Can You Wash a Car With Dish Soap? (Explained)

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is dish soap good for washing cars

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of older generations just using dish soap to wash their car. In this post, I’ll show you whether dish soap is good for washing cars, and what’s a better alternative.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dish soaps are bad for your vehicle and will cause the paint to look dull and oxidize quicker.
  • Dish soaps shouldn’t be used to wash your car unless you’re using them to remove old waxes and sealants.
  • Always use dedicated automotive soaps that will allow you to gently remove all the dirt and grime from the car.

Can You Use Dish Soap To Wash a Car?

You shouldn’t use dish soap to wash a car. Dish soap ingredients can do more harm than good to your vehicle’s finish, and in almost all cases, using dish soaps should be avoided altogether.

Few reasons why I don’t recommend you use dish soaps to wash your vehicles:

  • Dish soaps aren’t made for cars. They’re intended to use for greasy dishes, thus being too aggressive for the car’s paint.
  • Dish soaps will strip waxes and sealants. Washing your car with dish soap causes waxes and sealants to wear quicker and leave your car’s finish unprotected.
  • Bad lubrication properties. All high-quality automotive shampoos have great lubrication properties, which isn’t the case with dish soaps. Without enough lubrication, you’ll cause swirl marks and scratches on your vehicle while washing it.
  • Causing the car’s paint to oxidize. If you constantly use dish soap to wash your car, they’ll cause the paint to oxidize quicker.

When You Can Use Dish Soaps For Washing Cars

strip car wax with a dish soap

Even though I never recommend using dish soaps, they can be effective at removing old waxes and sealants.

Washing your car with dish soap will strip old waxes and sealants so that you can apply new protection to the car’s paint.

However, the best option is to buy a specialized pre-wax cleaner. It will permanently remove waxes and sealants, while dish soaps may not.

What Soap To Use To Wash Your Car?

I hope that by now, you already know that you shouldn’t use dish soap or any other non-car soap (hand soap, etc.).

Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash Soap, Ultra-Rich Car Wash Soap and Conditioner for Car Cleaning, Car...
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It would be best if you always used a high-quality pH-neutral car washing soap. My recommendation is Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash Soap and Conditioner.

It creates a foam that removes all the dirt and grime without removing waxes and sealants away from the car’s paint.

Of course, it’s not the only high-quality car wash shampoo. You can check other best car wash shampoos here.

Differences Between Dish Soap and Car Wash Shampoo

I made a little table so that you can see the main differences between dish soap and car wash soap.

Soap TypeStrip WaxesGreat LubricantEasy to Rinse OffHydrates the Paint
Car Soap✔ ✔ ✔ 
Dish Soap✔ 
Key differences between car wash soap and a dish soap

You see how many important differences are there. That’s the reason why you should always use car shampoos instead of any other type of soap.

Why Do People Still Use Dish Soaps To Wash Their Cars?

Well, I think that the lack of knowledge is the main reason for that. Many people don’t educate themselves enough.

Also, some people use it when they’re in a rush, and they don’t have any of the car products at home but still want to clean their cars. 

I can’t entirely agree with that too. Nothing will happen if you don’t wash your car for two days more until some car wash soap arrives. Also, you can buy car wash soaps in almost any more extensive shop.

Even the cheapest car wash soaps (that are pH-neutral) are better to use than dish soap. At least, they’ll be easy to rinse off, which is not the situation with dish soap (check the table above).


What soap can be used to wash a car?

Only dedicated automotive soaps are recommended to use for washing cars. They have both cleaning and lubricating agents, which is extremely important to keep your car scratch free while cleaning it.

Is dish soap safe for cars?

While nothing bad will happen from washing your car with dish soap here and there, if you constantly use it, your car will oxidize quicker. Furthermore, dish soaps will strip waxes and sealants from cars, leaving the paint unprotected.

Is car shampoo the same as car soap?

Car soap and car shampoo are basically the same thing. It’s a concentrated shampoo with lubricating additives that helps with cleaning the car.

Bottom Line

Using dish soap to wash your car is not recommended, and you should avoid it. In this article, I gave you enough reasons to show you that using a dedicated car wash shampoo is the way to wash your car.

If you want to keep your car in good condition, you should always use the right products and the proper methods. Whether it’s interior or exterior, make sure to clean it properly.

Lastly, I just want to invite you to check my thorough guide on how to wash your car. I’ve taken the time and written all the tiniest steps you need to know for a proper car wash.

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