The Best Car Wash Shampoo and Soap Reviewed in 2017

// Links to merchants mentioned within this website may be using an affiliate link which means that we may earn a commission if you buy something through that link. Read our Earnings Disclosure to learn more.


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

You can even find wild claims like shampoos marketed as the best soap for black cars and the best soap for white cars as if certain colors need different cleaning agents.

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 short on time and just want to know the best all around car wash soap then take a look at Optimum Car Wash. 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’re interested in the best car wash shampoos across a variety of uses 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 or wax / sealant.

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!”

No!

Household cleaners are not formulated correctly for delicate automotive finishes. They contain surfactants and other chemicals which work to strip away anything stuck to what you are cleaning. They are simply too aggressive.

A properly formulated soap will safely lift dirt, soften stuck on contaminants, and provide slickness and lubricity between your cleaning mit, the dirt, and your paint to prevent accidentally installing scratches.

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, so runoff doesn’t poison our natural resources

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 and soap for each purpose for the money!

Best Bucket Washing Shampoo – Optimum Car Wash – My Favorite

Specification

  • Extra Concentrated
  • Stiff Slick Suds
  • Ph-balanced
  • Biodegradable
  • Up to 128 oz

Pros

  • Excellent deep cleaning action
  • High Sudsing sticks to paint longer to loosen dirt
  • Slickness prevents scratches
  • Concentrated formula goes a long way
  • Ph-balance is safe on your hands and paint protection
  • Pleasant Smell
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • Not readily available

Click to Check Price

Optimum Car Wash is a top shelf polymer soap that is phenomenal. It’s a fantastic shampoo for hand washing. It’s even pretty good when used in a foam gun.

It has very stiff, rich, and slick suds that last a very long time 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 over the long term. You’ll have no problem getting your money’s worth out of it. It also smells amazing.

Given that it’s ph-balanced and biodegradable it is very safe for your hands, paint, wax, and the environment. Not many products can check all of those boxes.

The only real drawback to this soap is that it’s not readily available. You’re likely to walk into a big box store like Walmart and find it sitting on the shelf. You’re going to have to resort to ordering it online or through a supplier of high end detailing products.

Optimum is a well known and respected brand in the automotive detailing community and this soap lives up to the expectations of the brand. I don’t hesitate to say that this soap is one of the best car wash soaps for the money.

Check out the amazing reviews and buy it at Amazon.

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 Over the Counter Car Soap – Meguiars Gold Class Shampoo & Conditioner

Specifications

  • Concentrated
  • Clear Coat Safe
  • Ph-balanced to protect wax
  • Biodegradable
  • Up to 64 oz

Pros

  • Good cleaning action
  • Concentrated formula goes a long way
  • Ph-balance is safe on your hands and paint protection
  • Pleasant Smell
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • Lower sudsing compared to Optimum
  • Lower slickness compared to Optimum

Click to Check Price

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 force needed from a wash mitt. It doesn’t contain any waxes or polymers so you wont mess with any last step products such as wax or sealant that you’ve already applied to your car.

It’s not overly slick and doesn’t produce the same rich suds that the Optimum does but you can drive to just about any local big box store and find it on the shelf.

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.

See more info at Amazon.

Best Shampoo for Foam Gun – Chemical Guys HoneyDew Snow Foam

Specifications

  • Super Concentrated
  • Ph-balanced
  • Biodegradable
  • Contains water softeners
  • Up to 16 oz

Pros

  • Great cleaning action
  • Extremely thick rich suds
  • Concentrated formula goes a long way
  • Ph-balance is safe on your hands and paint protection
  • Smells like HoneyDew!
  • Biodegradable

Cons

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

Specifications

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

Pros

  • Good cleaning action
  • Wax seals paint during washing
  • Concentrated formula
  • Ph-balance is safe on your hands and paint protection
  • Biodegradable
  • Very slick to prevent scratches
  • Moderate suds are less than Optimum but more than Gold Class
  • Works ok in a foam gun or lance
  • Doesn’t leave streaks on windows or dark polished plastics

Cons

  • Jack of all trades master of none

Click to Check Price

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 decent amount of time (around a few weeks).

It’s ph-balanced so it’s safe on both your hands and any wax you already have applied to your car. This is a good soap for maintaining the gloss of your original wax or sealant application.

The suds are moderate, nothing to write home about but better than most other wash and wax soaps. They cling decently to the paint and stick around for a decent amount of time.

The soap is very slick, which helps in preventing scratches while washing.

The smell is a pleasantly mild tropical smell. It’s not overpowering or chemical smelling like some of the other cheap shampoos you find in most big box stores.

All in all, the strength of this one is definitely in the wax side of the wash and wax equation. I can’t really find any fault in this shampoo other than it not being exeptional in any one are like the Optimum for richness of suds and slickness or the Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam for density and longevity of foam suds.

If you’re looking for a one step product I fully believe this is the best wash and wax soap for the money.

See additional reviews at Amazon.

Summary

When shopping for a shampoo for you car you should be focusing on which soap is the best for the job at hand. If you’re short on time and need something no that just works, pick up the Meguiars Gold Class or Ultimate Wash and Wax. If you’re using a foam gun or lance the Chemical Guys Honeydew Snow Foam is an awesome choice. If you’re looking for a premium concentrated soap for bucket washing that ticks all the boxes on slickness, rich suds, excellent cleaning, and great smell then you want the Optimum Car Wash.

Last Updated: August 2, 2017

Share Your Thoughts:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *