Does Car Shampoo Remove Car Wax?

As much as car shampoo is recommended as the best car wash product by expert car detailers, some car owners have concerns about its safety on wax layers.

Does its effectiveness in cutting through and removing car contaminants mean it can also strip off car wax? I’ll provide an in-depth answer in this article.

In general, washing a car with car shampoo will not remove car wax, provided it is correctly applied. Hand washing with a wash mitt is the safest way to wash with car shampoo effectively. Nevertheless, regular washing with car shampoo may gradually wear out the wax layer.

So, you can safely wash a car with car shampoo without worrying about compromising your wax layer.

Let’s take a more in-depth look into car shampoo’s effect on car wax and some other agents that are capable of removing car wax.

Will Car Shampoo Remove Wax?

Regular car shampoo formulation is not strong enough to break down and remove car wax. Car shampoo is characterized by a lubricating effect that makes it glide smoothly over the clear coat and wax layer. However, strong formulations like degreasing car wash soaps can break down car wax.

Car shampoos contain surface-active agents that penetrate contaminants and remove them from car surfaces.

Unless a very aggressive shampoo is used to wash a car, the clear coat and wax layer will remain intact.

Through the removal of dirt and grime from a car, car shampoo enhances the wax layer and boosts the glossy appearance.

However, car shampoo substitutes like all-purpose car cleaners and laundry detergents have a high likelihood of scratching the paint and damaging the protective wax layer.

This is why car shampoos have always been recommended as the safest cleaning formulation for cars.

Read more on what is a good substitute for car wash soap in my article on washing a car with shampoo – is it a good idea? Check it out here.

While car shampoo itself should not remove wax, the washing method employed may damage the wax layer.

The best way to use car shampoo is through a hand wash.

Use a microfiber wash mitt and avoid abrasive sponges and materials that can scratch the car paint and degrade the wax layer.

Automatic car washes, for example, have a high likelihood of stripping car wax because of the unmaintained brush and high-pressure washing.

Even when a safe shampoo formula is used, the protective wax layer on a car can still be compromised by the method and tools used for washing.

The only effect car shampoo can have on car wax is gradual.

Regular washing with car shampoo will cause a gradual decline of car wax: not so much that the entire layer will be completely stripped off after a few washes, but gradually.

Also, the quality of the wax used will influence how long it lasts. 

What Removes Car Wax From Cars?

There are several agents capable of stripping old wax layers from automobiles, whether it is the intention of the car owner or not.

Some of these items are exclusively designed for wax stripping, while others are commonly used as improvisations because of their wax stripping effects.

Removing wax from a car is easier than many people think. When you have the right tools and supplies, the process is pretty straightforward.

Here are some items that can remove car wax from cars:

  • Laundry Detergents
  • Dishwash Soap
  • Automotive Clay Bar
  • Car Wax/Grease Stripper
  • All-Purpose Car Cleaner

Laundry Detergents

Laundry detergent is a popular car wash soap/car shampoo substitute.

Washing a car with laundry detergent is not recommended, but it is still popular because of its strong chemical concentration that’s potent in breaking down greasy stains and stubborn contaminants.

Laundry detergent’s strong chemical formula has another effect on cars in addition to its cleaning effectiveness.

It is quite abrasive.

Continued use of laundry detergent for car washing will gradually damage the clear coat and strip the wax layer.

Dishwash Soap

This is another popular car shampoo substitute that has wax stripping tendencies.

By formulation, dish soaps are strong degreasing agents that are used to wash off oily stains from plates and pans.

However, dish soap is a bit too aggressive for clear coats, wax layers, and other car parts.

Read more about the suitability of dish soap as a car wash soap substitute in my article on washing a car with dish soap. Check it out here!!

Washing a car with dish soap is not the safest practice, but because of its degreasing nature, it has the ability to remove car wax.

Dish wash soap is quite effective in washing car contaminants, but it shouldn’t be adopted as a regular cleaning product or wax stripper to prevent damage to the paint job.

Instead, use a more car-friendly agent or approach like a dedicated car wax stripper or a clay bar when you need to remove an old wax layer.

Automotive Clay Bar

Clay bars are resin mixtures that are engineered to remove contaminants and pollutants that have bonded onto a car’s paint surface.

They are also very effective in removing sealants like car wax from car surfaces.

In sharp contrast to cleaning agents that only deal with surface contaminants, clay bars have the ability to remove not just the contaminants on the paint but those that are bonded into the clear coat as well. 

For a claying process to be very effective, thorough washing of the car should be carried out first to get rid of the surface dirt, grime, and debris.

Also, wax removal with a clay bar will require a lubricant to help the clay bar move smoothly over the automobile surface.

On the other hand, claying a car before waxing is also a necessity.

Contaminants that have managed to break through the surface layer and bond with the clear coat should be removed with a clay bar.

Check out my in-depth article on “can you use clay bars to remove car wax?” to learn how to use a clay bar to remove car wax.

Car Wax/Grease Stripper

Car wax stripper is the most effective agent for stripping wax from a car.

A car wax stripper, alternatively known as a wax remover, is a solvent formulated to remove grease, wax, and other contaminants from car surfaces.

These wax removers typically come in a spray-on wax remover form or a non-abrasive polish form.

Quite interestingly, spray-on wax strippers are relatively gentle on the paint surface when removing wax.

The only downside to spray-on wax removers is that they’re not very effective in removing contaminants that are bonded into the clear coat.

On the other hand, Polish cleansers are formulated for a much deeper cleansing than most wax removers.

In addition to being able to strip off the wax layer, they can remove microscopic contaminants that have bonded to car surfaces.

All-Purpose Car Cleaner

This is another cleaning formulation that’s strong enough to strip off car wax.

An all-purpose car cleaner is a strong shampoo concentration used for all forms of car cleaning.

It is stronger than normal car shampoo and can dissolve wax and other sealants, and wash off stubborn dirt and grime.

Quite interestingly, all-purpose cleaners strip contaminants and wax layers without damaging the car paint.

You shouldn’t use an all-purpose cleaner on your car if you don’t intend to remove the wax layer.

Regular car shampoo will suffice to wash off grime, dirt, and greasy stains.

Key Takeaways

  • Regular car shampoo does not remove car wax
  • Clay bars and car wax strippers are the best items to remove car wax
  • Laundry detergent and dish soap can damage the clear coat
  • Automatic car washes can damage wax layers
  • The safest way to use car shampoo is with a hand wash
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge