When I was called up by the PR agency and invited to try out the Waterless Detailers, I was puzzled and sceptical. Puzzled because I'd been only dimly aware that "detailing" is American English for what we call valeting or cleaning a car. Sceptical because of that adjective. Clean a car without water? Odd.
Except that it works. And, given all those hosepipe bans and water rationing we're going to be subjected to, it may be the only way we'll have to make our transport presentable during the long, hot, sweltering summer ahead.
How it works is this. You ring the detailers, make an appointment and they come round in their van. Then they get to work, with a commendable attention to detail. The six-year-old Renault Clio that was the test car for their efforts had its fair share of scuffs and muck, but I was determined to make things difficult so I got up one morning and emptied a bucket of compost on the car. The neighbours thought I'd finally lost it; the postman asked what sadistic bastard had done that and someone called the cops. That's a "respect" society.
Having restored civil calm and been threatened with an Asbo, I left the detailers to crack on with returning the Clio to showroom condition. It wasn't quite a perfect job, as the black plastic trim was a little bit too far gone to look like new and I noticed that not all the rubber seals had been cleaned. But it seems very ungrateful to criticise when one of the tools of the waterless detailers' trade is a toothbrush, which they use to get into window frames and other places you didn't even know existed on your car. By the way, so waterless are the Waterless Detailers that if it's raining they'll erect a little tent round your car before they go about their business.
The secret of their success is a bottle of oily compounds that remove old polish and gunk and lifts the paintwork. The treatment will even go a little way to eradicating those grazes that the brushes on automatic car washes leave behind. Why people take their machines to such places I will never understand.
It's not cheap. An inside-and-out job on a Clio-sized car costs about £60, a Mondeo, £80. Ideally you should have your car treated every six weeks, depending on the sort of life it leads, and, of course, how vain you are. The question is, how filthy do you want to be?