Best Car Shampoo
The washing phase is the first and most important step in any type of auto cleaning or detailing procedure. As such, it is always best to arm yourself with the right tools for the job. It starts by choosing the best car shampoo.
Wait, aren’t they all the same?
Won’t washing up liquid work as well as car shampoo?
The answer to both queries is a resounding NO!
Not all car shampoos are the same, and you should avoid using washing up liquid on washing your vehicle. Washing up liquid or fairy liquid is great for doing the dishes but it can be tough on paint. The strong emulsifying action of fairy liquid can strip the paint of wax, which is bad news if the goal is to protect and beautify the finish.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the best car shampoo, it is important to recognise the different types of car shampoo.
Soft Wash Maintenance Car Shampoo
This type is the pH neutral variety of car shampoo and will not strip off wax or sealant. This is the perfect car shampoo for freshly-detailed vehicles or those that were previously treated to remove the dirt from the car and maintain the protection already applied.
In most cases, these shampoos are marketed as wash-and-wax products. This means the shampoo is formulated to leave a light coat of wax as you wash, which will further enhance the gloss and colour of the paint.
Heavy Duty Car Shampoo
While the soft wash is pH neutral, preparation shampoos have a stronger and more acidic formula. It provides superior cleaning by breaking down dirt and grime while removing the wax or sealant on the paint. As such, this type of car shampoo should be applied with care as it can cause staining or etching if left to dry. This is the ideal car shampoo if your vehicle will undergo polishing, waxing, or paint correction afterwards.
Snow Foam Shampoo
There are car shampoos that can be used as snow foam agents. The goal is to use a snow foam lance to spray a thick layer of foam all over the exterior surface of the vehicle. Allow the foam to dwell for about a minute or two and rinse well. You can learn more about how to snow foam a car here.
Ceramic Coating Maintenance Shampoo
If your vehicle has been previously treated with quartz or ceramic coating, the protection will last longer if you wash the paint with coating maintenance shampoo. This type of car shampoo is fairly new to the industry. It is formulated to clean the vehicle and protect the ceramic coating that is already on your paint.
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The Best Car Shampoos
1. Adam’s Car Shampoo
I’ve been in the detailing for a long time now. I’ve used car shampoos of all shapes and sizes but none came close to the gentle cleaning power of Adam’s Car Shampoo. This is a pH-balanced car shampoo that is safe to use on all exposed surfaces including rubber, plastic, chrome, aluminium, alloys, vinyl, and glass.
What’s striking about the Adam’s Car Shampoo is the thick and luxurious foam. The foam has a milkshake-like consistency that won’t dry or evaporate as easily even when exposed to hot weather. If you’re based in particularly hot countries where it’s hard to not wash your car in direct sunlight, then this is the shampoo for you.
I usually mix 30 to 50 millilitres of the product with 12 to 15 litres of clean water to get the desired foamy constancy. In the world of car shampoos, the greatness of the product is measured by the thickness of the foam (at least it is for me). This means the shampoo can lift more dirt and grime on the surface without scratching the paint.
Adam’s Car Shampoo is formulated using an advanced blend of natural cleaners and polymers. The lubricating properties of this car shampoo are simply off the charts. In fact, I’ve even used it as clay bar lubricant to remove embedded contaminants on the paint.
As if that’s not enough, this product can also be used as snow foam due to the thick suds. It is hard to find a better all-around car shampoo.
2. Gyeon Q2M Bathe Shampoo
Next up is the Gyeon Q2M Bathe Shampoo.
Second place doesn’t necessarily mean second best since the Gyeon Q2M Bathe is a different type of car shampoo. It may also cost a bit more than the Adam’s Car Shampoo, but there’s a reason for that.
The Gyeon Q2M Bathe is a highly-concentrated pH-balanced formula. It is safe to use on all types of waxed or sealed finishes. However, it is especially good for ceramic-coated finishes.
This car shampoo is best dissolved in a bucket of warm water. This allows the cleaning solution to effortlessly remove dirt, grime, and contaminants without harming the wax, sealant, or quartz coating on the finish.
But, what I really like about the Gyeon Q2M Bathe Car shampoo is the lubrication. It can also produce a thick batch of foam for efficient cleaning and another product that I wouldn’t hesitate to use as a clay lubricant.
3. CarPro Reset Intensive Car Shampoo
For tougher cleaning jobs, the CarPro Reset Intensive Car Shampoo shines the brightest. Based on the name of the product itself, this car shampoo has a stronger and more intense cleaning formula. The product contains no wax, polymers, or gloss enhancers. It is as pure as car shampoos can get!
But despite the intensive cleaning power, the CarPro Reset is still a pH-neutral car shampoo that is safe and gentle on rubber, vinyl, and glass surfaces. It is specifically formulated for vehicles treated with Nano sealants or ceramic coatings.
The concentrate is derived from organic and biodegradable ingredients to provide excellent cleaning power without stripping off the wax or ceramic coating on delicate paint.
What I really liked about this product is a little can go a long way. In most cases, less an ounce (29 millilitres) of this shampoo is enough for 18 litres of water. It produces a strong foaming action that removes dirt quickly and easily, even from a relatively low dilution amount.
Looking for a snow foam agent? Look no further as the CarPro Reset is also great for snow foaming your vehicle as well!
4. Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax
The Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax is one of my all-time favourites. It comes with a formula that is engineered to provide a slick and thorough clean while leaving a light layer of wax on the surface. This car shampoo is designed to work well with other Meguiar’s waxes but is also safe to use on sealed or ceramic-coated surfaces.
Meguiar’s utilises a proprietary blend of good old carnauba wax and synthetic polymers. The result is a thick lubricating foam that can also be used as a clay lubricant.
While I still find the Adam’s Car Shampoo as the best when it comes to the thickness of the foam, the Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax is not far behind. The label recommends mixing up to 4 capfuls of the concentrated solution in 3.5-litres of water, however, I only use two or three capfuls of the concentrate to produce equally as good results, saving a bit of money.
In terms of lubricity, I think the Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax is one of the best. You can feel it as you wipe the wash mitt on the surface of the vehicle. It also leaves behind a smooth and hydrophobic finish that further helps in preventing water spots as you wipe the vehicle dry.
5. Valet Pro Advanced Poseidon Car Wash
The Valet Pro Advanced is not an ordinary car wash concentrate. While lesser variants may strip off the wax after repeated washings, this car shampoo is gifted with a powerful cleaning formula that leaves a sacrificial layer of water-repelling coating.
I did find this product to be more powerful than the Meguiar’s Wash and Wax or Adam’s Car Shampoo, but the difference is in the finish as you dry the vehicle, especially over freshly waxed or treated paint.
After rinsing the vehicle, the Valet Pro will leave behind a slick and hydrophobic finish similar to the Meguiar’s Wash and Wax. This makes drying the vehicle a bit faster and less tedious. The lubricating properties of this car shampoo are also top notch.
And while the powerful cleaning action of this car shampoo is renowned for removing stubborn traces of dirt, grime, and bird poo, it remains gentle enough to be used as a maintenance wash in between waxing or polishing.
6. Dodo Juice Born To Be Mild
The Dodo Juice Born To Be Mild is a maintenance car shampoo derived from premium-grade surfactants. The concentrate contains no gloss enhancers, foam additives, or bulking agents.
It is highly concentrated and is extremely economical to use. In fact, you can wash more vehicles with a 250 ml bottle of this car shampoo compared to most other products.
Since the Dodo Juice BTBM is pH neutral, it will not strip off the wax or sealant on the paint. The formula even contains limescale inhibitors to prevent water-spotting if the product is mixed with hard water. This prevents ugly stains and water spots when drying the vehicle.
This high-foaming and super-slick car shampoo are also great as clay lubricant and snow foam. But perhaps the most endearing part about the Dodo Juice Born To Be Mild car shampoo is the fantastic smell. Some people say it smells like freshly-harvested peaches. But in my mind, this car shampoo makes me feel like washing my car on a tropical island.
7. Bilt Hamber Auto Wash
There are concentrated car shampoos, and there is the Bilt Hamber Auto Wash. In terms of cleaning power, this car shampoo is one of the best. But the highly-concentrated formula is simply amazing. How so? You only need 5 millilitres of the Bilt Hamber Auto Wash to fill a medium-sized bucket of water with smooth and rich foam.
Now, speaking about the foam. The other car shampoos in this list produced thicker bunches of foam compared to the Bilt Hamber. I even tried increasing the concentration of shampoo, but to be honest, it didn’t have a huge effect on the overall outcome.
This definitely isn’t the foamiest car shampoo to be quite honest. But what puzzles me is how the product manages to deliver a higher level of lubricity and cleaning power despite the absence of thicker foam.
This car shampoo contains no colourants, perfumes, thickeners, or waxes. What you get is a pure concentrate of powerful surfactants that can gently lift away dirt and contaminants without stripping off wax and sealant.
Would I use for my maintenance wash? Maybe not, but if you’re looking for your first wash in a few weeks or months and especially over winter, the Bilt Hamber Auto Wash really starts to come into its own.
Does it really matter which car shampoo to use?
Yes! Different formulas of car shampoo can do different things for your vehicle.
If your vehicle has been previously treated with a ceramic coating, it is always best to wash the vehicle using a car shampoo for ceramic or Nano-coated finishes (Car Pro Reload works great for this). Using a harsher blend will only strip off the protective layer in the paint.back to menu ↑
Can I use washing up liquid or fairy liquid?
Not for anything other than completely stripping your paint back prior to a full detail. You see, Fairy Liquid is not as highly concentrated as car shampoo and it’s designed to cut through things like grease, which isn’t necessary on your car.
It’s also designed to clean products such as china plates and stainless steel cutlery, products that are easily able to handle this abrasive cleaning agent. Your cars paint is much more fragile, so if you do decide to use it, approach with caution.back to menu ↑
Is it best to use a wash-and-wax car shampoo?
Not exactly. I guess it depends on the condition of the paint and what you’re looking for from your wash process.
If you bought a wash-and-wax car shampoo as a one-stop solution that will clean and wax your car, I have bad news for you. Such products are only great for freshly-waxed paint. If your car needs to be waxed, no amount of car shampoo can provide the necessary gloss and protection than a proper wax and it will fade much quicker than properly applied car wax.back to menu ↑
How can I avoid water spots?
There are two things you can do to prevent water spots when washing your vehicle: never wash the car in direct sunlight (or when the surfaces are hot to the touch) and use a water filter.
Water spots will occur with hard water and then this, in turn, dries on your paint. You can also get marks from car shampoo also, as the suds dry and harden on your paint.
The key is to quickly rinse your car and then quickly dry the car. Alternatively, you can use things such as a water filter that will remove any contaminants from your water and mean that you never get water marks again. Dedicated car shampoo, such as Adams Car shampoo has been designed to not dry out on cars, which helps in hot or particularly sunny climates.back to menu ↑
Do I need to use a wash mitt?
Yes, specifically microfiber or lamb’s wool wash mitts. When used in conjunction with car shampoo, these wash mitts will gently lift and pull away dust and dirt to prevent scratching or marring the finish. If you’re a stickler in producing a scratch-free and cleaner finish, always use a wash mitt when washing your vehicle.
P.S. Bin the noodle wash mitts as they don’t perform nearly as well as dedicated microfibre of lamb’s wool.back to menu ↑
How often should I wash my car?
As a general rule, it is good practice to wash your car at least once a week or once every couple of weeks. You should also take the time to polish the paint at least every six months and to apply a coat of wax at least every three months to further protect then paint against contaminants and UV damage.