Car Wash Soap vs. Dish Soap

By Power Tools

February 7, 2021

When you buy a shampoo for your hair, do you prefer buying the cheapest one or one that is formulated for your hair?

Well, that may sound funny, but many car owners choose soap for washing their car the same way. Some go for the lowest price option, while others use a product designed to protect the vehicle’s paint while removing the toughest dirt and grime with ease: the car wash soap.

The cheapest option for car owners, on the other hand, is dish soap. Dish soap is a highly concentrated detergent liquid cleaner. You use it for washing utensils, cups, plates, pots, and pans. A few people also use it for washing a car.

But how well does it work on washing your car? Is using dish soap a good idea for your vehicle? In this article, we will explore these questions in more detail.

Can I Clean My Car With Dish Soap?

Since the time cars were invented, people have been obsessed with washing their cars and keeping them clean. Many car shampoos are available to clean cars, but one thing has remained constant in soap-buckets around that world: Dish soap.

Conventional logic states: dish soap cleans the dishes so well, why wouldn’t it work for your car?

Blue Dishwashing liquid

Yes, you can use dish soap to clean your car, but it may not be the best idea. Dish detergents have a high-pH level, usually in the eight to nine range. This is too high to apply on paint and can cause damage to it. It can lead to scratches and slowly remove layers of wax or paint sealants when used for a long time.

Your car’s paint is not as strong as you might think. The vehicle’s paint is prone to damage if you apply the wrong chemicals with high pH.

Here are a few reasons why using dish soap for washing cars is not a good idea.

Harsh Chemicals And Car Paint Do Not Mix

Dish soaps contain surfactants and salts, which help break protein and grease in food products. It soaks the food particles and removes them from the paint.

Now imagine using it on a gently painted car? The same harsh chemicals can remove the wax from your vehicle. If it dries or you don’t remove all of it, the detergent will eat away the surface of your car.

Dishwashing Soap Sticks To The Surface And Is Hard To Remove.

Have you ever thought about why you need to use so much water to wash dishes? It gets even worse when you attempt to wash your car with this.

The surfactant formulation found in dish soaps is hard to remove from the surface. When you wash your car with dish soap, you will see streaks. It damages the paint of your car.

Can You Use Laundry Detergents To Wash Your Car?

Washing the car with laundry detergent is not a good idea as well. Like dish soap, it might contain chemicals and degreasers harmful to the car’s exterior coating over time.

However, dish wash soap can work if you are applying it once in a while. It is a much cheaper option, and if you just need a bit of cleaning, then dish wash soap might still be a good idea.

Laundry Detergent

If you are looking for a good dish wash soap for your car, we recommend you to try Dawn. Dawn is the number one selling dish cleaner by sales. It’s one of the more gentle cleaning soaps but still has excellent cleaning power. You also get the free cleaning scrub, which is an anti-scratch cleaning product.

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If Not Dish Wash Soap Then What?

If you are looking for a gentle but thorough and protective wash, it’s time to turn to professional products!

Car shampoos are milder than dish soaps or laundry detergents. They are specifically designed to be used on the surface of the car.

They have a pH neutral formula, gentler than a dish wash or laundry soap, or even automotive-based soaps used for cleaning wheels. Car shampoos ensure your car paint is not damaged.

However, it is always advisable to use the recommended amount of water to dilute them as per the instructions given.

Types of Car Wash Soaps

There are many types of car wash soaps:

  • Concentrated: The most common form of Car wash soaps is the concentrated stuff you get in an auto parts store. You can dilute them to get a large amount of soap at home, which you can store and use as and when you need it. Concentrated soaps come in many varieties: some have a waxy finish, others are tougher and meant for stain removal.
  • Waterless: If you understand how much water is wasted in one car wash cycle, getting a waterless car wash soap is simply a no brainer. Most manufacturers produce a waterless version of their product, and it is priced almost the same as the regular variant.
  • Wax. Car wax is meant to cover the car, preserving the car’s look and sheen of paint for a longer period.
  • Traditional Washes. Traditional washes simply make the car look cleaner. They are not able to bring back its luster.
  • Wash And Wax Hybrids. Some car shampoos leave a wax residue that shields your paint from damage for a long time. It offers both a stunning look and a protective layer of wax.

The best car wash soaps are formulated with a neutral pH balance. They help make your car shine without damaging the coat. In contrast, others are designed to add extra sheen to reduce streaks or blotches.

Car Shampoo and sponge

If you are looking for a good car wash soap option, we suggest Chemical Guys CWS_402 Mr. Pink. Their pH neutral and leaves your car good as new, with a shiny coat that leaves no trace of dirt or grime behind

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One of the best waterless options is the Meguiar’s G3626 Waterless Wash and Wax. It has a no-scratch formula, which also ensures a water spot-free car. It has high lubricity and ensures that there is no scratching or swirling on the car either. You can use this product on any kind of paint.

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Benefits Of Using A Car Shampoo

  • Car Shine: Who doesn’t like their car to shine like new? Car shampoos have specific ingredients that give a new-like shine to your car. They clean your car comprehensively, leaving behind a shiny look.
  • Guarantee: Most car shampoos offer a guarantee that your paint will remain like new. In case of any damage, you can reach out to the company.


Dish soap is good for removing your two-day-old residue left on your dishes.

Using it for washing your car is not a great idea. Use soaps specifically formulated for cars if you want to ensure that your vehicle’s paint is at its best condition for a long period. It will help prevent stripping of its wax protection and essential oils.

A slightly more expensive purchase can make a difference between a new or old looking car, and when you compare it with how much a new paint job costs, you can understand the value.