Best Car Wash Soap
There is no better way to keep your vehicle’s paint looking vibrant and new than frequent washings with good quality equipment. Many car wash soaps advertise that they are the best, but which brands will actually produce top-quality results? We hand-tested the leading car wash soaps and reveal the results for you below.
Introduction to our Car Wash Soap Reviews
Washing your car can be a weekly ritual for car enthusiasts. A lot of pleasure can be had in cleaning your car and having a ride you are proud to drive. Aside from just the aesthetics, having a clean exterior will extend the life of your paint and finish, giving you a car that will look great for many years. However, if you have neglected your car’s paint and exterior for several years, the paint damage may be irreparable. Frequent washing is one of the best ways to maintain your car’s finish and keep it looking new. If maintaining the outside of your vehicle is not done correctly or often, then your car could end up with deep scratches and damage that will lead to dull paint and the development of rust. To keep your car in top condition, washing it is the first step, so choosing the appropriate type of soap is a great starting point. Your vehicle should be washed frequently with weekly cleaning being the most commonly recommended frequency. Even during the winter months when it is cold and wet outside, it is important to clean off your car. Your paint job will take a beating from the salt and road treatments used to keep snow and ice from forming. Leaving these sit on your vehicle all winter will damage the paint, dull the shine, and leave scratches and reside that are very difficult to remove. A good cleaning routine will ensure that these elements are removed before lasting damage can occur.
Many consumers wash their vehicles with dish soap. Unfortunately, this action can damage the paint and clear coat finish. It will also remove the wax and sealants that keep your vehicle’s paint protected from the outside elements. Selecting a soap formula that is specifically designed for vehicles will preserve your car’s paint and finish. This is the best way to ensure that your vehicle will look its best each day. We have researched and tested many different brands to come up with our top ten recommendations. Our top three soaps perform consistently and leave your vehicles paint looking refreshed and renewed. We also provided a buyer’s guide that will help you decide which features and qualities you need for your car. Our objective is to provide you with all of the information you need in order to find a car wash soap that will do everything it promises. One that will keep your car clean and your paint shiny without damaging it. Also one that won’t strip the wax. Years ago cars needed to be waxed frequently. With today’s paints, the clear coat finish helps preserve the paint. With a top-quality car wash soap, you only need to wax your vehicle a few times a year with great success.
Top 10 Car Wash Soaps & Shampoos
|Rank||Picture||Car Wash Soap||Foam||Slickness|
|1||Adam's Polishes Car Wash Shampoo||Super High||High|
|2||Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash||Super High||High|
|3||Griots Brilliant Car Wash||Super High||High|
|4||Chemical Guys Citrus||Super High||Medium|
|5||Mother's California Gold||High||Medium|
|10||Green Earth Technologies||Medium||Medium|
1st Place Review
Adam’s Polishes Car Shampoo
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 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.
2nd Place Review
Meguiars G7164 Class Shampoo Conditioner
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 the 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 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 detailers.
The formula is designed to foam up nicely giving you lots of suds to lubricate your vehicle. Suds help to lift the dirt from the paint and makes it easier to clean 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 will leave your car with a shiny finish. Customers love that this is easy to use and does not damage the wax on the vehicle. It is a solid-performing soap 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 1 ounce of soap to a gallon of water is enough to wash a large SUV without needing to mix up more soap. The 64-ounce bottle will last for months.
3rd Place Review
Griots Garage 10866 Brilliant Finish
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 surface which can occur when using harsher cleaning products. The formula is both safe and biodegradable, making it friendly for the environment. Considering that the water you use to wash off your soap goes into the soil and eventually into our water system, products that are biodegradable can lessen the impact on the water and soil we use.
The Griots soap is very sudsy and the foam maintains its thickness long enough to wash the vehicle thoroughly. Having a very sudsy formula gives the vehicle more lubrication and the soap suds lift the dirt and grime from the vehicle effectively. 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 a large amount of suds for washing and cleaning 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 the 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.
4th Place Review
– Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus Concentrated
The Chemical Guys CWS301 Citrus Concentrated is a top pick because its citrus-based formula will clean cars effectively yet is 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 a large amount of 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. They then remain within the suds until the soap is wiped off. The high level 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. The 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 looking new and refreshed. This formula is used by professional detailers and car lovers. The formula will work in a pressure washer or by hand and 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 water used 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.
Top Rated Car Wash Soap Summary
Adam’s Polishes comes out ahead of all the car wash soaps we tested. It’s overall slickness and cleaning capabilities are excellent. Meguiars, Griots, and Chemical Guys are all top brands when it comes to leading the market with car wash materials. They each provide a superior wash without damaging the wax of the vehicle and will preserve the shine, paint, and clear coat. The Meguiars and Griots are available in a 64 ounce or ½ gallon size and the Chemical Guys is available in a 128 ounce or 1 gallon size. Both Meguiars and Griots have a recommended dilution ratio of 1 ounce to 1 gallon of water. The Chemical Guys solution has a recommended dilution ratio of 1 capful or 1 ounce to 5 gallons of water. This higher concentration makes it the most economical purchase per ounce.
Griots and Chemical Guys both offer a biodegradable formula. Chemical Guys is all-natural with no harmful chemicals, no added colors, thickeners or additives. Meguiars does have chemicals and should be kept away from pets and children. The Meguiars and Griots are pH Balanced, where the Chemical Guys is not.
Each of the three soaps have a conditioner or shine-enhanced formula that will give your vehicle’s paint a shiny finish. All of the top brands will protect the paint, maintain the clear coat finish, and leave the vehicle’s paint looking fresh and vibrant. However, none of these include wax yet they will all protect the existing wax on the car.
Hands-On Test Results
In our test, we looked at dozen different brands but ultimately it came down to the top two: Adam’s Polishes Car Shampoo and Meguiar’s Gold Class. I’ve been using Meguiar’s Gold Class on and off for the past few months and it gets the job done. It’s a very thick liquid which is gold in color, hence the name Gold Class. I’ve tested quite a few of the other leading brands but never tested Adam’s Polishes. Each year we we try to add new products to our reviews to see how they compare to the existing products in terms of performance and other features. The one that stood out was the Car Shampoo from Adam’s Polishes. Needless to say, after testing, it ended up in first place and is now at the top of our leader board. See the detailed test results below.
While performing these tests, I needed some new detailing equipment so I ordered a little more than the car shampoo. The order arrived a few days later and it was time to get started.
First off, let’s start with the foam gun. This is the first time I’ve used something like this and it’s like putting your car through the car wash. The amount of soapy foam you can put on your car in a matter of seconds is great. If your vehicle isn’t covered with heavy dirt then you can start with this and it makes washing easier, plus you are allowing the foam to pull up the dirt that has been sitting on the car. I first put on a layer of foam, let it sit for a minute then rinsed before washing with the wash pad. If you are a stickler about keeping your car in the best shape possible, this method will prevent minor abrasions to your vehicle that can occur when washing. When you wash your vehicle, you can scratch the dirt into your paint. However, rinsing your car first is all-around safer for the life of your paint. If you’re like me, you apply a tefelon coating to your vehicles too which maintains the best look.
Here’s a video of using the Foam Gun for the first time. Yes, it’s super fun.
Next up – washing the 370z. Firstly, there are three additional pieces of equipment from Adam’s Polishes that I found really useful: their wash pad, bucket with grit guard and of course the foam gun. The wash pad is very dense and holds a ton of soap. Here’s a picture of me taking the wash pad out of the bucket. You can see how many suds this holds. I normally have to soak a regular sponge several times when washing the side of my car. The wash pad I only soak once. It’s about twice the size of a sponge but holds a lot more water and soap plus it does a much better job of cleaning.
Here are a few shots of the car after using the wash pad. You can see it’s covered in heavy soap.
For the wheels I use SpeedMaster Wheel brushes I bought on Amazon. A sponge doesn’t cut it when you have deep wheel wells and frankly it hurts your hands trying to clean between all of the spokes in the rims. These brushes are great and I definitely recommend them.
After washing and a thorough rinse, I used Adam’s Polishes large microfiber drying towel and here are the final results.
The best car wash soap goes to Adam’s Polishes Car Shampoo. It does the job very well by covering the car with thick soapy suds. I recommend purchasing their washing pad too. If you want to go that extra step, I highly recommend the Foam Gun as well.
Here is a list of the equipment I used from Adam’s Polishes
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 Buyers 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?
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 soft 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 are 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 down 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.