What Kind of Soap Should You Use to Wash a Car [5 Suggestions]

What Kind of Soap Should You Use to Wash a CarWhat kind of soap should you use to wash your car? Using the wrong cleaner can damage the paint job or removing protective wax. We've searched for the best car wash soaps on the market, and what we've found will help you get the most out of your next car bath. 

For best results, you should wash your vehicle with a soap that's been specifically formulated for cleaning and protecting cars, such as - 

  • Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash
  • Chemical Guy's Mr. Pink
  • Griot's Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash
  • Optimum No Rinse
  • Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Soaps and detergents are made for specific purposes. Even though your favorite liquid soap gets your hands clean, that doesn't mean it's the right choice for a mud-covered truck. You want something milder than household cleaners.

It seems counter-intuitive that the products we apply to our skin would be too harsh to use on something that is made out of steel. Yet, these soaps can do a serious number on paint and wax. 

Choosing a Soap for Washing Your Car

Car wash soap is formulated to remove pollutants from the surface such as dirt, mud, salt, road grime, and dead bugs. As we will discuss, some other soaps can give you the gloss you are after, but they don't deliver when it comes to protection. There are some important factors to consider when you are making your choice:

  • What is the pH level?
  • Does it produce enough foam?
  • Is it biodegradable?
  • Is it a 2-in-1 soap (does it contain shampoo and wax)?

You want the surface of your vehicle to remain pH-neutral, free of any acidic residue. And the foamier the soap, the better. That is what helps break up the dirt and other pollutants that threaten the appearance of your car. Some of this debris isn't visible, but if you don't remove it, you could end up with scratches and other damage. 

The quality of the soap you use won't matter much if you don't wash your car the right way. Start by rinsing off the surface to get rid of any debris that might leave scratches. Again, you want lots of suds to get rid of the dirt. When handwashing, make sure to move in straight lines, not circles. And use two buckets of water, one for the clean, soapy water, and the other to wash your chamois or mitt. 

What is a Good Substitute For Car Wash Soap?

As we discussed, car wash soap is always the best option. But, you can approximate it with a few everyday household items without jeopardizing the paint. The combination of laundry detergent, baking soda, and dishwashing liquid is the next best thing to car wash soap. Mix it with a bucket of warm water and start scrubbing. You'll get the luster you are after without doing any long term damage to the paint, sealant or wax. 

Can You Use Shampoo to Wash a Car?

While you shouldn't make a habit out of using hair shampoo on your car, it is an acceptable substitute. But, you need to remember a few tips to avoid damaging the finish. Make sure you rinse off the shampoo as quickly and thoroughly as possible to ensure you don't harm the paint. Also, you need to use plenty of water. Two tablespoons of shampoo in a bucket of warm water will give you the right mixture. 

Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap to Wash a Car? 

Dawn is an abrasive soap designed to scrub food and grease from pots and pans. It will remove dirt, mud, and even bird poop from your vehicle. Unfortunately, that's not all it can do. Dish soap can also take off wax and dry out rubber components, such as weatherstripping. But, if you want to remove an old layer of wax and achieve a dramatic shine, then you will be satisfied with the results. 

Now that you know car wash soap is the top choice for keeping your car looking brand new, you need to know which products will deliver the best results. The following soaps are effective, safe, and engineered for vehicles. When combined with the car washing best practices that we discussed earlier, you'll ensure your car sparkles, with no streaks or spots. But, there are some important differences to consider when choosing your car wash soap. 

Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash

Meguiar's is one of the oldest and most respected names in car wash soap. Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash is the equivalent of a high-end shampoo for your vehicle. It wipes out dirt and contaminants, protects the wax and leaves your car looking rejuvenated. It's almost like a spa day for your vehicle. You'll notice a profound difference in the shine. 

Click here to find this on Amazon.

Chemical Guy's Mr. Pink

Don't let the color fool you. While it may look dainty, Chemical Guy's Mr. Pink is a car washing powerhouse. Packing both a shampoo and conditioner, this car wash soap builds up a hearty foam in a hurry and rinses off easy. Mr. Pink is also versatile; you can use it on the wheels as well as the surface. 

Take a closer look at Mr. Pink on Amazon. 

Griot's Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash

Griot's Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash is a relatively new product. In that time, it has become the go-to car wash soap for car owners who do their homework. The superior lubricating quality of the suds removes debris and leaves no streaks. And, it's also biodegradable, which is an essential consideration for environmentally conscious consumers. 

You can find out more about this product on Amazon.

Optimum No Rinse

Optimum No Rinse is well-regarded by car owners who are serious about detailing. ONR, as it is known to its fans, is a hassle-free alternative that saves time and conserves water. One of the features that makes this car wash soap a standout is a unique polymer adheres to the paint to prevent scratches and scuffs during washing. This product is highly recommended for new vehicles. 

Click here to find it on Amazon.

Mothers 0574 California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Even the grimiest car can achieve that freshly waxed look with Mothers 0574 California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax. The suds can take care of the toughest contaminants mother nature can devise. California Gold is pH balanced, which means you won't dull your paint. This is important because while a heavier pH soap is effective at removing contaminants, it can also be too harsh. 

You can find out more at Amazon. 

Chemical Guy's Citrus Wash & Gloss

Chemical Guys make a second appearance on our list of top car wash soaps with their Citrus Wash & Gloss. The name comes from the citrus base that gives the product its pleasant natural smell and one of a kind ability to seek and destroy stubborn contaminants. You'll experience a deeper shine from any paint color. As you might expect, Citrus Wash & Gloss contains no harmful additives and is earth-friendly. 

Click to find out more at Amazon.  

Adam's Car Wash Shampoo

Adam's Car Wash Shampoo is a highly concentrated product that more than delivers on the lather. It is also gentle enough to use on rubber and plastic components that other soaps can dry out and crack. The fresh fragrance of berries won't offend your nose with that harsh chemical smell you find in some car wash soaps. 

You can click here to find this product on Amazon. 

Rain-X High Foaming Wash & Wax

Rain-X is one of the most popular brands in the car soap industry for a good reason. The High Foaming Wash & Wax delivers 2-in-1 protection in a single application. The suds go deep to remove dirt, grime, and other pollutants while the carnauba wax guards against the everyday hazards that can spoil your car's finish. This is an ideal choice if you are too busy to devote as much time as you would like to wash your car but still care about how it looks. 

Click here to find out more at Amazon. 

Armor All Ultra Shine Wash and Wax

Armor is another household name in car wash soap. All Ultra Shine Wash and Wax is a one application product that more than lives up to the company's reputation. The blend of carnauba wax, cleaners, and lubricants will produce a luster to impress even the most demanding car wash purists. Water beading is enhanced, which is a significant selling point for hobbyists. 

Click here for more details at Amazon.

Ultima Waterless Wash Plus +

Looking for a waterless option? Ultima Waterless Wash Plus + creates a barrier that keeps destructive microorganisms at bay. It is safe to use on any painted surface. In addition to conserving water, Ultima is biodegradable and contains no harmful ingredients. The demand for "green" car wash soaps is growing, and Ultima is on the leading edge. 

Learn more about this product at Amazon here. 

Washing your car isn't a simple matter of applying soap and rinsing it off. The proper techniques and tools, such as car washing soap, are crucial to success. Not only will you take more pride in your ride, but you'll also preserve its resale value. All of the soaps we've talked about should give you the shine and protection you want. 

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