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3 Top-Rated Best Car Wash Soaps (Full Guide)

We find that a weekly car wash will keep the paint free of dead bugs, bird droppings, tree sap, and pollen, allowing it to breath and preserving the finish. For those of you who live in areas with heavily polluted air or acidic rain, you should do a quick rinse after any rainy weather, even if you skip the soap. Acid rain may leave acidic residues on the car that can leave a permanent mark or may progressively mar the paint over time.

Layers of crud, dirt, or grime can accumulate. Mix that in with dead bugs and other splatters of unknown origin, and you’ll be left with paint stripped of essential waxes and prone to damage. Damage due to neglect that requires sanding or complete repainting is not unheard of and can easily be avoided with frequent car washing.

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Proper Steps to a Clean Car

Your mileage may vary when it comes to washing your car and the results you will have. What do we mean by this? – Depending on the car wash soap you use, the time of day, the location of the wash, and materials used, the end result and how clean and shiny your car paint will look may vary. It is important to take the proper steps when washing or detailing your car.

The car soap should be strong enough to remove any dirt, grime, or other environmental contaminants, put should also contain lubricants and be gentle enough to avoid microscopic damage to your paint finish. The classic two buckets and garden hose routine seems to give better results than the pressure washer and will get the job done while keeping your paint looking fresh.

1. Try not to wash your car in direct sunlight or in extremely hot weather

The sun can damage car paint. If you do find yourself needing a wash and it is in the middle of day, look for some shade or wait a few hours until it cools down a bit. You want to avoid any chemicals baking onto the paint in the sun – yes, even from your car soap.

If your car is drying faster than you can wash, rinse, and dry, you’ll end up with less than stellar results and may need a re-wash.

2. Have two buckets on hand

Fill both buckets with water and mix the car soap in following instructions for the recommended dilution. You can use one bucket to clean the dirty sponge, and the other to clean your car with. Another option, and what we find gives better results – use one bucket for your rims and tires and the other for the panels on your car.

Rubbing a sponge full of brake dust across your paint is a no-no and should be avoided if at all possible.

3. Use your hose to spray the vehicle with water from top to bottom

Use your thumb to add a bit of pressure to the water spray. This will help remove any loose dirt or grime. Any substances that can be removed with water alone will make your car washing much easier and it will reduce the likelihood that those debris will become embedded in your sponge or mitt.

4. Use a heavy-foam car soap formula

These car wash soaps are better able to loosen dirt and eliminate dead bugs or tree sap from the exterior of your car. Dip your cleaning item into that foamy soapy water, and gently rub your sponge, cloth, or washing mitt, first clean your rims and pay attention to the spokes and other details, and then with the other bucket, across your car with long strokes.

Some say to avoid the circular motion because it can lead to circular water swirls – we’ve never found this to be the case with a proper drying.

5. Try not to apply too much pressure

Even when you notice some stubborn dirt or grime don’t just scrub and scrub in one place. It is better to find a quality bug and grime remover to avoid damaging your paint rather than using too much pressure.

6. Rinse your sponge often

If you notice your sponge or mitt getting especially dirty, do a quick rinse with the hose, and then continue your washing.

7. Rinse your vehicle off often

Upon completion of each section of your car, completely rinse off the soap and loose dirt to avoid it drying back on in the sun. We like to break up the vehicle into 4 sections: hood and windshield, driver side, passenger side, rear.

Don’t forget to clean the top of the car somewhere in there!

8. Do a final rinse

Once all sections have been cleaned with soapy water, do one more rinse of the entire vehicle to ensure even drying and to avoid water marks.

9. Gently dry the whole vehicle

Using your terry cloth or microfiber towel, gently dry your entire car. If you don’t have access to these items and don’t mind some water marks, take your newly cleaned car for a drive. TRHi will help wick away any excess water from the paint (try to reach at least 45 miles per hour for best results).

Can Dish Soap Damage Paint?

While we wont go as far as saying that dish detergent can damage your car paint, we will say that it isn’t the best idea and may actually lead to problems in the long run. What you’ll generally see is a shortened wax life span and less shine to your car’s paint. While dish soap contains powerful detergents that do a fine job cleaning dirt and other substances off your car, they also remove layers of wax that protect the paint and give it its sheen. Good car wash soap doesn’t contain any of those powerful detergents and will contain lubricants that allow you to safely remove dirt without stripping away layers of wax and other oils.

We highly recommend you leave the dish soap in the kitchen and invest in some high-quality car wash soap that does not contain any harsh detergents and is rich in lubricants. The best car wash soap should also include some silicone emulsions and liquid waxes for extra shine.

How to Select the Best Car Wash Soap

When shopping for quality car wash soap, you should strive to learn as much as you can about the product, including its ingredients and whether its claims can be backed up with demonstrable proof. The best car wash soap should be pH balanced, biodegradable, and should be designed to produce a heavy-foam.

A ph-balanced car wash soap ensures the paint remains neutral with a pH of 7 – harsh detergents and other caustic ingredients may leave an overly basic or acidic surface and are not ideal. Heavy emulsifiers or solvents can strip the sealant currently on the car.

A heavy-foam formula is important as it not only reduces the likelihood that the soap will contain heavy emulsifiers because foam actually helps loosen the dirt and grime, but also makes washing your car easier. Foam can also be lubricating and protective in its own right when not using an ideal sponge or rag for washing.

Also, you should avoid any brands with unsubstantiated claims. Avoid “waterless car soaps” or “super cleaning” products. Don’t fall for these marketing schemes. Water is equally important in the car washing process. The rinse preceding the soap and sponge is essential and loosens dirt, grime, grease, pollen, tree sap, and splattered bugs.

Water is lubricating and acts as a carrying agent for the soap, helping it foam up and do its job. Waterless car wash products claim to save time and water costs. Many of these waterless car products use harsh chemicals and filling agents to hide paint blemishes and minor scratches.

Consider the company that produces the car soap. Not all brands are the same and not all of them utilize the best ingredients for car paint.

Automatic Car Wash – Bad for Paint?

Your local gas station may have an automatic drive-through car wash. While these automatic car washes may save time, they are not best in most cases. While your car may appear to be clean with one of these automatic car washes, you probably missed the fresh coat of swirl marks now on your paint.

The brushes that are used to scrub away dirt and grime from your paint are rarely cleaned. This means that Jeep layered with dirt and mud that was cleaned just before you probably left some of its filth on those brushes for you. The most effective way to clean your car and preserve your paint finish is to hand wash with a top-quality car wash soap.

Other Essential Car Wash Items

Choosing the tools that are most gentle on your paint, while still being effective at cleaning your car can be as difficult as you make it.

Choose a sponge or mitt that is plush with a deep nap – these happen to make washing easier and actually function better than the standard sponge or flat weave towel.

A natural sea sponge can be used, and effectively pulls dirt and debris into its natural fibers to avoid scratching the paint when washing. Sheepskin is another great material as it is soft and plush – the nap is deep and similarly to a sea sponge, pulls in dirt and grime away from the surface so they are not rubbing against the surface of your car during a wash.

Microfiber is another material that is great for washing and is sometimes combined with polyester or polyamide to help avoid scratches and swirling. Definitely avoid any brushes or sponges with bristles as this is not designed for car paint and will surely leave scratches or marks that need to be buffed out

1. Meguiar’s G7164 Review

Meguiar has a reputation to keep, as they are the providers of many top-notch car products, and their G7164 Gold Class Shampoo Conditioner car soap is no exception. The G7164 car wash soap is our favorite because it not only gently cleans your paint without stripping away protective wax, but actually conditions the paint leaving it with an extra layer of shine that is hard to compete with.

The soap foams up nicely and makes car washing easier – a high-quality car soap ensures you will be less likely to require other products to remove stubborn dirt or grime.

The soap is detergent-free and is pH balanced. Unlike other car soaps where the foam will slowly disappear, Meguiar’s G7164 car soap remained foamy throughout the duration of the wash. While no soap can reliably clean a car and remove absolutely no wax, the Meguiar’s car soap does an excellent job at not removing any excess wax or paint finish protectants.

Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class bottle is available in 64 ounces – it is a highly concentrated formula that should last year many months of frequent car washing. The recommended concentration is four capfuls of soap solution (1 ounce) per every one gallon of water. Even with liberal use of this soap, you get your moneys worth.

Like other top-quality car soap solutions, the G7164 Gold Class can be used traditionally with water in a bucket, or with a power washer. Power washers are fine to use just make sure that the pressure is not excessive and wont strip away layers of paint. When in doubt, lower the pressure because water pressure damage is often minute and unnoticeable. Hand washing smooth and the sponge glides over car paint with ease.

2. Mothers 05664 Review

Like other top-quality car wash soaps, Mothers 05664 California Gold Car Wash is pH balanced, which ensures your paint remains at a neutral level after cleaning. The super-foamy formula gently eases dirt and grime away while maintaining a clean and shiny appearance free of water spots and blemishes after drying.

This car soap was is powerful enough to clean away messes but gentle enough to prevent paint damage and dulling. It adds a layer of shine and is designed to avoid removing your car’s layer of wax.

The super-sudsy formula remains frothy throughout the wash and is an important characteristic to look out for when shopping for the best car soap. Not only can disappearing bubbles be aggravating, but it also prevents the soap emulsifiers from working as they should and often requires you to use up more soap than you otherwise should have.

Mothers 05664 California Gold Car Wash takes care of this and simply removes bird droppings, road film, tree sap, pollen, and other paint pollutants.

3. Griot’s Garage 10866 Review

Similar to other top-end car soaps, Griot’s Garage 10866 is pH balanced with a super-foamy formula that produces large amounts of suds that remain through the duration of your car wash. The soap itself is thick and is mildly scented. This high viscosity is a highly concentrated – only one ounce of solution is needed per gallon of water. This ensures your product will last for many months, as each bottle is filled with 64 ounces of wash – 6 months or more before you’ll need to buy again.

As we’ve stated previously in our guide, the pH balance is important and prevents paint fading, leaving your paint surface free of any basic or acidic residue. The wash is biodegradable and green (friendly on the environment). The more suds you can get the better, as this increases lubrication and helps remove dirt from your paints surface (similar to a very gentle exfoliant for your car).

The streak free finish is impressive and your paint will shine with a high gloss if properly washed and dried with a soft towel. Like our other top car soap choices, a bucket wash is recommended but this formula would work nicely with a pressure washer as well.

Griot’s Garage 10866 Car Wash Soap is a great choice to help keep your car shining like new for many years to come.