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Best Car Shampoos: Get Your Car Looking Spotless

Ensure your vehicle is its cleanest with car shampoo.

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.

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BYRay Prince/ LAST UPDATED ON December 6, 2021

Your car is, unfortunately, a magnet for all things gross and disgusting and you have but two ways of keeping it spotless. You can either hermetically seal it in a car bubble and keep it stashed in your garage to remain undriven forever...or you could just invest in a good quality car shampoo and go to work.


The choice is yours but we don’t subscribe to the idea of preserving a car’s odometer. Car wash shampoos make easy work out of reducing road grime and mud, but with so many different types available—surface degreasers, wash/wax formulations, super foaming, specialized shampoos for vinyl, wheels, ceramic, and other specialized parts and materials—how do you pick? Easy, you keep reading and listen to The Drive’s experts on all things car shampoo-related. Let’s begin.

Best Overall

Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo

Summary

This shampoo doesn’t strip the car of its waxes and sealant coats.

Pros
  • Can be used in direct sunlight without spotting or staining
  • Should rinse clean with no residue
  • Safe on almost all automotive exterior parts, including trim and rubber
Cons
  • Might spot when rinsed with a pressure washer
  • Might stain a chrome trim
  • Doesn't give the best shine on windows
Best Value

Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo

Summary

A highly effective blend of advanced cleaners and polymers for a pH-balanced formula.

Pros
  • Captivating wildberry scent
  • pH balanced formula safe on all surfaces
  • Comes in three container sizes (16, 128, and 640 ounces)
Cons
  • May leave spot marks if not dried properly
  • Harder to pour; as thick as batter
Honorable Mention

Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash

Summary

This shampoo cleans and conditions your vehicle with just one wash. It comes in a one-gallon bottle, and an ounce can be diluted with a gallon of water.

Pros
  • Won’t strip wax or any other coatings on your car 
  • Effectively removes dirt and gives your paint a radiant look in one cleaning session
  • Lubricates the surface to help keep dirt and debris at bay
  • Eco-friendly
Cons
  • Might leave a residue when used in a pressure washer
  • Leaves spot marks when used under direct sunlight
Best Car Shampoos: Get Your Car Looking Spotless

Our Methodology

For this review, we researched more than 30 different car shampoos from around the web. We looked at different manufacturers and weighted those we’re extremely familiar with compared to those we aren’t. We asked friends, neighbors, and relatives and then rated them across several criteria, including formulation, formula-to-water ratio, pH level, and ease of use. In the end, we cut many that just didn’t live up to our expectations and the resulting list below is what we came up with. To learn more about how we research products, compare them against one another, and ultimately grade them, click the link here.

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.

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Best Car Shampoos Reviews & Recommendations

Owners say the Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo offers a rich and sudsy wash that's pH neutral, safe for use on all types of materials such as glass, rubber, metal, and chrome. It combines hyper surfactants with slick polymers to lift bonded dirt and gently remove it with every rinse without leaving scratches, swirl marks, or your carnauba wax or synthetic wax sealant. All it takes is one ounce of Mr. Pink for every 5-gallon water bucket. Consider it a solid option for weekly maintenance washes.

Nearly 27,000 owners have had favorable feedback about the Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo, citing everything from its healthy suds to ease of application using a foam blaster. Many consider it their weekly go-to car cleaner.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Chemical Guys
  • Model: CWS_402
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds

Pros

  • pH neutral formula safe on all materials
  • Gently lifts bonded dirt
  • Good for weekly maintenance washes

Cons

  • Smell is not the longest-lasting
  • Not the easiest to wash off hands

Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo offers a highly effective blend of advanced cleaners and polymers for a pH-balanced formula, safe on all types of surfaces, including paint, metal, rubber, wax, and ceramic-coated paintwork. It carries a delicate wildberry scent, which many users cite as not being too overpowering or too light. Many others have cited its rich and thick lather with equal workability using a bucket, foam gun, or foam cannon. Kudos for coming in multiple container sizes, including 16 ounces, 128 ounces, and a giant, 5-gallon (640-ounce) version.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Adam's Polishes
  • Model: Car Wash Shampoo
  • Weight: 8.82 pounds

Pros

  • Captivating wildberry scent
  • pH balanced formula safe on all surfaces
  • Comes in three container sizes (16, 128, and 640 ounces)

Cons

  • May leave spot marks if not dried properly
  • Harder to pour; as thick as batter

With more than 115 years in the business, Meguiar’s impresses with the Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash. Its signature, pH-balanced car wash offers a rich and luxurious sudsing action that works great on all paint types. Sudsing, lubricity, and foaming ability are in the upper range, complemented by a shampoo-like smell. Kudos for its extra-large 128-ounce size, four times as large as your traditional carwash bottle.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Meguiars'
  • Model: G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash
  • Weight: 8.95 pounds

Pros

  • Extra-large 128-ounce bottle
  • Excellent sudsing, lubricity, and foaming ability
  • Not an overpowering smell

Cons

  • May leave watermarks if not dried properly
  • Flimsy bottle cap construction; prone to leakage if not stored correctly

By leading automotive care brand Mother's, the Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax uses carnauba, a natural ingredient derived from northern Brazilian palm trees known for its water beading, UV resistance, and hypoallergenic properties. It instantly bonds to your paint with healthy suds for a spot-free clean. More than 2000 users have cited Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax's excellent work on matte finish paint, ease of application with foam cannons, and thick consistency.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Mothers
  • Model: 05674
  • Weight: 4.58 pounds

Pros

  • Derived from natural carnauba wax
  • Beads water well and adds a layer of UV resistance
  • Easy to use with foam cannon

Cons

  • Doesn't produce high volume suds
  • Leaves streaks and residue if not rinsed and dried properly

Like the Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax, Rain-X’s Wash and Wax bases its heavy-duty foaming action off of natural carnauba wax, known for its easy rinse, water beading, and vehicle finish protection. Its look and consistency arguably tops our list, with visible beads of carnauba wax floating within the container for a vivid visual but loses to the Chemical Guys just barely as it offers less. This biodegradable and pH-balanced formula does an excellent job of clinging onto and removing dirt and road grime for a spotless shine.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Rain-X
  • Model: 5077557
  • Weight: 0.429 ounces

Pros

  • Carnauba wax beads visible in formula
  • Smooth look and consistency
  • pH-balanced formula safe on all materials

Cons

  • Only comes in two container sizes (20 ounces and 64 ounces)

Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine offers one of the better no-rinse options we've researched. A 2-gallon water bucket and a single ounce of the formula are good enough to wash an entire vehicle, and with abrasion-resistant polymers, the solution does an excellent job of breaking down dirt without needing to be washed off with a hose. Just remember to clean one section of your vehicle at a time for the best results.


We love the fact Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine comes in several sizes from 8 ounces up to a 32-ounce version with a wash kit that includes three 16-inch by 16-inch microfiber towels and a soft chenille wash mitt.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Optimum
  • Model: NR2010Q
  • Weight: 32 ounces

Pros

  • Only needs 1 ounce of formula for every 2 gallons of water
  • Wash kit optional with microfiber towels and chenille wash mitt
  • Can also be used to clean interior

Cons

  • Not as effective on deeply caked surfaces
  • Requires work on one section at a time for best results

Griot's Garage 10866 Car Wash does a little bit of everything well. It uses a pH-balanced formula that is gentle on all paintwork, leaving a nice shine without streaks, swirl marks, or stripped wax and sealant. Its consistency is also good enough to work well on paint using a bucket or foam gun/cannon.


Like our other recommendations, Griot's Garage 10866 Car Wash is very economical when it comes to the amount of formula needed (only 1 ounce) per gallon of water. If there is one downside, it would have to be its limited size options. It only comes in a larger 64-ounce bottle, when we would have preferred to see smaller sizes or optional kits with microfiber towels or wash mitts to avoid the need to purchase them separately.


Product Specs

  • Brand: Griot's Garage
  • Model: 10866
  • Weight: 64 ounces

Pros

  • Produces high gloss, streak-free shine
  • pH balanced formula gentle on paintwork
  • Protects your wax and sealant

Cons

  • Only comes in a 64-ounce container
  • Produces little suds

Our Verdict on Car Shampoos

Our pick for the best car shampoo goes to the Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo. It does an excellent job of protecting your vehicle's waxes and sealant coats with a pH-balanced formula safe on virtually every surface from glass to chrome. Plus, it is very economical with its formula-to-water ratio (1 ounce for every 5-gallon bucket), so you can expect to keep your container for a long time.

What to Consider When Buying a Car Shampoo

Types of Car Shampoos

Here are the different kinds of car shampoos available, with the main difference between the application and pH rating.

Wash and Wax Shampoos

Traditional wax and wash shampoos consist of the most popular type of car shampoo. These consist of straight, pH-balanced formulations that are safe on all types of materials from metal and glass to chrome and rubber, given its status as a "catch-all." These work to lift dirt and debris from your vehicle.

Waterless Car Shampoo

Waterless car shampoo uses high lubricity sprays that mimic foaming action to lift and rinse dirt and debris particles off of your paintwork. Unlike foaming and sudsing, waterless formulas are sprayed to the surface and rinsed off. This type of car shampoo generally falls under a frequent maintenance schedule for light cleaning only, preferred for people who have no easy access to driveways or who live in apartment buildings.

Key Features

Formulation

Car shampoos come in several formulations, including conventional shampoos, wash-and-wax, super foaming, iron removal/wheel cleaning, ceramic shampoos, and specialty shampoos that focus on one key area e.g. vinyl or PPF treatments. Wash-and-wax car shampoos are 2-for-1 deals that offer a pH-balanced formula safe on all types of materials.

One of the most popular car shampoo ingredients is natural carnauba wax. Derived from northern Brazilian palm trees, this wax offers water beading and UV resistance properties along with a glossier shine than traditional car wash shampoos. Its properties produce a "floating effect" by allowing surfactants to lift dirt and debris from your paintwork for easier rinsing.

Others focus on key areas and typically consist of higher pH levels (e.g. 9 or 10) to coincide with a more aggressive clean of stripping wax and sealant from paintwork. Others do better at removing embedded brake dust and bonded contaminants.

pH level

pH refers to a solution's level of acidity or alkalinity. Formulations too close to either end of the spectrum could ruin your paintwork. Opt for a pH-neutral wash and wax formula and pH-specific specialty car shampoos, such as those used for iron or wheel cleaning.

Top Brands

Chemical Guys

Founded in 1968, Chemical Guys manufactures virtually every automotive care product under the sun, including car polishes, trim restorers, ceramic waxes, and car washes. The brand is also known for its packed, 685K subscriber Youtube channel full of resource guides, best practices, and brand storieS, all narrated by knowledgeable and engaging hosts. We highly recommend the Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo

Mothers

Starting with the debut of its aluminum polish more than 40 years ago, Mothers has become an automotive care juggernaut, now the proud owners of more than 100 car detailing products that are sold around the world. Our favorite Mothers product is the Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Rain-X

Although better known for the latest in wiper blade technology, Rain-X has branched out nicely into automotive car products., including headlight restoration, anti-fog treatments, and car waxes. Our favorite Rain-X car shampoo is the Rain-X Wash and Wax and the Rain-X Spot Free Car.

Turtle Wax

Started in 1944, Turtle Wax is one of the most respected car shampoo brands in the United States. They are responsible for the first-ever liquid auto polish, the first premium car polish (Plastone), and the Minute Wax® silicone-based spray wax, the first car care product marketed towards women. It now sells products in more than 90 countries. Our favorite Turtle Wax product is the Turtle Wax ICE Snow Foam Car Wash.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: What can I use instead of car shampoo?

A: We don’t recommend using conventional home detergents to wash your car since most feature grease-removing ingredients that can damage your paintwork. Car shampoo is the safest way to clean your vehicle. 

Q: How much is the most expensive car shampoo?

A: Expensive shampoos are usually priced between $20 to $50, and that’s because they come as car wash kits or large one-gallon bottles. It’s possible to get the same product for a more affordable price but in a smaller size of up to 32 ounces. 

Q: What is a waterless car wash?

A: A waterless car wash uses little to no water, an excellent choice for people without access to a driveway or who live in apartment builders where a hose is not immediately reachable. They usually use a spray-on solution with high lubricity chemicals, best for light work only. Many users have cited its positive environmental impact, saving up to 45 gallons of water used by traditional car washes.

Q: How do I choose a car shampoo?

A: Some of the criteria that go into choosing a car shampoo include formulation (specialized versus conventional car soaps versus 2-in-1 wash and wax solutions), ingredients (e.g. natural carnauba wax for water beading and UV resistance), lubrication, biodegradability, and application type (foam vs. waterless). Note, traditional wax and wash shampoos carry pH-balanced formulas that are safe on all kinds of materials. These are the most common types of car shampoo.

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