Car wash soap is powerful stuff – no doubt we’ve all felt the suds slip through our fingers and watched with mild awe as it scrubs away even deep stains or smears on our prized rides. But although car wash soap can come through for you more often than not, sometimes you have to make a substitution.
In these cases, it’s helpful to know what a good substitute for car wash soap is and where you can find it. Turns out, there are plenty of excellent car wash soap alternatives that you probably have within your home right now. In other cases, there might be other cleaning products you can use.
Let’s break it all down so you’re never in a bind when you need to wash your car, but don’t have the all-important car soap!
There are plenty of reasons why you might want an alternative to regular car soap. Maybe you don’t have time to head to the store before you need to have your car looking as good as you can make it. Or maybe you aren’t interested in using soap that can cause harm to the environment, so you’re looking for something that doesn’t make quite as much of a mess.
Whatever the reason, you’re in luck – there are some decent alternatives for regular car soap. Some of them are, of course, better than others. So it’s up to you to decide which car soap alternative best suits your needs, time constraints, and budget.
In fact, some of these alternatives are even better than regular car soap across the board (see our last pick for more info).
Just remember not to use these for interior cleaning. Shine Armor’s Interior Cleaner is a better bet, as it’s gentler (but still powerful!,) and much easier to wipe away.
Top Substitutes for Car Wash Soap
Shine Armor Fortify – The Best Substitute for Car Wash SoapOut of all the car soap alternatives we’ll talk about today, Shine Armor Fortify is the best solution, bar none, that’s why it’s at the very top of the list. And we’re not just saying that because we made it!
Not only is it a good formula for wiping away grime, dust, and dirt on your vehicle, but it also adds a glorious shine to your car because it applies a durable ceramic coating to your vehicle's finish. This will protect your car over the long-term and give it a glossy shine better than what even most wax products can offer.
It's basically a three-in-one cleaning, shining, and protecting solution. Even better, it can be applied using a spray bottle and wiped onto your car with a regular microfiber cloth. We'd heavily recommend it as an alternative to regular car wash soap, especially since it can cut down on your overall car detailing time significantly.
Dish soap, the old staple household inclusion, can serve as an alternative to car soap. That’s because most dish soap formulas are designed to cut through grease pretty effectively. While this is great news for your dishes, it also means that regular dish soap can work as an alternative to car soap, especially if you need to get rid of grease or oil stains and smears on your vehicle.
However, keep in mind that you should water down your dish soap with plenty of water. This will hopefully prevent the dish soap from stripping your paint or otherwise harming your car. There’s a little less risk if you have a wax or ceramic coating layer over your vehicle, but it’s still a possibility.
Furthermore, regular dish soap can leave a residue that you might need to remove using polish or extra scrubbing. Basically, if you have to use regular dish soap, you’ll likely have to put in more effort than you would with regular car soap or another car soap alternative.
Some types of laundry detergent can also be used to wash your car in a pinch. Specifically, use mild laundry detergent that isn’t too strong so it doesn’t strip away your paint. Mild laundry detergent can get rid of almost any dirt or grime on your vehicle (as it should, considering it’s the stuff we rely on to clean our clothes).
As with regular dish soap, you’ll need to dilute the formula down significantly before applying it to your vehicle. Be sure to only use a little bit and use a big bucket full of water when washing your car with this alternative. As a plus side, you won’t have to worry so much about smears or swirls on your car compared to normal dish soap.
You might also consider using hand soap, although this may be difficult since most hand soap containers don’t have a lot of liquid in them to start. Furthermore, hand soap isn’t nearly as effective as regular car wash soap. But it’s better than nothing if you have absolutely nothing else.
You’ll have a better experience if your hand soap formula foams a lot compared to more liquid-y soaps. That's because the foam can get underneath dirt and grime that has been rubbed into your car's paintwork or finish and lift it away to be rinsed off.
Another big plus is that most hand soap products smell quite nice, so your car will keep that scent for a little while after being washed. You shouldn’t need to dilute regular and soap too much compared to dish soap or laundry detergent, but as with any car soap alternative, watch what happens carefully as you progressively clean your vehicle. Stop if you see the paint starting to get stripped away.
Shampoo formulas designed for babies or children can be used for your car as well. Why these two types in particular and not all shampoo formulas? Shampoo for babies and kids is much gentler since their skin is more sensitive than the average adult’s.
This also means that kids' shampoo won't be super effective on your vehicle – you might have trouble getting rid of particularly intense stains or dirt that's been rubbed really deep into your car's paintwork. But it also means that the threat of stripping away your paint is much less likely.
Note that shampoo can be really effective for getting rid of certain types of dirt, like bird droppings or other organic debris.
Sure! Wheel cleaning products are often formulated pretty closely to regular car wash soap. They might just have a few extra ingredients that make them more effective at cleaning your car’s wheels, which are all metal or rubber.
Be sure to dilute the wheel cleaner with water. Plus, make sure the cleaner doesn’t strip away your car’s paint as you apply it. We’d recommend looking for a low-power cleaner if at all possible, or try to look up the ingredients of your old car soap and check to see if your wheel cleaner is similar in composition.
One other alternative is regular household cleaners like the kind you might use to clean your kitchen or bathroom counters. While these can work in a pinch, they also typically have much harsher chemical compositions than other types of soap. Be very careful when using these and be sure to dilute them significantly before applying them to your vehicle--the risk for paint stripping is high here.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of substitutes for carwash soap, they’re just mostly not necessarily good options because of the risk of stripping your car’s paint. Some options are certainly better than others in a pinch, so it’s up to you to pick the best formula possible for your vehicle without damaging the paint job.
Our recommendation? Skip the stripping risk altogether and go with Shine Armor Fortify. It’s the perfect solution if you want to also apply a ceramic coating to your vehicle at some point, and you don’t even need water to use it. Do everything at once using one proprietary formula to save time, money, and effort, so you have more time to cruise in your ride than you have to spend cleaning it.