For most, washing your car is more of a chore than an enjoyable activity, but for some, it’s all part of the weekly maintenance schedule that they have for their vehicle. This is why investing in suitable cleaning products is vital, as sub-par soap will not only under-perform but may even damage your car’s paint.

Best Overall
Mothers
64 oz
Best Value
Meguiar’s
128 oz
Best on a Budget
Adam’s Polishes
128 oz

There are a few reasons why you may want to look into investing in car wash soap, or car shampoo, as it’s more commonly called. For starters, it’s significantly cheaper than taking it to an automatic car wash, as the price for a decent car wash can be more than a year’s supply of car soap.

The Best Car Wash Soap

The best options will contain a well-refined mix of ingredients which aim to produce a showroom-like finish.

1. Best Overall

Mothers California Gold Wash & Wax

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First up is California Gold, from Mothers. With such a luxurious name, you can be sure that this is a fantastic product. California Gold dissolves in water and is able to displace stubborn grime and dirt with ease. If your vehicle is already waxed, this soap will help to boost it.

This product suds up very easily and provides ample lubrication, which makes washing a breeze. What’s really nice is the scratch filling properties that the California Gold has due to the carnauba wax that has been added. Most soaps don’t have wax added, so this is a welcome bonus.

It’s worth noting that this soap is environmentally friendly, which is a massive plus. Solvents can be quite harsh on the water table and local fauna and flora.

For best results, use liberally, and you will receive a gleaming shine every single time. This is one of the better shampoos available and we are sure you will not be disappointed

  • Pros: Environmentally friendly. Carnauba wax in formula. Can help to fill in scratches.
  • Cons: May leave a film if you don’t wash it off properly.

2. Best Value

Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash

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Gold Class from Meguiar is a high-quality soap and conditioner and has been designed to clean and condition your vehicles paintwork at the same. Tough grime, contaminants, and dirt will be foamed away, without reducing the integrity of the wax protection. The added conditioners will leave a fantastic shine and will bolster the colors of your paint.

As this product is easily foamed, it’s perfect to use with a foam cannon if used with a 5:1 ratio of water. Of course, the traditional method of using a 2 bucket wash is perfectly fine too, and in most cases, more recommended.

Gold class is pH-balanced and has no detergent added to it, making it perfectly safe for vehicle paint, even if it’s damaged.

Meguiar has been around for over 100 years and makes many different automobile products, so you can rest assure that they aren’t some get-rich-quick company using gimmick advertising and ingredients.

  • Pros: Works well in foam cannons. Added paint conditioners. pH-balanced.
  • Cons: May be a bit too mild of a cleaning agent.

3. Best pH Neutral Soap

Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo

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Don’t let the non-commercially sounding name fool you, Adam’s car shampoo is a fantastic contender in the car soap industry. This soap creates thick, pH-balanced suds that will cleanse your car of dirt and grim without reducing the integrity of any existing waxes.

The new formula that has been used in this soap is able to create thick lather with just a small amount of gel. Perfect for bucket use and foam cannons, whatever your application method you will receive great results.

The cutting edge formula of this shampoo means that it’s perfect to use on all surfaces, be it rubber, paint, vinyl, plastic or glass. This means you can cover your car completely without having to worry about avoiding specific areas. Even with a foam cannon, this soap will not damage any surface.

Due to how gentle this soap is, it’s perfect for weekly use. Washing off the soap will leave a slick lubrication which not only protects your paintwork, but makes it gleam.

  • Pros: pH balanced formula. Mild soap that doesn’t affect vinyl, plastic, or glass. Pleasantly scented.
  • Cons: Customers note that you need to use a considerable amount.

4. Best on a Budget

Griot’s Garage Car Wash

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This car wash soap from Griot’s garage can make vehicles worth of soapy suds with just one ounce of the product with a gallon of water. It has been formulated to be usable and safe for all types of paint finishes and has a balanced pH which helps to displace grime and dirt from your vehicle.

There are special ingredients in the mixture that help to enhance the color of your vehicle after it has been washed, which will make it look even cleaner.

This is a fantastic budget option for those who wish to get a decent soap, but don’t want to break the bank. Perfect for people who may only wash their car occasionally, this product is still miles ahead of non-car specific soaps.

It’s worth noting that they do not specify if this product is environmentally friendly.

  • Pros: Affordable option with premium ingredients. Lots of suds with little water. Produces a streak free shine.
  • Cons: Somewhat expensive.

5. Best in Bulk

Turtle Wax ICE Car Wash

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Lastly, we have the ICE car wash from Turtle Wax. If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, look no further. ICE is one of the best budget options available on the market currently and is perfect for bucket washing. The solution comes very thick which means that it will last a lot longer than some of the more expensive alternatives.

This synthetic car soap is comprised of ingredients and shine enhancers that will help to eradicate dirt and grime from your vehicle. There is also ‘Smart Shield Technology’ present in the new formula, which is said to build layers of protection.

To get the most out of this product, you’ll want to put 1 ounce of it into a gallon of water, and agitate it to make it foam. Then start from the top and work down with a wash mitt, and finally rinse off with cold water and a soft towel.

  • Pros: Best budget option. Great lubricity. Creates plenty of foam.
  • Cons: Some customers note streaks/soap residue.

What to Look for in a Car Shampoo

As I’m sure you can imagine, there are thousands of soaps, shampoos, and conditioners available specifically for vehicles. The specifics of these products are that they don’t damage the vehicles paintwork and offer additional protection, as well as help to fill in small scratches.

It’s understandable that for a lot of people, trying to decide which soap they need can be a bit challenging. Do you need one with wax in the formula? What about lots of suds? Is it compatible with a foam cannon? Luckily we have outlined the main aspects to look out for below so that you can choose the best soap for your needs the first time around.

Value for the Money

Let’s first look at value for money. For those who want the best of both worlds when it comes to suds, scents, and getting the most washes out of their bottle, value for money should be considered. If the best soap in the world comes in a tiny expensive bottle, then that isn’t ideal, unless money is no object.

If possible, it’s always advisable to purchase the largest quantity possible. Most companies will offer several different volumes, and you should find that the more that you buy the cheaper it is per ounce.

Concentration

Similar to value for money, the concentration of the soap should be looked at too. Some soaps can go a very long way, whereas others may need a lot more than the manufacturer’s recommendation to get the desired effect.

For those of you with foam cannons, and other such related machines, looking at the concentration levels is paramount. As you can imagine, if you put in too much high concentration soap in your machine, you’ll be making far too many suds, which may damage the tool.

Foaming Ability

Continuing on from concentration, how easy foaming occurs is also important. Soap that produces a thick lather will be able to displace dirt and grime far better than thin water suds. The more foam there is the less likely you are to damage your vehicle’s paint when washing too.

pH Levels

The pH level refers to its acid or alkaline level. Higher alkalinity is better at tackling dirt and grime, but if it’s too high, it can be as damaging as if it was highly acidic.

Therefore the best pH level is one that is only slightly higher than neutral, with a hint of alkalinity.

Spot and Streak Resistance

Low-quality soaps and shampoos will leave behind unwanted water spots and streaks. Obviously, this can sometimes come down to human error when washing and drying, but choosing a product that quickly dries should guarantee that you never have this problem.

Water spots can make your vehicle look dirty and unclean, so they are of course completely unwanted.

Eco-Friendly

It’s imperative that you choose an eco-friendly soap. When you wash your vehicle the dirty water will likely end up either in the ground or the drain. Either way, it can potentially contaminate the environment. Eco-soaps do tend to be a little more on the expensive side, but our environment is important. It would be a shame if you damaged or killed some of the local fauna or flora just for the sake of making your car shiny.

Look for keywords on the bottle like eco-friendly and biodegradable.

Equipment

What equipment is needed for washing a car? Perhaps more than you may think.

If you’re cleaning with the “bucket method”, then you need two buckets. One will be for soapy water, and the other will be for clean uncontaminated water that is used to wash away the soap.

A foam gun, or foam cannon, is a great investment if you plan on cleaning your car often. Make sure to choose a high-quality one though, as the cheaper machines are sometimes not worth the effort.

A hose is also ideal, but not mandatory. Hosing down your car is the easiest and most efficient way of taking off all of the soapy suds.

Lastly, you’ll need a good drying cloth. This needs to be applied as soon as you wash away all of the soapy water because allowing the residual water to dry will create marks and water spots.

Conclusion

Washing your vehicle is one of the most basic aspects of automotive detailing. It may not be as convenient as a drive through car wash but it certainly pays for itself. A bottle of car soap can likely pay for dozens of car washes.

Not to mention, washing your vehicle is just plain fun too.

References

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Richard Reed
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