Who makes the best car wash soap? That’s a little like asking “Who makes the best candy?” Everyone has their own preferred brand.
Every vehicle is different. The paint finishes will be different. It may have had a hard life in the sun or kept completely cosseted in a garage, only coming out when the weather is ‘just so’. Only you really know what you need from soap and only you can really judge what works for you. We’ve rounded up six of our favorite car wash soaps, and in that list, you’re bound to find the one that works best for you.
- Chemical Guys CWS_301 Citrus Wash and Gloss Concentrated
- Meguiar’s G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash
- Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo
- Mothers 05674 California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax
- Griot’s Garage 10866 Car Wash
- Turtle Wax T-472R ICE Car Wash
Washing Your Vehicle
You may not think you need advice on washing your vehicle – it’s just soap and water, right? But there are some things you can do to make it easier and less time consuming. You can get better results and reduce the chance of damage with these tips that I’ve picked up from thirty years in the industry.
This is my routine when cleaning my car. It isn’t about detailing or getting 100% results for the ultimate showroom finish. If it was, we’d be talking about clay bars, machine polishing, paint sealing, and maybe ceramic coating).
I always start with the wheels. Applying a specific wheel acid to allow it to soak for a bit. Note: Always apply to a cold or cool wheel. If the wheel is hot from use, the acid will just dry up. You will need to wash it off before starting again.
Once the wheels are soaking, I apply some sort of TFR (Traffic Film Remover) which helps to loosen the dirt, and in summer, the endless amount of bugs that have squished on the front.
After I’ve let that soak for a time, I’ll rinse it off with an electric power washer. I try not to get ‘handsy’ at this point because all you’ll be doing is rubbing the dirt and bugs around the paintwork. It will lead to swirl marks and minor imperfections over time. If you don’t have a power washer, I’d use a hose connected to a faucet to get rid of the bulk of the mess. Don’t forget to do the wheels.
The next stage kind of depends on what equipment you have. I use a foam cannon to cover the car completely in foam and let it soak for a minute or two. But if you don’t have a foam cannon, then you need the ‘two buckets’ method – one bucket with soapy water, the other completely clean.
Apply the soapy water by hand. Then, rinse the wash mitt in the clean water and go again and again until the car has been covered. It’s laborious, but you’ll be grateful in the long run.
If you’ve used a foam cannon on a relatively clean car, you should just be able to rinse off and dry. You may find that the foam needs a bit of agitation to get the car properly clean. You won’t know this until you’ve rinsed it off, unfortunately, but applying a second coat won’t take long.
After rinsing with clean water, you want to dry it. Don’t let it ‘air-dry’ because you’ll end up with water spots. There are hundreds of different products for drying, ranging from chamois leathers to synthetic chamois, even large scale blowers that act like big hair dryers.
The final finish depends on what you’re wanting. You can leave it as it is or apply some sort of wax or polish, but that’s a basic clean for me.
The Best Car Wash Soap
- Rating: 4.9 / 5
- Brand: Chemical Guys
The Chemical Guys have a reputation for delivering some great quality car care products. This concentrated citrus-based formula is no different. They say it outshines most waxes. We’re not sure about that. But, whatever the end result, you have to admit that the gloss shines it leaves behind is pretty impressive.
It’s biodegradable and will generally outperform most hazardous solvent-based shampoos. The citrus hyper concentrate helps to easily lift dirt and debris from the paintwork. Citrus has been used for decades to help products do a better cleaning job. With that said, it’s safe to use weekly and won’t strip any waxes or sealants on top of the paintwork.
The foam it produces is super thick. It helps to suspend the surface contaminants in the foam. If you let them float all over the car it could cause some swirl damage in the long term. You need just one capful of concentrate to a five-gallon bucket of clean water, it can also be used in a foam cannon or gun, though.
All in, this is a great heavy-duty car wash that can be used as often as you like, and will always deliver the results. Remember that it needs some serious shaking before you use it, as it has a habit of settling and separating after a time.
Similar to the Chemical Guys, Meguiar’s has been around for a long time. They’re known for being one of the best in the industry. I first started using Meguiar’s polish around thirty years ago. It was the go-to product back then.
The Meguiar’s Gold Class wash has been designed to work in just one easy step. It will clean, condition, and shine your vehicle in one go, whether that’s through using the two bucket method or a foam cannon.
The advanced formula makes a rich, foaming sudsy foam that lifts and suspends the dirt. The conditioners almost guarantee that the paintwork will look its absolute best once it has been dried off properly.
It’s easy rinsing and biodegradable. It won’t strip any surface protectants that have already been applied. You can use this regularly without causing an issue. For those of you that don’t want to go to the trouble of waxing afterward, it’s a great all-rounder.
It’s a pH neutral soapy formula that produces some of the most luxurious suds you’ll find but still manages to rinse off clean and easily without leaving marks or spots. The ultra-slick formula won’t damage any wax or sealant that’s already in place, and it’s safe to use on all surfaces.
The Adam’s wash shampoo blends cutting edge cleaners and polymers to deliver something that can be used every day without fear of damage. The high lubricity means that the dirt and debris are held in suspension, meaning that the chance of swirl marks is lessened.
As far as the lubricity, or slipperiness, of the shampoo, Adam’s Polishes says that it can also be used as a lubricant for clay bars. I think it’s a smart move and more brands should do that. I’ve never yet used a clay bar kit where the clay has been trashed before I’ve run out of lubricant and I’d bet you haven’t either.
This product does a great job of adding shine at the end of a wash. It will look like the car has been treated to a wax. The formula is pH balanced and designed to give great results with minimal effort. It almost builds layers on top of what’s already there. Of course, this means that it’s safe to use regularly and won’t strip any sealant or protection that you already have.
The product is suitable for use in a foam cannon or hand washing. It’s super easy to rinse off and leaves no residue when used correctly. It’s completely biodegradable and leaves a slick finish with no streaks or spots. The smaller size makes it easier to carry or store.
I like Griot’s stuff. In fact, most of the brands here I like, but Griot’s just seem a little more commercial to me. Their shampoo uses a blend of premium ingredients to leave a high gloss shine that will get noticed.
It’s pH balanced and is safe to use as much as you like. It won’t strip or damage any existing finish, and it rinses off extremely well to leave a streak-free appearance. Griot’s Garage says that it has ‘special brighteners’ to leave a lasting, glossy finish. I would highly recommend it to those who have black colored cars.
The Turtle Wax ICE shampoo uses what they call ‘smart shield technology’ to build layer upon layer of protection with regular use of their shampoo (and other complementary products from the range). It’s a new blend of surfactants, conditioners and lubricating agents which Turtle Wax says is ‘lubricious’. Yes, it’s a new word to me also.
The product works really well. The foam clings to the vehicle, suspending the dirt in the suds, ready to be cleaned off without leaving swirls or residue.
Again, it’s pH balanced and biodegradable (very few shampoos aren’t now.) It leaves an almost glossy ‘just waxed’ shine (on the right vehicle). Turtle Wax claim that it uses the finest ingredients that won’t cause any damage no matter how often you use it, on everything including the most sensitive of paintwork.
It’s just as happy running through a foam cannon or hand washing. However, when handwashing it doesn’t seem to produce quite the same amount of suds as some of the other products here.
All of the manufacturers will tell you that their product will leave your vehicle looking the shiniest, most glossy, super lustrous. However, the reality is that if you’re looking at an old beater, no amount of special car shampoo will revive the paintwork like magic. You’ll need to put in some effort beforehand.
If it’s just a simple clean that you want, any of these products are going to work for you. None of them will cause damage. All of them help to deliver a shine. All of them contain cleaning agents and surfactants which are needed to remove dirt.
With that said, some do seem better with certain cars, or certain colors. Perhaps it’s just the clear coat or sealant that’s at work. Or perhaps it’s a visual trick. Either way, will spending an extra fifteen bucks give you fifteen dollars worth of value? Only you can decide that.