What to Use Instead of Car Wash Soap? – Car Wash Soaps Alternatives That Can Make Your Car Glow & Glamor

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

what to use instead of car wash soap

If you are in the mood for a sunny Sunday morning car wash to give your vehicle an efficient cleaning, only to find that the last of your favorite car wash soap is used up, then you can resort to a solution easily found in your home.

But what if you want the best for your beloved road warrior while still using what is formulated specifically for cars? Check out our excellent suggestions for car wash soap alternatives that you can do at home. These are highly recommended as super budget-friendly car soap substitutes that will still deliver impressive results.


In What Event Should You Make a Car Wash Yourself


It is undeniable that commuting in a spotless car is satisfying and comforting, as traveling in a dingy one covered with mud, bird poop, road salt, or unpleasant smell is never appealing to anyone. Worst yet, a dirty car can bring about problems to the sensitive parts as dirt and debris gradually damage them.

Therefore, regular car washing is your first line of protection and maintenance. The starting point to proper car care is choosing a quality car wash soap. However, sometimes you might not have car wash soap, or you prefer not to use it.

Finding a car cleaning product that performs well nowadays is not challenging at all. Nevertheless, such commercial cleaning products are not always suitable for you and your favorite asset as they may contain harmful substances. The wrong car wash soap will degrade the health and beauty of your car. The typical chemical scent can be unbearable for you and negatively affect your babies or pets as well.

If you are not familiar with the chemical composition of store-bought wash products, and you are not sure if they are safe, the good news is that you do not always have to use car wash soap. There are many other options out there. A car wash solution with a polishing recipe that you can practice without difficulty is exactly what you need. Do-it-yourself car wash soap is cheaper, safer, and gives you greater control over substances to meet your specific needs.

What to Pay Attention to

Instead of taking it through a car wash, you can polish it yourself with a hose, car wash mitts, towels, buckets, and natural cleaners formulated with easy-to-get and simple ingredients that are right in your kitchen, like dish soap, laundry detergent, and baking soda.

But when using these car soap alternatives, you need to be cautious to ensure you do not use something that is not dedicated and qualified for your car. It is not advisable to wash your cars with only one ordinary soap or detergent or with the wrong proportion in the solution, as it tends to weaken or even destroy your car’s body paint and delicate parts.

To avoid such common mistakes, watch this video for better preparation:

For a fresh and lustrous appearance on your car, we have listed some car wash soap formulas that everyone can make. Continue reading for a DIY cleaning solution that works effortlessly at a cost less than a fancy latte.

What to Use Instead of Car Wash Soap & How to Make a Homemade Car Wash Solution


1. DIY Car Wash Soap Recipe


  • 1 cup of fine soap or liquid soap
  • 1 cup of baby shampoo
  • Warm water
  • Cold water


First, mix the soap in an appropriate amount of warm water to dissolve it finely and cleanse your car with that solution. Opt for a diluted type of regular household cleaner or water down your solution to reduce harshness before applying it on the vehicle’s surface. This ensures that you do not damage your car’s paint.

Then, stir thoroughly with a stick or long spoon to get all the foam out of the formulation that will cover the vehicle adequately. Foaming car wash with massive bubbles when mixed with water will do an excellent job of lubricating and elevating dirt, grime, and other particles on your car’s paint without stripping away existing polish, waxes, or sealants.

Next, use cold water to rinse your car. After being softened and encapsulated, dirt and grime will be easy to remove, leaving a glass-like finish.

This household soap to wash cars is incredibly easy to use and free of artificial thickeners or additives, as it is made of a mild soap mixture to protect your car’s paint.

2. DIY Car Window and Windshield Cleaner Recipe


  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • Orange or lemon essential oil (optional)
  • 2 cups purified water
  • ½ teaspoon liquid dishwashing liquid
  • A big spray bottle
  • A soft cloth or paper towel


Pour vinegar into cold water filled in a large spray bottle, then combine them with the liquid dishwashing liquid. The vinegar is extremely effective in dealing with the grime and dirt, while the dish detergent is capable of crashing the strains and facilitates the vinegar to do its job. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell; it will fade quickly. You can also add a few drops of orange or lemon essential oil to improve the scent.

Next, spritz the combination on the glass and gently wipe with a soft cloth, a lamb’s wool mitt, or a microfiber towel. After being applied, the solution shouldn’t be left for too long, especially under direct sunlight to avoid spots, streaks and marks. But what if there are dried bug guts on the windows? Don’t worry, use a soft cloth sprayed with some of your cleaning liquid and scrub to remove it thoroughly. This is a great solution to make your windows sparkle again.

3. DIY Car Carpet and Mat Cleaner Recipe.


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fabric softener
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 spray bottle
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of hot water
  • ½ tablespoon dishwashing liquid
  • Essential oil (optional)
  • A cleaning round open container
  • Warm water


Car floor mats and rugs are inclined to be stained by food crumbs, spilled drinks, and dirt from shoes. So, you should ensure that you wipe all the dirt off the mats and rug first. Failing to do this can make your job more difficult by rubbing in or spreading a stain.

Then, combine the above-mentioned elements in a spray bottle to create a natural solution. Spray it on the carpet or mats and let it be there for a second. For heavily accumulated floor mats, dip them in a container filled with that recipe. This soap is fortified with easily found ingredients yet potent enough to penetrate and eliminate foreign particles.

4. Readily Available Options at Home:

1. Dish Soap

Can I use dish soap to wash my car? Yes! This is usually the product that tops the list for car soap alternatives. It is fairly inexpensive and you will most likely already have it at home. Moreover, it gets the job done.

Dish soap can effectively address grease and grime, even if the surfaces of your car have been caked for a prolonged period of time. In terms of performance, there is absolutely nothing for you to doubt.

However, there is a caveat that you should be aware of when using it as a replacement for car wash soap: it is much harsher. Dish soap contains stronger components, which can potentially cause damage to your vehicle, especially the paints and finishes.

Therefore, if you choose to use dish soap, then you must take an extra step to dilute it beforehand. Just mix it with water with a 2:1 ratio, and you are good to go.

Top Tip: Still wary about using dish soap? Then, do a patch test first. If you notice that the dish soap is still too strong and eats into the exteriors, add more water to dilute it further.

As a general rule of thumb, do not leave the dish soap on your vehicle for too long. Use it to wash quickly and rinse thoroughly. No residue should be left behind unless you want a scarred and etched car.

2. Laundry Detergent

This is another solid car soap substitute. Like dish soap, it is highly recommended for its cleaning capabilities.

Dust, dirt, debris, grease, and grime—you name it; laundry detergent will clean it. Rest assured, “Can I use laundry detergent to wash my car?” is no longer a blind spot.

You probably already have laundry detergent at home. So, it is a good idea to put it to good use. However, like dish soap, this alternative is a lot stronger than car wash soap because it contains many unfriendly chemicals.

Laundry detergent can strip off the paint, finish, wax coatings of your vehicle. This leaves your car more vulnerable to external elements. Thus, as a result, abrasions, cuts, and scratches are more common.

To work around this, it is necessary that you dilute it with water first. Afterward, transfer it with a funnel into a tightly-capped spray bottle. Then, you can spritz it directly onto a stain for scrubs.

Laundry detergent also conveniently pairs well with a cleaning brush or microfiber towel, making it a great option for car care and maintenance.

3. Hair Conditioner

Yes! You can use the same thing for your hair and your car! After all, they both deserve the best attention and care.

This may seem implausible but trust us, it works. Hair conditioners are among the best replacements for a DIY car wash soap. It can effectively get rid of nasty gunks and buildups in the interiors and exteriors.

On top of that, hair conditioners contain a special substance called lanolin, which also goes by the name wool fat, with properties that give car surfaces a decent shine and polished finish.

However, just as no car wash soaps are made equal, there are many different hair conditioner products in the market. You need to find one that is neutral or natural if you want to use it as an alternative for washing and cleaning your car. Only then will it not contain any harmful chemicals that risk doing more harm than good.

Be picky with your selection. Go for ordinary hair conditioners and not specialized ones, like those for curly hair, dyed hair, damaged hair, dandruff hair, etc. You want the standard, common hair conditioner.

Examples are Renpure Coconut Cream Nourishing Conditioner, Moroccan Argan Oil Conditioner SLS Sulfate Free, ArtNaturals Argan Oil Hair Conditioner, and Not Your Mother’s Naturals Coconut Milk & African Marula Tree Oil Conditioner.

4. Hand Soap

Hand soap is a typical household staple. As such, it is only natural for it to come to your mind when considering alternatives to car wash soap. Hand soap products are made to tackle bacteria and germs, so they are undeniably good for maintaining the hygiene of your car.

Hand soap also works neatly with the typical car cleaning equipment, such as microfiber towels, soft-bristle brushes, wet vacs,…making it a super handy alternative.

Hand soap usually comes in one of two forms: solid or liquid. The latter is easier to work with, particularly in regards to lathering for scrubbing. But either form of hand soap can only go so far.

While they kill unwanted bacteria and germs well, hand soaps cannot get rid of stubborn stains and other filthy accumulations. It can only fade surface-level dust and dirt, maybe some grease and grime here and there.

You may be able to work out certain filth with intense scrubbing. However, it will take a lot of time and effort on your side. So, it really is not worth it as a car wash alternative.

5. Baby Soap

Pamper your car with the same product you use to pamper your little one. Indeed, baby soap is another alternative to car wash soap that you can consider. It is a wonderful solution if you are low on other household soap to wash car products.

Baby soaps can take good care of your car. It lathers well for scrubbing and offers moderate cleaning performance. It is also easy to rinse off while not leaving damaging residues or spots. To top it off, baby soaps are excellent removers of bug splatters and bird droppings, both of which are common on car exteriors. What more can you ask for?

However, like all the options mentioned in this article, it is necessary to be specific about the baby soap that is used. It should not contain chemicals like:

  • Perchloroethylene (PERC)
  • Non-petroleum Oil
  • Surfactants
  • Phosphate
  • Ammonia
  • Triclosan
  • Chlorine

Since you will be rinsing this soap off into drains, it is also important that you steer clear of the chemicals mentioned above. They are not environmentally friendly, and are, in fact, toxic to many plants and microorganisms.

If you choose to use baby soap, aside from making sure that it features light chemical makeup, your product of choice should be quality and easy to use.

Examples include Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo & Wash, Original Tear Free Baby Soap, Baby Dove Tip to Toe Baby Wash & Shampoo, and Aquaphor Mild Baby Wash and Shampoo.

Use it as you would with car wash soap: apply, scrub, and rinse. Do not leave it on any surfaces for too long because there is potential for fading and discoloration, which then reduces your car to an aesthetic eyesore.

Other Things To Keep In Mind

Avoid cleaning under direct sunlight

If you clean or wash your car outside, look for a place that is not directly under the sunlight? Why? Because the intense sun rays can quicken evaporation and dry the car wash soap alternative in the midst of your process.

As a result, there will be unsightly water spots left behind. Plus, you will have to use more of the cleaning solution over and over. You will not get the same satisfactory cleaning session while having to invest more time and effort.

So, as a general rule of thumb: avoid cleaning under direct sunlight.

Do not use just one bucket for cleaning

While cleaning, it is important that you do not use only one bucket. Instead, go for the two bucket method. If you have been to other car care and maintenance sites, you will know that this is very crucial.

Essentially, what this is: have two buckets prepared. Fill one with the cleaning solution and the other with clear water. The latter will be used to rinse off your cleaning towel or brush so that you do not accidentally re-spread any collected filth, especially hardened ones, and give yourself more work than necessary.

Do not let the car drip dry or air dry

Even though you may be tempted to let your car drip dry or air, it is a big no-no. Letting it dry by dripping or airing will leave behind ugly streaks, spots, etc. Then, you will have to spend more time addressing it using costly specialty cleaners and products.

To save time and money, just remember: do not let the car drip dry or air dry after you have cleaned or washed it.

Apply a layer of wax or sealant

Many tutorials end a car washing session with drying. However, it is critical to apply a layer of wax or sealant for your car. This protects it from external elements as well as future filth. In turn, your upcoming cleaning and washing sessions will be less tiring.

There are many wax and sealant products available in the market. Make sure that you spare enough time to research before shelling out any cash.

Among the factors that you need to consider, here are the most important: formula, ease of application, compatibility, brand, and price. Also, be sure that you use the product as guided in the product’s descriptions or packaging.

Top Tip: Do not try to experiment and thus, deviate from the instructions! After all, the manufacturers know their products best.

High-quality wax and sealant products that you can look into are Turtle Wax 53477 Hybrid Solutions Pro Flex Wax, Griot’s Garage 10962 Spray On Wax, and CAR GUYS Liquid Wax: The Ultimate Car Wax Shine with Polymer Paint Sealant Protection.

If you do choose to buy the wax product from CAR GUYS, check out this video on Youtube as well.

Do not use bleach or other household cleaners

Just because they are made for cleaning does not mean that they can be used on your car. Bleach can strip away your car’s paint, finish, and other protective wax and sealant, which, in turn, speeds up wear and tear and reduces service life.

Other household cleaners typically contain a lot of harsh chemicals that will certainly do more harm than good. Better safe than sorry; just stay away from these when trying to find an alternative to car wash soaps.


Regular washing of your vehicle is of paramount importance for visual and protective purposes. In the absence of car wash soap, you can still clean your vehicle as there are various homemade car wash soaps, as mentioned in the guide on what to use instead of car wash soap above.

Such DIY cleansing products will provide you with good lubricity efficient cleaning to lift and dissolve contaminants embedded on the surface of your car, while still just charging you the cost of a fancy latte. So, go forth, practice these DIY recipes, and sparkle up your ride!

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