Last Updated on August 28, 2023 by Chase Manhattan
The sun is shining, your car is dirty, and you’re ready to change that, but you’re fresh out of car wash. What do you do? You can find car wash or car soap alternatives, or you can make your own car wash soap. We’re here to show you how to do that, or at the very least find some car wash soap alternatives.
You can make homemade car wash soap pretty easily with common household cleaners. Just make sure to avoid any harsh chemicals or otherwise harmful substances – which is key to prevent scratches, that will later have to be removed.
Typically, this means you’re left to make a combination of things like baking soda, baby shampoo, laundry detergent, liquid dish detergent, baby shampoo, dishwashing soap, hair conditioners, or an odd combination of other car cleaning products. Keep in mind however, if you wax your car you will need to choose an option that doesn’t remove car wax in order to maintain the benefits of having your car waxed.
Sounds like you’ve got options then, huh? So let’s get into it.
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How To Make Homemade Car Wash Soap
As I was saying, there are many household cleaners that you can combine to make your own car wash soap but there are also some things to look out for when doing so. Be sure to avoid:
- petroleum based laundry detergent
- wheel cleaners in large amounts
- any kind of essential oil
- other harmful chemicals like raid insect spray (don’t ask me why)
Want to protect that precious ceramic coating? Read this: Best Car Soap for Ceramic Coating Care
DIY Car Wash Soap Recipe
Don’t fret if you’re out of soap. This here home made car wash soap is some of the gentlest, most effective, soap you can make with these household materials. Keep reading and follow these steps exactly:
- 1 cup liquid dish soap (preferably unscented and biodegradable)
- 1 cup baby shampoo (gentle and tear-free)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1 clean and empty gallon container
- Optional: a few drops of essential oil (for a pleasant scent)
Instructions to Make Your Own Car Wash Soap
- Prepare the container: Make sure to clean and sanitize the gallon container before use. This will ensure that no residue or contaminants mix with your homemade car wash soap.
- Mix the ingredients: In a separate bowl or container, mix the liquid dish soap, baby shampoo, white vinegar, and baking soda together. Stir gently to avoid creating too many bubbles.
- Add water: Slowly pour the water into the mixture while continuing to stir. This will help to create a smooth and even consistency for your car wash soap.
- Transfer to the gallon container: Carefully pour the finished soap mixture into your clean gallon container. If desired, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a pleasant scent.
- Use the soap: To use your homemade car wash soap, shake the gallon container well to ensure all the ingredients are mixed together. Pour a small amount onto a sponge or microfiber cloth, and gently scrub your vehicle’s exterior. Rinse with water and dry as usual.
- Storage: Store the unused car wash soap in a cool, dry place with the lid tightly sealed. Use within 6 months for best results.
[Guide To: Washing the Undercarriage of a Car]
Making Car Wash Soap Using Dish Soap as a Homemade Car Wash Solution
Yeah, it’s possible. It was basically the first diy car wash soap don’t you think?
People wash cars with liquid dishwashing detergent because it doesn’t do all that bad of a job really. Using dishwashing liquid as a cleaning solution is pretty straight forward and doesn’t cause many problems.
It won’t leave soap residue on your car’s paint, it’ll easily remove bird poop and road grime, and it doesn’t expose your car’s surface to any harsh chemicals. Dish soap will however strip all of the wax off your car’s finish though.
That’s right, no protection for your clear coat or paint job I said! You’ll have a clean car, but also an exposed paint job, so be aware of that.
When you need to wax your car again, Turtle Wax: Wax and Dry is a good option.
If I had to clarify, all you’ll need is a bucket of warm water, and a cup of liquid dishwashing detergent, and voila you have your own homemade car wash soap.
Using Baby Shampoo as A Car Wash Soap Alternative
Yeah it’s possible but not the best. Baby shampoo creates a mild soap mixture that is best used with warm water. Cold water can work too may end up doing some scrubbing with microfiber towels, or soft paper towels worst case scenario.
Due to the chemical composition of baby shampoo, it is very gentle and will not loosen bird poop, or other bird droppings, like dishwashing soap would.
Trust me when I tell you that car cleaning tips are often learned the hard way; if you end up scrubbing your paint job, be sure to use clean microfiber towels.
You can also use soapy water as a lubricant if you don’t have a soft cloth available. Be careful regardless.
Using Hand Soap For A Car Wash
Hand soap by nature is a very mild soap, so you can be comfortable that it’s not strong enough to compromise car paint. However, it’s not the best homemade car wash. It can easily be outdone with the most basic dishwashing liquid.
If you’re going to use hand soap for car care, make sure to apply a liberal amount to your bucket before filling it with warm water. Follow the same instructions that we gave for making homemade car wash with dish soap.
Is Baking Soda Safe on Car Paint
Yes, baking soda is safe to use on car paint. It’s not my favorite option however, it can be abrasive if not diluted properly. If you decide to use it, be sure to use plenty of warm water. It won’t create a liquid soap like other methods, but can still be used as a homemade car wash solution because it will loosen bird poop and other contaminants just like dishwashing liquid would.
Even the mild soap mixture that hand soap creates will give you more suds than baking soda would. As we mentioned before, it’s ok to use a large spray bottle with some soapy water to lubricate the surface and protect your paint job.
Using Laundry Detergent As Car Wash Soap
Laundry detergent is a viable car wash solution, and it comes in many forms. You can use powdered laundry detergent, like you would baking soda, or you can use the liquid detergent which I recommend.
Regardless, I would recommend using a laundry detergent that is made for children, or those with sensitive skin. Sensitive skin variants typically have less fragrances, and other harmful substances, that could damage your clear coat.
No matter what cleaning solution you use, it is best to use warm water – but cold water will work in a pinch, a clean microfiber towel, and a spray bottle, if necessary, for those extra bird droppings.
Is Wheel Cleaner A Good Diy Car Wash Soap
Not so much, but it won’t hurt anything. You can find a better car wash solution, or even a basic car wash soap, but if you’re here, you have your reasons, and we’re going to cover it.
Since most car wash soaps and wheel cleaners normally come in a spray bottle, you can easily apply it to – my favorite – bird poop that’s stuck to your clear coat. As always, use soft paper towels or a clean microfiber towel to remove excess droppings or soap residue.
It doesn’t matter if you have cold water or warm water. Use your clean microfiber cloth for the finishing touches. If I skipped a step, I hope it’s straight forward by now.
Homemade Car Wash Soap for the Windshield
Now it’s time for baking soda to shine! … your car windows and your windshield. Or you can use a powdered laundry detergent, it will function the same.
Just mix some baking soda with some warm water, apply it to the windshield and let it sit. Add more soda or powdered laundry detergent as necessary. Rinse with warm water. Let the car sit to air dry. Voila! Shining windshield.
What is the Best Homemade Car Wash Soap
I don’t know if it’s cheating, but I would say take that odd bottle of car wash solution, mix it with some liquid soap, and your homemade car wash is good to go! Yeah, maybe it is cheating in hindsight because making homemade car wash soap really isn’t that hard, but it’s knowing how to use your homemade car wash soap that really counts. We’ll cover that next.
How To Wash A Car with Homemade Car Wash Solution
Here we go! It’s time to use your homemade car wash soap, but first..
It’s important to understand the first part of the car cleaning process is to make sure all the dirt or dirt marks, bird poop, tree sap, road grime, etc. are removed from the car’s exterior; it is important to do this to protect your car’s paint.
Your car’s surface can develop swirl marks and scratches if this is ignored. Cleaning cars professionally is called detailing for a reason, it’s your attention to detail that counts when you’re trying to preserve the clear coat on a car’s paint.
Anyways, to prepare your car I recommend making a diy soap mixture in a large spray bottle. This mixture can be made of hand soap, hair conditioner, a previously homemade detergent, or a liquid dish detergent. Basically, your objective is to create a mild soap that has a gentle chemical composition that will preserve the car’s exterior.
You’re protecting the paint surface by allowing all the soap to soak into any road grime, bird poop, or other miscellaneous bird droppings, present on the car’s surface which will allow all the dirt to be easily removed from the paint surface.
Use a clean microfiber cloth if you need to use some elbow grease. I should probably tell you, if you plan on using a foam cannon, you can skip this step – it’s basically a DIY car wash all in one.
Now that you have a clean car, take your diy car wash soap and apply it thoroughly across your beloved car.
Use a large spray bottle if necessary. If you used hair conditioner or wheel cleaner in your soap, I recommend rinsing your car ASAP.
Otherwise, you’re free to let it soak. Don’t wait forever though or you’ll wind up with a leftover case of residue. Sometimes, if my car is extra dirty, I’ll rinse it entirely then reapply my diy car wash soap.
You can take it from there I imagine.
Depending on the car wash soap that was used, it may be time to reapply wax to your car’s clear coat.
In particular, dish soap is the primary culprit for stripping wax. I won’t go into full detail about waxing a car, but you can read the instructions to, and benefits from, waxing a car.
Now that your car is squeaky clean, you can leave the car to air dry and never worry about making homemade car wash soap ever again!
Next time you’re at the auto parts store, I’d recommend picking up some car wash soap alternatives – but if you don’t we’re here to help.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is homemade car wash soap, and why should I use it?
Homemade car wash soap is a natural and cost-effective alternative to commercial products, made from common household ingredients. It reduces plastic waste and avoids harmful chemicals.
How do I make homemade car wash soap?
Mix 1 cup of liquid dish soap, 1 cup of baking soda, and 1 gallon of water. Optionally, add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance.
Is homemade car wash soap safe for my vehicle’s paint and finish?
Yes, if used in moderation and without harsh scrubbing, it is generally safe for your vehicle’s paint and finish.
Can I use homemade car wash soap on any type of vehicle?
Yes, it is safe for most vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Will homemade car wash soap remove tough stains and dirt effectively?
It can effectively remove moderate dirt and grime, but for tough stains, consider pre-treatment or specialized commercial cleaners. Homemade soap is best for regular maintenance and gentle cleaning.