If you’re an automotive enthusiast, you know that it's a good idea to regularly wash your car (in addition to oil changes, changing your engine air filter, and other general maintenance). Keeping your car clean helps it shine, marginally improves fuel economy, and it also helps extend the life of your car’s paint job. Things like bird droppings, bugs, tree sap, and road salt (if you live in an area that sees a decent amount of snow) can slowly degrade your car’s paint job over time. Washing your vehicle with a good car soap gets rid of these harmful contaminants and can even make it easier to wash them off in the future.
When it comes to keeping your car clean, we recommend washing it yourself. While going to an automated car wash is certainly much easier and quicker, the massive brushes that scrub soap all over your vehicle rarely get cleaned themselves. They’re also incredibly aggressive, which could result in your car getting scratches or hard-to-remove swirl marks. That's why, if you have the time, it’s best to wash your car by hand. If you’re looking to do just that, you’ll want to grab one of these products — the best car soaps available in 2023.
Mothers California Gold Car Wash
You probably recognize the Mothers name, especially if you're a car enthusiast. The company has specialized in making products that clean, protect, and detail your car for decades. Mothers’ California Gold Car Wash may not produce as much suds as other products, but it’s still a great option to get the grime off your car. While California Gold Car Wash is strong enough to get your car clean, it won’t dull the paint or remove previously applied wax. This best-selling car soap is also pH balanced, which means you won’t have to deal with pesky water spots after washing your ride.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax
Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax is one of the few two-in-one products on this list. While you might have bad memories of two-in-one hair care products, this one actually works. In addition to making your car sparkle, this soap will also coat your vehicle in an extra layer of wax to protect the paint. This is possible thanks to the product’s formula of Carnauba wax and a synthetic polymer. The soap is also pH neutral, so it won’t strip your old wax off or harm your paint.
Rain-X Spot Free Car Wash
You’ve probably heard of Rain-X, too. The company specializes in making products that help repel water off of your glass, windshield, and car. Rain-X also has a product to keep your entire car clean. Not only will Rain-X’s Spot Free Car Wash do just that, but it will also leave your your car with a durable, spot-free shine. The company claims you don’t even need to hand-dry the vehicle to get that. At less than $10 for a 48-ounce bottle, it's also one of the more affordable car wash soaps on this list.
Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Super Suds
Chemical Guys is one of the newer companies on this list, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying out its Mr. Pink Super Suds soap. Packed with lubricants and a pH-balanced formula, this is the kind of car soap that's safe to use on a weekly basis without worrying about stripping the wax off of your last job or damaging sensitive materials. This soap is best applied with a foam gun and when properly used, creates a ton of foam. Bonus: It smells amazing.
Griot’s Garage Brilliant Finish Car Wash
Automotive cleaning products from Griot’s Garage aren’t cheap, but they’re made with high-end ingredients to make your car look and shine like it’s ready for an auto show. The company’s products are used to get classics looking like new at global events like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, so they’re guaranteed to work wonders on your ride, too. In addition to being safe to use on matte paint and vinyl wraps, this Brilliant Finish Car Wash also contains special brighteners to enhance your car’s color.
Turtle Wax Ice Car Wash & Wax
Turtle Wax is known for making affordable products that deliver great results. This Ice Premium Car Care Car Wash & Wax may be one of the more affordable soaps on this list, but it’s packed with loads of tech to make your car shine. Turtle Wax’s soap has Smart Shield Technology to add layers of shine, while protecting your car’s finish. Since this soap also has wax in it, you won’t need to spend more time waxing your car once you’ve finished washing it.
Adam’s Car Shampoo pH Best Car Wash
Adam’s Polishes' car wash soap may not have a catchy name or a snappy design for the bottle, but that shouldn’t lead you to think this is a subpar product. The company’s simply named Car Shampoo has a pH-neutral formula, so it will work on various paint jobs without stripping away previously applied waxes or sealants. Adam’s car soap comes in a concentrated formula that's designed to work with foam guns and pressure washers, allowing you to get excellent results with a small amount of product.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax
Hand-washing your car not only requires a lot of tools and products, but you also need running water and, for the most part, to be in a shady spot. If you don’t have access to running water, are trying to be more conscious about your water usage, or simply want to clean your car inside your already-clean garage, there are a handful of waterless washes on the market. Not only will this product from Meguiar's clean the dirt, grime, and dust off your car, it will also leave a just-waxed shine on it, too. If you’re an urbanite, this is a must-have.
Armor All Car Wash
Armor All is affordable and easy to find, which are a few of the major upsides to its Car Wash. Additionally, the soap is both powerful and delicate – it will take the grime off of your car, but won’t remove any previously applied wax. It also has a clean-rinsing formula to give you streak-free and spot-free results. Armor All sells its Car Wash in a concentrated form, so one 64-fluid-ounce bottle should last a good long time.
Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine
For the most dead-simple car wash soap, it's hard to beat Optimum's aptly named No Rinse Wash and Shine. As the name implies, this product requires zero rinsing, making it perfect for both outdoor and indoor applications right in your garage. The super-concentrated formula requires mixing just one ounce with a gallon of water, so this already affordable solution will last forever. It's safe to use on a wide variety of materials, too, including automotive paint, glass, plastic trim, and more. Bonus: It even works as a clay bar lubricant.
It's easy —well, easier — to wash your car in the summer. While it may be tricky, washing your car in winter is incredibly important too, especially if you happen to live in the Northeast or the Rust Belt. When left for an extended period, road salt can eat away at your car's paint, leading to premature rust. Cleaning the exterior of your vehicle is one simple thing you can do to get your car ready for winter. If you're looking for a handy checklist, we've rounded up all you need to know on how to winterize your car because summer will be over before you know it.
Once you've cleaned your car, the next things to tackle on the outside are the headlights. Foggy headlights will make your car look old, dated, and neglected, regardless of how shiny the paint is. To get your headlights looking like new again, take a look at our guide on how to clean foggy headlights.
- Wash, wax, repeat: Polish and protect your precious ride with the best car waxes
- Shop the best tire shines to get your car’s kicks looking like new again
- The best men’s leather driving gloves to hug the corners in 2023