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Just like you would not use dish soap or laundry detergent as your own shampoo, it’s important to know you are using the right car wash soap when cleaning your car. Historically, the question has always been asked whether dish soap is okay to use for a car wash. The short answer is no, and this article will explain why. While dish soap is fantastic for building suds and cutting through grease and dirt, it also strips car wax at a very quick rate. Because of this, after washing with dish soap, you’ll notice the car’s shine becomes rather dull. If you’re going through the process of clay bar and re-waxing, it’s not a bad place to start, but for most folks, it is wise to use a car wash that is gentle on the car’s polished and waxed finish.

Your car is exposed to pollen, dirt, salt, bird droppings, rain, and even the UV rays of the sun, and these wear on your paint over time. These natural elements break down your paint’s surface over time, and properly washing the car is the only thing that will prevent that from ruining a paint job.

Regular car washes remove contaminants that could damage paint when it is not regularly washed. Picking the right car wash will go a long way towards getting the job done right.

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Things to look for in a car wash

1

Plenty of suds

Understanding how soap works is important. The suds of soap not only work to clean the surface through friction of the brush/sponge, but they also work to suspend those particles in the brush and sponge so they don't continue to get ground into the paint's surface. The more suds, the more suspension of contaminants you get.

Look for a car wash soap that has rich, foaming agents and one that stays foamed. Whether you are applying the wash via sponge/brush or through a foam cannon/gun, you want something that maintains the suds all the way through rinse. Most vehicle finishes will work well with a car wash that has blended conditioners and detergents to help suspend and lift the dirt off your vehicles paint without being harsh to the finish. Detergents break down the grease and grime coating your car, safely encapsulating them in suds to not scratch your car paint.

Note: Make sure to pre-rinse your car to remove the heavier dirt before getting your car covered in suds. Loose dirt will trap itself in the sponge and can scratch the paint if not rinsed off first.

2

Balanced pH

An important selling point to finding the right car wash is finding a wash with a balanced pH to cleanse your car without being harsh to the finish. Higher pH concentrated soaps work fine for removing bird droppings or tree sap but are often too harsh in pH for the paint's wax and finishes, leaving it looking dull.

3

Waterless Wash

Waterless car wash soap is great for quick clean up in-between washes or to use on cars with minimal dirt and grime. The wipes are meant to be used to spot clean, or lightly dirtied cars. If you live in dry areas or states with laws that limit the use of water used for car washes or you want to conserve water, consider using a waterless spray car wash or wipes. Keep in mind that if your car has seen fairly muddy days, this is not the kind of wash you should be using.

4

Consider a Foam Cannon

Foam cannons are vastly growing in popularity. These allow you to pour a set amount of soap into the cannon, hook your hose up, and shoot a low-pressure, suds-filled solution all over the car, eliminating the need for the car wash bucket to be filled with soap. Now, use clean water in your bucket to rinse your brush or sponge off after each pass, and continue to foam the car down for a great wash. Plus, you'll find your car wash bottle goes a lot longer than the traditional bucket, as it uses less solution to produce more suds. The Griot's 51140 is available in all AutoZone stores and is a great example.

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