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.

Your car is exposed to pollen, dirt, bird droppings, rain and even sunshine wear away at your paint overtime. These natural elements cause chipped or etched paint, discolored paint and rust.

Regular car washes remove contaminants that could damage paint when it is not regularly washed. AutoZone wants to help extend the life of your cars exterior by helping you find a product that works for your routine cleaning.

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Things to look for in a car wash


Plenty of suds

For the cars that have written “Wash Me!” in the dirt on the back window, look for a car wash soap that has rich, foaming agents to clean your cars exterior. 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 rinse 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.


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, leaving it looking dull.


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.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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