The market for car shampoos is huge and it seems like every week there is a new product coming out.
If you feel overwhelmed, you might start to ask yourself if you can’t just use normal dish soap, laundry detergent, or dishwashing detergent for car cleaning.
Should you do it?
Performing a car hand wash with dish soap is not recommended. Dish soap alone will not destroy the paint, but it does not provide enough lubrication for the hand wash, resulting in scratches in the paint.
So using dish soap for a hand wash is definitely not a good idea.
But risking scratches by rubbing debris on the car paint is not the only reason why you should not wash your car with dish soap.
Why Using Dish Soap To Wash A Car Is Not A Good Idea
By now you know that dish soap is not suitable for a car wash, as it will result in scratches in the very delicate clear coat of your vehicle.
Here are all the other reasons why washing your car with dish soap is not recommended:
Dawn Dish Soap Strips Paint Protectants
Dawn Dish soap is a grease cutter, which is what makes it so effective when washing dishes that have grime on them at home.
Grease cutters excel at cleaning protein-based soils and oils.
Protein based soils and oils are commonly found in food, but not on a car (unless the car has paint protectant on it).
This can be anything from a high quality car wax to a quick detailer with hydrophobic characteristics.
If dish soap is applied to the protected car paint, it will break it down and strip it off, just like it does to the food on a dirty plate.
If you want your paint protection to stay on your car, do not use dish soap or hand soap to wash it!
The only safe option are car wash soaps.
Dish Soap Does Not Provide Good Lubrication For Car Washing
This becomes a big problem once you start bring your wash mitt in contact with your car.
As a general rule of thumb, touching a car is only safe if the car paint is lubricated properly.
This allows the microfiber wash mitt to glide over the clear coat, pulling off dirt or other debris like bird droppings or tree sap while refraining from scratching the surface.
This rule applies all the more when washing, due to the manual pressure required when using the microfiber wash mitt.
Dish washing liquid and dish washing soaps were not engineered to provide lubrication, but rather to dissolve grease and dirt.
It is meant to be used on plates, forks, or other tools used in the kitchen that are not nearly as sensitive to scratches as clear coat.
Moreover, dish soap is used in combination with brushes or rough sponges to really get off any dirt and bacteria that could otherwise threaten your health.
So, if you use dish soap on your car and start a hand wash with a microfiber wash mitt, you have a recipe for a disaster or in clearer words: you will scratch your paint a lot.
Car wash soap are a much better and safer option. Car soaps offer a lot of lubrication that will minimize the risk of scratching the delicate paint.
Scratches can only be removed by polishing, which removes a layer of clear coat and is very expensive.
It’s better to buy a good car soap and prevent scratches rather than paying hundreds of dollars to get your car polished, just because you wanted to save money on the wrong end.
Scratches in matte cars can sadly not be removed by polishing, so it is crucial that you take special care when cleaning a matte car.
There are a lot of things you need to consider, which is why I wrote this in-depth guide about it here. Make sure to check it out!
Dawn Dish Soap Needs A Lot Of Water To Be Washed Off
This might not seem like a real problem if you wash your dishes, but once you wash a large surface with dish soap, you notice how sticky it really is and how long it takes to wash off.
Dish soap is meant to wash away the grease, dirt, grime, and bacteria that is on your dishes.
It is also mostly used in a water bath or under running water, so it is not a problem that dish soap is hard to wash off.
It is actually a good thing, as this makes sure that your dishes are really clean and safe to eat from again.
Dish soap is also meant to be used with a sponge instead of a microfiber wash mitt or a microfiber towel in order to really deep-clean the surfaces from all substances
If you wash a car with dish soap, you want to hose off any soap residue as fast and with as little water as possible in order to safe time and money.
Sticky dish soap will definitely not help with this.
Also, using a lot of water definitely increases the chance of water spots forming on vehicles after the washing process. You should be aware of this.
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Dish Soap Works Best With Hot Water
Again, this is great for washing dishes, as it makes sure that they are safe to eat from again and that no harmful bacteria remains behind.
But if you wash your car, either at a car wash or with a pressure washer in your drive way, you most likely do not have hot water at hand.
You probably have cold water or lukewarm water available to wash your car.
Using cold or lukewarm water with dish soap not only decreases the effectiveness, but also increases the time to wash the car.
A Lot Of Dishwashing Liquid Is Needed To Clean A Car
Many people argue that car shampoo is way too expensive and dish soap or laundry detergents are much cheaper alternatives.
And at first glance this seems very logical, given that some car shampoos cost tens of dollar per liter.
What many people tend to forget, however, is that car shampoo comes in extremely high concentrations, so you only need a few milliliters to wash a car.
Therefore, a bottle of car shampoo lasts a very long time. I myself recently bought a liter of car shampoo that I also use as a snow foam for a pre-wash treatment.
I needed 5ml with a liter of water to have a great snow foam. If you use it as a shampoo, it is meant to be diluted 1:30, according to the manufacturer.
See how high the concentration of active ingredients is in these products?
The active ingredients in dish soap or other household cleaners are not nearly as highly concentrated as those in car shampoo are, meaning that a much higher quantity of soap is necessary to have the same effect as the shampoo.
Dish Soap Is Not pH-Neutral
This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that dish soap strips wax and other paint protectants. Because dish soap is not pH-neutral, it will dissolve any protective film on the paint.
If you want to remove old wax or another type of sealant, dish soap could be used on your car.
But it is better to use an alkaline car shampoo, as these are more effective and refrain from damaging the paint.
Dish Soap Contains Harsh Chemicals
To reiterate, dish soap was engineered to free dishes of grease, oils, and bacteria with sponges and hot water. As such, dish soap contains large amounts of quite harsh chemicals.
It is important to get the dishes as clean as possible, as dirty dishes naturally pose a health and hygiene risk.
How the soap affects the dishes themselves is of trivial importance and, therefore, a secondary concern.
With cars, it is the other way around. Sure, you want to have your car as clean and shiny as possible, but not at the cost of scratches or other damages to the delicate paint.
If you use a paint protection like a car wax, spray sealant,or even a ceramic coating, be aware that the harsh chemicals can damage and even remove this coating.
Dish soap is, therefore, definitely not the answer.
What Car Cleaning Products Can You Use To Wash Your Car If You Don’t Have Car Shampoo?
If you don’t have car shampoo, there are still ways to wash your car.
The first step is always to rinse it with water to remove any loose dirt and debris. This is best done with a high pressure washer, as the pressure can remove stuck on dirt and grime like bird droppings.
Of course this does not give your car the full treatment and car owners should always use dedicated car wash products to clean a vehicle properly.
Alternatively, you can take your car to a touchless car wash for a thorough clean without having to worry about damaging the paintwork.
Make sure that you see a touchless car wash, as all other options are unsafe when it comes to car washing.
Another option is Optimum No Rinse, which is designed specifically for washing cars without using water or soap.
Whichever method you choose, make sure to stay away from any kind of soap except for car wash soap if you need to wash your car.
No matter which method you choose, make sure to rinse off any residue and use a microfiber cloth or pressurized air to dry the car. This will help prevent water spots and keep your car looking its best.
Suitable Car Wash Soap Alternatives To Wash Your Vehicle
So now that you understand why dish soap is not a good alternative to car shampoo, you might wonder if there are any suitable alternatives to car shampoos at all.
Unfortunately, there are no suitable alternatives to car shampoo. Car paint is so delicate and sensitive that any other cleaning product will damage the paint. Using any other cleaning product, like dish soap, hair shampoo, or baking soda, will result in scratches and a loss of shine.
This might sound like an issue, but it’s really not that bad.
Car shampoo is not very expensive, it lasts a long time and makes washing your car easier, faster, and more fun.
And lastly, it does not scratch your paint, which would require expensive polishing job to get your car shiny again.
But what should you do if you don’t have car shampoo at hand and you want to wash your car?
There’s unfortunately no good alternative to just going out and buying some car shampoo.
So, either you wait until you have the correct cleaning supplies and then proceed to perform a proper hand wash, or you can go for a touchless wash and just spray off all visible dirt with a pressure washer.
But never ever use another cleaning product on your car than car shampoo.
Can You Wash Car Interior With Dawn Dish Soap Or Laundry Detergent?
Using dish soap to clean the interior of your car is possible not recommended.
Using soap to wash your car is safe when it comes to plastic surfaces.
If you have leather seats or or other surfaces covered in leather, the use of dish soap is not a good idea.
It will remove oils from the leather which can lead to cracks. Also, if you do not remove the product completely, the is a high risk of staining the car’s leather.
If not removed completely, dish soap, laundry detergent, or any other type of soap can cause a haze on glass and plastic surfaces.
Imagine taking care of your car, using a lot of your valuable time just to notice streaks and haze everywhere on your car’s interior surfaces.
For best results, use a matt finish interior cleaner specifically designed for cars. It will clean the interior properly and is far better than soap or detergent to clean your vehicle.