Best Household Soap (Dawn?) To Wash A Car

Best Household Soap (Dawn?) To Wash A Car


So you just decided you need to wash your car. But you don’t have a proper car wash shampoo. And you want to know if there’s something else you can use that you already have handy. You can get away with using all sorts of soaps or detergents you have around the home. But some are better to use than others.

The biggest benefit of car wash shampoo is that it will clean your car without stripping away any wax or paint sealant that may be underneath that thick layer of dirt you’re finally ready to wash off. Household soaps and detergents tend to be harsher than car wash shampoo and break down waxes and sealants.

Dish soap could be particularly aggressive. So will laundry detergent. You can still use them and they won’t really hurt your car or trucks finish. They will probably be the most aggressive at deteriorating any paint protection coatings such as paint sealants and waxes but they will definitely get your vehicle clean.

Continue reading to learn what household soap is best for washing your car but do yourself a favor and pick up some quality car wash shampoo now so you’ll have it on hand for the next time.

Why should I use car wash shampoo?

Car wash shampoo is designed to specifically break down the bond that dirt and road grime have on your car or truck but not be so harsh that it will break down the wax or paint sealant that is protecting your finish. The primary way this is achieved is by formulating the shampoo to be ph neutral.

Another good reason to use car shampoo is that it’s pretty inexpensive when compared to hair shampoo, laundry detergent, or dish detergent. You can pick up a gallon of car wash shampoo that will last an extremely long time for 25 bucks or so depending on the brand. My wife’s shampoo comes in a tiny bottle and costs significantly more. It’s probably closer to the price of gold pound for pound.

Do yourself a favor and go ahead and buy some car wash shampoo now so you’ll have it on hand the next time you need to wash your car. You’ll be glad you did.


Can I use Dawn to wash my car?

Sure, but it’s going to be harsh on your finish and not help with the longevity of your wax or paint sealant. Like most household soaps, it is going to be harsher than car shampoo because it’s not designed to wash an item with a coating. For instance, dish detergent is designed to break down grease and food particles. It’s great for cleaning oil off ducklings and probably axle grease off your lower control arms but it’s not ideal for your finish.

Can I use shampoo to wash my car?

A better car wash soap alternative is something that is going to be a little more gentle. An excellent choice is hair shampoo. I honestly have to say I’m not very discriminating with my shampoo choices. Even though I may not buy the highest quality shampoos they will be more gentle than dish detergents or laundry detergents.

My wife is much more critical when choosing a shampoo. The shampoo that she uses is likely far more gentle than the cheap brand I picked. If you live with someone that is more particular about their hair care products and you think you’d survive stealing a bit. The best choice for washing your car is a premium hair shampoo if you don’t have a quality car wash shampoo. My wife would be livid if she found out that I wasted her precious hair product. But your situation may be more conducive to you surviving the shampoo theft unscathed.

Baby shampoo for car wash

Some will suggest baby shampoo as an ideal option. Interestingly baby shampoo is going to be slightly more acidic and therefore harsher on wax and paint sealants that are protecting your clear coat. The reason why baby shampoo is ironically more acidic is that it is trying to match the natural physiological ph level of baby. This will help prevent irritation but is actually harsher than the lower ph of normal shampoo.

Can I use laundry detergent to wash my car

Some people wonder if laundry detergent is a good choice for washing their car. Laundry detergents usually have strong degreasers and other harsher chemicals to help break down dirt stains and grime embedded deep within fabrics. This are going to more harsh than using a proper car shampoo.

If you’re considering using laundry detergent, it isn’t likely going to be your best choice but it won’t be the end of the world either.

Other considerations

Now that you know what household soap is best to wash your car or truck, let’s take a minute to cover some other things you should consider when washing your vehicle.

You want to use a car washing process that will minimize scratching your clear coat. I recommend you take a moment to at least skim over the article Best Way To Wash A Car Without Scratching The Paint. This article will point out some good basic tips as well as outline the 2 bucket method which is ideal for minimizing dragging scratch-causing sand and dirt particles across your finish.

The tool you use to physically touch your car to wash it with is a crucial choice. The best choice is a quality microfiber wash mitt. You should avoid sponges and especially brushes. You can learn more about why this is important in this article discussing alternatives to car wash sponges.

After your car or truck has been washed it should be dried off to prevent water spots. If you have hard water you’ll definitely not want to skip this step. The two best methods for drying are using an air blower or a microfiber drying towel. You should check our Best way how to dry a car after washing without scratching the clear coat.

Last, once you’re done with the job of properly washing your car you should protect your hard work and effort as well as your finish with a proper protective coating. I am personally a huge fan of Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant. I’ve been touting its benefits for quite some time. I could go on and on here about it but I’ll simply say that it is easy to apply and it lasts an extremely long time. 2 years in the typical occasionally rainy conditions of North Carolina is what I’ve found personally. Not only is it extremely durable but it shines extremely well too.



Buy yourself some car wash shampoo so you’ll have it ready the next time you’re ready to wash your car or truck. It’s cheaper and works better than any household soap you have laying around. For now, since you need a solution to get you by, grab the best quality hair shampoo you can find. It’s a crazy waste of money in comparison but it’s the best choice.

Also, do yourself a favor and read up on a few of the other articles (1, 2, 3, 4) on this site so you’ll know what are some other tips and techniques to keep your ride clean and make your time cleaning your vehicle the most efficient and effective.

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