What Is A Good Alternative For Car Wash Soap?

Need a car washed? Luckily, there are simple DIY solutions, that are also household remedies, that every single person should have access to. Saving some money in the process as well! Using the proper alternatives for car wash soap can help extend the life of the vehicle and even increase the resale value.

 It is important that all these contaminants like dirt, grease, grime, tar, oil, etc. are gone because these are things that will cause more damage to the car over time.

For all of the alternative car wash soaps that will be discussed, access to water and a bucket to put the water in will be critical for the operation.

Best Household Soaps To Use

Many regular soaps at home can replace car wash soap. However, each soap works differently. Hence, it is vital to use them with care.

Some of these soaps will be better than others, but sometimes options are limited and the vehicle needs to use what’s available and safe. Listing off my personal top three alternative car wash soaps, categorizing them from good, better, and best.

Starting with good, hand wash soap has been chosen. The reason hand soap is good is because it has a very mellow nature, and has a low concentration of soap. This means that there is a far less likely chance that hand wash soap can strip the paint from the car and cause any other damage.

However, because of the low concentration, more hand soap will have to be used as compared to other soaps that will be discussed later. Having to use more hand soap can sometimes be a negative thing because the soap usually is packaged in a small bottle.

Make sure to clean small sections of the car at a time, to make sure that the soap is not damaging any of the layers of paint.

Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap


Moving to better, the laundry detergent is also a viable option. Laundry detergent makes The list because it is designed to get out stains, dirt, and grime without marring any of the clothes that it’s meant to wash. Unlike hand soap, laundry detergent has to be extremely diluted with water because of the concentrated nature of the soap. 

Laundry detergent can eat away at the finish of the car! Using less soap in this situation is very critical. If possible, it is recommended to use a mild laundry detergent or even a natural laundry detergent to minimize risk of damaging a vehicle. 

Laundry detergent should not be left on the car for very long. The detergent will need to be rinsed promptly and thoroughly after the application. Making sure the vehicle is washed in small sections. Laundry detergent can be a great car wash soap alternative!

Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Laundry Detergent

meyers clean day

The best alternative for car wash is dish wash soap! Much like the laundry detergent, dish soap also needs to be diluted in the water. Due to the mild nature of these brands I’ve had good luck using Dawn dish soap and Palmolive dish soap as excellent alternatives to car wash soap. 

Dish soap foams up very well and the soap also does a very good job attacking grease and dirt. Because of dish soap‘s ability to cut through grease and food on dishes, the soap can do the same thing to the paint of the car. 

It is recommended to clean small portions of the car at a time to ensure that no damage is occurring, rinsing the soap off soon after the application. Dish soap has excellent cleaning power and is cost effective as well.

Palmolive Dishwashing Dish Soap


Bonus soap! An excellent additive that can supplement any of the good, better, and best soaps, is conditioner. Conditioner works well because it has a product called lanolin, which is used to add a shiny protective layer to the hair. This lanolin can also act as a shiny protective layer for the vehicle!

Just add a small amount of conditioner to your soapy solution, and mix it well. Every time the mop water is changed, add fresh soap and conditioner as well.

What Is Safe To Wash A Car With?

It is best and safe to use a fluffy mop material that can catch more of the dirt and grime as the soap is being applied. The mops have a tremendous surface area to be able to pick up more dirt. The mop will pick the dirt up off the vehicle and prevent any scratching to the clear coat. 

Microfiber towels will work as well. However, more towels will be needed, because of the lack of surface area on the microfiber towel. With microfiber towels, it’s safe to use more than you think you will need.

Adam’s Microfiber Car Wash Mitt


How To Use

When drying the car, dry microfiber towels will do just fine. Never let the vehicle air dry! If the car is left air dry, water rings will begin to form, from the beads of the water and any soap that may have been left behind. 

Clean the vehicle often. If contaminants are allowed to fester in an area, contaminants will spread like a wildfire, to places that may not be reachable or cleanable.

Use more towels than needed. Operating with clean equipment will have clean results. Avoid trying to stretch a mop or a rags lifespan. Play it safe, not sorry. 

Work from the top down. Nothing is stronger than gravity! Have soap work with the vehicle by helping push dirt and debris downwards with gravity. 

Do not scrub the vehicle too firmly. Small grains of rock can be easily pushed into the paint layers and cause little scratches you can see under a flashlight. 

A secondary Bucket of water is nice to have because we can use the secondary bucket to rinse dirty rags off. The fewer contaminants we can introduce to the soapy water the better. This will help minimize damage to the vehicle’s surfaces. The secondary bucket should only be water, no soap.

There are so many great alternatives for car wash soaps, it would probably be more of a challenge to not be able to find a solution to wash your car with. Hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent are so closely the same, but have such dramatically different results to the finished results.

So make sure to follow the correct procedures for each soap, and remember to rinse the vehicle often. Consistently keeping your vehicle clean is very important and will help prevent future issues.


Garry is the happy owner of a funky 2018 Nissan Juke Ti-S AWD. After growing up around his family’s mechanics shop, he is passionate about bringing budget-friendly car care to every driver. Garry has a business degree and is a car enthusiast.