A Guide To The Best Car Shampoo

When the weather starts looking good, you can’t help but think about giving your ride a good scrub.

You could drive down to the old car wash behind the gas station and let those spinning brushes or rags dipped in soap do the dirty work for you.

But you are actually much better off washing your car at home. Why?

Because those rags and brushes that car washes use have who knows how much dirt on them.

Take a good look at those black marks on those soapy arms going over your car. The car wash didn’t buy these in black, I can assure you.

That, my friends, is dirt that is being rubbed into your car’s nice paint job.

While it is true that you can buff out the swirl marks that those dirty tendrils leave behind, but why not skip that step entirely by washing the car yourself?

Check out my list of the best car shampoos on the market today and get ready to be amazed by how awesome your car is going to look this summer.

Best Overall

Chemical Guys Snow Foam Car Wash Soap

Chemical Guys is a well known name that I trust so I thought I would give this a shot. OK, you do end up giving this a “shot” because that’s all you need. This is super concentrated, so one capfull to 5 gallons of water is all you need.

By the way, 5 gallons was all I needed to wash my SUV, so this is super economical.

It did have a nice, fruity smell, although I’m not sure it was honeydew. Regardless, I did like the smell. The fact that this has a PH neutral formula that won’t harm the wax or sealant on your ride.

If you own a foam gun, this product is really cool because you can literally coat your entire car in foam as if it were snow. Do a light scrub, then rinse it off. It looks like the car wash foam that you see in high-class car washes. Who knows? Maybe this is what they use!

While I don’t have a foam gun, I might just buy one for this product. Still, washing by hand seemed easier and I didn’t have to go back and rewash “tough” spots, like the rocker panels.

Nearly everyone who uses this car shampoo seems to like it. But a few users claimed that the Chemical Guys Honeydew wash offered nothing “extra” other than a great smell.

If you’ve got a foam gun, you will want to try this car shampoo.

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Best Car Shampoo for a Ceramic Coating

Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, then you probably remember that I’m a longtime fan of Meguiar’s products. I’ve used this car shampoo in the past and have been incredibly happy with it.

I’m not sure if they’ve changed the formula, but I read recently that this can be used with a Foam Cannon. Perhaps it’s always been that way. But as I mentioned, I don’t own one (yet) but I don’t mind washing my car using the old-fashioned bucket method.

Meguiar’s states that this product will not strip the wax from your car’s paint. I often wondered if this didn’t contain a bit of liquid wax because my SUV would have a little bit of a shine to it after washing.

This is totally biodegradable. But you do need to use more product than the Chemical Guys product listed above. The correct ratio is 5 parts water to one-part Meguiar’s Gold Car Wash.

I love Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash because you can cover the car with it, let it sit for two or three minutes, then rinse it off.

I bet you don’t even have to scrub (unless you’ve got some serious bug buildup or tar on your vehicle). This car shampoo dissolves the ugliest messes with almost no scrubbing.

Some users aren’t impressed by this shampoo but to each his own. Perhaps their ride doesn’t have a ceramic coating. Try it for yourself and see if you agree that this is terrific for those who hate scrubbing those ugly bugs off the bumper.

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Best Car Shampoo With Wax

Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Let’s be honest with one another. Sometimes, you don’t have the time to do a complete wax job on your vehicle.

You still want it to look nice though.

This product is designed to use between regular waxing. This car shampoo with not only remove the dirt, but the liquid wax will bond to the wax on your vehicle right now. It gives you a just washed, high gloss, recently waxed look.

Of course, this won’t last anywhere near as long as a true wax job. But for those touch-ups or in-between times, you cannot beat this car shampoo with a stick.

Some users claim that using this product in a Foam Cannon makes it work even better. They say the shine looks like you just waxed the car.

Others state that while this was a good car shampoo/wax combination, they didn’t see anything exceptional about it. I honestly don’t know how that could be because I have used this product and it works like a charm.

So, if you are going to wash your car and you want it to shine like crazy afterward, get Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash and Wax.

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Best Car Shampoo for Black Cars

Chemical Guys Black Light Car Wash Soap

For everyone with a dark-colored or black car, the Chemical Guys Black Light Car Wash was made just for you.

This is a hybrid wash which uses high gloss technology. It gives your black or dark-colored car a wet-look shine without waxing. This will not hurt the wax that is currently on your car. Like most other car shampoos, this can be used in a Foam Cannon.

The overwhelming majority of users were shocked by the shine it left behind.

Chemical Guys does recommend using a microfiber mitt to remove tough problems, such as bird droppings. Then dry with a chamois to get the best shine possible.

A few users did state that this left some hard to remove spots. But they admit that this might be because their area has hard water.

A few other users complained that they felt this did not do a “good job” because there was truly minimal suds. But at the same time, they said the shine was amazing.

Figure that one out for yourself.

If you have a dark-colored or a black car, you owe it to yourself to at least give this product a try. I’m betting you won’t be disappointed.

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What is the best thing to wash your car with?

One thing you should NOT do is to use harsh products. That includes dish soap, window cleaner, hand soap, laundry soap, or baby shampoo.

These types of products, no matter how gentle they claim to be, were NOT made for the paint on your car. They often strip the wax, sealant, and other protective coatings.

You can use any type of car wash or car shampoo. Be sure to read my recommendations above.

The best type of cloth to use to wash your car is something super soft. I use Chemical Guys Black Microfiber Wash Mitt.

If you are going to wash by hand, don’t forget to use the two bucket method. You fill one with the shampoo of your choice and water, then the second bucket has only clear water.

Dip the wash mitt into the soap mixture. Rub it over the car, then dip it in the clear water. This removes a lot of the dirt that was picked up in the soap.

Dip it back in the suds mixture and repeat this process until you have covered your entire car.

Here’s a pro washing tip.

Don’t use that same wash mitt to wash the wheels and tires.

Wheels and tires have super dirty and highly abrasive materials. Especially the brake dust! You DO NOT want to rub that into your paint!

Use a separate wash for tires and wheels. Use a soft brush to get in between all those spokes and crevices.

I like the TAKAVU Master Wheel Brush. I use this brush on the wheels, the chrome exhaust tip, and even on motorcycle wheels!

It might seem like a lot of products and items just to wash your car, I know.

But if you want to keep your ride looking as showroom-new for as long as possible, it’s really not that much extra work.

If you keep everything in an easy to carry and use carryall, like this one from Bucket Boss, you will find that work is not all that complicated.

Why are automatic car washes bad?

The short answer here is, yes, they are bad. Let me explain why.

While it is true that some are worse than others, the best way to wash your car is still washing it by hand.

The old-fashioned tunnel type car wash with those rotating bristle brushes is the worst for causing swirl marks in your paint.

The newer car washes with the soft “touchless” cloth strips aren’t that much better.

Imagine washing your dishes with the same rag and never rinsing it or washing it in clean water, simply adding more soap to it over and over.

Yeah, you get the idea.

If you find a car wash that offers hand washing, be certain that they are using the two bucket method.

Putting the dirty rag back in the dirty water is no better than using the traditional car wash!

Is it better to hand wash your car?

Yes, it is much better to hand wash your car!

Use the two bucket method I talk about above to give your car a sparkling clean wash. Don’t forget to use a car wash or car shampoo, not dish soap!

You should also use an exceptionally soft wash mitt, use a soft brush on the tires, and dry your car using a chamois.

Will a regular towel scratch my car?

If you mean a regular terry cloth towel, yes, it can scratch your car’s paint or clear coat.

You want to use a super soft cloth or mitt for washing, such as chenille, microfiber, or pure wool.

Even then, the two bucket method is vital for preventing dirt from causing scratches and swirl marks.

Always use a chamois, or a synthetic chamois, to dry your vehicle. A microfiber cloth would be a good second choice if you don’t have a chamois.

For the best and most effortless type of chamois, I like theAmazonBasics Drying Chamois Car Towel Cloth.

This comes in a two pack so you can wash one and have another ready to use. Or you can use one for your ride and one for your SO’s car.

You don’t need to pay a lot for a chamois! That makes this chamois the perfect choice.

Can I just wash my car with water?

No! That’s not a good idea. Let me explain.

You can rinse off some of the dirt and dust using a hose. But if you use a cloth with no soap on a wet car, I can guarantee you one thing:

You will find tons of fine scratches, swirl marks, and halos the next time you actually have the car washed.

Do not do this unless you don’t give a hoot about your car’s paint job.

I suppose some people don’t, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to keep their car looking good for as long as possible!

Conclusion

I can remember my father using dish soap that he got from the kitchen. “Soap is soap”, he was fond of telling me. But (sorry dad) the truth is that soap is NOT all the same.

Dish soap was made for dishes. That means it’s abrasive and will break down the wax on your car in a heartbeat.

Dish soap or laundry soap (which I’ve seen some people use) is also extremely drying to rubber, which already suffers from exposure to the sun and snow.

When speaking of washing your car, you want a car wash or car shampoo that will not be abrasive. It should lift off the contaminants stuck to the clear coat.

If you’ve been using laundry detergent or dish soap to wash your ride, don’t sweat it. You can start using a quality car shampoo beginning today.

You really will see a difference in how long your wax job lasts, as well as the rubber pieces.

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Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell

Car Fanatic. Performance Geek. Flathead lover.

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