Best Car Shampoos: Get Your Car Looking Spotless

Ensure your vehicle is its cleanest with car shampoo.

Best Overall

Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo

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Best Value

Adamu0026#x2019;s Car Wash Shampoo

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Honorable Mention

Meguiaru0026#x2019;s Gold Class Car Wash

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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.

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.

Best Car Shampoos Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall

Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Shampoo

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Best Value

Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo

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Honorable Mention

Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash

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Best Formula Car Shampoo

Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash u0026amp; Wax

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Best Formula Car Shampoo

Rain-X Wash and Wax

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Best Interior Car Shampoo

Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine

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Best Car Shampoo Overall

Griot's Garage 10866 Car Wash

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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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Ray Prince is a self-taught Miami, Fla.-based automotive aficionado. He has been published on Wide Open Roads, Fansided’s Art of Gears, Hybrid News, Vehicle History, and Auto Guide. He has also written product descriptions for Turn5, an aftermarket e-commerce retailer specializing in trucks and muscle car parts.