Why You Shouldn't Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Car


In this article you will learn:

  • How dish soap can damage your vehicle

  • Why you should use a dedicated car wash soap

  • What tools you should use to wash your car

I know what you’re thinking—it's cheap, it’s a timesaver and it’s readily available, right by your kitchen sink. Why wouldn’t you use dish soap to wash your car?

Lots of people feel the same way, and they use their favorite brand of dish soap to wash their car, truck or even their motorcycle without giving it a second thought.

Can you use dish soap to wash your car? You can, but that doesn’t mean that you should. Here’s why.

The problem with dish soap

Dish soaps like Dawn, Palmolive and Seventh Generation are designed to strip food and stubborn oils from your kitchen utensils to get them sparkling clean. These household cleaners tackle stains and grime in a matter of seconds and produce lots of foam with just a little bit of water. At first glance, dish soap may seem like the perfect type of soap to wash your vehicle.

Unfortunately, it works a little too well. The moment you start scrubbing your car with dish soap, it begins eating away at the wax that protects your delicate clear coat. Car wax contains oily, plant-based substances with similar properties to butter or cooking spray. So as you can imagine, dish soap removes wax from your car same way it removes grease from your skillet or frying pan after your morning bacon.

Chances are, you won’t notice this happening right away. Washing your car once or twice with dish soap isn’t enough to completely remove your car wax or paint sealant, especially if you’re using a ceramic or graphene solution. However, if dish soap is your go to cleaner for weekend car washes, your durable wax coat will slowly start to wear away until your car no longer retains its glossy, water beading finish. After that, it’s only a matter of time before the elements start taking their toll on your paint, creating an even more expensive problem to solve.

So, while dish soap may seem like a viable car care solution, it’s actually one of the worst cleaning products you could use on your car. Instead, it’s always better to wash your vehicle with a dedicated car wash soap that will remove tough dirt and stains while leaving your car wax and sealants intact.

Car wash soaps have three important features that make them safe to use on your car:

the problem with dish soap

1. Balanced Surfactants

Car shampoos are infused with balanced surfactants that break down tough stains from bird droppings and road grime without destroying your car wax or paint sealants.

In the world of car care, dish soap is the equivalent to a cleaner-degreaser: a heavy-duty car wash soap that strips away old layers of wax for a complete detailing overhaul. Using this kind of soap for a routine car wash would be considered overkill. Regular car wash soaps, on the other hand are much gentler on your glossy finish while removing dirt just as quickly and easily.

Balanced surfactants form the base of any car wash, regardless of price or any additional features.

balanced surfactants

2. Lubricating additives

Lubricants allow your car wash to glide across the finish, encapsulating loose soils and debris to prevent scratches and swirls in your delicate paintwork.

Dish soaps don’t contain any lubricating additives. And, to add insult to injury, if you’re using an old rag or a t-shirt to wash your car, not only are you stripping away your car’s necessary protection, but you’re also rubbing dirt particles into your finish that could potentially damage your glossy clear coat.

Always use a microfiber towel or wash mitt when you’re washing your car. The tiny fibers are designed to pick up loose soils and draw them away from the surface of your vehicle to create the smoothest possible finish.

lubricating additives

3. An easy rinse chemical formula

Any carwash should be easy to rinse off with a simple garden hose without leaving behind any streaks or residues, making it easy to clean your car in 10-20 minutes or less. Dish soaps, on the other hand, are difficult to rinse off without a sink full of warm water, leaving behind unsightly water spots that can slowly oxidize painted surfaces over time.

an easy rinse chemical formula

The Bottom Line

Dish soap may be great for scrubbing your burnt cookie trays, but it’s not a lifehack for an easy, at-home car wash soap. If you’re on a budget, consider a basic car wash soap, like Turtle Wax Zip Wash & Wax. And while you’re at it, swap out that old rag for a simple microfiber cloth! Your car will thank you for using the right products to maintain that sparkling finish.


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