For most of us, washing the car is a chore that ranks right up there with getting the oil changed. It usually entails taking it somewhere, paying anywhere from $9 to $15 or more and letting giant fabric tendrils pound your car into submission. Then, you roll out of there and within five minutes, your car is covered in water spots. But hey, at least it’s clean and maybe the corrosive elements are removed, right?
For those out there who are more detail-oriented or those who make car ownership a hobby, it’s almost always preferable to wash your car yourself. You can take time, focus on the corners and crevices and definitely carefully wipe it down to avoid water spots. This is true if your car is your everyday commuter or a vintage showpiece. It puts the care in car care.
For a little backgrounder on what to look for in car wash soap, check out this piece on Jay Leno’s Garage — a product we’ve included on the list below. If you’re new to the whole washing your own car game, check out this post on Red Bull which goes into a lot of detail. Some of it might be overkill, but it doesn’t hurt to get a perspective.
Here we’re focusing on the car wash soap or shampoo in particular, with preference given to one gallon size bottles when possible. On a past list — best car cleaning kits — we went for full kits that often included multiple specialized cleaners and usually at least a towel, if not a full suite of tools. All we’re concerned with here is the soap itself.
This list is in order by price so you can quickly decide how much you’re looking to spend and jump right down to that part of the list using the quick links below. Keep in mind that the package sizes differ and that some are concentrated, so check out the price per ounce that we’ve listed for each to help you decide what’s the best value for your needs.
While you’re shopping, you might consider picking up a foam gun. While most won’t have access to a pressure washer at home, a foam gun a like this option from Adam’s can do a pretty good job and only requires your garden hose. At the very least, you’ll need a minimum of two buckets and a sponge or a wash mitt.
Save yourself some money by considering our best car wash soap options to keep your ride looking great.
What are the best car wash soaps?
- Rain-X Wash and Wax with Carnauba Wax Beads | Check it out on Amazon – $9.74
- Jay Leno’s Garage Premium Car Shampoo Vehicle Wash | Check it out on Amazon – $14.99
- Dr. Beasley’s Premium Body Wash | Check it out on Amazon – $21.72
- Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash | Check it out on Amazon – $22.95
- Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Wash Soap and Shampoo | Check it out on Amazon – $23.99
- Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All Waterless Car Wash | Check it out on Amazon – $27.95
- Duragloss 902 Car Wash Concentrate | Check it out on Amazon – $28.40
- Mothers California Gold Car Wash | Check it out on Amazon – $30.37
- Griot’s Garage Car Wash | Check it out on Amazon – $35.43
- Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo | Check it out on Amazon – $44.99
1. Rain-X Wash and Wax with Carnauba Wax Beads – $9.74
This car wash soap from Rain-X is inexpensive no matter how you look at it. It’s less than $10 for 64 ounces, but it’s also a two-in-one option with carnauba wax included in the form of beads in the soap. Rain-X is known for its ability to make water bead up for better visibility and to prevent water spots.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t really going to wax your car; the wax found in a wash & wax car shampoo will only protect your car’s paint for a week at the very most. You will have to apply a more dedicated wax product for longer protection. Still, some is better than none at all, and for a general purpose, regular wash on a car you’re just trying to keep clean, this is a solid place to start.
You can go even cheaper here, too, with their Spot Free Car Wash which leaves out the wax part.
Price per ounce: $0.15
2. Jay Leno’s Garage Premium Car Shampoo Vehicle Wash – $14.99
In case you are for some reason unaware, Jay Leno is kind of a car guy. That’s his (non-showbiz) thing. This product was created as a result of his years messing around with cars to be an excellent and super-concentrated car wash.
One of the things to look for in a good car wash is that it’s pH balanced. Washes that are too acidic have a tendency to create water spots or streaks, among other issues. This one is pH neutral as well as having high lubricity to carefully lift dirt off without scratching.
If you prefer, you can also buy the Complete Vehicle Care Kit, which includes all of their products in one bundle.
Price per ounce: $0.93
3. Dr. Beasley’s Premium Body Wash- $21.72
With a look that comes off more like a luxury beauty product, this offering from Dr. Beasley’s is a high-end wash that also takes into account the person washing the car. This again is pH balanced with high foam and lubricity, in addition to being completely biodegradable.
What this product offers that others don’t is that they’ve added lanolin oil to keep your hands from drying out when you use it. It’s a small touch and maybe unnecessary, but if you already have dry hands or other car wash soap has made you uncomfortable, this could be the one to try.
This is their traditional high-shine formula, but for those of you who have a matte finish vehicle, they make a version for you, too.
Price per ounce: $0.67
4. Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash – $22.95
If you’ve ever washed a car, chances are good that you’ve used Meguiar’s at least once. This is one of the most ubiquitous car wash soaps out there and for good reason. First, it’s reasonably priced and second, it suds really well. It’s certainly not the most advanced formula going, but it does a great job for a regular wash and will be gentle on your paint or other wax treatments.
This is a shampoo and conditioner, which isn’t really the same as a wash and wax formula. You’ll definitely want to wax after using this if you want that level of protection. It is also pH balanced and biodegradable.
Price per ounce: $0.17
5. Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds Car Wash Soap and Shampoo – $23.99
Chemical Guys have a lot of car care options on the market. Even when it comes to car wash soap, they have things like Citrus Wash & Gloss, Maxi-Suds II and Extreme Bodywash & Wax, all of which are a touch more expensive.
For weekly washes, Mr. Pink is the right choice. It’s extremely slick, so dirt will slide right off the paint, but it also doesn’t have any other elements in it that might preclude you from using it regularly. Sometimes the extreme cleaners are better for once-in-a-while use because they can be hard on clear coat, while soaps that include wax have that streaking issue. This is a solid option to upgrade from Meguiar’s for your regular, work-a-day soap.
Price per ounce: $0.18
6. Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax All Waterless Car Wash – $27.95
We covered this product in our best car cleaning kits post because it performs well for the type of product it is. It’s absolutely fair to say that waterless washes aren’t as effective as their normal counterparts, but if you live in an area where water bans are common or just don’t have access to a hose, this could be among your only options.
That said, this really does a nice job and is used by commercial airplane manufacturers and specified in their manuals. It’s of course biodegradable and non-irritating. It can be used either as a waterless wash or applied as your car is drying as a wax application during traditional wet washes.
Price per ounce: $0.22
7. Duragloss 902 Car Wash Concentrate – $28.40
This option from Duragloss focuses on two main objectives: 1. leave a high-gloss finish and 2. make the water sheet off easily. While it isn’t a wash and wax, it will produce that high-shine finish to make it appear as though it was waxed. The formula prevents drying, giving you time to remove excess water from the surface so you can avoid spots.
Compared to some other options, it doesn’t create quite as thick a foam in terms of suds, but with regular use, you should be able to maintain a glossy finish no problem.
Price per ounce: $0.22
8. Mothers California Gold Car Wash – $30.37
By contrast, the California Gold formulation from Mothers suds a great deal. It’s the slightly higher end option to their Professional Auto Wash and like the Duragloss above, is meant to provide successively shinier results with regular use.
This high-suds action means that this is a bit better for removing things like bugs and other stuck-on dirt compared to a few of the options on this list. There are also a number of size and package options to choose from, and you can get the price down a bit by option to Subscribe & Save on Amazon.
Price per ounce: $0.23
9. Griot’s Garage Car Wash – $35.43
Like Chemical Guys, Griot’s Garage offers a solid range of options for cleaning your car. Unlike Chemical Guys, there’s relatively little overlap in their products, which are all clearly labeled and colored so that each product in the range stands out. The products are made in Indiana, while the Corporate HQ is right down the street from me here in lovely Tacoma, Washington.
This hits all the boxes being biodegradable with a neutral pH and very high lubricity. It’s not quite as sudsy as others, but at a ratio of one ounce to two gallons of water, you could probably stand to use a touch more to increase the suds. This excels at not damaging your wax job, so you should be able to get multiple washes in between waxing.
Price per ounce: $0.27
10. Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo – $44.99
Adam’s is similar to Griot’s in that they have a full range of well-labeled, well-considered car care products made in the U.S.A. Though it’s a little pricier, this formula has recently been revised so that it’s both slicker than ever and can be used in full sunlight.
Some other car wash soaps perform better when the sun isn’t as strong, but Adam’s makes the claim that you can wash at any time. The lubricity is so good, in fact, that you can use this along with your clay bar for removing grit stuck in your paint.
If this isn’t too expensive for you, you could always jump up to the Ultra Foam Shampoo, which is formulated to be used with a foam gun and is more highly concentrated. It’s also $64.99 per gallon, so there’s a trade-off.
Price per ounce: $0.35