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The 10 Best Car Wash Soaps

Best Car Wash Soap

When washing your car by hand, achieve the best results by using the best car wash soap or shampoo you can get.

Automated car washes can’t always give your car the thorough washing it needs. If you’re someone who believes in the old proverb “if you want something done right, do it yourself” and don’t mind getting your hands wet, then keep reading.

This review catalog and buying guide will help you find the best car shampoo for cleaning your ride like a pro. Here’s a quick rundown of our top 5.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

The Best Car Wash Soap Products

When it comes to cleaning your car and keeping its paint in tiptop shape, you’ll need more than just a quality car wash soap. Car detailers often recommend using a quality car wax, paint sealant, and/or ceramic coating after a wash.

Every criteria we used to select each soap is discussed in the buying guide below.

1. Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo

There is a reason why Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo is one of the most expensive car shampoos on the market — it’s a high premium product that delivers high premium results.

This top-rate car wash shampoo uses a blend of advanced cleaners and polymers to create a rich head of foam when washing your car, and the fact that it’s highly concentrated means you only need a few drops in a bucket of water to get the job done.

Thick, luxurious suds aside, the formula is pH balanced, meaning it cleans without stripping away existing car waxes or sealants and is gentle enough to work on all types of material.

You don’t have to worry about it damaging the plastic and other trim components of your car’s exterior.

Finally, it’s biodegradable and eco-friendly and leaves a pleasant wild berry scent that, according to Adam’s, will make you want to drink the bottle. We obviously don’t recommend you drink any car wash soap.

Things We Like

  • Ultra-premium car shampoo
  • Thick lather and suds
  • pH balanced
  • Eco-friendly
  • Smells nice

What We Don’t Like

  • Expensive

Summary

Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo is an excellent car wash soap, delivering a level of performance that more than justifies its high price. CHECK LATEST PRICE.

2. Meguiar’s G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash

Meguiar’s is a powerhouse brand in the world of car care, so it’s no surprise that it makes some of the best car wash soap products. 

The very popular Gold Class Car Wash is arguably Meguiar’s best car shampoo. It is both a cleaner and an ultra-rich conditioner that not only cleans and conditions your car’s exterior without stripping away its protective wax job, but also adds an extra layer of protection.

This is one of the “soapiest” car wash soaps on the market, so expect its incredible foaming action to effectively root out any dirt or grime from your car’s exterior.

Moreover, the balanced pH of Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash means you never have to worry about it stripping off your wax job. You will certainly appreciate just how smooth it is to apply and how easily it glides on and off your car.

No residue is left behind after rinsing, and the smell is fairly pleasant.

Things We Like

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Powerful cleaner
  • pH balanced
  • Very “sudsy”
  • Pleasant smell

What We Don’t Like

  • A little pricey

Summary

Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash is a high-quality, multi-purpose shampoo that will boost the shine of your car better than most other car shampoos. CHECK LATEST PRICE

3. Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Whether you’re a beginner, a car enthusiast, or a professional detailer, Mother’s 05674 California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax is an easy-to-use yet effective solution that will save you a lot of time when washing your car. 

This car shampoo contains a carnauba wax blend that delivers the same glossy results as some full-fledged car wax products, meaning you probably won’t need to go through the trouble of buying and applying additional wax.

Even though the solution is not as sudsy as some other car wash soaps, it does a great job at removing the toughest dirt, grime, and stains without leaving behind unsightly streaks, swirls, or water spots.

The fact that it’s pH neutral and completely composed of biodegradable components also means it will not harm you, the environment, or any material on your car’s exterior.

Mother’s 05674 California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax is the most concentrated car shampoo on our list, so a bottle can last you many washes.

Things We Like

  • Shampoo and wax in one
  • Highly concentrated
  • pH balanced
  • Eco-friendly
  • Cost-efficient

What We Don’t Like

  • Not very sudsy

Summary

Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax cleans all dirt off your car’s body and simultaneously protects it with a waxy finish. CHECK LATEST PRICE

4. Chemical Guys CWS_301 Citrus Wash And Gloss Concentrated

Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss Concentrated is one of the most popular and highly-regarded car shampoos, not least because its citrus-based formula is environmentally friendly, delivers an amazing shine, and has a very nice smell.

It produces a foamy consistency that effectively lifts grime and dirt from your car’s surface, allowing them to be easily washed away. The solution is so highly concentrated that a bottle can last up to a year if used on just one car.

Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss Concentrated also contains a wax that enhances your existing wax job to give your car a very noticeable glossy look.

The fact that the formula has no artificial colors or additives and is entirely biodegradable makes it one of the safest car wash shampoos on the market. It won’t cause harm to both you and your car’s materials.

Things We Like

  • Shampoo and wax in one
  • Highly concentrated
  • Eco-friendly
  • Cost-efficient
  • Pleasant smell

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as sudsy as other products

Summary

Many users profess that the shine and hydrating properties of the Chemical Guys Citrus Wash And Gloss Concentrated are incredible for a car wash. CHECK LATEST PRICE

5. Armor All Ultra Shine Wash & Wax

As yet another car shampoo that both washes and waxes your car, the Armor All 10346 Ultra Shine Wash & Wax is an affordably priced weekend car-cleaning warrior that will leave your car or truck looking sharp.

Indeed, this car shampoo scored major points for its versatility, effectiveness, and price. Its time-saving, two-in-one formula suspends and removes contaminants off your vehicle gently and safely while leaving a layer of wax to protect against contaminants and water stains.

It delivers a shiny finish on your vehicle’s paint without damaging the clear coat. However, the wax protection doesn’t last too long, so don’t rely on it to protect your paintwork as a regular wax job would, especially if you live in a sunny climate.

Aside from that drawback, Armor All’s best car wash soap is effective, affordable, and easy enough to use to be worth your consideration.

Things We Like

  • Shampoo and wax in one
  • Potent cleaner and lubricant
  • Produces shiny finish
  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like

  • Protective wax is short-lived

Summary

The Armor All Ultra Shine Wash And Wax lets you kill two birds with one stone for less than what you would pay for a self-serve or automated car wash. CHECK LATEST PRICE.

6. Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash

Made from concentrated, premium, and biodegradable ingredients, Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash is a high-end car shampoo that promises to intensify the look of your car’s paint. That’s because it contains special brighteners that accentuate bold colors.

This car shampoo creates tons of suds to lift dirt, and its pH balanced formulation means you can use it on your paint without worrying about stripping away its protective wax and sealants or damaging any other material components (i.e. plastic) on the car’s exterior. 

You can even use it on matte paint and vinyl wraps, and the fact that it’s concentrated means only a little is required to create a rich lather, thus saving you time, energy, and money. 

Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash is easy to rinse, doesn’t leave behind any ugly residue, and requires no special equipment to properly apply. But as a premium product, it is somewhat pricey.

Things We Like

  • High-lubricity formula
  • Creates “tons” of suds
  • pH balanced
  • Safe for all finishes
  • Eco-friendly

What We Don’t Like

  • Pricey

Summary

Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash is a high viscosity, pH balanced, and color-enhancing car shampoo that you can safely use on any finish. CHECK LATEST PRICE

7. Rain-X Wash And Wax With Carnauba Wax Beads

Rain-X is a popular car care brand that specializes in water and rain-repellent windshield products, bringing its expertise to the world of car wash soaps with the Wash And Wax With Carnauba Wax Beads car shampoo.

This two-in-one formula both cleans and protects your car’s paint, gently dissolving and lifting dirt off the surface of the car and leaving behind a protective layer of carnauba wax.

It’s also pH balanced and biodegradable, ensuring nothing on your car’s exterior is damaged during the washing process. 

The Rain-X Wash And Wax is an ideal car shampoo for those who don’t want to waste too much time and energy applying wax to their car.

Things We Like

  • Dual cleaning and waxing
  • pH balanced
  • Eco-friendly
  • Competitively priced

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as sudsy as other products
  • May leave residue on car windows

Summary

The Rain-X Wash And Wax is a great option for anyone looking for a one-two punch car wash soap. CHECK LATEST PRICE

8. Turtle Wax T-472R ICE Car Wash

If you’re not particularly passionate about washing your car, the Turtle Wax T-472R ICE Car Wash delivers good results for a more affordable price than other premium products.

It produces a nice amount of foam to lift dirt and contaminants and features special gloss enhancing agents that should give your car’s paint a noticeable waxed appearance. A pH-balanced composition also means it’s safe and gentle on all finishes. 

This car wash soap benefits from Turtle Wax’s “ICE Smart Shield Technology,” giving it advanced polymers that intensify and maximize its results.

Although generally not regarded as the best car wash soap, the Turtle Wax T-472R ICE Car Wash likely won’t disappoint.

Things We Like

  • Wash and wax formula
  • pH-balanced
  • Fairly affordable

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as effective as other premium products

Summary

The Turtle Wax T-472R ICE Car Wash doesn’t set performance benchmarks, but it works well. CHECK LATEST PRICE

9. Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate

The Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate shampoo shines as it cleans, with its special formula gently and safely removing dirt while preserving and reinforcing your paint’s existing wax protection. 

The mountains of foamy suds it produces help prevent scratches and swirl marks during washing, while a highly concentrated blend of mild surfactants and cleaners enhances the shine of your paint.

According to Duragloss, the special formula also encourages a sheeting effect that leaves your vehicle mostly dry. It’s pH balanced and doesn’t contain acids or alkali, making it safe on all surfaces. 

And in case you’re wondering, the Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate smells like cherries, though some users might find the smell to be a bit too strong.

Things We Like

  • Shines as it cleans
  • Tons of foamy suds
  • No streaks or spots
  • Sheeting effect

What We Don’t Like

  • Pleasant but strong smell

Summary

The Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate is a highly effective underdog that’s worth your consideration. CHECK LATEST PRICE 

10. Armor All Car Wash Concentrated Liquid

Last on our list but certainly not least is the Armor All Car Wash Concentrated Liquid, yet another powerful car wash soap that will leave your car or truck looking sharp.

Its pH-balanced formula produces impressive suds, effortlessly removing tough debris on any automotive finish while keeping existing wax jobs and sealants intact. You get spot-free, streak-free results even if the washing takes place in direct sunlight. 

So versatile is the solution that it’s safe to use on other machines such as boats, motorcycles, etc.

The Armor All Car Wash Concentrated Liquid is one of the more affordable, cost-efficient, and — make no mistake — best car shampoo products on the market, though some users claim it runs a bit thin.

Things We Like

  • Excellent foaming action
  • pH balanced
  • Affordable
  • Cost-efficient

What We Don’t Like

  • Runs a bit thin

Summary

If you want a car wash soap that’s strong enough to remove the toughest dirt and grime, consider the well-priced Armor All Car Wash Concentrated Liquid. CHECK LATEST PRICE

Car Wash Soap Buying Guide And Tips

A collection of car detailing products  by a Ferrari sports car.
There are many excellent car cleaning products for you to choose from.

This practical buying guide will help you cut through the numerous options in the marketplace and find the best car wash soap or shampoo for your detailing needs.

What Is Car Wash Soap

Car wash soap, or car shampoo as it is commonly known, is a cleaning agent that has been specially designed and optimized for cleaning dirt, debris, and other contaminants off a car’s exterior.

All car washing soaps or shampoos were originally designed with the singular purpose of removing dirt, debris, and other undesirable substances from your vehicle. However, thanks to consumer demand and technological advancements, the trend has been towards solutions that focus on specific tasks.

Some are specifically formulated to remove acidic and sticky bird crap, bug guts, and tree sap, while others are optimized to remove dirt and debris from a vehicle that has a specific paint or protective treatment. 

There is also a wide selection of “2-in-1” solutions to choose from, with many products incorporating protective waxes to provide additional protection for your car’s paint job. 

Interesting fact: It wasn’t until the 1960’s that most car wash soaps and shampoos entered the consumer marketplace. The early solutions were not very affordable, so most car lovers unwisely used common household cleaning items such as laundry detergent mixed in water as an alternative until prices dropped in subsequent decades.

How Is Car Wash Soap Different From Dish Soap?

Would you wash your hair with dish detergent? If not, why would you wash your car with a solution optimized to clean dishes?

Dish soap, laundry soap, and other household cleaners have a high pH level that makes them too harsh for your car’s paint. Dish soap is so abrasive, in fact, that it is often used to remove older layers of wax or paint sealants.

Car wash soap (or shampoo), on the other hand, is specifically formulated to be less aggressive, delivering the lubricity and easy foaming needed to lift and cleanse debris and other contaminants off the surface of your car without damaging its paintwork.

Benefits of Car Wash Soap

The benefits of car wash soap go hand-in-hand with the benefits of washing your car by hand. The following are 4 key benefits.`

1. Achieve better cleaning. For many people, automated car washes are often not thorough enough to deliver desired results, so they instead invest in the necessary car washing supplies, roll up their sleeves, and give their car the love and attention it truly deserves.

2. It can be therapeutic. Washing a car by hand can be a relaxing and even therapeutic experience, with many car enthusiasts taking to their car washing soap, hose, and drying towel whenever they need a break from life.

3. Cheaper than automated car washes. Basic commercial car washes can cost anywhere from $5 to $30, an amount that increases as you add other services such as vacuuming, waxing, and detailing. Buying car wash products and cleaning your car yourself will be cheaper in the long run. 

4. Best for black vehicles. Black cars show every speck of dirt, road grime, and scratch. Washing your car by hand helps prevent this by ensuring that only the most suitable car wash soaps are used and that minimum pressure is applied to your car’s paint.

5. It allows early detection. When you wash your car by hand, it gives you the opportunity to detect small damages that an automated car wash wouldn’t. A tiny windshield crack and a minute paint chip or scratch can all turn into major damages that warrant costly repairs.

Types Of Car Wash Soap

There are several different types of car wash soap, and understanding their unique attributes will make it easier for you to find the best car shampoo for your cleaning needs.

Concentrated Car Wash

Concentrated car wash soaps are the most popular type. They combine with water in a specified dilution ratio to clean vehicles, with some promising a waxy finish and others being tough on debris and other contaminants. 

Wash And Wax Car Wash

Some car shampoos not only wash your car but also leave behind a layer of wax that protects its paint from damage. Although the wax they contain is not as capable as  full-strength car wax solutions, it’s better than nothing and can enhance your car’s existing wax job.

Waterless Car Wash

Waterless car wash soaps are an eco-friendly and efficient solution that is formulated to require little or no water in the cleaning process. They provide similar results as traditional soaps for roughly the same price, making them a great option for anyone living in an area with water restrictions.

Top Car Wash Soap Brands

Due to their strong heritage and consistency in delivering quality products, the following car wash soap brands have become household names in the world of car care.

Meguiar’s 

Meguiar’s is a household name when it comes to car care. Founded in 1901, the American company has been cranking out excellent products for decades, and their Complete Car Care Kit has everything you will need to keep your car looking clean, shiny, and new. 

Chemical Guys

Chemical Guys always enters the conversation when discussing car care products. In business since 1901, the California-based company is particularly well-known for their After Wash Shine While You Dry soap, a versatile solution that can be used on cars, trucks, boats, RVs, etc.

Armor All

The Armor All line of car care products has been delivering wonderful results since 1972, the year the Missouri-based company came into existence. You can’t go wrong with the Armor All Complete Car Care Kit.

Rain-X

Rain-X is another familiar name in the world of car care. As a major player since 1972, the brand’s top-notch  High Foaming Wash & Wax with Carnauba Wax Beads is for those car lovers who have a thing for carnauba wax.

Mother’s

Based in California, Mothers has been active in the world of car care and detailing for several decades, offering a wide variety of products that include car shampoos, wax, sealants, and tools. Consider getting the Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax and Microfiber Chenille Wash Mitt for your next car wash.

Features Of The Best Car Wash Soap

You must consider the following six criteria when shopping for the best car shampoo.

1. Concentration Level

Simply put, the more concentrated the solution, the longer it will last and the more room you have to adjust the dilution ratio to reflect the dirtiness and size of your vehicle. Something like 1 ounce per gallon of water (3.8 liters) is considered a good soap to water ratio.

2. Foaming And Lubricity

The best solutions are those that can easily suspend the contaminants on your vehicle and safely remove them without scratching the paint finish. To achieve this, make sure your car wash soap is capable of developing a thick and rich lather.

It’s the bubbles and sud that lift the contaminants and make it easier to transfer them off your car.

3. pH Level

The pH level determines the acidity or alkalinity of the soap. Alkalinity is more conducive to breaking up dirt, grime, and other potentially acidic contaminants.

However, a pH level that is too alkaline or too acidic can corrode your car’s wax and paint, so make sure to get a well-balanced solution. Car wash soaps with a hint of alkalinity often work best.

4. Inclusion Of Wax 

It often helps to kill two birds with one stone. Why have a car wash soap that only cleans when you can have one that also provides a protective layer of wax?

Indeed, opting for such a two-in-one wash and wax soap will save you time and money in the long run by bolstering your car’s existing wax job, thus delaying your paint from oxidizing. 

6. Ease of Application

Not everyone finds the car-washing process enjoyable, so your car wash soap should make things simpler and more straightforward. 

More specifically, you shouldn’t have to trouble yourself to avoid putting the solution on certain colors and exterior materials or require special tools or methods to get the job done.

6. Scent

Washing your car by hand requires getting up close and personal with the vehicle, so you want your car wash soap to at the very least bearable in smell and hypoallergenic. Always take a whiff of its scent before making a purchase.

How to Wash Your Car By Hand

Man washing Subaru BRZ sports car with Meguiar's car wash soap.

Washing and cleaning your car regularly is the single most beneficial maintenance activity for your car’s appearance. This simple step-by-step guide will show you how to optimally wash your car by hand.

Things You Need To Wash Your Car

Effectively washing your car by hand requires the following equipment:

1. Two Buckets. For the most efficient cleaning, you will need one bucket for holding the soap solution and another for clear water.

2. Hose. A hose is necessary for rinsing off the soap on your car

3. Washing Mitt. A microfiber wash mitt is ideal for lathering on the soap. Not only does it prevent abrasions, but it literally fits your hand like a glove.

4. Foam Gun. Although not necessary, investing in a decent foam gun will make it easier to lather your car up with soap than using your hands.

5. Grit Guard. This will help prevent contaminants from accumulating onto your wash mitts every time you rinse.

6. Drying Cloth. The purpose of the drying cloth is to prevent any soap from drying and water sports from forming.

Steps For Washing Your Car With Soap

The two bucket wash method usually works best when washing your car by hand. It involves filling one bucket with the car wash soap to use for cleaning and the other with clear water for rinsing. 

Once you’ve done that, follow this step-by-step process to give your car the quality wash it deserves:

Step 1. Start by washing your car’s wheels cleaner so that you don’t accidentally splash dirt and other contaminants from the tires onto your car’s freshly cleaned exterior.

Step 2. Using a wash mitt, extract some soapy solution from the first bucket and lather it onto the areas of the car you want to start cleaning. Use a foam gun to facilitate the task if you have one.

Step 3. Once you’re done lettering, rinse the mitt of as much dirt as possible in the clear water bucket. Change the water frequently if it becomes too dirty.

Continue the process until your whole car is covered in soap.

Step 4. Thoroughly rinse the soap off the car using a hose. To ensure the water flows freely, remove or loosen the nozzle on the hose.

Step 5. Use a quality dry towel and hand dry the car to prevent any water spots from developing.

Tips For Using Car Wash Soap

The following are additional tips for finding and using the best car wash soaps.

  • Give your vehicle a wash at least once a month. Wash it more frequently during the winter, a period when salt and other corrosive chemicals are sprayed on the roads to prevent ice.
  • Avoid washing your car in direct sunlight. Heat exposure increases the evaporation rate, forcing you to use more car wash soap and water.
  • When washing your car, don’t forget to clean the rubber floor mats and door jambs, seeing as the dirt and debris they collect can erode surrounding materials over time if left unattended. Consider also giving the engine bay a rinse with a low-pressure spray nozzle.
  • If you live in a hotter climate, consider getting a car wash soap containing wax. The wax will provide extra protection against the sun’s oxidizing UV rays.
  • You should wax your car or truck after you wash it to optimally protect its finish. Waxing has a major positive impact on your paint’s appearance and longevity.

Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, it is during winter, not summer, when most car washing takes place. In the United States, the winter season accounts for 32 percent of all car washes, followed by spring (25 percent), summer (25 percent), and fall (18 percent).

Best Car Wash Soap FAQs

Here are the answers to even more frequently asked questions about car wash soaps and shampoos and their use.

What’s The Difference Between Car Wash Soap and Car Wash Shampoo?

Although the two phrases are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between car wash soap and car shampoo. Automotive shampoos are a higher-quality, more luxurious line of car wash soap, be it in producing a superior washing experience or giving you a sensory overload.

In fact, adding custom colors and fragrances can be enough to elevate a normal car ‘soap’ to ‘shampoo’-grade.

Can You Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Car?

Although you can technically wash your car with dish soap, it is not recommended. Unlike car wash soap, dish soap and other household cleaning agents have a higher-pH level and are, therefore, too harsh for your car’s paint.

They can cause scratches and marring if used over extended periods and possibly even strip away the paint’s protective wax.

Can You Make Your Own Car Wash Soap?

Yes, you can easily make homemade car wash soap, and the process isn’t as difficult as you might have been led to believe. 

All you have to do is take one cup of broken down mild soap or liquid soap such as baby shampoo and mix it in a bucket of warm water. Use the solution on your car, and then rinse thoroughly with a bucket or two of cold water.

As opposed to dish detergent, this homemade car wash soap recipe is safe for use on most cars because it’s concocted with a mild soap mixture that doesn’t strip off the car’s protective wax.

Does Car Wash Soap Expire?

Cleaning supplies, including car wash soaps, can degrade over time and lose their effectiveness. However, there is no exact timetable for when they expire. Therefore, you must assess the condition of the product before using it.

A good way to do this is to test the soap on an inconspicuous part of your (the undercarriage, running boards, etc.). We also recommend that you replace it if it’s more than a few years old.

What’s The Difference Between Regular Car Wash Soap And Waterless Car Wash?

Contrary to what its name might suggest, waterless car wash involves some water. However, the amount required is considerably less when compared to traditional car wash soaps.

With waterless car washes, you don’t need a bucket of water and a washing mitt. Most come in a spray bottle or an aerosol can that is used to directly apply the solution.

Final Thoughts

The importance of cleaning your car regularly cannot be overstated. But if you’re going to be doing the washing yourself, don’t just use any soap.

Unlike dish soap or household cleaning agents, car wash soaps are specifically formulated to wash the body of your car without damaging its paint or other exterior components.

Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo is our choice for best car wash soap for its sheer effectiveness, but you can’t go wrong with any of the other products on our list, especially Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash and Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax.

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