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 Comparison
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
Green Earth Technologies 01212
|Product Size||1 Gallon||64 fl oz||64 fl oz||128 fl oz||16 fl oz
/ 32 fl oz
/ 64 fl oz
|64 fl oz||16 fl oz
/ 64 fl oz
|64 fl oz||64 fl oz
/ 128 fl oz
|16 fl oz|
|Foam||Super High||Super High||Super High||Super High||High||High||High||Medium||High||Medium|
|Warranty||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days||90 Days|
Car Wash Soap Buying Guide
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
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.
Dishwashing 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Mix soap with water at the recommended dilution. You can use two buckets and wash by hand or use a pressure washer.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Repeat with each section of the vehicle. This method will prevent the dirt from moving from one section to another section of the car.
- 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.
- Once all the sections of the vehicle have been cleaned, rinse with a hose or power washer.
- Dry the vehicle immediately after washing. Use a soft, terry cloth or microfiber cloth.
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.
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