Best Car Wash Soap

We tested several of the leading brand car wash soaps out there and Car Shampoo from Adam’s Polishes was our favorite. It goes on very soapy, especially when you use the foam gun. Coming in a close second is the Meguiars Gold Class, which we also liked very much because of how well it washed and rinsed off. You can’t go wrong with either of these two products.

Car Wash Soap reviews
8 mins to read
37 products considered
29 products reviewed
7 weeks reviewing

1. Adam’s Polishes Car Shampoo

Best Overall Car Wash Soap

5/5 Product Rating

After thorough testing of many different car soaps, Adam’s Polishes Car Shampoo came out our winner. Its formula is safe on cars, provides a ton of foam to wash away dirt, and best of all it’s made in the USA. It comes in several different sizes but we recommend ordering it by the gallon. You’ll save some money overall and you’ll have enough to last you a long time.

The concentrated formula of this car shampoo is pH neutral so it won’t harm your paint. The shampoo liquid is very slick and won’t leave swirl marks on your car. We tested it on a 90-degree day in the direct sun with hard water and there were no swirl marks.

Adam’s Polishes specializes in auto detailing supplies and they have all of the equipment to make the job easier and more effective. Take a look at our hands-on review of Adam’s Polishes equipment here.

Jonathan Maxwell

2. Meguiars G7164 Class Shampoo Conditioner

Best Wash and Conditioner

4.9/5 Product Rating

Meguiars G7164 Class Shampoo Conditioner is a top pick because the formula not only cleans but also conditions the paint in one single step. The cleaning formula will not strip existing wax that is protecting your vehicle, but still cleans all of the dirt and debris from the vehicle and leaves a shine. The soap formula is strong enough to lift dirt and grime along with other contaminants that get on your car during the course of driving. Built into the formula is a conditioner along with the shampoo. The conditioner leaves the paint looking fresh and radiant without the need for frequent waxing.

The G7164 Class bottle comes in a 64-ounce size. The recommended concentration is 1 ounce (or four capfuls) to one gallon of water. This entire bottle will produce 64 gallons of soap for cleaning your car and can easily last 6 months or longer. With the affordable cost and high level of concentration, the Meguiars G7164 Class Shampoo Conditioner is a favorite among professional auto detailers.

The formula is designed to foam up nicely giving you lots of suds to lubricate your vehicle. Suds help lift the dirt from the paint and make it easier to remove from your car. You can clean an entire vehicle with one gallon of water and the recommended concentration of soap. The soap is non-detergent and pH balanced and will remain foamy for the entire cleaning process. The Meguiars G7164 Class Shampoo Conditioner is strong enough to get the toughest dirt off your car without hurting the paint or clear coat finish. Your wax remains intact with this cleaning formula.

The soap can be used in a bucket for hand washing or with a power washer. If you want to use a power washer you should select a low-pressure setting as high pressure can damage your paint. It will not damage the clear coat finish of your vehicle. The conditioner in this product leaves your car with a shiny finish. Customers love that this is easy to use and does not damage or remove the wax on their vehicles. It is a solid-performing soap that can be used for weekly care of your car and will effectively remove contaminants and dirt from your vehicle. Customers love the conditioner and when you are done washing, the paint will look fresh and new again. The soap suds last the entire time you are washing your car and will effectively wash both small and large vehicles. The recommended concentration of one ounce of soap to one gallon of water is enough to wash a large SUV without needing to mix up an additional soap. The 64-ounce bottle will last for months.

Jonathan Maxwell

3. Griots Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish

Best Wash and Wax Preserver

4.8/5 Product Rating

The Griots Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish is a top pick because it contains the proper pH-balanced formula to clean your car without damaging the wax. PH balance is important in a car wash soap because it will leave your vehicle without any residue or acidic chemicals on its surface which can occur when using harsher cleaning products. The formula is both safe and biodegradable, making it friendly for the environment. Because the water you use to rinse off your soap can soak into the soil, and eventually into our water system, products that are biodegradable can lessen the impact on our water and soil.

The Griots soap is very sudsy and the foam maintains its thickness long enough to thoroughly wash your vehicle. Having a very sudsy formula gives the vehicle more lubrication which helps the soap suds lift the dirt and grime from the vehicle. This saves you time and effort and lets the soap break down the contaminants that are on the vehicle. The Griots Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish has a very pleasant smell in addition to being very effective for cleaning your vehicle. The formula is very thick and it does not require much to wash your car. One 64-ounce container will last 6 months or longer with weekly washings. This concentrated soap is made with high-quality premium ingredients that will keep your paint’s finish looking brilliant. It is recommended to use one ounce of concentrate to one gallon of water. This will effectively wash your average-size vehicle.

This soap will give you plenty of suds to wash and clean your vehicle. It is also formulated to give you a streak-free finish that will leave your vehicle’s paint shining like new with a high-gloss finish. This formula will ‘baby’ your paint and preserve the car’s finish at the same time. Professionals use the Griots Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish with great success. The formula is strong enough to be used by hand or with a pressure washer. Customers love that the formula smells like watermelons and works great at removing dirt and grime from your vehicle. The formula will preserve the paint and finish of your vehicle and offers an environmentally friendly solution for car wash soap. Some customers have also found that this formula does a great job cleaning decks with a power washer.

Jonathan Maxwell

3. Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus Concentrated

Best Concentrate

4.7/5 Product Rating

The Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus Concentrated is a top pick because its citrus-based formula cleans cars effectively all while being biodegradable. The One-gallon sized formula is highly concentrated and does not have any harmful or hazardous chemicals in it. The formula has a cleanser-shampoo and will leave a glossy finish on your vehicle. The citrus-based soap will create more than enough suds which will lubricate the car and cut through the dirt and grime that gets on your vehicle every day. The soap suds lift the dirt and grime off the vehicle and then remain within the suds until the soap is rinsed off. The large volume of foam saves you from having to scrub the car a lot. The Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus Concentrated is highly concentrated and only uses one capful of formula to 5 gallons of water, making it one of the most concentrated solutions on the market. This one-gallon container can provide weekly car washes for up to a year. The all-natural formula does not contain any artificial thickeners, colors or additives. The solution will provide a high-gloss finish without leaving any streaks. Dirt and grime are lifted away then can easily be rinsed off without any harsh abrasives.

The citrus formula is combined with a glossing agent that will leave your paint shiny and look new and refreshed. This formula is used by professional automobile detailers and car enthusiasts. The formula will work in a pressure washer or you can mix it in a bucket and use it by hand. It is safe on any color vehicle. This soap creates a nice amount of foam and the suds are designed to break down dirt, grime and other contaminants that dull your vehicle’s paint finish. While there is no wax built into the soap, it will leave your car looking like it has just received a fresh coat of wax. The formula is lemon scented. Customers love the high concentration which makes the solution last for a very long period of time. One capful is all that is needed for 5 gallons of water. This is enough to wash one or more vehicles at a time. The formula is also environmentally friendly with no hazardous chemicals and has a lemony smell. This makes it pleasant to use and consumers do not have to worry about the rinse water polluting the ground or local water sources. The formula is very thick and one gallon can last up to a year – even with weekly car washes. The formula can be used for hand washing but is also effective in a pressure washer.

Jonathan Maxwell

Car Wash Soap Comparison


Adam’s Polishes


Meguiar’s G7164 Class


Griot’s Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish


Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus


Mothers 05664 California Gold


Armor All 25464


Turtle Wax T-79


Barrett-Jackson 9957


Meguiar’s G10464


Green Earth Technologies 01212

Product Size

1 Gallon 64 fl oz64 fl oz128 fl oz16 fl oz
/ 32 fl oz
/ 64 fl oz
/1 Gallon
64 fl oz16 fl oz
/ 64 fl oz
64 fl oz64 fl oz
/ 128 fl oz
16 fl oz
ScentUnscentedUnscentedScentedScentedUnscentedUnscentedUnscentedUnscentedUnscentedUnscented
FoamSuper High Super HighSuper HighSuper HighHighHighHighMediumHighMedium
Slickness LevelHighHighHighMediumMediumMediumMediumMediumMediumMedium
Warranty90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days90 Days

 

Car Wash Soap Buying Guide

Car Wash Soap Reviews

Must Have Items for Washing

Soap: A good quality soap that is tough enough to break down grease and dirt but gentle on your paint and clear coat finish. A separate soap should be used for the car’s paint and the wheels and tires. Wheels and tires need tougher ingredients to get the road grime and tar off. Dish detergents and glass cleaner should not be used on the paint as it will damage the paint and strip the wax and protectant sealants. Inside cleaners for your leather and dashboard should also be separate from your outside paint washing soap.

Two Buckets. If you are washing your vehicle by hand then you should have a bucket for the soapy water and a rinse bucket to clean your sponges or mitts. If you dip the dirty sponge in the soapy water you can end up with residue on the sponge which can end up scratching the paint.

Two Sponges or Mitts: You should have one sponge for the paint and windows and a separate sponge for the wheels and tires. The tar and grime from the tires are difficult to get off the sponge or mitt and can lead to scratches and damage the paint on your car. The cleaners for tires are harsher and can damage the paint as well.

Pressure Washer: Many car enthusiasts prefer to wash the vehicle with a pressure washer. This provides a faster and easier way to wash your car. Use to low setting on the pressure washer so it is strong enough to get the dirt and grime off but not high enough to damage the paint. You can also add your soap to the pressure washer to clean and rinse at the same time.

Drying Towel: It is important to dry the vehicle immediately after washing. Leaving the car to air dry will result in water spots that can be difficult to remove.

It is important to never use abrasive materials or cleaners on the paint of your vehicle. This could lead to swirls or scratches that require special compounds to repair.

Two Most Important Ingredients

Car Wash Soap1
A formula that is gentle on the car and will not leave and acidic residue. Formulas that are pH Balanced offer a neutral 7 pH which will not leave any unwanted residue on your vehicle. Biodegradable cleaners and soaps, and environmentally friendly soaps also do a god job of cleaning with gentle formulas that do not damage paint or leave unwanted residue. To test for this, run your fingers along the paint’s surface after cleaning. If it is rough then you made need a deep cleaner to get the residue off the vehicle. This will build up over time if you do not use a good quality soap.

Heavy foam. One of the biggest advantages to a soap with a heavy foam is that it does much of the work for you. The foam will loosen and break down the dirt, grime and other contaminants found on the car’s paint. Once the dirt is loosened, it will rest in the foam until you rinse or wipe it off. It is much easier to wipe the dirt off than have to scrub it off which can damage the paint or finish.

Selecting a Car Wash Soap

Car wash soap should not be a detergent. If you choose to purchase a concentrated soap, (as most of them are) it is essential that you use the recommended dilution. Soaps that are not designed for vehicles can strip the protective wax on the car and leave the vehicle looking dull instead of shiny.

Car Wash Soap2Dishwashing detergent will remove the protective wax from your vehicle which will enhance oxidation. This can lead to damage of the vinyl, plastic, and rubber on the car and can cause deterioration.

Some car wash soaps contain hazardous ingredients and will need extra care with use. Others are available in biodegradable or all-natural ingredients that are gentle on the environment. These environmentally friendly options have been proven to be as effective as those with harsher ingredients.

Automatic or Manual Wash?

Deciding between an automatic vs a manual wash? Automated car washes are very fast and convenient. Unfortunately, they are also known to scratch and damage your vehicle’s paint. Often, the brushes used at car washes are hard on paint and the car’s finish. If you choose to occasionally use a car wash, select one that is brushless. Not all car washes are the same so take note of their cleaning method before scratching your paint and having to repair damage down the road.

Cleaning Cloth

There are specialty mitts and cloths that can be used to wash your vehicle. Microfiber mitts are the best. They are strong enough to work the dirt and grime off the vehicle, yet gentle enough to not leave any unwanted scratches.

When you use bristled brushes, not specifically designed for vehicles, you can cause marks and scratches that will need to be removed.

Drying Cloth

After the vehicle has been washed it needs to be dried to prevent water spots from developing on the surface. The material should be both soft and absorbent so it will be easy on the paint. Microfiber towels that are big enough to absorb large amounts of water will also wring drier than many other materials. This will help dry the vehicle faster, leaving no extra water behind. Towels that are made from 100% cotton are also a good choice. Some consumers also use a softly edged squeegee. This will remove any settled water and will speed the process of drying your car.

How To Clean Your Vehicle

If your vehicle is not cleaned correctly, swirls and water marks can occur. These can be difficult to remove. Cleaners should be strong enough to get the dirt, grime, and contaminants off the vehicle without damaging the paint. Vehicles can be washed with a power sprayer (using gentle pressure) or by hand with two buckets and a garden hose.

Using soap and a hand cloth that is designed for washing vehicles will prevent damage to the paint and will extend the life of your car’s exterior.

  1. Choose a cool day or shade for washing your vehicle. The hot sun can dry the car faster than you can clean it and might result in water spots on the car. You should not wash your vehicle right after it has been driven because the engine will be hot. Your vehicle’s surface should be cool to the touch before washing.
  2. Mix soap with water at the recommended dilution. You can use two buckets and wash by hand or use a pressure washer.
  3. Spray the vehicle before you begin washing. This will remove all the loose dirt and provide a surface that accepts the cleaner and breaks down the dirt and grime better. Dead bugs and elements in the air and off the road constantly get on your vehicle. Rinsing off all loose debris first will help prevent paint scratches when you begin washing with a sponge or mitt.
  4. Use the soapy water solution and a microfiber cloth or mitt to wash the car. Most premium solutions will foam heavily and loosen and eliminate dirt and grime. For harder spots, there are specific solutions that will loosen stuck-on dirt and debris. Clay solutions can be used periodically. These will provide a deep clean.
  5. Use two buckets. One with soapy water and one with clean water. Wet the mitt or cloth in the soapy water and then after you have cleaned a panel or section of the vehicle, place the mitt or cloth in the clean water to rinse the mitt. Use long hand strokes, not a circular motion. Going in a circular pattern can result in water swirls which are very difficult to remove.
  6. Car Wash Soap3

  7. Repeat with each section of the vehicle. This method will prevent the dirt from moving from one section to another section of the car.
  8. It is best to clean your vehicle by sections. Wet, wash and rinse each section before going to the next. Otherwise, the soapy water could dry on the vehicle making it more difficult to clean.
  9. Once all the sections of the vehicle have been cleaned, rinse with a hose or power washer.
  10. Dry the vehicle immediately after washing. Use a soft, terry cloth or microfiber cloth.

Conclusion

Maintaining the paint on your vehicle will help the vehicle last longer and will result in a higher value when it comes time to sell or trade it in. When your car is cared for on the outside it will look better, but it will also resist rust and inevitably last longer. Good, exterior, car care starts with using the proper soap, washing frequently, and ensuring you are using the proper tools to prevent damaging or scratching the paint.

Vehicles are made to last longer and even cars that are 10 or 20 years old are frequently still on the road. When the paint is cared for and kept clean, the car will not look its age. Paint can remain shiny and vibrant for many years if washed and cared for properly and frequently.

Resources

  1. Adam’s Polishes: http://www.adamspolishes.com
  2. Meguiars G7164 Class Shampoo-Conditioner: http://www.meguiars.com/
  3. Griots Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish:http://www.griotsgarage.com/
  4. Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus Concentrated: http://www.chemicalguys.com/