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Washing your vehicle is one thing, but washing it effectively is another. Purchasing the best car wash soap on the market is key to a streak-free finish.
If your driving-heavy career ensures your vehicle constantly collects grime, it’s important to break down the buildup before it damages your car. However, not all car soaps are created equal. Some aren’t strong enough to remove grime, while dish soap can ruin the protective wax on your car.
However, you need to distinguish the good soap from the bad. This is especially important when you’re a rideshare driver, since you need to keep up with cosmetic guidelines to meet your riders’ expectations.
Keep reading to learn how to select the best car wash soap and read about our top five selections.
What Makes a Good Car Wash Soap?
A good car wash soap should remove as much road grime, dirt, and other contaminants as possible. Its ability to do so reduces surface damage on your car as much as possible, as this takes away abrasive debris, salt buildup, and much more. A good product will typically:
- Yield significant lather (waterless car wash soaps are an exception to this)
- Remove tough stains like bug splatters without the need for pre-treatment
- Be pH neutral, which means the chemicals in the solution won’t ruin your car’s paint
- Leave no swirl marks or water spots after a proper car wash
High-quality products also tend to be more concentrated. This allows you to get more car washes out of a single product while providing a better clean.
Five Best Car Wash Soaps
After taking our desired features into consideration, we put together a buying guide for the best car wash soaps on the market. Take a look at what makes these car care products effective and impressive to your passengers:
1. Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash
Meguiar is one of the most trusted brands for automotive products, and its leading car wash soap is no exception. The Gold Class Car Wash is preferred by many car owners for its reliability in providing a finish that’s not only spot-free but also noticeably glossy.
This combination car shampoo and conditioner is an extremely versatile option. It’s compatible both with a standard, two-bucket hand-washing system and with foam cannons (if you seek a speedier at-home wash).
When hand-washing with a car-wash mitt, the concentrated formula of the Meguiar product can get incredible results with just four capfuls of soap in a gallon of water. Despite the strength of this car wash shampoo, the product won’t strip away your car’s paint. Instead, it will enhance your vehicle’s look.
We recommend the Gold Class car shampoo for drivers with luxury cars, as it truly is the best car wash soap for high-end materials.
You can purchase Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash on Amazon for $13.06.
2. Mothers’ California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax
The most budget-friendly option on this list, Mothers’ California Gold car wash shampoo, is notable for the extra protection it provides your car’s paint. This is a traditional car wash product that uses Carnauba wax to enhance the existing wax on your car.
That said, it’s important to note that this product does not replace your car-waxing routine. However, it may allow your waxing efforts to last longer than normal. The product’s additive also is known to leave a perfect, just-waxed shine without any swirls or water marks.
The California Gold car wash soap is biodegradable and pH-balanced, making it safe for your vehicle and the environment while creating enough suds to remove all dirt and grime from your car.
You can purchase Mothers’ California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax product on Amazon for $8.67.
3. Chemical Guys: Citrus Wash & Gloss
This may be one of the higher-cost products on our list, but it will actually save you money in the long run. The Chemical Guys’ car wash soap is an ultra-concentrated option that only needs a single capful per five gallons of water.
The water-to-soap ratio may seem extraordinarily high, but you’ll experience an impressive amount of suds when you hand-wash and strong foaming action if you use a foam gun. Chemical Guys doesn’t kid around with the strength of its citrus-based formula, which contains no artificial colors or additives. In fact, a handful of the car wash soap’s reviews actually state that your hands may feel the effects of the soap if you don’t use a mitt, so use gloves when handling this product.
Car enthusiasts continue to trust this highly-effective car shampoo to lift stubborn dirt from the crevices of car exteriors without leaving a scratch. In the end, you’ll have a glossy finish to reward your car-washing routine.
You can purchase the Chemical Guys Citrus Wash & Gloss Concentrated Car Wash product on Amazon for $26.99.
4. Optimum’s No Rinse Wash & Shine
If you don’t wash your vehicle on a driveway, or you want to save on your water bill, Optimum’s No Rinse Wash & Shine car shampoo should be at the top of your list. This solution allows you to skip the step of rinsing your vehicle, which means faster washes that don’t require a gushing hose. After using the soap, simply dry it off with a microfiber towel.
Saving water is only one way this car wash soap proves environmentally friendly. While you still need to dilute the concentrated soap in a couple gallons of water, Optimum states the wastewater can be used to water your lawn.
Of course, Optimum doesn’t sacrifice effectiveness. Within the formula are ingredients that naturally bond to your paint as a form of protection, while loosening up stubborn dirt and grime.
Because this no-rinse car shampoo won’t leave your walkway flooded with water, we highly recommend this for anyone who lives in sunny states. This is because the Optimum product allows you to easily wash inside your garage so you can avoid direct sunlight which can soften and damage your paint. On the flip side, it’s also helpful for anyone washing their cars during cold winters.
You can purchase the Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine product on Amazon for $20.91.
5. Griot’s Garage Car Wash (Brilliant Finish)
This “Brilliant Finish” car wash soap delivers exactly what it advertises. Griot’s Garage makes a unique formula, because it contains brighteners that help your car’s paint shine with a glossy finish.
Mix just an ounce of this car wash shampoo in a gallon of water, and you’ll get soapy water that cleans like no other. Its ph-neutral suds are known for their high lubricity. This means it’s safe for your existing car wax and paint, while easily lifting any contaminants to the surface. This Griot’s Garage product is also compatible with foam guns.
We specifically recommend this product for cars with bolder colors like reds, yellows, or royal blue. At the end of your car wash, your vehicle will be bright with no swirl marks or discolorations. No matter what type of finish you have, this Brilliant Finish car wash soap should be a good fit.
You can purchase the Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish car wash soap on Amazon for $11.49.
Frequently Asked Questions
With all your best car wash soap options lined up, it’s your turn to decide the best fit for your rideshare vehicle. To help you decide, here are our answers to three common questions:
1. Can I use car wash soap on my car windows?
Yes, it’s fine to use car wash soap on all parts of your vehicle’s exterior. However, if you only need to clean your window exteriors or you need to get grime off your window interiors, read our guide on how to clean car windows with the most effective products and methods.
2. Do I need to wax my car after every car wash?
No, you usually only need to wax your car waxing once every quarter, especially if you use high-quality paste waxes that tend to last longer. However, lower-quality car waxes (like spray waxes) are commonly made to be applied at least once a month. Because of this variety in product strength, we always recommend reading the directions on your product for guidance on how often to wax your car.
3. Are there benefits to using a foam gun or foam cannon when washing a car at home?
The main benefit of a foam gun or cannon is it makes car washing much easier and faster, covering your car fully with foam extremely quickly. It allows the soap to loosen abrasive debris before you scrub instead of after you don a car-wash mitt. This means you’re less likely to scratch your vehicle with a foam gun. However, foam guns require a considerable amount of soap, often requiring 1 ounce of soap per 5 ounces of water instead of 1 ounce per gallon.
Get More Suds Out of Your Purchase
With the amount of time you naturally spend on the road in your rideshare career, you’re bound to need a car wash every two to three weeks. However, you don’t need to spend on one-time, automatic car washes to make your car look great. With the best car wash soap for your vehicle, you’ll get a year’s worth of at-home washes that leave noticeably glossy finishes.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.