Reviews

The Best Car Wash Soaps: The Right Suds For Your Car

Car washing doesn’t have to be a chore with these top car wash soaps.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook The Drive on Instagram

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON October 6, 2021

There are two kinds of car owners: those who use automated car washes and those who wash their vehicles themselves. If you’re someone who wants to keep their ride clean, keep reading. We’ve got the facts and recommendations you need to choose a better car wash soap for a cleaner ride. Because if you want a clean car, sometimes you have to wash it yourself.

Best Overall
Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

If you’re a fan of carnauba wax, Mother’s wash and wax will fit your needs. The product lifts dirt away while leaving a waxy finish to protect your paint.

Pros
Pros
  • Mother’s gives a nod to nature with this biodegradable wash and wax product, which is pH-balanced to clean your car without risk of damaging your car’s paint job
Cons
Cons
  • This product provides the best results as a solution between regular waxing 
  • So if that’s not part of your routine, you might need a stronger formula to remove stubborn contaminants
Best Overall
Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax
Best Value
Chemical Guys Watermelon Snow Foam Cleanser
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

When it comes to the inexpensive alternative, this cleaner is among the best choices on the market. It's an efficient wash that leaves your car smelling like a watermelon. 

Pros
Pros
  • Features a pH-balanced formula that proves to be very safe and easy to apply
  • You can use it on all vehicle parts and achieve showroom results
Cons
Cons
  • The product leaves a snow foam but requires some excessive scrubbing for removing heavy dirt. 
  • It's not an effortless process
  • Some buyers also don't like the watermelon scent
Best Value
Chemical Guys Watermelon Snow Foam Cleanser
Honorable Mention
Chemical Guys Bug + Tar Remover
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

For the dirtiest cars, Chemical Guys created a simple solution that doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease. Easily remove common contaminants with this car wash soap.

Pros
Pros
  • This heavy-duty car wash soap saves time and effort, even if your car only needs a rinse
  • Even as it goes on, though, it won’t leave swirl marks or scratches
Cons
Cons
  • The toughest tar, tree sap, bugs, and other types of contaminants require more than this car wash soap, especially white vehicles
Honorable Mention
Chemical Guys Bug + Tar Remover

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Benefits of Car Wash Soap

  • Affordable car care. Purchasing your own car wash shampoo will make maintaining and cleaning your car more affordable. Many shampoos come in a concentrated formula. This means you only need a little to clean a lot of car surface area. 
  • Preserve vehicle value. Regular washing helps to maintain your vehicle. The cleaner you keep your vehicle, the less wear and tear it will experience. This will help your car retain its value for longer. 
  • Prep for wax. Washing your vehicle with a car wash shampoo cleans off all of the contaminants. This prepares your car for further car care, such as applying wax, sealant, or a ceramic coating. 

Types of Car Wash Soap

Concentrated

A concentrated shampoo formula gives you more bang for your buck. You add a small amount to your bucket of water and have plenty of foam and suds. A concentrated formula is great for maintenance cleaning because it will get your car nice and clean. Some can also do double duty with an added sealant or wax. The drawback of this type of car wash is that most people do not use the right ratio when mixing the soap with water. Use too little, and you won’t have enough cleaning power. Use too much, and you’re wasting product. 

Wash and Wax

A wash and wax product is designed to do double duty. This makes caring for your car easier and faster. It will clean your car while also leaving a protective waxy layer on the surface of your car. This will give you lasting protection. However, a combo soap will not replace a dedicated waxing session. It should supplement your waxing to help it last longer. 

Waterless

Sometimes you don't have the time or aren’t in a place where you can do a full wash. A waterless cleaning product can help you remove contaminants without the need for rinsing or washing. These are nice because you can clean and detail your car anywhere. Their drawback is that they aren’t a replacement for a full washing. Look for one that has high lubricity to prevent scratches. 

Top Brands

Meguiar’s

If you know anything about car care, you know the name Meguiar’s. In business since 1901, Meguiar’s is headquartered in California. If you’re looking for that birthday or Christmas present, check out the Complete Car Care Kit. It’s everything you need to take care of your vehicle.

Chemical Guys

One of the up-and-coming brands making a name for themselves, Chemical Guys has actually been in business for over 40 years. Its After Wash Shine While You Dry solution can be used on cars, trucks, RVs, boats, etc.

Armor All

Armor All is another household name for car care products. Operating since 1966, its headquarters are in Missouri. The Armor All Complete Car Care Kit might even be on your car lover’s wish list, so check it out.

Rain-X

Based in Texas, Rain-X has been in the industry for over 40 years. If carnauba wax is your thing, check out its High Foaming Wash & Wax with Carnauba Wax Beads. Like all Rain-X products, it will bead up any moisture that finds its way onto your vehicle.

Mother’s

Mother’s is a California-based company that has been in business nearly as long as many other popular brands in the industry. Feeling overwhelmed at the choices for car-washing mitts? Give the Mother’s Microfiber Chenille Wash Mitt a look, especially if you own a black vehicle. 

Car Wash Soap Pricing

  • Under $10: Auto parts stores typically stock car wash soaps in this price range. Most of them are concentrated formulas that can be diluted in a ratio of one capful of soap to one gallon of water. You should be able to find wash and wax formulas for this price as well. Products will typically come in 16-ounce sizes.
  • $11 to $15: If you’re looking for more bang for your buck, you should consider concentrates of higher-priced brands above the $10 mark. Sizes typically range anywhere from 16 to 64 ounces, depending on which brand and formula you choose.  
  • $20 to $40: Buying car wash shampoo in bulk will fall in this price range. Many well-known brands will offer around 128 ounces of car wash soap for this price. If you’re someone who owns a handful of cars and washes them frequently, spending this much up-front may save you in the long run.
  • $45 and up: For around $50, you should be able to find car wash kits with concentrates included, as well as washing mitts, microfiber cloths, and other car-washing accessories. Many of the kits offered will get you started by providing most of the materials you need.  

Key Features

Concentrated

Most car wash soaps are going to be concentrated, but choosing ones that are will stretch your dollars longer without affecting your car-washing results. It also means that you can increase or decrease the dilution ratio as you see fit, depending on how dirty your car is and the size of the vehicle you’re cleaning.

Foaming Action and Lubricity

Ask any professional detailer and they’ll tell you that washing your vehicle properly is all about suspending the contaminants on your vehicle to safely remove them without scratching the paint finish. Foaming bubbles that provide natural lubricity are the common solution. The idea is to lift the debris off your paint and transfer it via a liquid layer across and away from the surface. This is especially true for dark-colored/black vehicles.

Included Wax

Choosing a car wash soap that includes a waxing agent in the formula will save you time in the long run. Though the wax included is not enough to rely on, it will still provide a protective layer that will delay your paint from oxidizing. In fact, waxing your car after using a wash and wax car wash soap will just increase the effectiveness of the wax and won’t necessarily hurt your vehicle’s paint.

Easy Application

Car wash soaps should be designed to make the car-washing process simple and straightforward. You shouldn’t have to worry about avoiding certain paint colors or exterior materials common on modern vehicles. Specially-formulated products can be helpful; however, washing your vehicle shouldn’t take much more effort than washing dishes. No specialty tools or methods should be required.

Scent

Scrubbing a car requires getting close to the vehicle, and if you don’t like the smell of the car wash soap you purchased, it can turn a simple task into a hassle. Take a whiff of the car wash soap before you buy it. Many are lightly scented to distinguish themselves from the competition. The smell won’t stay on your vehicle and won’t affect the car wash soap’s ability to clean your vehicle. 

Other Considerations

  • Whole Vehicle Formulation. There’s no getting away from washing the entire exterior of your vehicle, so choose a car wash soap that won’t damage materials such as rubber, plastic, glass, metal, or any other components that will get wet. Most car wash products on the shelf are safe for these types of materials—that weather the elements anyways—but it’s a good idea to be cognizant of what’s in your car wash soap.
  • Additional Materials. It’s possible to wash your car with your bare hands, but we don’t recommend it. There are many products out there you can use to clean your vehicle, whether you have a large truck or a compact sedan. From washing mitts to wheel-cleaning devices, you can pick up the additional materials you need to achieve a clean vehicle without spending too much.
  • Drying Methods. The way you dry your newly-washed vehicle is just as important as how you wash it. Leaving water on the paint can cause hard water spots to appear. Using an air compressor to dry your vehicle is the most efficient method, but you can also use a chamois or even soft towels. The important thing to remember is not to ground any leftover contaminants into the paint you just washed.
  • Finishing Touches. Washing your car is the bare necessity when it comes to maintaining the exterior of your vehicle. Consider waxing your vehicle afterward to keep the paint from oxidizing quickly. Clean your windows for a better view of your surroundings. Vacuum your seats and flooring to prevent stains and excessive wear. The better care you give your car, the longer it will last.

Best Car Wash Soaps Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Any type of wax on your vehicle is better than none at all. Washing and waxing your vehicle at the same time is a great way to efficiently clean it, which is one of the main reasons why we chose this product from Mothers. Also, the brand is known for putting out quality products that make a big difference when it comes time to comparing the before and after.


Priced affordably, Mothers Carnauba Wash & Wax can be diluted to your personal specifications and provides a clean surface after it’s wiped away. The product is safe to use on all exterior surfaces, including your wheels and tires. There are a variety of other Mothers products you can pair with this wash and wax, but even alone it is a great way to protect your investment. For example, the soap has a pH-balanced and biodegradable formula so you don’t have to worry about flushing it down the drain. It also leaves behind a streak-free finish.


Because this product from Mothers is both a washing and waxing formula, both processes aren’t necessarily going to be the most efficient. Washing a car scrubs everything you don’t want off the paint’s surface while waxing seals in everything beneath it. That means you’ll likely want to pair this product with a regular waxing routine for optimal results. With some trial and error, any driver can easily use Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax. 

Best Value
Chemical Guys Watermelon Snow Foam Cleanser

Chemical Guys makes a budget-friendly alternative for those who want to save some money by washing their own vehicles. Along with being highly efficient in removing dirt, grime, and all kinds of contaminants, the product also produces a unique fragrance that lingers. After using the wash, you might want to roll to the auto show and show off your sparkling vehicle.


When it comes to application, this Chemical Guys cleaner is safe to use on all vehicle surfaces. You can apply it to paint, rubber, vinyl, glass, and plastic. Thanks to the pH-neutral formula, you don't have to worry about damaging the vehicle in any way. All you need to do is dilute the product in water and apply it to the vehicle surface. It's as simple as that. The liquid will not only clean the vehicle but wax it as well, leaving behind a protective coat.


However, although the product foams nicely, you still need to scrub to remove heavy dirt. It's not a spray-and-rinse process that doesn't require any effort. Another thing you might want to keep in mind is that some users don't like the scent. It's a unique and strong fragrance that doesn't suit everyone.

Best Spot Cleaner
Chemical Guys Bug & Tar Remover

You've heard people say “less is more,” but when it comes to washing your car, more cleaning power is best. Relying on strong products to get the job done right is just one reason why we chose the Chemical Guys Bug and Tar Remover as one of our top selections.


This concentrated formula dilutes one cap of solution per gallon of water. While that’s typical of most car wash products, it’s not necessarily the same story for heavy-duty cleaners. You can easily use the same amount of car wash soap as another product but get relatively better results with the extra-strength formula. Place a few drops in a spray bottle full of water, and you’ve got yourself a bug-removing, spot-treatment solution. Because the formula is water-based, you don’t have to worry about your vehicle’s paint, either.


However, because it is only a water-based solution, you may need to seek out stronger solutions for stubborn contaminants that just won’t budge. If you own a white vehicle, you definitely want to consider investing in a clay bar. Still, this versatile product can be used on all types of paints and surfaces, so anyone with a few hours or even minutes to kill will find it easy to use.

Premium Pick
Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Car Wash Soap

Here’s another great product from Chemical Guys. This time, we have an excellent wash for weekly maintenance. Mr. Pink dilutes in water, applies in a breeze, and rinses clean without residue. It gets rid of bugs and all kinds of dirt and residue.


Mr. Pink is a pH-neutral formula that is completely safe for all vehicle parts. It provides a gentle wash, removing dirt without causing any scratches or other damage to the surface. The liquid won't leave behind water spots or stains under direct sunlight. Additionally, the product is specially formulated to use with foam cannons and foam guns.


The thing that might be bothersome, however, is the rinsing process. You have to rinse the foam several times to fully remove it from your vehicle. That requires a lot of water and patience, especially if you're planning to apply another product like wax afterward. Also, some users complain that it's not very foamy.

Honorable Mention
Wet or Waterless Car Wash Wax Kit

If you're searching for a car wash kit that will help you with general vehicle maintenance, this might be the perfect one for you. From detailed cleaning to quick washing and waxing, the Aero Cosmetic kit provides excellent results in the long run. 


With this kit, you can clean and coat your vehicle's surface, removing dirt, grime, and other harmful residues. The formula also protects your vehicle from UV rays. It allows for both wet and waterless washes, so you can use it anywhere and anytime. The water-based formula doesn't contain alcohol or ammonia, which means it's perfectly safe for all vehicle parts. It also doesn't cause skin irritation, so you don't have to worry about your health and safety. 


Lastly, the kit includes a 1-gallon car wash, a 16-ounce wax spray, four microfiber towels, and a comprehensive manual. All in all, it's everything you need for application.  


However, keep in mind that the product will probably leave an oily residue on your vehicle. It might be a little challenging to wipe it clean, which is a little bothersome regardless of the excellent finishing results. Also, make sure to wipe dry the surface right after the application because the cleaner might leave some streaks on windows. 

Honorable Mention
Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash

Meguiar's Car Wash is designed to remove dirt, annoying build-up, road grime, and contaminants. It's an efficient product that cleans without stripping wax protection, and it's easy to apply.


Users especially love how the product foams and rinses off. It allows for effortless cleaning and is rich with conditioners that make a vehicle's surface better looking. Overall, the product works gently to remove dirt without damaging the vehicle's surface. It's easy to use, safe, and an excellent option to use with a snow or foam cannon.


You might want to avoid using it in direct sunlight, however. If you don't rinse it off right after application, the product might leave some residue behind. It might even create a thin film you have to rub off. Another thing that might bother some users is the lack of super sparkling results. You probably need to apply wax for a shiny finish.

Honorable Mention
Optimum No Rinse Wash & Wax

Optimum offers an inexpensive product you can use for both washing and waxing your vehicle. It contains a blend of high lubricating polymers that bond to the paint to remove harmful particles and leave a glossy finish. With it, you'll save quite some money on regular vehicle maintenance and achieve excellent cleaning results. 


The product made our list for many reasons. First, it's safe to use on all kinds of surfaces, so you can clean cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, boats, and more. Second, it's easy to apply and rinse off. You can use it anywhere and anytime for quick and thorough cleanups. 


All in all, if you need a product for cleaning light dirt and contaminants from your vehicle, this is an excellent choice. However, for removing heavy residues and build-ups, you might want to look for some other alternatives. The Optimum wash and wax requires quite some elbow grease and doesn't fully remove heavy dirt. It also doesn't provide a very shiny finish, so you might need to use another product afterward.

Honorable Mention
Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo

Adam's Car Wash Shampoo is a budget-friendly product worthy of your attention. Thanks to the pH-neutral formula, it's safe to use on different surfaces and ensures excellent cleaning results. Due to the high efficiency and easy application, you'll enjoy using this shampoo for cleaning your vehicle.


This shampoo allows you to wash your vehicle in direct sunlight and remove excessive road dirt, bugs, grime, and more. The formula creates a slick film that lubricates the paintwork and safely works to protect the surface from damage. You can use it on rubber, vinyl, windows, and plastic. Overall, you'll achieve excellent cleaning results with Adam's Car Wash Shampoo without spending tons of cash.


However, keep in mind that you might need to use a lot of the product to remove stubborn stains and heavy dirt. Applying just a little of the liquid probably won't get the job done. Also, many users complain about the design of the bottle. It has an awkward cap that might get loose and leak, so make sure to store it properly.

Honorable Mention
Meguiar's Ultimate Wash and Wax

Give your car the ultimate wash and wax with this formula from Meguiar’s. It’s the ultimate formula of carnauba wax and synthetic polymer technology. It will gently clean your paint while leaving behind a protective coating of wax. You’ll love the deep glossy shine that it leaves behind. This car wash stands out because it produces an incredible sudsing action that will minimize swirls while lifting grime from the vehicle’s surface. A standout feature of this car wash is that it’s balanced to be pH neutral. This ensures that it won’t strip the wax while it’s cleaning. Choose from a one-gallon or 48-ounce bottle. 


Unfortunately, this car wash can have unpredictable results depending on the products you’ve previously used on your vehicle. Possible unwanted results are a lack of a protective wax layer, too much of a waxy layer, or yellowish-colored water spots. 

Honorable Mention
Armor All Foam Action Car Wash

This concentrated formula contains powerful cleaners that will lift away dirt and road grime. You'll appreciate the thick foaming action that will effectively clean without stripping away wax. It’s safe for use on all of the vehicle’s surfaces. The result is a spot- and streak-free shine. You’ll like the thick foaming action. The concentrated formula also means that a single bottle will last longer because a little bit goes a long way. Choose from a single 64-ounce bottle or a pack of four bottles. 


One potential issue with this car wash is that it can leave a slight haze on the painted surfaces of your car. Also, because it’s a concentrate, you need to get the right balance of soap to water, or it won’t perform the way you want. 

Honorable Mention
Rain-X Spot Free Car Wash

Wash your car in less time with this spot-free car wash. Its deep cleaning formula lifts dirt and grime away with a thick foam. The formula is a rich blend of rinsing polymers that adhere to the surface of your car and make the water sheet off.  It stands out because it helps repel water for a spot-free shine. This means there’s no towel drying necessary. You’ll love the bright shine of your car’s paint once you’re done. This concentrated formula means the 48-ounce bottle will last for several washes. 


Unfortunately, you’ll need to be careful about where you wash your car. You shouldn’t use this formula in direct sunlight. If you must wash in direct sun, you’ll need to do it in sections. This can take more effort and time. 

Honorable Mention
3D Pink Car Wash Soap

This rich car wash formula is pH-balanced to gently and effectively clean your car. It will remove dirt, road film, and grime without stripping the wax. The rich foamy formula will prevent swirl marks and micro scratches while also being easy to rinse clean. You’ll appreciate how easy this foam is to rinse off, leaving a clean finish. This gentle formula makes it perfect for weekly washings in between more thorough detailing. You can use this concentrated formula in your foam cannon or in a bucket with water. 


Unfortunately, this car wash may not foam up as much as you’d like. This doesn’t mean it isn’t cleaning, though. While you can use it in a foamer, it cleans better when used in a bucket with a mitt. 

Honorable Mention
Auto Magic Wash and Wax Car Wash Soap

Get your car clean with this high-shine wash and wax concentrate. It creates a  thick lather that leaves a glossy shine. This formula stands out because it’s VOC-compliant and body-shop-safe for chrome, plastic, vinyl, rubber, mirror, wheels, and tires. This professional quality detailing soap will give you a professional quality clean and finish. The formula contains optical brighteners for added shine and a rich depth of color. It’s a concentrated shampoo, so you’ll need to dilute it with a 1:32 ratio. It will effectively clean all of the surfaces of your car, including lacquers, glass, clear coat, paint, enamel, and acrylic. 


One issue with this car wash is that it has an overwhelming smell of bubble gum. This can be unpleasant for some users. You also don’t need a lot, so you can easily overuse it and not get the full number of washings. 

Honorable Mention
Zymol Auto Wash Original Formula

Enjoy the perfect combination of gentle and strong with this pure coconut bark soap. It’s perfect for strong cleaning ability while also being gentle on your vehicle’s surface. The unique formula contains pure coconut bark and natural fatty oils. You’ll love how thick and voluminous the soap foam is. You can safely use this wash on all finishes. This super-concentrated formula comes in a 20-ounce container that is equivalent to a 64-ounce bottle in another brand. 


Unfortunately, this car wash formula is different from previous versions. If you have bought it in the past, you may not like how the new formula performs. The new formula doesn’t have the same amount of foaming action as the old formula. 

Honorable Mention
Karcher Car Wash and Wax Soap for Pressure Washers

Clean all of your vehicles with this wash and wax formula for pressure washers. It’s safe for use on your car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, RV, and boat. It comes in one-gallon and one-quart bottles. Using this wash in your pressure washer will make quick work of your cleaning tasks. The formula is highly concentrated and can make up to 20 gallons of cleaning formula. You’ll like how it rinses away without leaving any residue behind. You can safely use this biodegradable formula outside without harming the local environment. 


One potential drawback of this car wash is that it’s designed for use in your pressure washer. This can be too intense for washing your vehicle. It also isn’t designed for use in a bucket with water.

Tips

  • The best process of washing your vehicle begins with thorough rinsing, then a thorough wash, and then another rinse. Depending on how much debris is caked on your vehicle, you might need to repeat the rinse-wash-rinse cycle a few times. Rinsing first helps suspend the contaminants that you’ll wash away in the next step.
  • Change the dilution ratio based on how dirty your vehicle is. The standard dilution ratio is one capful of car wash soap dumped into a gallon of hot water. Agitate the water once you’ve mixed in the car wash soap and then dunk your wash mitt or sponge into the water to apply it to the car.
  • Work from the top of your vehicle down as you wash. Clean your wheels and tires last. Change the water in your bucket frequently if it becomes saturated with debris. Replace your sponge or wash mitts immediately if they pick up pebbles or other materials that might scratch your paint.
  • Plan to wash your vehicle at least once a month. You should wash it more often in the winter months when ice-preventing chemicals are sprayed on the roads. These harsh chemicals can do a lot of damage to your vehicle’s paint if left on the surface for a period of time.
  • Wash your vehicle in a shaded spot. Be careful not to spray/dump cold water on a hot car, especially the windshield. Excessive heat will increase the evaporation process, forcing you to use more water and car wash soap. Black cars that are washed in direct sunlight have an increased risk of swirl marks.
  • Purchase a wool mitt and similar cleaning and drying materials to devote to your vehicle(s). Be sure to wash your materials after each car-washing session and store them in a place where they won’t pick up dirt or dust. Replace these materials after they begin to lose their effectiveness to prevent damaging your vehicle.
  • Wash out your door jambs and rubber floor mats when you wash your vehicle. Dirt and debris will collect in the door jambs and around the rear trunk/hatch/tailgate and continue to degrade the surrounding materials. Consider rinsing out your engine bay as well, but be careful to use a low-pressure spray nozzle to avoid damaging components.
  • White vehicles tend to show stubborn contaminants much more than other colors. If you own a white vehicle, consider purchasing a clay bar to use at least once, if not twice, a year. The clay bar will remove the contaminants for a like-new finish. Follow up your clay barring with a coat of wax to seal the paint’s pores.
  • Ideally, you want to wax your vehicle after you wash it. Make sure to remove as much dirt and debris as possible from the paint before you wax. That includes tar, sap, bugs, and anything else that would damage the paint if left alone. Hand waxing is a simple process that makes a huge difference. 

FAQs

Q: What’s wrong with using regular dish soap to wash my car?

Dishwashing liquid is designed to clean your plates, glasses, and silverware. It’s not meant for cleaning your car’s surface. The detergents in this soap can dry out vinyl and plastic. It can also prematurely strip away any sealant or wax you’ve applied. In addition, some household soaps lack the lubricity needed to prevent micro-scratches and swirl marks. 

Q: How often should I wash my car?

Washing your vehicle every day can feel excessive. However, never washing your car is also not good. Some suggest washing your car weekly, while others recommend at least once a month. How often you wash your vehicle will depend on how quickly it becomes dirty or covered in contaminants. 

Q: Does car wash soap expire?

The best way to tell if car wash soap isn’t working is to test it on the undercarriage of your vehicle, somewhere perhaps on the running boards or rear bumper. If the car wash soap is more than a few years old, we recommend just replacing it. You can typically find a good car wash soap for as much as it costs to eat out.

Q: Can I use car wash soap on my boat?

Maybe. Boats have a clear coat on the hull that needs to be carefully cared for. Some car wash soaps may have the wrong formulation to be compatible with your boat. Additionally, if you plan on washing your boat in the water or near the water, you’ll want to be careful that it’s environmentally friendly. You don’t want to contaminate the water. Look for a car wash soap that states it’s safe for boats and the environment. 

Q: Are there special car wash soaps for darker/black cars?

Yes, there is. Black car shampoos have special additives that help them to bring out the shine and luster of your car’s black paint. Look for a shampoo that has advanced lubricants to prevent micro-scratches and swirl marks. Gloss enhancers help to increase shine. Hydrophobic properties will prevent water spots. 

Q: Can I use car wash soap at a self-serve car wash?

Most self-serve car wash stations will let you choose a soap brush option, but if you prefer to use your own car wash soap, just bring your supplies along with you. You can use the rinse feature and then just have your bucket of soapy water ready to go. Some car washes may watch what drains into their sewer system, however, so be aware of any restrictions that might be in place.

Q: What’s the difference between car wash soap and waterless car wash?

Car wash soap is meant for use with water. You can use it with a bucket of water, pressure washer, or foam cannon. A waterless cleaning product is designed for use with a microfiber cloth. A shampoo will perform best during a complete car wash, while a waterless detailer is best during spot cleaning. Use car wash soap for deep cleaning and waterless car wash for touch-ups in between washes. 

Final Thoughts

The Mother’s California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax won our best pick for car wash soap based on its winning combination of heavy-duty formula and scratch-free finish.

You can’t go wrong with the Chemical Guys Watermelon Snow Foam Cleanser if you’re washing on a budget. Dilute a capful in a gallon of hot water and you’re all set to start washing.