We tested 10 of the best car shampoo products you can buy in 2023 against each other in a mega test of cleaning power. Here are our best car wash soap results.
You might think that all car shampoos are equal, but that’s definitely not the case. Some will clean better than others, and others will foam up more. Some will feel slicker on the paint, and some have special features that make them stand out. Choosing a car wash soap is difficult, which is why I’ve done the hard work for you. It is my job as Fast Car’s Detailing Product Tester, after all.
I’ve tried a lot of car shampoos over the years, so I know what makes a good one. I’ve picked 10 shampoos for this mega group-test and they’re all really good. Honestly, there’s not one bad car wash soap here. But, some are just a little nicer to use than others. Picking the right shampoo is essential as washing your car is a core part of the car detailing process.
These are all pure shampoos with no added wax, which makes them perfect if you want to apply your own protection afterwards. Without further ado, here are the results of our car shampoo group test.
Best Car Shampoo At A Glance
- Best Overall: Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash. RRP: $22.68/£12. Buy Now.
- Editor’s Choice: Adam’s New Car Wash Shampoo. RRP: $12.74, buy now. £9.99, buy now.
- Approved: Dodo Juice Born to be Mild. RRP: £14 (Not Available in US). Buy Now.
- Approved: Gyeon Q2M Bathe. RRP: $27.99,buy now. £15.84,buy now.
- Best Value: Bilt Hamber Auto Wash. RRP: From $38 / £16.95. Buy Now.
Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash – Best Overall
Size: 18 fl. oz (532ml), 64 fl. oz (1892ml). RRP: From $22.68/£12. Buy Meguiar’s NXT Generation now.
- Features lubricating oils and water softeners
- You need to use more shampoo than some others
Meguiar’s offers a lot of different shampoos but NXT Generation Car Wash deserves to be noticed. In a sea of very similar pure shampoos, this really stands out from the crowd. Crack open this pH-neutral shampoo and you’re hit by a tangy citrus scent, which is delicious. What makes it stand out is a couple of impressive features. First off, synthetic lubricating oils deliver exceptional slickness. Then you’ve got the engineered water softeners that help reduce deposits in hard-water areas. These help you to achieve a spot-free finish, always a bonus.
You need 2 capfuls (0.7 fl. oz) per gallon, which is an odd measurement as that’s not a lot of water. Realistically you’ll be using 3 gallons or so, which means 2 fl. oz per wash. As you’d expect, it felt exceptionally slick on the paintwork and delivered superb cleaning. The water softeners are the icing on the cake, making it ideal for hard-water areas. Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash is another shampoo I will be using personally from now on.
To learn more, read our full review of Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash here.
Adam’s New Car Wash Shampoo – Editor’s Choice
- Can be used in direct sun and won’t leave water spots
- Not the most economical shampoo
Adam’s New Car Wash Shampoo is a personal favorite of mine for several reasons. It’s pH-neutral for starters and has a lush Wildberry scent. It foams up well, and the foam does last. It’s designed to be exceptionally slick, and you really do feel that when you’re using it. It also cleans very well indeed.
The biggest selling point for me is that you can use it in direct sunlight. And it will not leave water spots. This makes it my go-to summer car shampoo. I know I can wash my car even on sunny days, and get great results. The only downside is that you need 1-2 fl. oz per wash. That means it’s not going to last as long as some other more frugal shampoos. But that’s a very minor negative point. For hot, sunny climates and summertime washing, Adam’s New Car Wash Shampoo is exceptional.
Check out our in-depth review of Adam’s New Car Wash Shampoo here.
Dodo Juice Born To Be Mild
Size: 16.9 fl. oz (500ml), 33.8 fl. oz (1 liter), 1.3 gallons (5 liters). RRP: From £14 (not available in US), buy now.
- Loads of foam and very slick
- Contains limescale inhibitors
- Lots of shampoo required for dirty cars in hard-water areas
Dodo Juice Born to be Mild pH neutral shampoo is a wax-friendly offering. It has been a staple of the company’s cleaning lineup since its launch. I can see why it’s been around for so long. I can’t place the smell, but it’s sweet and delicious – almost good enough to drink. Dodo Juice says to use between 2-6 capfuls in a bucket. This depends on how big your bucket is, how dirty your car is, and if you’re in a hard water area. How big is a capful? I measured it, and it seems to be around 0.42 of a fl. oz. So you’ll realistically need between 1.7-2.5 fl. oz per wash.
It delivered loads of foam and was really slick on the paint. Best of all, it boasts limescale inhibitors that help soften your wash water. This makes washing your car in hard-water areas that bit easier, and that’s a huge selling point. Dodo Juice Born to be Mild is going straight into my personal cleaning arsenal.
Read more about why that is in our full review of Dodo Juice Born to be Mild, next.
Gyeon Q²M Bathe Car Wash Soap
- Foamy and slick
- Very economical
- Smells a bit like cough syrup
Gyeon Q²M Bathe is a thick gel shampoo that is pH neutral. You need between 0.5-0.7 fl. oz in your bucket, and that will give you loads of foam. This was a really nice car wash soap to use.
It was really nice and slick and just made washing a pleasure. Gyeon Q²M Bathe also had a nice amount of foam that didn’t instantly disappear. And it cleaned really well too, as you’d expect from Gyeon. A very easy car shampoo to recommend.
For more info, check out our full review of Gyeon Q²M Bathe here.
Bilt Hamber Auto Wash – Best Value
Award: Best Value
Size: 16.9 fl. oz (500ml), 33.8 fl. oz (1 liter). RRP: From $38 / £16.95. Buy Bilt Hamber Auto Wash here.
- Incredible value for money
- Cleans very well
- No scent
- Not much foam
Bilt Hamber Auto Wash’s specs are impressive. It’s salt, wax and additive-free. Its anti-corrosive properties make it especially good for washing older cars that might have stone chips and exposed bare metal. What’s really impressive is how highly concentrated it is. You only need 0.17 fl. Oz in a 2.6-gallon bucket – that’s one teaspoon. Which is wild.
Bilt Hamber Auto Wash might not deliver loads of foam, but it feels lovely and slick on the paintwork. It’s a pleasure to wash with and delivers excellent cleaning. Another superb product from Bilt Hamber.
For a closer look, read our full review of Bilt Hamber Auto Wash here.
Gtechniq W1 GWash
Size: 8.5 fl. oz (250ml), 16.9 fl. oz (500ml), 33.8 fl. oz (1 litre), 1.3 gallons (5 liters). RRP: From $15.95 / £8.95. Buy Gtechniq Shampoo here.
- Lovely and slick with good cleaning performance
- Very little foam on the panel
Gtechniq makes some excellent cleaning products, and its W1 Gwash car shampoo does not disappoint. It kicks things off with a gentle grapefruit scent – very nice. Gtechniq says to use four capfuls in a 5.3-gallon bucket, but seriously, who has a bucket that big? I’d say 3.2 gallons is more reasonable. With each capful being 0.3 fl. oz, you’ll be using around 0.8 fl. oz per wash.
It made lots of foam in our container, but there was virtually none on the surface. This didn’t impair its slickness or cleaning performance, though. W1 Gwash shampoo really delivered, and I like this one a lot.
To learn more, read our full review of Gtechniq W1 here!
Mothers California Gold High Performance Car Wash Soap
Size: 16 fl. oz (437ml), 32 fl. oz (946ml), 64 fl. oz (1892ml). RRP: $12.99-$23.99 / £8.49-£21.99. Buy Mothers California Gold Car Wash here.
- Smell gorgeous and feels great to use
- Poor value for money
Mothers California Gold car shampoo is an excellent car wash soap that’s so nice to use. On paper, it doesn’t seem that special. It’s pH neutral but doesn’t offer anything special to set it apart from other shampoos. However, on the panel, it just felt incredibly slick and was so nice to wash with. Sometimes, that can make all the difference between a good shampoo and a great one. And it smells absolutely gorgeous as well, which is a bonus.
Unfortunately, the dilution ratio lets it down. The instructions call for 1 fl. oz per gallon, which means you’ll be using around 3 oz in your bucket. That’s quite a lot of product, which means you’ll likely get just five washes from the smaller 16 oz bottle. As nice as it is to use, that makes it very poor value for money, unfortunately. So, check out our full review of it to decide once and for all whether you can justify the cost.
Auto Finesse Lather Car Shampoo
Size: 16.9 fl. oz (500ml), 33.8 fl. oz (1 liter), 84.5 fl. oz (2.5 liters), 1.3 gallons (5 liters). RRP: From $18.95/£11.95. Buy Auto Finesse Shampoo now.
- Slick, foamy and cleans well
- Doesn’t smell great
Lather from Auto Finesse is a strong all-round car shampoo offering that doesn’t disappoint. Its combo of advanced surfactants with highly-concentrated lubricants has been designed for easy and safe washing. Naturally, it’s pH-neutral, though I’m not sold on the smell – it’s a weird chemical citrus scent. I’m not a fan.
Auto Finesse says to use 2-4 capfuls, so that means once again measuring how big a capful is. My measuring beaker says it’s about 0.5 fl. oz, so that’s 1-2 fl. oz per wash. It makes lots of foam and serves up plenty of slickness with good cleaning. An excellent car shampoo from Auto Finesse. Find out more in this full review.
Griot’s Car Wash Soap
Size: 16 fl. oz (437ml), 1 gallon (3.8 liters). RRP: From $9.99 / £9.99
- Cleans very well and smells great
- Nothing really special about it
Griot’s makes a wide range of excellent cleaning products and its Car Wash shampoo is most definitely one of them. This pH-neutral shampoo not only looks orange but has a lovely tangy citrus scent too. The dilution ratio is 1 fl. oz per 2 gallons, so you’ll be using around 1.5 oz per wash, which is not bad at all.
While it’s light on foam when you get it on the panel, it does feel very nice and slick under your mitt. It doesn’t offer any unique standout properties, but it is a solid all-round car shampoo. Read the full review here.
Autoglym Foaming Car Wash
Size: 33.8 fl. oz (1 liter), 84.5 fl. oz (2.5 liters). RRP: £12.99 (not available in the US). Buy Autoglym Foaming Car Wash here.
- Cleans well and good value
- Nothing to make it really stand out
UK car-cleaning expert, Autoglym, offers some excellent shampoos, and Foaming Car Wash is no exception. Naturally, it’s pH-neutral, while the marzipan scent is just unreal. Autoglym says to use 2 capfuls per 2.6 gallons, which works out as around 0.7 fl. oz. This makes it good value as you’ll get 50 washes from even the smallest bottle.
It delivered a nice amount of foam, and I had no complaints about its performance. It felt slick under my mitt and cleaned very well. This is an excellent choice of shampoo and it’s very easy to recommend. For a closer look, have a read of our full review.
How Each Car Wash Soap Was Tested
First, I diluted each shampoo according to the individual instructions, opting for a medium dilution ratio where a range was suggested. Then observed the amount of foam each shampoo produced and assessed how slick it felt on the panel. Next, I carried out a visual and physical inspection to see how much dirt, if any, was left after washing. The price and how much shampoo is needed per wash were also taken into consideration.
What To Look For When Buying The Best Car Shampoo
Always look for a pH-neutral car shampoo that won’t strip any wax or other coatings you have applied to your paintwork. Look for car shampoos that need less product per wash as they are better value and will last longer. Car shampoos that can be used in direct sun are fantastic for summertime washing. Any car shampoo with water-softening properties is ideal for hard-water areas. Finally, make sure you like the scent of the shampoo you plan to buy. If it triggers childhood trauma of nasty cough syrup, you’ll hate using it.
Car Shampoo FAQs
Can I use a sponge to wash my car?
No. Put simply, a sponge absorbs everything, including all the little stones and pieces of dirt, and traps them in the fibers. Once you reapply the sponge to the car’s paintwork, you’ll be dragging those small particles across the paintwork, creating small scratch marks often known as swirl marks. Get yourself a proper wash mitt, in fact we’ve got a guide to the best car wash mitts in 2023 to help you out.
Do I need to use two buckets or one?
If you want to minimize the risk of carrying dirt from wash your wash mitt back onto the paintwork after rinsing your mitt, then you’re best of using two buckets. One bucket should contain your car shampoo product, the other should be clean water with a grit guard. The idea is you start with the car shampoo bucket, clean a panel, and then rinse off the wash mitt in the bucket of clean water with a grit guard. Rub the mitt against the guard to encourage stones away from the mitt, and then place the mitt back into the shampoo bucket and onto the car. By doing this, you reduce the chance of creating imperfections in your paint.
You don’t have to use two buckets, but you generally run the risk of creating paint damage without having a rinse bucket to discard of dirt.
Can I use dish soap to wash my car?
While very good for removing dirt from dishes, dish soap is no good for your car’s paintwork. In fact, the chemicals used inside of dish soap to remove food from your dishes can cause damage to your paintwork. Don’t do this!
What is pH neutral car shampoo?
A pH neutral car shampoo is the type of product you should be buying. Put simply, it sits at 7 on the pH scale, and is neither dominant in acid or alkaline. The benefits to this is that the product won’t damage your paintwork, nor will it strip away ceramic coatings or wax from the body. With products that have more acid in, you’ll risk causing damage to the paintwork and it will almost certainly start stripping away protective coatings on the body.