The Best Car Wash Shampoo

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Optimum Car Wash
As you’ve probably discovered, there are a lot of options for car shampoo. How then, do you choose the best car wash shampoo?

The truth is you really need to know how you are going to use the soap and what you want the soap to do (other than remove dirt).

If you’re thinking:

“Well, removing dirt is all I really want it to do!”

Then I’m going to go ahead and suggest that you head over to Amazon (or your local big box store) and buy a jug of Meguiars Gold Class Shampoo & Conditioner.

It’s a great all around shampoo for bucket washing and will do absolutely no harm to your car, truck, or motorcycle’s paint.

If you are more concerned about why you should buy a good shampoo or have another use in mind, then read on!

Why Should You Buy a Good Car Wash Shampoo?

The primary purpose of any car soap is to loosen dirt without chemically stripping or damaging your paint.

The easier dirt is to remove, the less pressure and contact you have to make with the paint. The less you touch your paint, the less you will scratch your paint and the longer it will last!

You might be wondering:

Can I just use dish soap or detergent then? It’s pretty jam at removing grease from my pots and pans!”


Well, not unless you have a specific reason to want to strip everything, including the protective wax from your car’s finish.

Household cleaners are not formulated correctly for delicate automotive finishes. They contain surfactants which work to strip away ANYTHING stuck to what you are cleaning. They are simply too strong.

What Makes a Good Car Wash Shampoo?

Again, it depends on the purpose.

In general, a good shampoo will be:

  • Concentrated, so a little will go a long way
  • Slick, reducing the friction between your wash mitt and paint
  • Sudsy, sticks to the car longer to help emulsify and loosen dirt before hand washing
  • Ph-balanced, to prevent stripping any wax or sealants
  • Biodegradable, for the obvious reasons

Past that, it really depends on how you plan to use the soap. Such as:

  • Bucket Washing
  • Foam Gun or Cannon
  • Gloss Enhancing
  • Wash and Waxing

Each of those purposes benefits from a different shampoo.

Thankfully, I have sorted through all the options out there to match up the best shampoo for each purpose!

Best Bucket Washing Shampoo – Optimum Car Wash – My Favorite

Optimum Car WashSpecifications
• Extra Concentrated
• Washes Paint
• Stiff Slick Suds
• Ph-balanced to protect wax
• Biodegradable
• Up to 64 oz

Click to Check Price

Optimum Car Wash is a fantastic shampoo for hand washing. It’s even pretty decent when used in a foam gun.

It has very stiff and very slick suds that last forever and cling well to the paint and lubricate any contaminants that may remain on your pain when you start scrubbing with your mitt.

It’s highly concentrated so a little goes a very long way making this a very affordable product. It also smells amazing.

What Others Have Said

“This is the best soap hands down. Amazing lubricity, huge amounts of suds, gentle cleaning, it does it all. Keeps my LSP!!!! Also, the bottle is HUGE for the price. I have tried more than 30 shampoos and finally I’ve found one that does it all and I will always return to Optimum. Seriously, it’s that good. Just buy it.” – AutoGeek Reviewer

Best General Purpose Car Soap – Meguiars Gold Class Shampoo & Conditioner

Meguiars Gold Class Shampoo ConditionerSpecifications
• Concentrated
• Moderate suds
• Ph-balanced to protect wax
• Biodegradable
• Up to 64 oz

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Meguiars Gold Class Shampoo & Conditioner is a definite jack of all trades. It’s readily available, affordable, holds decent suds for hand washing, and does a good job of removing dirt without excessive needed from a wash mitt.

If you just need a no frills, easy to find soap for your bucket so you can get cleaning, then this is your best option.

Best Shampoo for Foam Gun – Chemical Guys HoneyDew Snow Foam

Chemical Guys HoneyDew Snow FoamSpecifications
• Super Concentrated
• Thick, Rich Suds
• Ph-balanced to protect wax
• Biodegradable
• Contains water softeners
• Smells like HoneyDew!
• Up to 16 oz

Click to Check Price

Chemical Guys HoneyDew Snow Foam works great with foam guns, cannons, and lances. It’s super concentrated which makes for very dense, sticky foam when used with a foam gun.

It clings very well to paint and has no trouble lifting dirt from the finish without taking the wax with it.

I have not had any problem with water spots. I’m not sure if this is due to the softeners they advertise or the fact that I always blow dry and wipe down my cars with a soft microfiber waffle weave towel.

My only negative observation is the thickness. Because it’s so concentrated it’s very thick and somewhat of a bear to pour out.

Best Shampoo for Wash and Wax – Meguiars Ultimate Wash & Wax

Meguiars Ultimate Wash WaxSpecifications
• Concentrated
• Moderate Suds
• Ph-balanced to protect wax
• Contains Carnauba Wax and Polymers
• Up to 48oz

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Meguiars Ultimate Wash & Wax works well as both a cleaner and a protectant, containing both carnauba wax and polymers. Leaves a very nice gloss behind that lasts a long time.

The suds are moderate, nothing to write home about. They cling decently to the paint. The soap is very slick, which helps in preventing scratches while washing.

All in all, the strength of this one is definitely in the wax side of the wash and wax equation.

Alternatives I Can’t Recommend

Chemical Guys Maxi-Suds II – Contrary to the name, this soap just didn’t hold suds or foam very well even with a foam gun. It failed quite miserably against the HoneyDew Snow Foam. Ironic because it’s also a Chemical Guys product.

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