Soap making was elevated to an art in 7th Century Europe but it wasn’t until the 19th Century that petroleum-based detergents that resisted hard water were introduced to the marketplace. Enter the automobile, a status symbol that required regular cleaning and lead to the establishment of the first manual car wash in 1914. Automation was introduced in 1946, but not every car owner trusted their rides to those rudimentary machines.
Over time, specialized products were made that differentiated the needs of auto bodies from other types of surfaces, culminating in the formulation of special products sold just for car detailing. Historians at AutoLaundryNews.com note that “these detergents were anionic surfactants that basically made water wetter.”
Today, the sheer variety of chemical agents sold to help car owners keep their rides pristine has heightened competition between manufacturers who pride themselves on producing car wash soap formulas that focus on surfactants and alkaline builders like phosphates, metasilicates, sodium and potassium hydroxides. Added chelating agents have not only stabilized formulas but improved hard water stability, so no matter which car wash soap you choose, your car can always look like it lives in a garage (even if it doesn’t!).
How to properly wash your auto using car wash soap
1. Shop for a product that gets good reviews from users and invest in the right towels and cleaning mitts.
2. Rinse the car first to remove large pieces of dirt.
3. Follow directions on the car wash soap label to either dilute or apply the product.
4. If, after towel drying, stubborn soil remains, try using a clay bar to remove it.
5. Don’t use auto soap on windows, wheel rims and trim; use products formulated just for those surfaces.
More advice for car washers
– Use chrome wheel cleaner on aluminum rims and the acidic content of the product could ruin them.
– Avoid using dish soap; you could damage paint and/or strip off wax.
– Launder towels and mitts after each wash was to avoid dirt transfer.
– Keep a spray bottle of car wash soap on hand for touch-ups.
– Windex or other ammonia-based solutions can damage tinted windows.
– Use acid-free, pH-balanced products on metal surfaces like wheels.
– Use only the best car dusters – Don’t scrimp on price.
What to look for when buying car wash soap
Leave it to car buff and former late-night talk host Jay Leno to advise us on the subject of picking a car wash soap:
1. Check out the product’s “lubricity.” “The slipperier the better!” says Jay.
2. Make friends with suds and foam; they’re the dynamos responsible for trapping and lifting dirt.
3. The car soap you adopt should be pH balanced so acidic residue doesn’t ruin the car’s finish.
4. Jay urges shoppers to choose biodegradable formulations to be kind to the environment.
5. If all you want to do is keep your car exterior clean, add a general-use shampoo to your shopping list.
6. Only use a stripping solution when you intend to wax the car immediately afterward.
Top Ten Best 10 Car Wash Shampoos
Men are attracted to this manufacturer’s name because it’s memorable, but for women, the “honeydew snow foam” product is likely to make this gallon container of pH-neutral car wash soap sound downright romantic. Popular with shoppers who aren’t shy about reviewing this product positively, you could join them by trying this nicely-fragranced product that gets high marks from male and female car washers alike.
-Fresh smell is an enticing feature of this shampoo.
-It’s easily diluted: one cap to five gallons of water.
-This general wash is kind to paint, plastic, vinyl and glass.
-Safe for all surfaces, this is a one-product car cleaning tool.
-Not everyone finds the smell of honeydew melon appealing.
-This wash is a little more expensive than comparable products.
-May not clean your car as well as you had hoped, given the price.
A gallon of this detergent will set you back a few dollars less than the aforementioned Chemical Guys’ product, but brand fans love this formulation for more than saving a few bucks. Your get a one-step wash solution that’s made to clean and condition a car body, and because Meguiar’s biggest marketing claim, that it won’t strip wax, is taken seriously by shoppers, this advanced formula could be the solution you’ve been seeking.
-Foaming agents tackle road dirt, grime and contaminants.
-Purchase larger quantities and save money.
-Contains conditioners that enhance a paint job rather than damaging it.
-Application is fast and easy.
-Consumers have reported container breakage.
-Could leave residue on a car body or glass that won’t come off.
-Not everyone finds this product’s fragrance tolerable.
If you like the idea of Chemical Guys mixing up your car’s washing soap but you prefer to spend a few bucks less than the cost of the honeydew version, think pink! This car shampoo is formulated for dudes who wash their cars weekly. You can use it with a bucket or a foam gun. Because Mr. Pink is pH neutral and includes a lubricant in the mix, you get a scratch-free wash.
-Won’t leave residue behind after washing and drying your car.
-You can buy this by the case if you love to stock up.
-Won’t spot or stain when your car is exposed to sunlight.
-Comes highly recommended by self-confessed perfectionists.
-May not produce as many suds as other washes.
-Critics claim that a film remained behind; one had to re-wax.
-This soap’s strawberry scent may be off-putting.
When it comes to brand identification, who hasn’t heard of Rain-X brand car care products? Despite the pedigree, this wash and wax formulation is extremely affordable; in fact, this 64-ounce car wash with wax additives costs about 1/3rd the amount of other products in this review. Skeptical? Don’t be. Folks who use it compliment the deep-cleaning foam, shine and Carnauba wax protection packed into a single product.
-Unusually inexpensive, given the name brand and gallon size.
-Company has been producing quality products for over 40 years.
-Carnauba wax beads boost application ease, leaving a smoother finish.
-Stands up against all sorts of bad weather.
-Streaks and film residue have been reported by shoppers returning the product.
-May not deliver suds consistency you desire.
-Complaints that the Carnauba wax beads scratched the car body have been registered.
Your mother would be proud of you for trying out this inexpensive car wash/wax product, so perhaps you should use the money you save to take her to dinner. Promoting itself as “the quick, easy way” to clean, shine and protect, Mothers Carnauba Wash and Wax goes on smoothly and evenly, leaving a spot-free finish. This product produces a sudsy, pH balanced and biodegradable solution, so even Mother Nature benefits.
-Dissolves easily and removes stubborn dirt, soil and road grime.
-Safeguards the wax finish on a car’s body.
-Can be purchased as a 6-pack if you like to stock up.
-Users say the Carnauba wax additive can help fill slight scratches.
-Because this product contains wax beads, be prepared to buff out residue left behind.
-You may also notice film build-up, water stains and streaks post-wash.
-You might have to use more product to get the suds density you seek.
The name of this car wash brand may not be familiar, but the color of this product should be: it’s hot pink on the order of Chemical Guys’ “Mr. Pink,” though it costs less than the CG brand. Highly-rated by consumers, Griot’s Garage car shampoo promises to “Maintain paint care perfection bucket after bucket,” thanks to the inclusion of brighteners in the formula that also deliver “an eruption of rich, slippery suds.”
-Formulated with special brighteners to enhance the car finish.
-Made of premium ingredients that have been tested and refined for nearly 30 years.
-Griot’s Garage promises “a head-turning, streak-free shine.”
-Comes with a lifetime guarantee against defects.
-You may not get enough suds using the recommended product-to-water ratio.
-Could leave water spots if you don’t buff rigorously after washing.
-There have been multiple reports of container leakage.
This Aero car wash kit claims to be the perfect choice to keep your RV, motorcycle, boat, car and anything else with a motor clean, so if your garage is filled to capacity, you’ll be happy to know that each container is filled with 144-ounces of washing agent. Relatively inexpensive, given the number of items in this kit (spray bottle, towels and buffer), you can dilute this product or not; your call.
-Sold as “the best waterless car wash” on the market.
-That 144-ounces of product will tackle 36 cars as a waterless agent; 57 if you “wax as you dry.”
-Recommended by the military and airlines for 3 decades.
-Ammonia and alcohol free; this product is plant-based thus biodegradable.
-May still leave filmy residue, according to some users.
-The pad included in this kit could scratch your paint job, so test a small area first.
-You may already have enough car cloths and accessory items to fill a showroom.
8. Chemical Guys CWS_301 Citrus Wash and Gloss Concentrated Car Wash
They’re back—this time, with a yellow citrus car wash concentrate that could solve your “fragrance” issues if honeydew- and strawberry-infused products turn you off. Order a single bottle to test it out or a case of 12; the more you buy, the less each ounce costs. Count on the same features and benefits found in other Chemical Guys products: a slick base, biodegradable formulation and 1-cap to 5-gallon mix ratio.
-Costs a few dollars less than the honeydew version but comes with the same assurances.
-The slick base has been developed to outshine wax jobs.
-Combines wash, prep, clean, shampoo and gloss benefits.
-Lubricating foam lifts and holds soil “in suspension” for scratch-free results.
-If all fruit-based car wash products are offensive, take a pass on this one, too.
-You could wind up with water spots, even if you dry the car religiously.
-Containers holding the product could leak.
Here’s what differentiates this product from the rest of the Chemical Guys’ formulations: It’s purple. It’s “Extreme.” And it tackles jobs the other CG formulas can’t handle. This car shampoo includes a synthetic wax ingredient that’s pH balanced so it won’t damage paint or compromise sealants. Apply by hand or use a foam gun or cannon. Be prepared to pay a little more per ounce than you would if you bought other CG car wash formulas.
-A radical solution for vehicles confronting extreme challenges on or off the road.
-Promoted as a scratch-free washing solution that includes a viscosity agent for a slick finish.
-Meets or exceeds results car owners enjoy when comparing this product to competitors.
-If you like the brand, this formulation will complete your car care inventory.
-This version may be different, but container breakage plagues this product, too.
-This solution tends to dry fast, so you could wind up with hard-to-remove stains.
-How do you feel about the smell of grapes that lasts throughout your wash time?
Rest assured, there are no fruity smells associated with this car wash product and the price is lower, too. If you seek a low-suds product, this deserves a second look as it’s often compared to professional-grade concentrates. Ph neutral for streak-free results, New Solutionz has been tested and found safe on all types of paints, and while it’s only available in a 64-ounce (one gallon) bottle, that may be all you need to get the job done.
-Produced in the U.S., this car wash solution is a low-suds, pH neutral product.
-Concentrated for custom-mixing, it washes gently, rinses easily and delivers streak-free results.
-Tested and found safe on vehicle paints, sealants, waxes and clear coat finishes.
-Biodegradable and planet-friendly.
-Fairly new to the market, product availability could be problematic.
-Only comes in gallon containers.
-Hasn’t been on the market long enough to be thoroughly evaluated by users.