It can be tempting to grab that bottle of dish soap under the sink to wash your dirty car. While it may cut through caked-on grease in the kitchen, dish detergent can actually damage your vehicle’s exterior when used for regular car washing. Avoiding dish soap is critical for maintaining your paint finish and car paint protection.
How Dish Soap Harms Automotive Paint
Dish soaps are formulated to remove tough oil, grease, and food soils from dishes, pots, and pans. To do this, they contain harsh degreasing agents and chemicals that strip away oily grime. When used on car paint, these harsh detergents can break down wax and protective sealants on the paint that provide gloss and protection.
This leaves the clearcoat unprotected. They can also remove essential oils in the clearcoat itself, leading to drying and cracking over time. Dish soaps can be too alkaline (high pH) for automotive clearcoats, aging the paint prematurely. They potentially discolor or fade paint if left to dry without rinsing. Finally, dish soaps contain additives like fragrances, dyes, and moisturizers not meant for car surfaces.
The Right Soap for Car Paint
While you don’t want to use dish soap when washing your car, there are many car wash soaps specifically designed to clean paint safely and effectively. Look for these ideal features in an automotive wash formula: A balanced, neutral pH between 6 and 7 that won’t strip protective coatings. Formulas are free of dyes, fragrances, and additives that can stain trim pieces and leave a gloss-inhibiting residue.
Gentle cleaning agents that won’t remove wax or ceramic coatings. Polymers and gloss enhancers that provide added protection while washing. Carnauba wax or similar ingredients to impart water-beading properties. Lubricating oils to provide slick glide and prevent swirl marks on paint.
Proper Wash Technique Matters Too
While using the right soap is important, technique plays a big role in preventing swirl marks and scratches during washing. Follow these practices: Rinse the vehicle thoroughly first with just water to remove loose dirt. Use microfiber wash mitts instead of terry cloth or brushes. Employ the two-bucket method to prevent grit cycling in the wash water. Wash one section at a time using light pressure and frequent rinses. Dry the paint safely with microfiber drying towels.
Reapply Car Paint Protection After Washing
Part of keeping the paint looking its best after washing involves reapplying protective barriers like wax, sealants, and ceramic coatings. These lock in gloss and create slick hydrophobic properties to repel dirt. Using car-specific wash products maintains these layers instead of stripping them away like dish soap does.
Occasional Dish Soap Use for Tough Stains
In a pinch, dish soap can be used sparingly to treat isolated tough stains on the car’s paint if rinsed thoroughly. But frequent use over the entire vehicle will harm the clearcoat. Stick to automotive car wash formulas without harsh additives for your regular maintenance washes.
Give your car the proper soap it deserves to keep the paint looking its best. Avoid the temptation to grab that bottle of dish detergent under the sink and always use a dedicated automotive shampoo. This prevents stripping away the gloss and protection from your car paint protection efforts.