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Car Soap: What to Wash Your Car With When You’re in a Pinch

Posted by CleanTools on

a guy cleaning black car with wash mitt

You should always use car soap to wash your vehicle. But sometimes you don’t have access to a bottle of car washing detergent—especially after a romp in the mud or after a bird so rudely decides to liquidate its assets on your hood. So what can you use instead of car soap for washing your car at home? And what shouldn’t you use? 

Continue reading to find out what the best car soap alternatives are—and the worst.

What Soap Should I Not Use?

Dish Soap

Dish soaps are formulated to cut through tough grease and should never be used as car washing soap. Gentle dish soaps can ruin your car’s clear coat and protective wax. Leave your dish soap for the dishes and choose a different, safer car washing method.

Laundry Detergent

Despite laundry detergent not being as abrasive as dish soap, it can still eat away at your car’s coat. Laundry detergent contains chemicals and degreasers meant to clean tough stains out of your clothes, not your car. Using laundry detergent too much on your vehicle will cause it to lose its luster over time.

What Kind of Soap Can I Use to Wash My Car?

There are various types of detergent to wash the car. Let’s take a look at them.

Hand Soap

Contrary to popular belief, hand soap is a fair alternative to car washing soap. Hand soap is safe to use on your vehicle if you’re in a pinch, but you should ensure that you are using a gentle solution over strong hand soap. Otherwise, you could end up with a film or residue on your car.


Yes, you read that right. If you’re on a road trip and your car gets dirty with no car wash in sight, you can reach into your travel bag and use a bottle of hair shampoo. Even though hair shampoo isn’t that great for removing tough and sticky residue, you can still use shampoo to give your car a decent wash. If you’re going to use shampoo to wash your car, use it sparingly and reapply a coat of wax once you’re finished. 

And remember—the best soap for your vehicle is car washing soap specifically designed to handle your car’s paint. You should only be using hand soap or shampoo if you are in a bind and need a clean car fast.

Don’t Wash Your Car Without This Mitt

Sure, your car is made of steel—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a gentle touch. Give your car some TLC, and never wash your car without our Premium Wash Mitt. We designed this Wash Mitt with your and your car’s comfort in mind. That’s why we blended a paint-safe mitt with a knit acrylic cuff stitched to stand the test of time. 

Our Wash Mitt holds soap and water longer, so you don’t have to dip into the soap bucket as much as you would with a regular towel or cloth. Dry your vehicle off with the Absorber®, and you’ll be set for the perfect wash-and-dry combination. Shop our washing and drying collection at CleanTools.

Shop Our Collections Here!

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