How To Wash A Car Without Soap

It is very important to wash your car regularly, in order to keep it in pristine condition. Car wash soap is the best product to use, in order to perform a safe car wash without scratching the paint. But how exactly can you wash a car without car wash soap? 

Here is how you can wash your car without car wash soap: 


You can wash a car in two ways: by hand or touchless. Let’s focus on washing by hand, as this method is the most popular. Plus, a hand wash requires no extra equipment (opposed to a touchless wash). 

Here is the equipment you need for a car wash without car soap: 

  • A water bucket (the bigger, the better)
  • Clean water (15 to 40 liters)
  • Soapy solution (Mix two teaspoons of dish soap\hair shampoo in 7 liters of clean water)
  • Soft lint-free cloth (like chamois, or microfiber mitts)

Other than equipment, it’s recommended to check doors and windows. If they are opened even a little bit, you’ll have quite a headache. To avoid that — double-check. Make sure everything is closed tightly.

Place & Water

Find some shade and wash the car in a place out of the sunlight. If you don’t have such a place, wash the car early in the morning. Weather conditions are more stable at this time. By starting to wash at 7 or 8 a.m. you almost don’t risk exposing your car’s paint to thermal shock.

Tip: It’s advisable to wash the car with water that is close to the surrounding temperature. In any case, you should not put the car in conditions of contrasting temperature exposure, as this may cause damage to the paintwork. Neither ice-cold nor lava-like water is suitable for a successful car wash. This article contains more details about water temperature for a perfect car wash.

Rinse Your Car Heavily

Make sure to rinse the car heavily with clean water in order to remove the dirt and debris. You can achieve this either with a powerful jet of water (hose) or using the good old method — several buckets of water. Start with pouring 2-3 buckets of water on the body, paying more attention to particularly dirty areas, including the wheels and arches.

If pieces of dirt have accumulated on the struts and wheel arches, it’s advisable to moisten them with water and dislodge them with a hard object.

Hint: Generally, it is not advisable to wash a car with dish soap or any other soap than car shampoo. This is especially true if you perform a contact wash. I have written an extensive article about it here, so make sure to read it! 

Once you’ve rinsed the car with clean water, it’s high time to give it a “soapy shower”. As long as you do not touch the car and apply any manual force, you can prepare some soapy water and rinse your car with it.

The soap will dissolve dirt that has not been removed with the water rinse and will leave your car much cleaner. To do so, dilute dish soap in a bucket. It’s recommended to mix two teaspoons of dish soap in a separate bucket (7 to 8 liters). You can experiment with concentration, though.

After covering your car with foamy water from a bucket, it’s desirable to wait for 10-15 minutes, while the chemistry works with the dirt. It’s a good time to have a break.

Curious to learn more?
Click here for other articles you will like!

Wash off all the leftovers

Now, you should pour a couple of buckets of water on the body. By doing so, you will wash off the top layer of coarse dirt, which soapy water has dissolved. There is no need to skimp on water. Rinse in the same order: starting from the roof down the wheels.

Run an extra bucket of water over the surface, because some micro-particles may still be on the top. However, even after that, some water droplets bead up on the surface. They can home dirt & grime molecules — the last thing you want after the wash. That’s why you should wipe the car. Take a clean chamois cloth (microfiber mitts also work well), fold it into a square, and pull in a straight line. Remember: never use a circular motion to dry out the car. The whole drying process takes just a couple of minutes, but the result is worthy.

Did you know? There is a myth among drivers that a car that has just come off the assembly line should not be washed for a week. But that’s not true, because it doesn’t go on the market right away. 

What Can I Use Instead Of Car Wash Soap?

There is no good alternative for hand washing a car with proper car wash soap or car shampoo. However, there are other options to choose from if you do not perform a contact wash. Let’s discover what else you can do to keep your vehicle clean & tidy. 

Dish soap

As long as the car is not washed by hand, dish soap works okay.

Water washing may not be the best option to remove persistent dirt. Especially with salt, grime, and other substances sitting on the top. In such cases, detergents are used. There are specialized detergents for cars, called car shampoos. However, in some cases, drivers use household detergents (a.k.a dish soap). Dawn, Ajax, and Gain are the most common ones.

Should you use it? Well, opinions diverge. Many people believe that it is unacceptable to wash a car with products like Dawn. It’s because cars, unlike dishes, have parts made of different materials — metal, plastic, rubber, and paintwork. The effect of dish soap on them is not studied, so you can use it to wash your car only at your own risk.

If you do decide to try dish soap

Check the composition of the dish soap. Take a few minutes to read the label so that you don’t get in trouble with the paintwork. Pay particular attention to concentration. Here is how:

Shake the bottle to determine the concentration of the product. If bubbles quickly rise to the surface on shaking, it means the product is diluted (= not effective). You may want to use a different brand instead. On the other hand, the concentration of active ingredients in the composition should not exceed the 30 percent mark. An overly aggressive product is a direct threat to your car’s paint job. You can prevent the danger by smelling the product. If it emits a pungent alkaline odor, (which is not interrupted even by the fragrances) don’t use this dish soap.

Many people believe that red and orange products are more aggressive than blue, green, or yellow. Maybe that’s subconscious or something else… but the truth is that the dish soap color doesn’t play any role. Choose whatever color you like (as long as the composition is OK).

Touchless car wash

Non-contact wash is a type of car wash when there is no mechanical impact on the car, which prevents the appearance of microcracks, scratches, and other damages on the car body (opposed to automatic car washes that may harm your paintwork). 

Make sure to read about 8 reasons behind the scratches at automatic car washes, or check out this article if your paint is already damaged.

Here is how touchless wash works:

  1. Large chunks of dirt are washed off the surface under pressure, thus preparing it for the upcoming cleaning.
  2. A special chemical composition “active foam” is applied using a foam generator. 
  3. After a few minutes, which are necessary for the surfactant to have a better effect on the dirt, the car body is cleaned with high-pressured water.
  4. The car is then dried thoroughly.

Non-contact car washing is based on the work of special detergents. Chemicals soften the dirt and contribute to the rapid removal of dirt from the car body. Active foam is applied to the desired surface under high pressure.

Due to the excellent flow properties, the product is able to penetrate into hard-to-reach places which are not affected by conventional washing. As a result, the car becomes perfectly washed. But what’s even more important is that the car’s body is perfectly safe.

How long does it take?

Usually, a touchless car wash takes somewhere around 10 to 20 minutes. Depending on how dirty the vehicle is. If you wash a car once a week or every other week, 10 minutes will be more than enough to get the dirt off. If you’re not a big fan of washing… let’s say your car hasn’t been washed for a long time. The dirt has stuck in several layers, meaning that the cleaning procedure may take about 20 minutes. 

Can I Just Use Water To Wash My Car?

You don’t always need expensive detergents to clean your car. Sometimes you just need water. 

Make sure to read the detailed article on how to wash your car with just water. You will find many useful tips and tricks. For example, why you shouldn’t use the standard washing technique.

Did you know? The most exotic car wash is at Wilderness Park in Oregon, USA. The cute elephant couple Tiki and Alice will wash your car for only $20.

Key Takeaways

  • Use a straight motion instead of a circular to dry a car thoroughly
  • Prepare 15 to 40 liters of water at the proper temperature
  • When using soapy water, forget about rubbing the bodywork in order to prevent scratches
  • Touchless washing is a great alternative to soap if the car is not too dirty
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge