How To Shine a Car Without Wax (5 Methods)

Even though cars get exposed to a lot of grime and dirt every day, we love to see them squeaky clean and shiny. We usually do that using car wax, but there are a lot of alternatives you can use.

Shining a car

Here is how you can shine your car without using car wax:

  1. Wash your car with a hair conditioner containing lanolin.
  2. Clean car headlights using window cleaner or toothpaste.
  3. Use a kerosene-water mixture to clean the car.
  4. Cover your car with ceramic coating.
  5. Install a paint protection film.

This article will tackle different methods for shining cars without car wax. Some can be cheap but temporary, while others are a bit expensive but more durable. Keep reading to discover these tips.

1. Wash Your Car With a Hair Conditioner Containing Lanolin

Washing car with conditioner

Suppose one day you just decided you want to clean and shine your car, but you’ve run out of wax.

Should you make a quick trip with your dirty vehicle to buy wax? Well, not if you already have a hair conditioner with lanolin at home.

What Is Lanolin?

Lanolin, aka wool grease or wax, is the byproduct of wool production. It has waterproofing ability and is used in many applications, such as hair conditioners. This ability makes conditioner a great alternative for car wax because your car needs to repel water to avoid rusting.

Some common hair conditioner brands with lanolin are TRESemmé, Dax, and Mane ‘N Tail. You can also check the back of your hair conditioner and see if lanolin is listed as a product.

How To Use Conditioner as a Car Wax Alternative

  1. Clean your car using soap and water.
  2. Mix two cups (473.17 ml) of water with ½ cup (118.29 ml) of hair conditioner in a bucket.
  3. Use a clean towel (preferably microfiber) to apply the mixture to your car.
  4. Rinse your vehicle with clean water.
  5. Dry with a towel (microfiber).

It is highly recommended to use microfiber towels when cleaning your car. The microfibers allow the towel to get more dirt and grime than regular towels. Moreover, it is non-abrasive and more absorbent.

Conditioner vs. Car Wax

Conditioners may be cheaper than car wax, especially if it’s the conditioner you use at home (2-in-1 purpose). However, car wax is durable and is applied less often than conditioner.

Moreover, car wax is specially formulated for cars and may be more effective and safer than conditioner. Although there is no concrete evidence of conditioners damaging cars, it is better to err on the safe side.

Thus, although hair conditioner works as a great, quick fix, it should not be a complete substitute for car wax.

2. Clean Car Headlights Using Window Cleaner or Toothpaste

Cleaning the headlights

If your car headlights look a bit dull and keep your car from getting a full shine, there are DIY alternatives to get it clean and glossy. Specifically, you can use window cleaner or toothpaste.

How To Use Window Cleaner To Clean Car Headlights

  1. Spray window cleaner onto the headlights.
  2. Wipe or rub lights with a towel or old pantyhose.

Although you may be tempted to use window cleaner for your windshield (it’s still glass, right, like a window?), it’s actually not advisable. Window cleaners can leave streaks, cause fogging, or damage windshield tint.

However, you can use window cleaner as a temporary alternative and not a complete substitute for cleaning your headlights. Only use it sparingly to avoid potential damage.

How To Use Toothpaste To Keep Car Headlights Shiny

  1. Put a sufficient amount of toothpaste on a microfiber cloth.
  2. Apply over the car headlights until foamy.
  3. Rinse with clean water.
  4. Dry the headlights using cloth.

Toothpaste can also be used on other parts of your car. However, that may consume a lot of toothpaste.

3. Use a Kerosene-Water Mixture To Clean the Car

Cleaning the car with kerosene and water

This may sound like odd advice, but many car and service owners swear by it. They say a kerosene and water mixture is a great stain remover. It is also a way to prevent rust as kerosene leaves an oily finish that repels water.

However, it’s pretty understandable why you would have doubts about it – kerosene, after all, is flammable. Although when using it with your car, you won’t douse it with kerosene. Instead, you’ll dilute the kerosene (a lot) with water.

How To Use Kerosene To Clean Car

  1. Mix 1 cup (236.58 ml) kerosene with 3 gallons (11.35 L) of water.
  2. Apply the mixture to your car using a sponge.

There is no need to rinse or wax afterward.

Kerosene vs. Car Wax

Although many old car owners swear by this trick, we advise that you use this as a last option. Aside from kerosene not being something you’d want to use lightly around your car, it can also cause some damage to it.

Kerosene can damage wax, clear coat, and car paint, especially if used repeatedly. Although it may be acceptable to use before on older models, newer models have more delicate paint, which may be more susceptible to damage by kerosene.

4. Cover Your Car With Ceramic Coating

Man leaning on car

There are differing opinions on how frequently cars should be waxed. Some say every three months is good, while others recommend twice a year. However, you won’t have wax often if you opt to use a ceramic coating.

What Is Ceramic Coating?

Ceramic coating, aka nano-ceramic coating, is regarded as a great and durable wax alternative.

Ceramic coating is a polymer that binds with the car’s paint. This renders additional protection against natural elements, similar to the purpose of car wax. However, ceramic coating bonds are stronger, so reapplication is less frequent.

What Are the Benefits of Ceramic Coating?

Using a ceramic coating on your car certainly offers more advantages than the usual wax.

The benefits of ceramic coating include durability, additional protection, an easier cleaning process, and extra shine. Ceramic coating can last for two to three years. It repels water, which makes cleaning easier. It also improves your car paint’s reflection, making it appear shinier.

Long-Lasting Protection From External Elements

The ceramic coating protects your vehicle from ultraviolet (UV) rays, chemical stains, and etching. These external elements can damage your car’s paint, causing it to fade or have scratches.

Depending on the brand, the coat can last for two to three years. It may even last longer if you opt for professional service with a warranty.

Cleaning Your Car Is Easier

A significant challenge when cleaning your car is the dirt that gets stuck to it. But with a ceramic coating, there is a layer between your vehicle and the grime. This keeps the grime from staining or clinging to your car.

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Moreover, ceramic coating is hydrophobic. Water, which carries the dirt while you clean, slides off better and faster across this coating, making washing easier.

Also, a hydrophobic coating is suitable for your car as it prevents water from sitting on your vehicle, causing rust.

Additional Shine for Your Car

Ceramic coating also adds gloss or shine to your car. The coating enhances your car’s reflective properties, making it appear shinier. This helps keep it great looking for longer than a car wax would. Therefore, while it may be more expensive up front, it could end up saving you money in the long run.

How To Cover Car With Ceramic Coating

If you opt to have a ceramic coating for your car, there are two ways to proceed. First, you can opt for a professional service, which is less prone to damage and may come with a warranty but will be more expensive.

Or, you can do it yourself:

  1. Wash your car and remove all grime, stain, and dirt.
  2. Remove contaminants using clay bars or chemicals.
  3. Polish your car.
  4. Wipe your car with isopropyl alcohol to remove oils and other leftover contaminants.
  5. Do paint correction.
  6. Wipe with isopropyl alcohol again.
  7. Apply the ceramic coating.
  8. Allow the coat to cure in a cool and dry area, away from moisture and dirt.

Although you can DIY your car’s ceramic coating, it may be best to have a professional do it if you are not confident with your abilities. Because of the coating’s remarkable durability, any mistakes you make would last as long as the coating.

Ceramic Coating vs. Car Wax

Undoubtedly, the ceramic coating offers more benefits and durability than a standard car wax. It lasts longer, makes washing effortless, and gives added protection and sheen.

However, it is more expensive, and its application process may be more complicated if your car has a lot of paint damage or is bigger.

But, if you are up for the costs, you may see ceramic coating as a good investment that will maintain your car and its value for longer than you’d expect.

5. Install a Paint Protection Film

Applying protection film on car

Another durable or long-lasting car wax alternative is paint protection film (PPF), also known as a clear bra or clear paint film. It provides superior protection than other products, including ceramic coating. However, it is much more expensive and is difficult, if not impossible, to DIY at home.

Usually, high-end or luxury car owners have a PPF installed for their car to protect it from damage, especially since their paint is quite delicate.

What Is a Paint Protection Film?

Paint protection film is made of urethane and is used to cover external surfaces of cars. The film protects against damage from debris, rocks, washing, chemicals, contaminants, mineral deposits, and UV rays. It can self-heal during abrasion or indentation.

The primary purpose of a PPF is to preserve the car’s quality.

Combination of Ceramic Coating and Paint Protection Film

PPF may sound similar to ceramic coating. However, it is different and offers extended protection. For instance, the ceramic coating does not have high impact resistance.

Additionally, ceramic coating does not have self-healing abilities. PPF is also less hydrophobic than ceramic coating.

Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds because you can actually have both applied to your vehicle.

If you opt for that combination, PPF would be installed first before your ceramic coating.

Do You Need Professionals When Installing a Paint Protection Film?

You would need a professional to install your car’s paint protection film. This ensures quality and avoids damages caused by incorrect application, such as yellowing or blistering. Professional service also comes with a warranty, which helps protect your car through the years.

When installing a PPF, several variables must be controlled, like the air, moisture, dust, etc. Thus, the environment must be suitable, if not perfect, for such an undertaking.

A suitable environment would be challenging to achieve in your garage without ample space, proper equipment, or tools. Moreover, curing takes time, and it must be done in a controlled setup.

Also, there is special equipment or tools needed for installing a PPF. For instance, PPF must be pre-cut using computer software, which you are unlikely to have. You can also hand draw it, but to do so, you’d need extensive experience and knowledge.

Paint Protection Film vs. Car Wax

PPF offers more advantages than a simple car wax ever could. The level of protection that the film gives is superior, especially when combined with a ceramic coating.

However, it is a lot more expensive than car wax, especially since you cannot DIY it. It also takes longer, as a PPF may take a week to install.

However, if you believe that your car’s value should be preserved, this is the best option.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your car shining like a diamond is not easy, but you can do so, even without car wax. Car wax alternatives can be simple and cheap, like hair conditioner, toothpaste, and window cleaner.

First published on Sep 18, 2022 by

Some tips can be odd, like the kerosene-water mixture. Other options can be complex and expensive, like ceramic coating and paint protection film. These choices have their benefits and disadvantages, which you’ll have to weigh out.

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