What Can I Use To Wash My Car: Here Are 7 Options For You

Soap alternatives are detergents designed as a pre-wash cleaner by those who want to be more responsible when caring for their vehicle.

Why exactly do you need to use car wash soap? Car wash soap is used for various reasons. Some of the most common is to aid in removing stubborn dirt, grime, and other general around-the-car contaminants by lubricating them so they may be more easily wiped away with a wash mitt or sponge.

Finally, it helps prevent swirl marks (marring) which occurs when grit gets caught between two surfaces like your paint and your microfiber toweling.

7 Best Car wash Soap Alternatives

While washing your car, you might wonder if there is a better and less expensive way to keep it clean. Many people still think that the only way to deal with dirt and dust on their cars is by using soap and water. This notion could not be more wrong as there are many other alternatives, such as shampoo or body wash solutions.

These substitutes may work differently, but they can produce very similar results without the need for special tools or equipment to use them. To this end, 7 car wash soap alternatives successfully replace your soap and water solution.

1. Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

According to their website, this is one of the most common substitutes for using car soap to wash your car. I would recommend only using the blue dishwashing liquid as it doesn’t contain any dyes or perfumes that may cause discoloration or damage to painted surfaces.

Pouring dishwashing liquid on a sponge.

Add 1/4 cup to a bucket with 2 gallons of water and use this with ease on all exterior surfaces except glass, wheel wells, tires, and interior leather or vinyl seats. To remove caked-on mud or clay, you may need to let the solution soak for a minute before wiping off.

Also, follow up with a quick rinse so there isn’t any residue left behind before drying. It is not recommended if you have any anodized aluminum

2. Baking Soda and Peroxide

This is another common substitute you can use to remove dirt, grime, and hard water spots. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water till it has fully dissolved. Now add 3-4 tablespoons of peroxide into the mix and stir well.

A cup of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide in an amber bottle.

Spray or foam the solution onto the affected area and let it soak for a couple of minutes before wiping away with a sponge or washing mitt along with your preferred shampoo to get a complete clean.

For stubborn stains, follow up by applying undiluted white vinegar to a damp cloth and rub on the surface if needed.

⚠️ Do not use either one on polished metal trim as it will cause oxidation. 

Follow up with a quick rinse, so there isn’t any residue left behind before drying.

3. Orange Juice

Wash down your vehicle with your favorite car soap, and then dry it off. Now take an old clean rag and soak some in the juice of fresh orange to a thick suds consistency. Wipe on the surface until done and follow up by wiping away the suds; some residue may remain but will quickly come off later when dried.

Orange juice in a glass and ripe sliced orange.
⚠️ Please do not use this on soft-top convertible roofs made from vinyl, as it will cause discoloration over time from the acidity found in orange juice. Also, do not use this technique on any painted surfaces or wheels.

4. WD-40

WD-40 is an all-around versatile cleaner and lubricant that can be used on many surfaces. It’s best to use it as a degreasing agent to remove wax and polish buildup that won’t easily come off with just car shampoo. I recommend prepping your car by washing it with your favorite car soap first before towel drying.

A bottle of WD-40 is displayed in a car garage.

Next, spray liberal amounts onto any areas of the vehicle where there is heavy buildup. Let this soak for about 5 minutes and then wipe away using a soft microfiber cloth or sponge with some water added to break down the WD- 40.

For heavily caked-on grime, let it soak longer if needed, If you have any stubborn stains like bird droppings, bug splatter, etc., you can further remove these by using a clay bar. This way, you don’t have to risk any residue buildup from using a chemical that will leave behind streaks and spots after drying.

5. Ammonia and water

This is the best substitute for getting rid of tar and tree sap off your paint finish. To do this, mix 1/2 cup ammonia with 3 quarts of water in a bucket and use this mixture to spray down affected areas.

Ammonia solution in glass amber bottle.

Before applying, test it on an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t discolor or damage the surface. Let soak for about 10 minutes before wiping away with a microfiber cloth or sponge along with your preferred shampoo to get a complete clean.

⚠️ Do not use on headlights, plastic trims, wheel wells, or tires.

6. WD-40 and Vinegar

This is one of my favorite solutions for cleaning your vehicle’s exterior glass due to its streak-free finish. Spray down all windows with WD-40 or any other water-displacing spray. You can use this in combination with soap but make sure you don’t let any suds buildup before wiping away.

White vinegar in a glass bottle.

Now spray down the glass again with vinegar (white) and wipe away using a microfiber cloth or paper towel along with some elbow grease to get that crystal clear glass look! This works the best when it’s warm out as there will be less condensation on glass if done during cold weather.

7. Windex

This is a classic, all-purpose cleaner that’s been around for many years. It’s good for cleaning exterior glass, chrome trim, and plastic parts, but my favorite use of Windex is to quickly remove bugs from windshields when you’re on the go.

Man wiping windshield of his car alongside Windex.

Simply spray onto the surface and then wipe away with a towel, paper towel, or microfiber cloth along with some pressure in straight lines.

Things To Remember When Using Car Wash Soap Alternatives

The first thing you should know about washing your vehicle without using traditional car wash soap is that it takes more than water alone. You’ll need something to help remove the dirt particles from your paint and use some lubrication between your mitt and the surface of your vehicle.

Believe it or not, soap is suitable for this. Yes, the same soap you use every morning can be used to wash your car without any problems at all.

Most car owners know that car wash soap is essential when cleaning your vehicle. It’s one of the things that work into removing dirt and grime from cars, trucks, or other vehicles. However, some people are opting to use soap alternatives due to the reason that it is cheaper.

Yes, it can be confirmed that these alternatives are sometimes cheaper than conventional soaps available in the market today, but you should still take note of their downsides before trying them out on your vehicle. We have listed below some of the things you need to remember before using soaps other than carwash soaps:

The effectivity isn’t always guaranteed

Man focused on the cleanliness of his car.

Even though many alternative soaps are being sold in stores, the fact is that they are not entirely effective in carrying out thorough cleaning jobs like the conventional ones. Some claim that their cleaning powers are around 75 percent, but even then, you still need to use more of these quick detailers or shampoo alternatives to remove tough encrusted dirt.

Not advisable for filthy cars

Dirty car window.

The truth is, most car owners who opt for alternative soaps do this because they want to save money. But if you think about it wouldn’t it be better to buy the real thing when your vehicle is filthy? Sometimes, when your ride is incredibly filthy already, these alternative soaps can further make your car look much worse than before since its cleaning power isn’t as strong as the real thing.

They have a powerful scent that often lingers inside your car

Cleaning power or no cleaning power, most people would still consider using them because it seems to be a cheaper option. However, this will not happen if you take note of the strong scents found in most alternative soaps out there.

You can’t deny the fact that some of these products smell pretty good, but unlike the original ones, they don’t go away quickly after washing your car. The result is a car with a weird scent inside, and often, it is hard to hide.

Woman covering her nose from bad smell.

In addition to that, according to our experts, upon choosing soap for washing vehicles – these alternatives will often leave an ugly film on your car’s surface. Something like this never happens in case you use natural soap.

One thing you’ll want to check before starting this process is whether or not your paint-protecting wax or sealant has worn off. If you’ve already washed once today and didn’t need to re-apply protection, then simply start washing with water like usual (be sure to dry off the vehicle entirely afterward).

If the sealant still needs some work, make sure to apply an additional product line over the surface before proceeding. Another option would be to wash only certain parts of the vehicle while leaving others untouched, giving them time to absorb more of the product.

Car with wax and polish brush.

Do keep in mind that if your car was previously washed today, you might not be able to remove every speck of grime from its surface with just water alone. The best way to guarantee a clean car is to wash it after each time it’s been dirtied instead of letting the small stuff build up over a prolonged period of time.

If you’re going to use soap, this makes for a great time since all needed is a quick rinse before continuing with your regular washing regimen. If you have sky-high bucks that need burning, then there are plenty of specialty soaps out there specifically designed for washing cars with little effort and essential tools (water hose and sponge).

Don’t worry if you can’t afford such luxuries; ordinary dish soap and hand-washing will do just as well. The only catch is that your vehicle needs to be completely dry before applying for protection again (which you’ll want to do).

Don’t forgo the wax altogether if you’re going to use car wash soap; this type of product is much thicker than any car wash goop and tends to streak when applied incorrectly. Make sure all paint surfaces are dried off very thoroughly since this makes it easier for the wax to adhere properly.

Finally, try not to forget about those hard-to-reach areas like undercarriages and tires. This stuff won’t hurt them at all, so there’s no need to worry about messy drips or permanently soiled regions. Just make sure to use plenty of water and work it in to prevent any car soap build-up, and you’ll be good to go!

Thoroughly clean the car wheels with soap and water.

If you’re looking for a completely natural way of cleaning your vehicle, then try using just water for once. It’s quick, simple, and does the trick perfectly well without leaving streaks everywhere. The only perk you’d get from using soap is that it makes rinsing off dirt particles much easier since they tend to stick together if left without lubrication during the washing process.

If your paint is already coated with wax or sealant, don’t let it wear off by accident. Follow up each application with a thorough drying session before proceeding with the car wash soap routine.

In Closing

So there you have it, seven excellent alternatives to car wash soap. Now you can replace that overpriced sudsless soap that still leaves behind residue, streaks, and spots.

I will continue to update this list as I find more awesome (and safe) ways to clean your car without breaking the bank. Please, the main point we are trying to make here is plenty of other alternatives to regular car soap.

If you have ever wondered why they cost so much and what exactly do they do better than different types of soaps, remember these seven alternatives and give them a try. They will either work well or won’t even come close to leaving your car clean without having to spend too much money on chemical cleaners to get rid of water spots from your recent wash.

About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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