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

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can you use a dish soap to wash your car, car detailing, car wash techniques, car wash products,

Dish soaps are cheaper than car wash soaps. They also produce much more foam. It’s completely normal to consider washing your car with dish soap if you’re a beginner. 

But, should you wash your car with dish soap?

You shouldn’t wash your car with dish soap. Dish soap is too aggressive and removes any layer of protection you added, such as waxes and sealants. Also, it’s not nearly as good lubricant as car wash soaps.

If washing a car with dish soap is great, why would they even make car washing soaps, right?

I see so many people washing their cars with dawn dish soap, one of the most popular dish soaps in the USA. I think that’s a mistake, and I’m going to explain to you why.

Reasons Not To Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Car

Washing your car with a wrong soap is one of the most common car detailing mistakes. Here are three main reasons why I don’t recommend washing your car with dish soaps.

1. They are not made for cars

That’s the most straightforward reason so far. Dish soaps are intended to use for greasy dishes.

Dish soaps are abrasive soaps that we use to clean grease and caked-on food from the dishes. They’re too aggressive for the car paint.

Most of the dirt on the cars is water-soluble, and you don’t need abrasive soaps to clean it.

Even though they will clean all the dirt from your vehicle, specialized car wash soaps will do a better and safer job.

2. Dish soaps will strip waxes and sealants

If you have any protection on your car (wax or sealant), dish soaps will strip it. 

Depending on the type of wax or sealant, they might strip it immediately or after few washes.

Removing waxes and sealants from the car’s paint will make the color more vulnerable to external factors such as UV and heat. That can lead to color fading and oxidation.

3. Dish soaps don’t have good lubrication properties

Lubrication is the most important thing when it comes to car washing. If you want to wash your car without scratching the paint, you should always make sure that there’s enough lubrication on the surface.

High-quality car wash soaps have excellent lubrication properties that’ll make all the dirt and grime slip away from the paint without scratching it.

Even though they’re great at cleaning grease and grime, Dish soaps don’t have the best lubrication properties.

When Could You Use It?

strip car wax with a dish soap

Well, I would never use it, but there is a situation when you could use dish soap to wash your car.

If you want to strip old waxes or sealants from the car paint, dish soaps are great at doing that.

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

RELATED: Best Car Waxes: Protect and Shine For Your Car

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 soaps (hand soap, etc.).

meguiars gold class car wash soap
Click on the image to check the price on Amazon.

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 soaps and car wash soaps.

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 soaps.

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 the dish soap (check the table above).

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some additional questions you may ask.

Will dish soap damage the car’s paint?
No, dish soap itself won’t damage the car’s paint. That’s a myth. However, dish soap will remove protection from the color, making it more likely to fade and oxidize (especially on the older cars without a clear coat). Also, dish soaps aren’t great lubricants, so you’re more likely to cause swirls and scratches when using them to wash your car.

What about laundry or hand soaps?
Laundry, hand, or any other household soaps aren’t suitable for your car either. Always use a dedicated car wash shampoo. That way, you’ll get the best results without causing swirl marks and scratches and without removing the protective layer from the car’s paint.

Why should I use pH-neutral car soaps?
You should use pH-neutral car wash soaps because they’re safe on the paint, plastic, rubber, vinyl, glass, and other surfaces. Also, they won’t strip waxes and sealants.

I washed my car using dish soap. Will something terrible happen?
Don’t worry. If you wash your car using dish soap a few times, nothing special will happen. You may see some light scratches or swirl marks. Also, if you had any protection such as waxes or sealants, make sure to reapply them. Remember, dish soap strips them from the paint. For future washes, buy a dedicated high-quality pH-neutral car wash shampoo.


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.

Here you can find all the proper steps and products for a decent car wash.

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.

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