Best Choice Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate.jpeg Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate #901
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Premium Pick Optimum No-Rinse Wash & Wax.jpeg Optimum No-Rinse Wash & Wax
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Best Value Nu Finish Car Wash Soap.jpeg Nu Finish Car Wash Soap
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Written By
Published Jul. 24, 2021

By Ray Prince

Car wash soaps are your vehicle’s first line of defense, consisting of highly concentrated, pH-balanced polymers and conditioners designed to protect your paint and cut through tar and road grime like butter. Some car wash formulas add a UV-resistant protective layer, activate water beading/sheeting for easy rinse-off, and even generate little sud action for a water-free option.

Keep reading to learn more about our top recommended car wash soaps, selecting the appropriate car wash soap, and best practices on car washing.

The Best Car Wash Soaps

Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate #901 is a premium-grade shampoo that leaves no streaks or spots on your vehicle’s paint. It uses a highly concentrated blend of mild surfactants and cleaners with no acids, alkali, or other additives that can dull your vehicle’s polish. Each sud penetrates and lifts foreign particles, including dirt and grime, creating a “sheeting” effect that makes your car easier to rinse off.

Additionally, Duragloss Car Wash Concentrate #901 offers a safe pH-balanced formula. pH neutral car shampoos allow it to work on all types of materials without drying out your trim or affect any plastic body components. It’s cherry-scented with a texture is similar to that of thick and slick cough syrup, not overpowering for an easier application.

Key Features
  • Non-streaking and non-spotting.
  • Highly concentrated blend of mild surfactants and cleaners.
  • Cherry-scent; thick and slick consistency.
  • Non-alkaline and non-acidic; safe pH balanced formula for effective oil and tar removal.
  • Only 1 ounce per gallon of water needed per vehicle.
Specification
  • Brand Duragloss
  • Model 901
  • Weight 12 ounces
Optimum No-Rinse Wash & Wax.jpeg

Optimum No-Rinse Wash & Wax is an excellent choice for those looking to conserve water or who live in apartment complexes. Its proprietary solution lacks soapy surfactants, substituting them for synthetic polymers which bond into your vehicle’s paint, lifting dirt, road pitch, debris, and grit off for a silky shine.

This car wash also offers genuine carnauba wax, derived from a northern Brazilian plant that resists water. It also contains hypoallergenic properties for a deeper clean. Once bonded to your vehicle, it forms a thin layer to reduce friction, preventing damage and excess stickiness to your paint. This product also offers extra UV protection, which can cause fading and discoloration for vehicles left outside for extended periods.

Key Features
  • One-step wash and wax formula.
  • Excellent for those living in apartment complexes with no easy outdoor access.
  • Only needs 1 ounce for every 2 gallons of water.
  • Blend of highly concentrated, lubricating polymers bonds onto paint to lift dirt and grime.
  • No rinsing required; lacks soapy surfactants.
Specification
  • Brand Optimum
  • Model ‎NRWW2012Q
  • Weight 2.29 pounds

Nu Finish Car Wash Soap uses a pure orange formula that zaps grit and grime without stripping your vehicle’s protective wax or polish layer . Orange oil is a powerful natural solvent that also tests its mettle on virtually any surface, including metal, glass, plastic, rubber, and tile.

Applying Nu Finish Car Wash Soap is easy. Just take four capfuls of the solution and add it to a clean bucket before adding water. Spray down your vehicle to remove any loose dirt before applying the solution with a sponge, rinsing it off with a dry microfiber cloth.

Key Features
  • Formulated with pure orange oil formula; won't streak or spot.
  • Protects your vehicle's protective wax and polish.
  • Removes bugs, droppings, tar, and other debris.
  • pH neutral and safe to use.
Specification
  • Brand Nu Finish
  • Model ‎E301656500
  • Weight 4.53 pounds

Adam’s Graphene Shampoo combines a foaming citrus-based degreaser and shampoo that contain graphene ceramic resins. The clear nanocrystalline coating is highly effective against UV rays, dirt, grime, and other contaminants.

This car wash is pH neutral, which means it lifts all dirt and grime without stripping away existing polish, waxes, or sealants. The texture is highly concentrated with low viscosity, making it very easy to rinse off with a fresh-smelling citrus scent.

Key Features
  • Effective citrus-based degreaser and shampoo.
  • Contains graphene ceramic resins for UV resistance.
  • pH neutral formula safe on all surfaces.
  • Needs 2-3 ounces for every 3 gallons of water.
Specification
  • Brand Adam’s Polishes
  • Model B08X4YZSFN
  • Weight 1.17 pounds

Derived from citrus—a powerful cleaning agent—Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss uses a biodegradable formula that cuts into road grime without peeling off paint, wax, or sealant. In addition, it is a safe formula to use, free of artificial thickeners or additives.

Plus, Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss is pH neutral, which means it is safe on all surfaces, including glass, rubber, and plastic.

Key Features
  • Only needs 1 ounce for every 3-4 gallons of water.
  • Citrus based, biodegradable formula for scratch-free rinsing.
  • Free of artificial thickeners and preservatives.
  • pH neutral; safe on all surfaces.
  • Good for 120+ washes.
Specification
  • Brand Chemical Guys
  • Model CWS_301
  • Weight 1.1 pounds

Known for providing rain protection for windshields, Rain-X extends beyond windshield maintenance with effective cleaning products. One of these products is Rain-X’s Forming Car Wash Concentrate. This car wash uses a highly concentrated, biodegradable 2-in-1 formula (shampoo and wax) to rip through dirt, grime, and residue like a knife through butter. It is excellent at reducing spots and steaks, protecting all waxed surfaces.

Plus, Rain-X’s Forming Car Wash Concentrate is pH neutral, making it safe for use on all kinds of surfaces, including glass, plastic, chrome, metal, and carbon fiber. Its 100-ounce bottle is good for over 100 car washes, easily lasting several years.

Key Features
  • Good for 100+ car washes.
  • Highly concentrated, 2-in-1 formula (shampoo and wax)
  • pH neutral formula protects all waxes surfaces.
Specification
  • Brand Rain-X
  • Model 5072084
  • Weight 7.05 pounds

Since 1980, 303 has been a leading brand for cleaning products popular with automotive, home, and boating applications. The brand has developed formulas to combat UV exposure, high-speed winds, and other forces of nature that can degrade vehicles, home appliances, and boats over time. Its premium car wash product is 303 Ultra Concentrated Car Wash, a pH-neutral foam formula that works through dirt, grime, and road pitch for a deep gloss finish and streak-free shine.

Arguably 303 Ultra Concentrated Car Wash’s biggest draw is its bubble gum scent, a welcome change from most citrus-based products. If you plan on having kids wash your car, this scent comes highly recommended.

Key Features
  • Only 1 ounce needed for every 5 gallons of water.
  • High foaming formula for a deep gloss finish and streak-free shine.
  • Bubble gum scent.
Specification
  • Brand 303
  • Model 30577
  • Weight 1.12 pounds

Meguiar’s is the brand to choose if you want quality tools and machines for your car. But there’s more to Meguiar’s — this popular auto products brand also offers a wide range of car wash soaps and solutions. And one of the superior quality soaps is Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax.

This dual action cleaning product promises to cleanse your vehicle’s exterior and restore a fresh, lustrous shine. It combines car wash soap and protective wax ingredients in one highly effective solution. It’s perfect for adding that extra “oomph” factor to your car in between regular waxes, and the wash actually boosts the wax’s shine. With every wash, this soap will help add a glow to your car’s paint surface.

Key Features
  • Contains one gallon of solution
  • Camauba and synthetic polymer technology protect and clean the paint job
  • Ensures a deep and glossy shine
  • Foaming action is responsible for the deep cleansing properties
  • Compatible with a wide range of waxes and washes
Specification
  • Brand Meguiar’s
  • Model G17701
  • Weight 9.08 lbs

If you’re searching for a car wash soap that works quickly and effectively, you’ll want to consider Mothers 05674 California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax. We would highly recommend this cleaning solution to anyone from professionals to beginners, as well as anyone who’s looking to save time while washing their car as this soap is incredibly easy to use.

The carnauba wax included in the solution gives you the same glossy results as any other car wax and there is no need to buy any additional wax, which saves you time as well. The finish will look like a professionally waxed car with ultimate shine and protection.

Key Features
  • Contains 64 ounces of concentrated product
  • Neutral pH ensures no watermarks or swirls are left behind
  • Carnauba Wax ensures a glossy and shiny finish
  • Imparts a protective layer to the paint surface
  • Biodegradable
Specification
  • Brand Mothers
  • Model 05674
  • Weight 3.5 lbs

Turtle Wax is another brand that is well-respected in the auto care and detailing sector, and the Turtle Wax 50990 ICE Snow Foam Car Wash is a perfect example of why. This pH balanced hybrid wash uses environmentally safe biodegradable detergents combined with rich foam conditioners to deliver an all-encompassing, over the top cleaning. It won’t strip or dissolve sealants or waxes, and is gentle, yet strong enough to be used on all vehicle types.

This soap is infused with a pleasant and fun bubble gum fragrance and can be easily applied with a foam cannon sprayer, or by hand with the premium and ultra soft wash mitt. For hand washing, all it takes is 1 ounce of concentrate to 1 gallon of water to give you major sudsing action that will loosen tough dirt and grime.

Key Features
  • 48 ounces of concentrated wash formula
  • pH balanced so as not to damage sealants or waxs
  • Can be used to wash by hand or with a water cannon
  • Ultra rich conditioners help protect car’s paint
  • Environmentally friendly detergents are biodegradable and won’t kill grass
Specification
  • Brand Turtle Wax
  • Model 50990
  • Weight 14 ounces

Of course we all know that Armor All is a trusted brand in automotive care, and the Armor All Snow Foam Car Wash is a prime example of why. This highly-rated formula creates a thick and intense foam that actively loosens dirt and grime so you can easily and safely rinse it away without damaging your car’s paint. This soap contains special hydrating agents that make for a longer-lasting foam than many other products on the market.

The pH balanced formula is also safe to use on wax finishes and sealants without stripping them away. It’s safe for all exterior surfaces, including windows. For added versatility, you can choose to either use this foam to wash your car by hand or use it in a foam sprayer. Because it comes in a 50-ounce bottle, it’s not the most economical choice, but many users report having to use less effort to remove dirt from their cars with this brand than with many others.

Key Features
  • pH balanced formula won’t strip away waxes or sealants
  • Special hydrating agents create a thicker, longer-lasting foam
  • Safe to use on all exterior surfaces, even windows
  • Special foam formula actually loosens dirt and grime for easier removal
  • Contains 50 ounces of concentrate
Specification
  • Brand Armor All
  • Model 19141
  • Weight 3.5 pounds

If you’re looking for a super budget-friendly car wash soap that will still deliver great results, check out the Blue Coral Wash & Wax Concentrate. For less than the cost of a fancy latte, you get this 100-ounce bottle of concentrate that will give you up to 100 separate car washes. This is also a wash and wax combination.

It features a high-foaming formula specially optimized to loosen and dissolve tough and stuck-on dirt and grime. It’s fortified with 100 percent carnauba wax that creates a shiny barrier to protect your vehicle from sun, ice and salt spray, acid rain, and other damaging elements that can ruin your car’s shiny finish. And the best part: you get to wash and wax your car in one simple step. It won’t deliver as solid of a wax finish as if you do it in two separate steps, but as a time saver, it gets great reviews.

Key Features
  • Super affordable high-foaming car wash concentrate
  • pH balanced so as not to strip off waxes and sealants
  • A 2-in-1 wash and wax formula
  • Contains 100 percent carnauba wax
  • Contains 100 ounces of concentrate for up to 100 washes
Specification
  • Brand Blue Coral
  • Model 396564
  • Weight 6.5 pounds

Best Car Wash Buying Guide & FAQ

Car wash shampoo, conditioners, and wax run the gamut in terms of the type of formula, concentration, thickness/consistency (foaming shampoo vs. rinse-free options), scent, and ingredients. Each combination works for one vehicle more than the other based on climate conditions, type of wax/exterior paint used, and other factors. 

Keep reading to learn more about the main factors to consider when purchasing a car wash, ranked in order of importance from most important to least important.

car wash soap

pH levels

pH levels speak to a formula’s alkaline or acidic content. The standard pH range goes from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline), with 7 being the base, neutral score. Excessively low or excessively high pH levels could cause your vehicle’s paint and wax to corrode, especially in hot weather. 

Look for car washes with a pH level of 7. A pH level of 7 makes it safe to apply on all surfaces, including rubber, metal, chrome, and paint. Keep in mind that some car washes specialize in more aggressive cleaners (e.g., bug removal formulas like GYEON BUG & GRIME that carry pHs closer to 9). This buying guide is covering general car wash formulas only. 

Foaming Shampoo vs. Rinse-Free Options

Foaming car washes imply just that—rich, soapy suds that create massive bubbles when mixed with water. Foam does an excellent job of lifting up dirt, road pitch, and grime by softening and encapsulating it, making it easier to remove and rinse off. pH neutral foam also helps prevent scratching your car’s paintwork.

Rinse-free options are more designed for lighter cleaning and convenience. Rinseless washes are good for occasional dust build-up, not a vehicle soaked with road salt, grime, and dirt. It is a preferred method of cleaning for people who live in apartment complexes with no access to a driveway and a hose. 

Deciding between either one mainly comes down to the type of cleaning job (light vs. heavy), location (outdoors vs. in a garage), and desire to conserve water. 

Note, the appearance of swirl marks and watermarks also depends on the cleaning method. Automatic car washes produce swirl marks a lot more frequently than manual hand washes since many machines cannot touch hard-to-reach areas. 

Concentration

The heavier the formula concentration, the longer it will last. As a rule of thumb, aim for car washes with a minimum soap to water ratio of 1 ounce for 2 or 3 gallons of water. Note, container sizes vary wildly, going as small as the 303 Ultra Concentrated Car Wash’s 18 ounces upwards of 100 ounces for the Rain-X’s Foaming Car Wash.  

Noting concentration levels will also help you know how long each container will last. Expect a 100-ounce container of car wash to last you for years, assuming a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning schedule. Many larger containers are also cheaper on a per-ounce basis than smaller containers. 

Scent 

Car washes carry all types of scents. One of the more popular scents is citrus, common with naturally derived citrus-based formulas (orange oil). With fewer exceptions, car washes can come in cherry, lemon, pina colada, and vanilla scents with the occasional oddball (e.g. 303 Ultra Concentrate Car Wash’s bubble gum scent). 

Car wash scent is mainly a matter of preference and has no bearing on overall effectiveness. 

Auxiliary Features

Some car washes include detailing equipment, such as wash mitts, towels, and scratch remover. For beginner details, this could be of interest.

Notes on Car Wash Soaps

Look for car wash soaps with a Base 7 rating. The standard pH range starts at 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline). Car wash soaps with a 7 rating work on all kinds of surfaces, including chrome, glass, rubber, and wax.

Some car washes are specially formulated. This includes bug wash, a high alkaline product that may be heavy on ammonia. These are typically applied over a smaller surface area such as windshields and wheels to grind bugs out.

Do not use household cleaning agents like dishwashing soap to wash your car. These soaps contain properties that may strip off your vehicle’s protective wax and shorten the life of your paint job. Instead, look for a mild car wash product and apply using a dry microfiber cloth, lamb’s wool mitt, or soft sponge. Be sure to rinse your wash mitt thoroughly to avoid road grit scratches.

Be sure to work your car wash soap into a rich and foamy later before applying it to your paint. This helps to better lubricate and elevate dirt, grime, and other particles on your paint, making it easier to rinse off.

For a true, glass-like finish, you may need to take your car wash a step further and purchase a clay bar kit. Clay bar kits consist of synthetic clay that is rubbed and kneaded over your paint to remove embedded dirt. Remember, your typical car wash only works to remove surface dirt.

Equipment Needed to Wash Your Car

You will need the following equipment when washing your car:

Two buckets

The first and foremost thing you need is buckets. Fill one with soapy water and the other with clear water for efficient cleaning.

Hose

A hose is necessary when you want to rinse off the soap from your car.

Washing Mitt

Do not just use any cloth to lather on the soap. Instead, use a microfiber washing mitt. It fits your hand like a glove, literally, and prevents any abrasion. Alternatively, you could also use a car wash brush to clean your car.

Foam Gun

Instead of using your hands to lather on the soap to your car, you can invest in a good quality foam gun. It will spray thick lather directly on to the car quickly and efficiently.

Grit Guard

A grit guard can prevent loose contaminants from accumulating onto the wash mitt each time you rinse.

Drying Cloth

Drying cloth should be used after rinsing as you should never allow the soap to air dry.

car wash soaps

5 Important Steps When Washing a Car

The two-bucket method will suit you best as it prevents any streaks or swirls. Fill one with soapy water and the other with clear water to use for rinsing. Follow these steps for a professional-looking wash job:

Step One: Wash Your Car Wheels

Wash your car wheels and tires first using a cleaner as you can easily wash off any dirt later.

Step Two: Use A Wash Mitt

Use a Wash Mitt to pick up the soapy solution from the bucket and start slathering it on to a different section of the car.

Step Three: Rinse The Wash Mitt In Clean Water Periodically

Dunk the Wash Mitt into the clear water bucket to ensure no loose contaminants are picked up. Wring it.

Repeat Steps Two and Three until your whole car is covered with the soapy water.

Step Four: Hose Down Your Car With Clean Water

Use a Hose to thoroughly rinse out your car and wash off the soap. Ensure there is no nozzle on the hose and the water can flow freely.

Step Five: Use A Drying Towel To Dry The Surface Of Your Car

Take a proper drying dowel and start hand drying the car as it prevents any water spots. You could also use a car dryer blower if you’re very serious about the process.

Car Washing Soap FAQ

Choosing the best car washing soap really depends on your needs. Some people will look for the best overall, while others will simply want something to protect the car’s paint job. No matter the case, we’ve got you covered.

Q: What do car washes use to remove bugs?

Dead bugs and their remains are extremely acidic to your car’s paint job and should be removed pronto. If that’s not feasible, they become dried and caked-on and can leave permanent damage, so to get them off, car washes use a special formulation of caustic pre-treaters to loosen dried bug guts prior to washing.  If you want to remove them at home, consider a product that’s specifically designed for bugs and tar, like the Chemical Guys Concentrated Bug and Tar Remover Car Wash Soap.

Q: What is a good substitute for car wash soap?

If you go out to your garage to prepare for a sunny Saturday morning car wash,  only to find that someone has used up the last of your favorite car wash soap and neglected to mention it, in a pinch, you can always use a mild dish soap. While it’s not specifically formulated for use on cars, most dish soaps don’t contain any abrasive or harmful agents that will damage your car’s paint or strip away waxes and sealants.

Q: What kind of soap do you use in a pressure washer?

Depending on what you want to wash, you could probably clean most things with dish soap and your pressure washer. If you want to use a car wash soap with your pressure washer, then these are the top-recommended options:

Q: What is the best wash and wax soap for cars?

Many car owners feel the best car wash soap comes with a layer of wax as well. Combining your car soap with wax not only cleans the car’s surface but it also protects the car’s paint from potential damage. These are the best car wash soap and wax options:

Alternatively, you could use something to clean the surface of your car, like Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Superior Surface Cleanser, and then pair with one of the best car waxes that we recommend.

Sources:

  1. How to Wash Your Car Like a Pro – Popular Mechanics
  2. How Often Should You Wash Your Car? – HowStuffWorks
  3. Car Wash – Wikipedia

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