If you are like most car owners, you have considered the benefits of taking your car to the car wash over washing it yourself. A car wash has access to professional grade cleaning agents that are designed to dissolve and remove even the most stubborn road grime, but they can also remove most of the cash from your wallet.
Washing your car yourself is more cost-effective, but without car wash soap, the level of clean you can achieve will be far from professional.
Homemade Car Wash with Dish Soap
Car owners have been concocting homemade cleaning agents for years. Some are at least mildly effective at removing automotive dirt and dust, but few have the cleaning power of car care products explicitly designed to dissolve road grime and dirt deposits.
However, if you are as thrifty as you are determined to save a buck, it is entirely possible to assemble a homemade detergent with dish soap and a few other products that are probably already sitting under your sink.
How to Make Homemade Car Wash Soap
Before you get started with your automotive alchemy, you need to gather your materials. To make a homemade solution, you need:
- Liquid dish detergent
- Bucket of warm water
- 12 tablespoons of powdered laundry detergent to prevent streaking
Mix all of these components in the bucket and give it a good stir. The resulting mixture of dish soap, water, and powdered laundry detergent will work well on most cars.
Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?
Yes, but you shouldn’t. Dish soap contains bleaches and ammonia which can break down the waxes and sealants used to protect your car’s finish. Repeated use can break down the protective layers of your finish and expose the water-based paint job to the elements, including damaging ultraviolet rays.
While home-remedies can work in a pinch, you should always turn to the most trusted and best car wash soap on the market that is specially designed to clean your car the way it’s meant to be cleaned.
How-to Guide to Pressure Washing Your Car
Can you use car wash soap in a pressure washer? Yes, you certainly can.
For the bigger automotive car wash jobs, a pressure washer may be the only way to remove those stubborn grime deposits. But water alone, even water at high pressure, isn’t enough to remove the worst automotive stains.
Though you can get away with using car wash soap in a pressure washer, car wash soap designed explicitly for use in a pressure washer runs zero risks of damaging the pressure washer. Pressure washer specific soap is available at most automotive supply stores. A proper foam gun can also make life easier.
Before you head out in search of a pressure washer, you should determine 1) whether a pressure washer is needed, and 2) if using a pressure washer on your car will damage the finish.
It’s a common belief that a pressure washer will damage the finish of your car. It is indeed possible to damage your finish if you allow the nozzle to come in contact with the paint or hover on one area for an extended period. By avoiding these simple mistakes, a pressure washer can be a highly useful tool to wash your car at home.
Select Your Pressure Washer- Not all pressure washers are created equal; some are designed for industrial work while others are intended for household use. Unless you are cleaning a Sherman Tank, a household pressure washer will work splendidly on your car.
Select Your Pressure Washer Soap- The same rule applies to your pressure washer soap. Purchasing a car wash soap designed for use in a pressure washer is the best option; however, a regular soap will suffice.
Attach Garden Hose to Pressure Washer- This is the easiest step but also very important. You’ll know if you get it wrong when no water comes out of your pressure washer.
Fill the Detergent Tank With Your Soap Of Choice- This step may seem simple too, but if you pour the detergent in the gas tank your pressure washer isn’t going to work. Be sure to read the instructions and pour the car wash pressure washer detergent in the correct tank.
Ensure You are Using a Nozzle Designed For Automotive Use- This step cannot be stressed enough. Even when using the lowest setting on a power washer can damage your finish if you are not using a nozzle designed for automotive use.
Hold Wand 3 Feet Away From Car Surface- Once you have started your pressure washer and the pressure has built to a sustainable level, it’s time to get started. Aim the pressure washer wand at the surface of the car and carefully pull the trigger, being sure the always keep the end of the nozzle at least 3 feet from your car’s finish.
Use the wand to remove bugs, dirt, dust, and grime- Some pressure washers come with a brush attachment. Your tires are the perfect place for that tool. Your wheels are the only part of the car where you can get close to the surface without damaging the vehicle. For the more stubborn wheel grime and dirt, a tire cleaner – post pressure washing – may the solution.
Move from the Bottom Up- The pressure washer will be more effective than moving from top to bottom as the debris will not be allowed a chance to streak over the already clean finish.
Avoid Decals, Delicate Areas and Stickers- When pressure washing your vehicle be sure to avoid areas with decals and stickers. That is – unless you would like them removed. We advise that you proceed with extra caution when washing antique and collectors vehicles.
Leave the Soap on for 5 Minutes- Let the soap sink into your car’s finish, occasionally spraying your car with water to keep it from drying. We recommend washing your car in the shade of a tree or awning to prevent the sun from drying your car rapidly and evaporating all of the water, leaving soap residue behind.
Rinse-Off Soap- Remove the soap by using the hose to rinse down your car, being sure to remove all traces of the soap.
10 Best Car Wash Soaps
Now that you know how to properly clean your car, with or without a pressure washer, it’s time to determine which products are the top car wash soaps you can purchase.
To be considered one of our 10 best car wash soap products, the soap needs to work effectively on all car surfaces, fight grease and grime, dissolve dirt deposits, and be affordable on any budget.