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Why using dish soap for your car wash is scarier than clowns

  • Cars Explained
  • Natasha Young
  • 11 minutes

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ePenny for thought, while purchasing shampoo for your hair, do you go for the cheapest one available on the market or one that works best for your hair type? The majority might choose the cheap option, while some may stick with the quality of the product and their personal preferences.

You might also wonder, “Can I use dish soap for my car?”. The majority choose the cheapest option, while others purchase car shampoos designed particularly for their vehicle. The funny thing is this will probably save them money in the long run. Read to know how.

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So, what’s the thing with dish soap and car washing?¬†

Dish soap is the most popular “cheap” solution among car owners for car washing. It is a super-detergent liquid soap that is incredibly concentrated. It makes tones of suds and “appears” to remove road grime from your car. Just like how it works its magic on your dish plates in the kitchen.¬†¬†

The first documented use of home-based detergents for automobile cleaning dates back to the 1930s. I.e., when car owners were expected to take their automobiles to a local service station to have them cleaned and detailed. Note that this occurred back in the day when it was common for a single commodity to be used for multiple uses.

But how well does it do when it comes to car washing? Are there any benefits or drawbacks to consider? And, perhaps more importantly, is it a smart idea to use dish soap liquid for your car in the first place?  

Well, it’s simple, dish soap is not the ideal choice for washing a car, truck, or SUV. Read more to know why we believe that dish soap might be a big deal in the kitchen but is not a car’s best friend.¬†¬† ¬†

How is detergent different from soap? 

Whatever we call common, daily things, we all have our way of characterizing them, whether it’s calling a beverage a “Coke” or a “Diet Coke.” It is common for us to use language that does not adequately explain the meaning of the words we use in our everyday lives. In particular, when it comes to dish soap, this is the case. As a result, a dishwashing liquid cleanser is classified as a detergent rather than as a soap.¬†

An anti-irritant detergent is a high-foaming mixture of many surfactants that do not irritate the skin. Detergents are used in the washing of clothing and dishes that are exposed to oil spills. Because they do not react with the minerals in the water, they do not produce “soap scum,” which is that thin layer of soapy gunk we all loathe on our hands and clothing.¬†

Water is the most frequent ingredient in dish detergents, followed by stabilizing and thickening agents, surfactants, salts, fragrances, colors, and preservatives. Water is the most common ingredient in dishwashing detergents. 

As a result of combining these components, the pH level rises, often between 8.5 and 9.5. When it comes to removing grease and food from plates and dishes, this is what helps. After all, it has to be effective at removing road dust and dirt, bird droppings, and other impurities like tree sap, right? No, we don’t think so.

dish soap for car wash

Is it advisable to wash my car with dish soap or laundry detergent? 

The word “can” conveys a wide range of possibilities. You have the freedom to do whatever you choose. However, using dish soap or even is certainly not recommended. As we said, dish wash detergents have a higher pH level than other types of detergents. Used over an extended period of time, they can cause marring, scratching, and even erosion of painted or coated surfaces. That’s a big no-no to your car’s exterior’s health.¬†

Dishwashing detergent is commonly used to remove old layers of wax or paint sealants from surfaces or as a pre-application solution before putting a new coat of paint protection product on surfaces. In this case, there is an exception to the rule that it should not be used to wash an automobile. 

In a pinch, dish soap will suffice, but it is not the most effective alternative available. To avoid the usage of salts or abrasive components found in dish soap detergents, professional automotive car care manufacturers have developed prep shampoo for automobiles. They work well as a degreasing agent, breaking down the wax or sealant without harming the surface. To prepare your vehicle for a ceramic coating, we recommend that you use a high-quality prep shampoo created specifically for vehicles rather than one designed for your dishes.  

Can I use dish soap to wash my car?

In contradiction to your assumptions, automotive paint is not as durable and long-lasting. However, it is rather fragile in nature, which is why paint can be damaged and scratched simply by using the incorrect washing materials, or detergents / automotive shampoo that are either too high or too low in pH balance.

While using dish soap to wash your automobile may seem like a smart idea, there are several reasons why it is not. Here’s why:¬†¬†

Car’s paint and harsh chemicals are not besties¬†¬†

Have you ever noticed how easily stuck-on food may be removed when you soak it in dish soap for a while? It is all due to the “substance” contained within the bottle. Dish soaps contain powerful surfactants and salts that aid in breaking down the protein and fats found in meals throughout the washing process. It essentially soaks into the food particles, causing them to break down over time, thereby eliminating the substance from the surface.¬†¬†

Consider the consequences of doing the same thing to your brittle and delicate clear-coated car paintwork. When the same harsh chemicals come into contact with the wax (particularly natural carnauba wax), it might be degraded. If the detergent dries on the surface or if you are unable to completely remove it (we’ll get to that in a moment), it will continue to chip away at the surface.¬†

It is difficult to remove dishwashing soap off the surfaces

Why is it necessary to use so much water while washing dishes? Have you ever wondered about it? When you attempt to clean some stubborn dirt off your vehicle, the situation worsens, believe it or not! There are a variety of reasons behind this.  

Firstly, there are those pesky surfactants to contend with. Surfactants are chemical compounds with amphiphilic properties. They contain both hydrophobic and hydrophilic groups. The greater the surfactant composition’s strength, the better the water resistance.¬†

 As a result, powerful surfactant formulations, such as those found in dish detergent, are difficult to remove from a surface. When you rinse dish soap off your car paint, you will almost always see streaks. This is usually dried soap and serves as an immediate signal that your paint is likely to deteriorate. 

It damages wax and other paint protection treatments

The majority of car owners are aware that using dish soap can remove wax from their vehicles. However, the problem is that people may forget that dish soap used any time after waxing will potentially damage the car’s exterior.¬†

Some “less than ethical” vehicle protection product manufacturers made some serious errors even in the past.. They created their car shampoos with a pH significantly higher than the industry standard.

They were well aware that it would peel the existing wax. This increased the sales of wax, so consumers are driven to repeat this vicious cycle unconsciously. 

While ceramic coatings are incredibly durable and powerful, using high-pH cleansers frequently may cause the coating to dry up, resulting in water spots, streaks and making the car look ugly overall. 

automotive shampoos for Car Wash

Are automotive shampoos a better option? 

So, as you can see, using dish soap to wash your car regularly is a bad idea. To achieve the best results, car washes should be done regularly with a pH-neutral auto shampoo. These treatments have been specifically designed to remove dust, grime, and even sticky things off surfaces such as bird droppings, tree sap, and other organic debris. 

On the other hand, this car washing product is softer than a strong base (with a high pH) or acid-based car soap (used for cleaning wheels, bug and tar, and such). As a result of this method, the paint ‚Äď or, more specifically, the paint protection product you are employing ‚Äď will remain intact.¬†

While talking about paint protection compounds, keep in mind that not all vehicle washes are made equal. Certain paint protection additives, it is true, require the application of a specific type of car shampoo to be effective. Here’s a cheat sheet you might find helpful. ¬†¬†

Car wax 

Car wax comes in two varieties: car wax and paint sealants. It is recommended that you use a car shampoo containing the following elements to properly apply car wax or a longer-lasting synthetic paint sealer: 

  • The shampoo is called pH neutral if it has a pH level of 7 or is pH neutral in its formulation. This reduces the possibility of the wax or paint sealant being unintentionally removed.¬†

Almost all car wash products contain higher quantities of wax and silicone. These chemicals are generally used as lubricants to keep the paint from scratching and corrosion inhibitors. There are, however, wax or silicone-containing vehicle cleaning soaps that leave a thin layer of wax on top of the current layer! This is not as horrible as it sounds. This can assist in protecting and extending the life of your vehicle’s wax or sealant finish.¬†

Vinyl or PPF flooring 

If you have a vinyl wrap or paint protection film on your vehicle, you might want to contact the manufacturer or installation firm that applied it. Find out from them which car shampoos to use.

We suggest this since most of these goods come with a guarantee. The guarantee is only backed up and maintained if you utilize suggested products and recommendations. 

Most conventional vehicle shampoos, on the other hand, are safe to use on PPF and vinyl. Again, check sure it’s pH neutral and doesn’t include any kerosene or naphtha. Most PPF manufacturers advocate a foam cannon approach paired with a two-bucket hand washing method when it comes to washing processes.¬†

Ceramic coating 

¬†If you’ve applied a ceramic coating to your vehicle, you probably want it to function as intended, right? You undoubtedly appreciate the coating’s hydrophobic features, as well as the fact that it is easy to clean and does not accumulate a lot of watermarks.¬†

If this is the case, and you want your car’s ceramic coating to retain these features, you must use a vehicle shampoo designed specifically for ceramic coatings. Here are the main items to double-check.¬†

  • pH Neutral: Once again, a pH-neutral shampoo is gentle on surfaces while removing pollutants. The ceramic coating itself is designed to decrease contamination adhesion, eliminating the need for strong degreasing chemicals or surfactants.¬†
  • Wax and silicone-free: Using vehicle wax on top of a ceramic coating diminishes the hydrophobic qualities of ceramic coatings. As a result, you should avoid using a car shampoo that contains wax or silicone. While many shampoos contain lubricating wax and silicone ingredients, they might leave a residue on the coating.¬†
  • Super sudsy formulation: Use a ceramic coating wash with extra foaming elements to ensure maximum lubrication. This limits the possibility of scratching the surface. The thicker and longer-lasting the suds, the easier it is to wash your vehicle with a ceramic coating.¬†

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Final Verdict 

Let us cut the chase; dish soap is excellent for eliminating three-day-old burrito residue from your dishes. Using it to wash your car is less beneficial. If you want to get the most out of your car, especially if you use a paint protection product of any kind, use a formula designed specifically for that material. 

It’s always better to seek professional advice in this case. Find the best car wash near your location and get your car washed stress-free. You can also use websites and apps like Way.com to book top-rated and super affordable professional car washes near you with touch-free payments where you can just scan and go!

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Read our blogs for information on the best airport parking and hourly parking spots near you and the most affordable insurance for your car.


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