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.
Finding The Right Car Wash Soap For Your Vehicle – Buying Guide
Going for a water-based soap, which is the most common car wash solution, involves using a foam cannon, a foam gun or the two bucket wash method.
To find the soap or shampoo that is the right one for your vehicle, there are a few things you would like to consider.
Lubricity And Foaming
An effective product should have a high lubricity and maximum foaming action in order to pull off dirt and other debris off the surface of your car and rinse clean.
Creating a super thick foam with a lot of suds and the right lubricity will make it easier for the bubbles of the soap to trap and get rid of dirt particles, minimizing the risk of scratches and preparing your vehicle for drying.
It will also allow your cleaning mitts to glide better on the surface and save you overall cleaning time.
Most of these foaming car wash soaps are pH neutral or they have a low pH, which helps prevent streaks, but it can also depend on how hard the water of your area is. Additionally, good lubricating foam soap formulas take into consideration the protection of your wax and paint sealant by promoting easy rinsing and therefore a quicker dry.
For really dirty vehicles, you will want to go for a formula that is powerful and effective. If you live in an area where bugs are a problem, you may want to consider using a bug wash as a pre-treatment step for those high acidic bug remains.
This requires leaving the wash on the vehicle for a couple of minutes in order to loosen the bug remains adequately.
Wax Or Conditioner?
In case you think we are talking about hair or beard products here, let us assure you that we are only talking about different versions of a car shampoo or detergent.
Wash and wax car soap or shampoo products usually contain all-natural carnauba wax which offers additional protection for your car paint in between car washes or wax applications. The wax does not clog the pores of the paint but allows it to breathe, making it a great solution for washing freshly painted cars or older vehicles.
There are also car wash & conditioner products that contain synthetic wax. These formulas give a nice shiny natural look to your car (similar to that of a carnauba wax wash) which lasts till the next wash. They rinse clean and can prevent the formation of streaks.
Everyday Car Wash Shampoo
For daily car washing as in the case of a show car or sensitive paint application, a gentle car wash is a great option. These specialized products contain gentle detergents that have a high lubricity to easily lift dirt, rinse clean without leaving any residue, and maintain your wax or sealant at optimum condition.
If you wash your vehicle many times a week, you may find this option suitable.
Glossy or Matte Effect?
Whether you want a super glossy effect or you want to maintain the matte look of the factory, there is a specialized product for your needs.
To enhance the glossy look of your vehicle, you can buy a car wash that contains synthetic gloss enhancers. These formulas do not use wax and bring out the gloss on any color, enhancing the shine of your car and making it look sleek and glossy. They are perfect for car shows or weekend rides.
However, if you have a matte car and you don’t want to make it look glossy by using a common car detergent, you will need to buy a matte paint car wash soap.
If you are conscious about environmental pollution and the effect of your buying choices on the environment, there are plenty of biodegradable eco-friendly car wash products to choose from.
Tire And Wheel Cleaner
This type of cleaning product is designed to do the heavy lifting and should not cause any damage to the wheels especially since a lot of people these days have custom wheels on their cars which are quite expensive.
If you are not particularly attracted by strong artificial fragrances or you are sensitive to them, you may want to go for a neutral or fresh scent such as a citrus fruit scent which most people find pleasant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does car wash soap kill grass?
While some soaps and detergents are known to harm plants and grass, car wash soap, even homemade soap, poses no danger to your lawn. If you are worried about homemade soap made with dish soap damaging the lawn, dilute the mixture until the viscosity is closer to that of water than soap.
What Is The Best Car Wash Soap For Black Paint Cars?
The challenge when washing black cars is to find a product that leaves a minimum amount of white streaks caused by the minerals contained in the water.
Here are some features you will need to look for in an effective car detergent for black vehicles:
- High lubricity so that the product goes on smooth and rinses fast without leaving any scratches.
- Good foaming action to trap and remove dirt and other contaminants easily.
- Contain wax or conditioners that will enhance the shine of the black color and offer some protection to the paint.
- You should avoid using a strong cleaner if you wash your vehicle many times a week but instead go for a gentle product.
For a completely spot-free rinse, Mr.clean auto dry car wash soap is a great solution that many users rave about. It includes a rinsing solution with filtered water which leaves the surface streak and spot-free.
This function removes the minerals that the water contains creating those white stains. It saves people car drying time and is very much appreciated by persons living in areas where the water is hard.
Is Vinegar Good For Washing Your Car?
There is surely a lot of controversy feeding this topic of conversation in DIY car detailing. Generally, vinegar is one of the best and most used DIY house cleaning ingredients. According to some scientific research, vinegar has anti-bacterial properties and can, therefore, be used as a disinfectant.
For people who love green cleaning and environmentally friendly solutions, vinegar is a top choice for home cleaning and has other uses as well, but how safe is it for car washing or cleaning car windows?
Some people claim that if white distilled vinegar is diluted with water, it works great to remove car water spots. Others are completely against using vinegar on any part of their car saying that it can harm the paint and the glass due to its acidic nature.
Unless you are advised by a trusted car detailer that vinegar is safe for your car, we would highly recommend against using vinegar to clean your vehicle.