If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission.
Whether you live on the East Coast or the West Coast, up North or down South, there’s no denying how tedious it can be to have to take your car to the wash. Waiting in those long lines, coughing up those extra few bucks so you can get the premium wash and then realizing a few days later that those buffers actually scratched your paint. Fortunately, it’s finally summer, which is the perfect time to skip driving to the wash and clean your car yourself.
Keep in mind that when washing your car at home not just any soap will do. Most car soaps are specifically formulated to be gentler on your car’s paint and offer loads more suds than your standard run-of-the-mill kitchen soaps and detergents. And because they’re specifically designed for cars, they also make it easier to cover larger surfaces with less residue.
Unlike regular soap, which can actually strip your vehicle’s protective outer coat, car soaps are specifically formulated to be used on paint, which makes it even easier (and a little more fun) to mop up all the dirt and grime with ease. While most car wash soaps are, more or less, meant to be used the same way, they come in a variety of different options, including:
- Traditional washes
- Wash and wax hybrids
Where traditional car wash soaps are designed to make your car look clean and pristine, car waxes are meant to cover your ride’s coat, preserving the look and sheen of your paint job for much longer. And then there’s the wash & wax hybrid, which offers both a comprehensive wash and its own protective layer.
Believe it or not, not all soaps were created equal. Some of the best car wash soaps are made with a neutral pH balance to help make your ride shine without harming the coat, while others are designed to add an extra sheen to help reduce streaks or blotches. When picking out your car wash soap, keep an eye out for these beneficial ingredients:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) – An effective cleaning agent found in many household products from car wash soap to toothpaste.
- Distilled Water – This water has the minerals removed, preventing white spots from appearing on your car post-wash.
- Isopropyl Alcohol – A disinfectant that also works to break down dirt, grime and oil from the surface of your car.
There are also some car wash soap ingredients that do more harm than good. Try to avoid the following:
- Coco Diethanolamide – This chemical provides the foaming action of many car wash soaps, but it may be a carcinogen.
- Ethyl Alcohol – Sometimes used instead of isopropyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol is harsher yet may not clean away built-on grime as effectively.
- Fragrances & Dyes – These additives may make the soap smell and look good, but they don’t add anything to the effectiveness of the liquid.
To help you find a great car wash soap, we’ve rounded up some of the highest-rated options on Amazon. Whether you’re driving a hatchback, an SUV or riding a motorcycle, these soaps are sure to give your ride a professional-grade cleaning for less.
1. Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Wash Soap
Able to remove dirt, grime and debris with those sweet, soapy suds, this Chemical Guys car wash soap features a gentle (but thorough) pH balance to effectively keep your car looking shiny without affecting the paint. Perfect for regular washes, the Chemical Guys is one of the highest-rated car wash brands in the business, and this Pink Super Suds doesn’t disappoint.
2. Turtle Wax ICE Car Wash
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better and more comprehensive car wash soap for under $7. Made with powerful advanced scientific polymer engineering, it’s designed to penetrate deep within your car’s coat to help give your ride a more thorough clean. Great for cars and motorcycles, it even comes with Turtle Wax’s Smart Shield Technology to give your car some extra shine.
3. Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo
Gentle on your car but hard on dirt and grime, Adam’s pH neutral car wash shampoo is designed to be used on any and all vehicle surfaces — that includes rubber, windows and plastic areas. The soap itself is concentrated to provide more suds (which is always fun), and the slick and smart formula helps reduce the occurrence of any swirls or unwanted streaks. For when you need a soap that really gets in deep for a thorough clean, Adam’s is the way to go.
4. Nu Finish Car Wash Soap
BEST HIGH GLOSS
If you park your car outside and frequently notice tree sap, bugs or bird poop dirtying your paintwork, you need to try Nu Finish Car Wash Soap. This liquid is made from pure orange oil rather than harsh cleaners. However, it does a wonderful job at breaking down the natural but tough to clean substances listed above. It also won’t damage the wax or polish on the car’s exterior. Plus, this orange-based cleaner smells great while you’re hand washing your car.
5. Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax
Sleek and super sudsy, this California Gold car wash soap is one of the best on the market. Made with an extra concentrated neutral pH, it’s designed to help give your car a comprehensive clean without leaving any streaks or unsightly wipes behind. Best of all, it leaves behind an outer protective layer designed to help keep your car cleaner, longer. Oh, and did we mention it’s 100% biodegradable?
6. Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash
BEST SHAMPOO/CONDITIONER COMBO
Designed to both clean and condition your car in one easy step, Meguiar’s features an advanced cleaning formula that’s able to get down deep to help keep your ride looking great. Plus, the integrated shampoo/conditioner design makes for a much faster and more comprehensive clean. Streaks and spotty sides will be a thing of the past.
7. Rain-X Carnauba Wax Protection
Rain-X prides itself on producing cleaners that help auto owners to “outsmart the elements.” This means that each of their cleaners can provide protection from harsh elements, from direct sun to torrential downpours. This particular cleaner, which is designed for the exterior of your car, provides a foam wash that breaks down the toughest dirt. Then, the included Carnauba wax beads cover the car in a protective finish. This car wash soap is safe for all finishes and comes in a large, 64-ounce bottle.
8. Milwaukee Muscle Car Shampoo
BEST CERAMIC INFUSED
Instead of providing wax protection to your vehicle, the Milwaukee Muscle Car Shampoo adds a layer of ceramic protection. This is the latest in car cleaning technology, and by doing so, this car wash soap rejuvenates old paint jobs. The shine left behind after cleaning with this soap is remarkable. As an added bonus, this car shampoo is non-alkaline, pH balanced and phosphate-free, so you can use it on cars, motorcycles, boats and RVs alike.
9. Armor All Foam Action Car Wash
BEST FOAM ACTION
Do you need to clean a lot of cars, trucks or motorcycles? The Armor All Foam Action Car Wash has your back. First and foremost, it’s important to note that this pack comes with four bottles of Armor All Wash, which is enough to last the average person for years. Secondly, this is a quality cleaner that foams well so you can easily cover your entire car, ensuring everything gets clean. When the cleaner comes in contact with your car’s exterior, it quickly breaks down stuck-on dirt and grime, resulting in a streak and spot-free finish that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
10. Optimum No Rinse Wash & Wax
BEST NO-RINSE OPTION
What does every car soap (aside from this one) on this list have in common? They’re all super sudsy. This Optimum wash and wax includes a smart blend of high lubricating polymers that give you a clear, sleek and shiny finish without you having to worry about washing and rinsing off all those soapy suds. All you need to do is add a little water, wipe, wash and you’re good to go.
11. Chemical Guys Citrus Wash
BEST NATURAL OPTION
Designed to work as both a car shampoo and conditioner, this Chemical Guys car wash will leave your car looking — and smelling — great. It’s made from 100% pure citrus cleaner, which means you won’t be putting any unnatural ingredients or solvents onto your car. It’s also free of all artificial colors and additives, which both helps reduce the risk of scratching and leaves you with a little more peace of mind.
12. Wet or Waterless Car Wash Wax Kit
BEST CAR WASH KIT
This biodegradable and entirely comprehensive kit comes with one car wash liquid soap, a 16 oz spray bottle, four handy microfiber towels and more. Combining all the various cleaners at once helps give your ride a better and more thorough clean that’s designed to last longer. Even better, this brand’s unique soap features an anti-static UV protective coating, which helps prevent dust and grime from building up.
13. Nanoskin CHERRY SUDS Wash & Shine Shampoo
BEST BULK BUY
Featuring an advanced nano-technology formula and optimal foaming action, the Nanoskin Cherry Suds Wash and Shine Shampoo is a highly concentrated car wash soap. In fact, you only need to use one ounce of this thick liquid for every gallon of water in your bucket. The resulting concoction will be thick enough lather to sit on the surfaces of your car while you rub it down with a wash mitt. And, when you’re finished, rinsing it off is super easy thanks to the water sheeting the soap creates. The result is a shiny, like-new appearance for your ride.