The specially formulated chemicals cut through grime and dirt, but it’s important they don’t strip away any of the paintwork’s protective wax layer.
We’ve trawled the internet looking to find the best car wash soap, and Meguiar’s G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash came out on top.
Best overall (5/5)
Meguiar’s are well known for their high quality automotive products, and their Gold Class Car Wash is no different.
- Cleans and conditions in one go
- Foams away tough dirt and contaminants
- Ultra-rich conditioners to make your paintwork look its best
- Can be used with bucket or foam cannon
A little goes a long way with this thick gel; just a small amount is needed for each wash, and it produces amazing suds.
It has a subtle scent, and doesn’t strip away any of the existing wax layer, so your car remains protected.
As with many Meguiar’s products, this one receives outstanding reviews from users across the world.
Best for deep cleaning (4/5)
A citrus-based wash and gloss that is great for breaking down tough stains and ingrained dirt.
- Fast penetrating
- Scratch free
- High foaming capability
The concentrated citrus extracts break down grime instantly while lubricating surfaces. This allows for an easy rinse once the dirt has been lifted.
The gloss agents mean it can outshine most waxes, leaving your car with that showroom fresh look every time it’s cleaned.
It won’t strip your existing wax layer, and will leave you with a beautiful, streak-free finish.
Premium choice (5/5)
A high-quality product with an ultra-slick formula.
- Safe on all vehicle surface types
- State of the art chemical formula
- Thick, luxurious suds
This can be used on your car’s paintwork, rubber, plastics, glass, and even vinyl without an issue, and without stripping the existing wax layer.
The state of the art chemical technology produces long-lasting suds for the duration of your wash. Once the dirt is lifted away, the technology suspends harmful particles in the water, reducing water spots.
Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo has been researched and tested thoroughly. It’s ideal for those who want to use the highest quality products to clean their cars.
Best protection (5/5)
Not only does this product offer great cleaning, it also adds a layer of wax during the wash.
- Includes carnauba wax to boost protection
- pH neutral – won’t strip existing wax layer
- All in one – clean, protect & shine
The second Meguiar’s product on the list is perfect for maintaining your car’s protective layer between waxes. It leaves a wet-look finish and maximises surface reflections, while offering deep-cleaning capabilities.
It produces a huge amount of foam which is great for safely lifting surface dirt and tougher stains, and reducing swirling.
Meguiar’s have again created a product that stands out from the competition with their Ultimate Wash & Wax.
Best on a budget (3/5)
Turtle Wax has long been a top name in automotive washing and detailing, so it’s no surprise that one of their products makes it into this list.
- Thickest formula producing a great shine
- Safe on delicate paintwork
- Easy to apply
- Synthetic blend of shine enhancers
A very concentrated formula, meaning you won’t need to use a lot to get great results. The shine enhancers gently lift dirt for a great finish on every surface.
The encapsulation technology helps prevent grime from recontaminating the paintwork after it’s been lifted, leaving you with a spot-free sparkle.
It’s also pH balanced and includes Smart Shield Technology to build layers of protection and shine with every wash.
Easiest to use (4/5)
Mothers is another well-known brand in the automotive cleaning industry, and their California Gold provides a great clean and shine.
- Adds a layer of carnauba wax
- Easily removes stubborn dirt & grime
- Biodegradable & pH balanced
The easy to use formula is ultra-sudsy and allows for a quick rinse. It’s the easiest way to restore depth and color vibrancy to paintwork on a regular basis.
This is another product that can be used between waxes to boost your existing wax layer. As well as removing dirt, it simultaneously adds a temporary layer of protection.
Users of California Gold have praised the incredible shine that this product provides, giving their cars a showroom look after every wash.
Best shine (4/5)
Griot’s Garage has been committed to perfection in car care since 1990, and their 10866 Car Wash is the final entry in our list.
- Long lasting, high-gloss finish
- Includes concentrated, premium ingredients
- Contains brighteners to enhance your car’s color
This product provides great lubrication for breaking down and removing dirt from even the toughest crevices on your car. The premium ingredients create an eruption of suds which will remain in your bucket for the length of the wash.
You only need to use a small amount, so one bottle will last you many washes. It’s also very thick in comparison to some other car wash soaps, and can be used in a foam cannon if desired.
You can rest assured you will have a brilliant, streak-free shine after every wash.
Best Car Wash Soaps & Shampoos Buying Guide
Types of car wash soap & shampoo
There are several types of car wash soap and shampoo on the market, so you’ll need to ensure you pick the correct one for the job.
Traditional car wash soap simply contains the ingredients needed for you to remove dirt and grime from your vehicle. No additional features are included.
Car wash soap with conditioner includes everything needed to remove dirt, but also has a conditioning feature to help get your paintwork shining.
Car wash soap with wax adds protection to your paintwork while you clean, by adding a layer of wax. It’s all included in the formula, so there’s no need for any additional work. It is only a temporary layer, however, so it’s ideal for topping up an existing full layer of wax.
Factors to consider
The level of concentration of your chosen car wash soap will impact how many washes you can get out of one container.
You can check the manufacturer’s advice on dilution to get a better understanding of this. The more water a manufacturer recommends per ounce of soap, the longer it will last.
The more suds a soap produces, the more effective it is at collecting dirt from your paintwork. You’ll need to create a thick lather to reduce the amount of scrubbing that needs to be done, which in turn reduces the risk of damage to your car.
As you’ll be rinsing the soap off your car, it will eventually end up in a storm drain. It’s important that you pick a soap that’s biodegradable. Otherwise, it can be very damaging to the environment.
If you pick a soap that’s too acidic or alkaline, you can strip any existing layers of wax your car may have, or even start damaging your paintwork.
Pick a soap that’s pH balanced with a hint of alkalinity, as this will help to break down dirt and grime.
Many products used on your car’s paintwork can leave behind unsightly water spots and streaks. These days, some manufacturers are formulating their solutions to dry quickly to reduce the risk of this damage occurring.
It may not impact how your car looks after a wash, but scents can differ greatly among car wash soaps and shampoos. Look out for any mention in the description to ensure it’s to your personal taste.
Before washing your car it’s important to have the right tools for the job available to you. These include:
- A hose connected to a water supply
- Your choice of car wash soap/shampoo from this list
- 2x microfiber or sheepskin wash mitts – one for the body, and one for the wheels
- 2x buckets
- 1x large microfiber waffle-weave drying towel
- 2x small microfiber waffle-weave drying towels
How to wash a car
You need to ensure you’re working effectively and safely to remove as much dirt as possible and minimise the risk of damage to your paintwork.
Our guide on how to wash a car properly gives you all the information you need to do this, but in summary:
Prepare two buckets, one with the diluted car wash soap and one filled with water for rinsing.
Rinse the car with a hose or pressure washer first to remove any surface dirt, and then clean the wheels.
Once the wheels are done, move onto the paintwork and windows, using your soapy water.
Rinse the car again to get rid of the dirt and excess soap, and then dry thoroughly with microfiber towels to ensure no streaks or water marks are left.
How often should I wash my car?
It will depend on how often you use your car, the weather in your country, and how much you value your car’s appearance. A general rule of thumb is once every two weeks.
Many people neglect their vehicle’s paintwork by leaving it months between washes, which increases the risk of faded paintwork, damage, and rust.
Should I use a foam gun?
Foam guns or cannons are a great way of applying car wash soap suds quickly and effectively, but they aren’t a must.
They can get quite pricey, and you can get similar results from using the two-bucket system described in our article on how to clean your car properly.
If you love your car and do want to buy a foam gun, they provide a great way to apply your suds, and you’ll have a lot more fun in the process!
We’ve reviewed the best products on the market, and each of them will do a great job in getting your pride and joy clean.
Our favorite was Meguiar’s G7101FFP Gold Class Car Wash as it performed the best overall. It also received fantastic reviews from users all over the world.
A close second was Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo which provided a professional clean that’s safe on all car surfaces. If you’re willing to spend a little extra for a high-quality product, then this is the one for you.
If you’re looking for a wash and wax solution to add a layer of protection to your car whilst washing, then Meguiar’s G17701 Wash & Wax is the best performer.