When it comes to keeping my car clean I focus on keeping the outside just as fresh and clean as the inside.
The exterior of the car is what most people will see and it’s always nice to catch people admiring your freshly washed vehicle.
I remember back when I first started caring about keeping my car clean I would use dish soap (don’t do this) and some regular towels for both washing and drying (don’t do this either).
These days I use a wide combination of different products and in this post today I want to talk about some of my recommendations for what I believe are the best car shampoo and soap products to use on the car exterior.
The Best Car Shampoo and Soap for your Vehicle
These days I know that many people find it easier just to bring their car through a carwash and let it air dry afterwards.
For those of us that take cleaning our cars and seriously we know that this is no way to treat our vehicles and it’s even possible that the mechanical devices in a car wash could scratch or otherwise damage the paintwork or bodywork on a car.
That’s why I always recommend that it’s a better idea to wash everything by hand as well as to take the time to choose products for cleaning that are going to work effectively and leave the car shining and looking brand new.
Here are a few of my recommendations for what I believe are great options when it comes to the best car wash soaps.
Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner
You’ll know that I love Meguiar’s automotive products if you’ve happened to check out some of my other car cleaning posts so it’s only right that I recommend Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner as a great choice when it comes to the best car soap.
I like it a lot because it can be used to both clean the car and condition the paint in one fell swoop during the cleaning process.
Thanks to an advanced formula that it takes advantage of this car wash shampoo by Meguiar’s is able to wash away dirt, built-up grime, grease, and other road contaminants without damaging the paintwork and stripping away any wax protection.
It also contains a conditioner agent that helps to leave the paint color looking quite radiant and leaves the car body clear and shiny.
While using it the formula actually foams up quite a bit and produces a lot of suds that help to lubricate the car and lift off the dirt and other grime from the paint, making it easier to clean.
You always want to see some foaming suds action when you’re using a car washing soap or shampoo and with the Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner you can clean the whole car with just a gallon of water and the recommended concentration of the soap.
As for the ingredients themselves they’re safe and biodegradable so you can use it for washing your car without having to worry about putting any harmful chemicals down the drain.
One of the biggest benefits that I find with this shampoo is that it’s safe to use on all paint types and isn’t going to compromise any of the previously applied wax protection for the paint.
As always, it’s a good idea to use it using the two bucket method for washing the car and you’re also going to want to consider picking up some microfiber cloths or wash mitts to avoid scratching the paint.
Once you’re finished soaking down and shampooing the car make sure to rinse all of the soap off before drying it by hand.
Overall, I find that the Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner is a very suitable choice for those that are watching their car on a regular basis and are looking for a shampoo that will work to remove all of the dirt and debris without having a negative impact on the paint job.
Since you’re meant to combine a small amount of the wash with up to a gallon of water it’s possible to get quite a few uses out of just one bottle.
Mothers California Gold Car Wash
The Mothers California Gold Car Wash is another suitable choice for those looking for a great liquid car wash soap to use for washing the car on the regular basis.
It comes in a concentrated formula that allows you to use it for much longer than you would be able to with the shampoos that already come mixed with water and you will need to use about 1 ounce of the car wash per gallon of water using so it’s possible to get up to 64 washes from a single 64 ounce bottle.
One of the main reasons I like the Mothers California Gold Car Wash is its pH balance, which is strong enough to be able to wash away the built-up dirt, water spots, road grime, dead bugs, and even bird droppings without causing any damage to the paint or the wax job.
This means that you don’t have to wax the car every time that you wash it and that you don’t have to worry about the paint getting damaged because of poor quality or harmful soap.
The formula used is just strong enough to be able to clean off everything you want to get off your car while still being gentle enough in chemical composition to not cause any damage.
Also with the Mothers California Gold Car Wash the formula that it’s designed from makes it so that post washing water spots aren’t as prevalent and a proper wash results in a water-spot free and streak-free finish.
As a concentrated formula I find that this car wash soap lasts quite a while depending on the size you get and because of its effectiveness at how well it’s able to clean the body of the car without damaging the paint or wax it it’s one of my top recommendations.
Armor All Ultra Shine Wash and Wax
The Armor All Ultra Shine Wash and Wax is one of the first car wash soap that I ever remember using and over the years I have been very happy with how well it works.
It’s a concentrated formula so only one ounce of it needs to be used per gallon and thanks to the concentrated amount use a single 64-ounce bottle can last quite a number of car washes.
The way it works is by taking advantage of a proprietary blend of cleaning agents, surface lubricants, and even a real carnauba wax that’s able to wash away dirt and debris while leaving behind a shiny and clean paint job.
The real wax ingredient also helps the car to stay quite shiny long after it has been washed while encouraging water to bead up so that it doesn’t sit and settle directly on the car exterior while you’re trying to dry it off.
Armor All products have been around for as long as I can remember, at least since the early 80s, and over the years I’ve been very impressed with the car wash products they’ve been able to come out with and this one is no exception.
Immediately after washing and drying my car I can notice a difference and how shiny and clean it looks and as long as it doesn’t rain the car remains looking very clean for a few days after, even longer if I apply my own wax.
Chemical Guys Extreme Body Wash and Synthetic Wax Car Wash Shampoo
I just recently discovered all of the different car wash products by Chemical Guys and I have to say that I’m quite impressed by what they’ve been able to come up with in regards to their Chemical Guys Extreme Body Wash and Synthetic Wax Car Wash Shampoo.
This body wash and wax formula is naturally derived from a citrus hyper shampoo and gloss enhancer that is not only used to effectively clean the surface of your car but also helps to lubricate it while applying a carnauba wax for shine and to help reduce water spots.
It’s a highly concentrated formula and one ounce of liquid can be mixed with up to 4-5 gallons of water for an effective cleaning agent that produces lots of wash suds.
After using it to wash the car and rinsing it away it will leave behind a thin coat of gloss that helps the paint job to shine and results in the car looking freshly washed for a few days after it has been cleaned.
It’s also quite friendly when it comes to the exterior paints and wax and it’s not going to remove any of the protective wax that’s already on the car nor will it remove any of the polymer surface protectants that have previously been applied.
Overall, I find this to be yet another great product by Chemical Guys and I love how it makes the car shine as well as how it smells during the cleaning process.
Car Shampoo and Soap Buyers Guide
Above I’ve listed some of what I believe are great choices when it comes to the best car shampoo and soaps to use for cleaning the exterior of your vehicle.
However, it’s not just shampoo that you need and there are a few other products that I suggest taking a look at so that you’re able to best clean the exterior of your car or truck effectively.
Using the Right Soap
It’s important to to use a good quality soap that’s able to break down the dirt, grime, and grease that has built up on your car after driving for a short period of time and you want to avoid using any products that might break down or harm your paint job, wax, and clear coat finish.
You’ll want to consider using a different soap for cleaning the exterior body than you would for the wheels and tires.
That’s because any soap that you’re going to want to use for cleaning the wheels and tires are going to need stronger and tougher ingredients to get rid of all of the dirt and road-grime off of them.
You’re going to want to avoid using any dish soap, glass cleaner, or dish detergent at all costs as these shouldn’t be used on the paint because it can damage the paint and strip any protective sealant or wax that has been applied.
On the inside of your vehicle you’re going to want to use the special soaps as well that have been designed for cleaning carpets or upholstery.
It takes time to build up an ideal car washing kit but once you have everything you’ll be ready to go whenever it’s time to clean the interior or exterior of your car.
When you’re washing your vehicle by hand then you’re going to want to use two buckets – one bucket for the soapy water and the other bucket to use for rinsing the sponges or cloths.
The problem with dipping a dirty sponge or microfiber cloth/towel into the soapy water without rinsing it first is that you can get residue on it which could possibly scratch the paint or damage the protectant.
Two Different Wash Cloths/Sponges/Mitts
It’s important to have two different washcloth, sponges, or mitts when you’re cleaning the car.
Ideally you’re going to want to use one for the paint and windows and a different one to use for the wheels and tires.
The reason for this is that the tar, grease, and road grime from the tires can be difficult to wash off and if you use the same cloth for washing the paint it could scratch or damage it inadvertently.
Also, the formulas and liquids that you’re using for cleaning the tires and wheels are going to be much harsher and damaging to the paint compared to the more paint friendly formulas meant for cleaning the body.
I don’t use a pressure washer myself but a lot of people are using one because it can provide a quicker and much easier way of washing the car.
If you’re planning on using a pressure washer make sure to use it on its lowest setting so that it’s not powerful enough to damage the paint.
Some pressure washers will allow you to add soap to the washer while you’re using it so you can clean the car and rinse off all the soap at the same time for a faster cleaning experience.
In order to avoid water spots or leftover soap residue it’s always recommended to dry the vehicle right away after it has been washed.
I would never recommend air drying the car as this can result in water spots and dust and other airborne particles will stick to the water as well which will make the spots hard to remove at a later time.
One tip I learned is to clean one half of the car and dry it before moving on to the other half so that you’re able to maintain full control during the cleaning and drying process.
I always keep a pile of microfiber towels ready to go when it comes time to drying the car and I always use them just for drying and I make sure never to mix them with any other cleaning process that uses soap or other ingredients.
Important Features to Look For
I would always recommend using any formulas and shampoos that have been pH balanced.
Neutral formulas that have been pH balanced are less likely to leave any unwanted residue on your car and are also less likely to damage the paint job.
It’s a good idea to also keep an eye out for any biodegradable cleaners that are environmentally friendly and aren’t going to harm the driveway or the environment around you when you start rinsing.
A quick way to test if you’re using a suitable soap is to run your fingers along the surface of your car after you’ve used it for cleaning.
The body should feel smooth and there shouldn’t be any grease stains or residue left behind unless your fingers are dirty and if this isn’t the case then you’ll want to try a different soap or shampoo that’s better quality.
Another feature that you’ll want to look for when it comes to car Wash shampoo is that it foams and suds up while you’re using it.
The foam actually works to break down and loosen up the dirt, road grime, and the other contaminants that you’ll find on the body of your car and once it has been loosened up it will remain resting in the foam until it’s wiped off or rinsed off.
Being able to wipe off or rinse off the foam is much better than having to scrub it off which can result in damage to the finish of the paint as well as a breakdown of any of the wax or sealants that you might have used.
Choosing the Right Car Wash Soap
Like I already mentioned you want to avoid using any detergents and you should keep an eye out for concentrated soaps to use for washing your vehicle.
When you’re using a concentrated soap you want to make sure that you dilute it according to the instructions so that it’s able to be used most effectively.
Dish soaps and other detergents can remove the protective wax coat from your car and can lead to it rusting faster while having a detrimental impact on any vinyl, rubber, and plastic materials.
Automatic vs Hand Washing Your Car
While it’s much more convenient and quicker to bring the car through a carwash they can actually damage the paint on your vehicle.
This is due to the brushes that they use and the brushes are quite hard on the car finish and paint job.
It’s a good idea to use a brushless car wash if you need to quickly wash the car but in the long run it’s much better to hand wash your own vehicle so that you are in full control of the products used and how much pressure is applied to the exterior.