayed in Lacquer.
Canadian GearheadOctober 10, 2020 at 11:48 am
It’s probably a good idea to test in an inconspicuous area to be safe, but you should be fine.