What Soap is Safe for Cars?
Is dish soap safe for washing cars? No. It’s that simple, but let’s take a deeper look at why. Weekly homemade car washes can not only make your vehicle look better, and they can also make your vehicle last longer, however, there is a right way to wash your car – and many wrong ways to do it. At Meineke, we want to help our customers properly maintain their vehicles and save money. Not using the proper soap, equipment or technique can do more harm than good. Here’s what you need to know:
Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?
A common question is: Can you wash your car with dish soap? No, you should not. If you think about what dish soap like Dawn or Dial is made for like removing grease and caked-on food, then you’ll understand why it’s not good for your car. While it does a good job, it’s good because it’s considered an abrasive soap. But, when you use an abrasive soap on something like car paint, it accelerates the oxidation process and gives the car a dull look. Dish soap will also break down a car’s wax coat and can be tough on rubber.
What Makes a Good Car Soap?
Now that you know not to use dish soap to wash a car, what does that leave you with? Laundry soap, hand soap, and other household cleaners are also off-limits. These soaps are not pH balanced and can also damage your vehicle’s paint. To get the results you want, you’ll simply need car soap. Car soap contains more lubricant, which you’ll notice when you move it behind your fingers. The slick formula is much better for your car’s surface.
What Car Cleaning Products Will You Need Besides Soap?
- Sponge or Washing mitts made of sheepskin or microfiber
- A brush or additional sponge for tires
- Multiple buckets – one for soapy water and one for plain water
- Wheel cleaner
- Microfiber drying towel, chamois cloth, and/or squeegee
- Bug and tar remover
- Wax, either spray or rub-on (optional)
- Polish (optional)
Car Wash Tips
- Always wash your car in the shade to avoid premature drying (sunlight can create water spots that stain your car).
- Avoid water spots by keeping your car wet at all times.
- Make sure all windows and doors are shut and don’t squirt water under the hood.
What’s the Best Way to Wash a Car?
Using the correct auto soap for the right vehicle will increase the effectiveness of these steps:
- Wash the wheels first. A car soap will clean the rubber without eroding the wheels, which will be extremely dirty and require the most scrubbing. When finished, refill your buckets with fresh soap and water.
- Rinse off your entire car with a hose, making sure you get any debris out from underneath the wiper blades. Car soap will rinse cleaner than other harsher soaps.
- Pre-treat any stains (bugs, bird droppings) by applying bug and tar removal soap directly to the stain.
- Start soaping one side of the car. Make sure to periodically rinse off the mitt in the water bucket to avoid accumulating dirt.
- Avoid scrubbing too hard and wash in straight lines. Circular motions can create swirl marks.
- Rinse off the side you’re working on prior to soaping up the next side. Again, a proper soap will help here.
- Once you wash all four sides of your car, you still need to make sure to dry your car properly.
Can You Air Dry a Car After Using Car Soap?
Air drying after washing can create water spots. Carefully dry your car by using a car squeegee to remove most of the water. After that, use a microfiber towel over everything. The towel should be flat and moved in straight lines, no circular motions.
Should You Use Polish and/or Wax?
Polish or wax should only be used after a car is washed and completely dry with a dedicated auto soap. Polish adds shine, while wax protects the car’s paint. If water doesn’t bead into droplets on your car’s surface, it needs another wax coat.
Waxes are only effective when used with proper car soap. The question often comes up when people are upset that their waxing product only lasts a couple of weeks. You should only need to do seasonal waxing if you use car soap.
Stop by your local Meineke Car Care Center if you have any questions about car cleaning products or techniques.