The Best Car Wash Soap Alternative List

The Best Car Wash Soap Alternative List

Sometimes it’s just too much trouble to visit a car wash, so we’ll wash our cars at home. It’s not always that easy, however; often times we’ll prepare everything we need to detail our car, only to realize that we’re fresh out of car wash solution.

This leaves us with two options, postpone our cleaning or pony up and fight a better car wash soap alternative. Actually, there’s only one option if you really want a clean car.

We’ll cover that throughout the rest of this article.

What Are Good Car Wash Soap Alternatives

  1. Dish Soap
  2. Hand Soap
  3. Baby Shampoo
  4. pH Neutral Shampoo
  5. Hair Conditioner
  6. Laundry Detergent
  7. Baking Soda
  8. Wheel Cleaner

Keep in mind that regular car soap is the most effective way to wash a car. They are tested for harmful substances and designed specifically to protect your car’s finish. Regular car soap alternatives will clean the car but won’t be as efficient and if not used properly, may cause damage to the paint.

To protect your car’s paint, we recommend always using the best equipment you can. This includes:

  • high quality microfiber towels
  • vehicle specific cleaning products
  • (2) Big Bucket

Car Wash Soap Alternatives

Many car wash soaps can be replaced easily with common household cleaners. In recent years, numerous household products have become popular for cleaning. Generally speaking, car cleaning specific products are used because the cleaner is softer and contains neutral pH, but these same criteria can be found elsewhere in a pinch.

Dish Soap

Picture of Dawn Dish Soap

Absolutely, the best thing you can use as a car wash soap is dish soap. This alternative beats all the other alternatives. The reason is, it’s not that strong on the paint, and it’s the most effective at lifting off the dirt.

Dish soap is able to create a nice, slick soapy water that can be great for washing cars. Although it differs a little bit from dedicated car wash soap, the foam is still good enough.

The dishwashing soap will lift off dirt, tree sap, or bird poop, and the foam will be slick enough to protect your clear coat while wiping. Dish soap should still be diluted when used on a vehicle. Here’s a complete guide on how to make car wash soap.

Be careful though, don’t use any kind of liquid dish detergent. The basic liquid dishwashing detergent with no additives is the best substitute. I recommend Dawn Dish Soap. Strong and acidic soaps will damage the paint; mild household soaps are best.

[Related Article: Stop Washing Your Car With Dish Soap Until You Read This!!]

Beware if you’ve recently waxed your vehicle, and you decide to wash your car with dish soap. Cleaning cars with dish soap will remove any wax from your vehcile as it was designed to remove grease naturally, so in this case, washing your car will remove wax. You will need to wax your car all over again to protect its paint. Otherwise, this same property makes dish soap extremely effective at removing tree sap and bird droppings.

Will Washing Car Remove Wax? What You Must Know Today!!

Hand Soap

Hand soap is by far the safest option out of these car soap alternatives. The only disadvantage to it is that it’s not as effective at cleaning dirt off cars.

The good thing is that it’s a mild liquid soap, so it poses no damage to the paint job or clear coat. The soapy water is not as slick but it will not cause any scratches.

The bad thing about it is that it won’t be able to remove all of the dirt from the car. The paint may look clean but there will still be some dirt particles stuck on the paint. Additionally, it has the potential to leave a water spot if not rinsed correctly.

To wash a car with hand soap, you will need to dissolve it and use a large enough amount. Don’t worry about the proportions though, hand soap creates a mild soap mixture so you can use as much as you want. I recommend using basic hand soap without any added scents or ingredients. When possible, it’s best to mix another car wash solution with hand soap in a spray bottle for extra slickness when necessary.

Baby Shampoo

Another good substitute for car wash soap are mild soaps like baby shampoo. Again, a safe option. Baby shampoo is very mild and pH-neutral.

Since it’s specifically made for babies, it’s weak and contains harmless ingredients. So, there are no strong ingredients that may damage the car’s paint.

As much as this is an advantage, it’s a disadvantage as well. Baby shampoo won’t be able to lift off all the dirt from the car paint. You may have to apply the shampoo several times. Even so, there will still be dirt particles on the car. When possible, it’s best to dilute the shampoo with your own diy car wash soap alternatives.

There’s another disadvantage to using baby shampoo for washing a car. The foam created by baby shampoo is very thin. So, you may cause some scratches on the car. You may not notice them because they will be so minor.

Neutral Shampoo

You can also use regular shampoo instead of using baby shampoo. But you have to make sure that the shampoo is pH-neutral.

It’s the same idea as with the baby shampoo. You are using a mild detergent that will be safe on car paint. You still have to dilute with water though.

Be careful here. The shampoo can be pH balanced but if left on the paint long enough it can still cause damage. So, you will have to be quick with rinsing it away. Rinsing quickly also eliminates the risk of leaving water spots on the paint.

Hair Conditioner

If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have dish soap, hand soap, or other household cleaners on hand, you can try using a hair conditioner.

In general, it’s not the best alternative for a diy car wash soap but it will get the job done. The good thing about using a hair conditioner to wash a car is that it will give it a nice shiny look.

The hair conditioner will have to be diluted. However, it will not create a nice foam that you can wash a car with. It’s best used when you first wash the car with something else, like a homemade car soap, and then add the hair conditioner. To accomplish this, you can add it to a large spray bottle and apply it in a thin layer after your first wash cycle.

If you’re a more experienced detailer it is possible to use a clay bar and your own polishing recipe to prepare the car’s surface beforehand. This will loosen any tree droppings or bird poop so that you won’t scratch your paint during the cleaning processes.

Laundry Detergent

Along with dish soap, laundry detergent is the most common alternative used for washing a car. It creates a slick foam and it’s quite efficient at lifting dirt off the car.

Laundry detergent is by far the strongest solution you can use for washing a car. That’s why it’s important to use a mild laundry detergent or dilute it enough to protect your car’s paint.

Don’t use petroleum-based laundry detergent. I recommend laundry detergent for baby clothes or another sensitive skin alternative. Sensitive skin detergents will have less harsh chemicals and more natural cleaners so there is a lower likelihood of your paint being affected.

Also, don’t leave the foam to dry on the car, rinse it quickly so you avoid streaks on the paint.

Baking Soda

Baking Soda

The most common household item used for cleaning is baking soda. It can be used to wash the car’s exterior and interior.

Although baking soda is abrasive, when you dilute it, it’s safe to use for washing a car. All you need to do is dilute one cup of baking soda with a gallon of warm water.

Pour the solution on the car and wash with a sponge. Then, just rinse the car with a pressure washer or a garden hose.

Baking soda is a great solution that can also be used on the interior of the car to remove stubborn stains from spilled drinks. It’s less harsh than other commercial cleaning products, but should still be rinsed with cold water and left to air dry. To save time, you can use a water safe vacuum to extract any remaining dirt from the interior.

[Related Article: The Beginners DIY Guide To Wash Your Dream Car Mats]

Wheel Cleaner

Lastly, a good car soap alternative is wheel cleaner. If you don’t have a car wash on hand but you do have a wheel cleaner, you can use that.

The good thing about it is that you are still using a dedicated car cleaning product. Although it may not be as effective as your own car wash soap, it will still remove any present road grime with a little bit of warm water.

Don’t worry, wheel cleaner is safe to use on car paint. Just use a large spray bottle to spray it on the body area and wipe it with a soft cloth or microfiber towel. Then, rinse the car multiple times. It is important to perform multiple rinse washes, given the chemical composition of the product. Do not let the wheel cleaner sit for a prolonged period of time, or your car’s surface could become compromised.


When choosing a car wash soap alternative, it is important to consider what type of car washing experience you want to have. Whether you opt for a commercial car wash soap or make your own homemade car wash soap, each option has its own advantages.

Dedicated car cleaning products are easy to use and available at most stores, while homemade soaps can save you money and are better for the environment. As a car enthusiast myself, I prefer to use commercial cleaning products, but sometimes you have to use a car wash alternative instead. Ultimately, whichever car soap alternative you choose, you can be sure that you will have a clean car in no time.

Be sure to use high quality wash mitts at all times. To further protect your paint you can use a foam cannon or foam gun.

What Is The Best Car Wash Soap Substitute

The best substitute is actually easier to find than you would expect. In reality, it’s anything that will effectively clean your car while protecting the paint. This means that any household, gentle, and non-toxic soap will do the job.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

Is Car Wash Soap Necessary

Yes, atleast a basic car wash soap is necessary when cleaning a car. Some kind of a cleaning solution to lift off dirt is needed. Otherwise, the dirt will not be cleaned off. There are alternatives to car wash soap but it’s recommended to use a dedicated car wash soap.

What Kind Of Soap Can I Use To Wash My Car

You can use hand soap and dish soap to wash a car besides using car wash soap. Be careful to follow our instructions when using a homemade detergent.

Can I Use Dawn To Wash My Car

Dawn Dish Soap is probably the best alternative to car wash soap. You can use dishwashing liquid to wash your car if you dilute it properly. Additionally, dishwashing liquid will strip the wax from your paint, so be prepared to reapply it.

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