Best Car Wash Soaps

There are several ways to wash a car. The easiest way is to drive to your local automated car wash, shell out a few bucks, and then drive away happy. Yet true car enthusiasts know that this is no way to treat your car. Your car deserves better than the cold, impersonal scrub of a mechanical hand. Your car deserves all the special attention that you have to give. That love starts with the car soap that you buy. The market is indeed crowded with car wash soaps, all claiming to give you the best shine, the perfect finish, and all without damaging the paint and wax on your vehicle. Some of those claims are false, some are true. Yet we’ve scoured the market for you, and present you with the best five products available to you. Get your bucket and sponge ready!

The Best:

Mothers California Gold

Mothers California Gold
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Again and again, Mothers California Gold comes up on everyone’s list as the number one in liquid car wash soaps. Indeed, every automotive and ranking website worth its salt mentions Mothers California Gold as the best product on the market. But car wash is car wash, right? Mothers California Gold can’t really be that special over Generic Store Brand, can it? Good thought, but let’s discuss the details.

Mothers California Gold has an extremely concentrated formula. This will allow for much longer life out of the bottle than you can expect from other car wash soaps. As California Gold comes in only 16, 32 and 64 oz. bottles, you may think that Mothers gives you less soap. While some brands come in as much as 128 oz (1 gallon) bottles, Mothers knows that it’s not about the quantity of the soap, but the concentration of the material, and the quality of what that material does. In this, Mothers has you covered. With California Gold, you need only one ounce of car wash per gallon of water, meaning you’ll be able to get long life out of every bottle.

One of the key and most important features of Mothers California Gold is the pH balance, which is strong enough to wash away the dirt, grime, bugs and bird droppings that find are magnetically attracted to your car, without damaging your paint, or even your wax. For those who like their car to look its best, but don’t want to have to constantly re-wax every time you wash your car, Mothers is your key. California Gold’s unique formula is strong enough to get the job done, but gentle enough to not overdo it.

For the most distinguishing car owners, post-washing water spots can be the straw that broke the camel’s back. You know the car is clean, but the water spots leave an annoying residual effect that makes your car appear to be still dirty. Mothers designed their California Gold formula to ensure that you have a streak-free, water-spot-free finish. No rewashing for you! If you want a car wash that will get the job done and doesn’t require you to rewash a few minutes after you think you’re “done”, Mothers California Gold is your right choice. Cost saving and effectiveness are the name of the game, and Mothers delivers on both ends here. Mothers California Gold sports an astounding 4.7/5 rating on Amazon with over 175 reviews. While a few negative reviews exist, the product has no 1-star reviews. Even those who disliked it, liked it enough to leave at least a 2-star review. The few negative reviews that do exist primarily complain about the small bottle size and lack of liquid ounces in the bottle. However, as stated earlier, California Gold’s formula is highly concentrated, so make sure you are maximizing your car wash by following recommended liquid-to-water ratios.

  • Extremely popular among current customers
  • Leaves a streak-free, spot free finish
  • Highly concentrated to get more for your money
  • Some complaints about small bottle sizes
  • Does not sell product in bottles larger than 64 ounces

Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner

Meguiar's G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner
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Gold appears to be the color of choice for the best car washes on the market today. Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash falls in line with the color scheme that connotes high class. Much like Mothers California Gold, Meguiar’s Gold Class comes with an astounding amount of positive reviews: a 4.7/5 average rating on Amazon, and just under 700 customer reviews.

Meguair’s is a brand name was family-owned and in the business of car care products for over a century. After being purchased by 3M in 2008, the brand kept its name instead of taking on a 3M brand name. Why? Because car enthusiasts familiar with the brand are loyal to it. And for a reason. Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash is designed to specifically clean the dirt, grime and other materials that find their way onto your car, without damaging the paint. Paint damage is a huge concern for most car buyers, and an even bigger concern for those who treat their car like a part of the family.

The beauty behind Meguair’s is in its formula. It is designed to specifically clean the dirt of the road away while restoring the beauty and lustre of your car’s paint. You’ll feel like you just put on a new coat of paint after using Meguair’s world-renowned car was formula. The G7164 Gold Class is also designed with a sheeting action, so your car will dry much quicker than with most other car wash formulas. This will reduce the potential for paint-damaging and ugly water spots. Meguair’s formula is super concentrated, allowing you to maximize the amount of washing you can do with one bottle. With a recommended 1 oz. to 1 gallon ratio, you can expect to get long life from your 64 oz. bottle.

Interestingly, the negative reviews that do exist follow a common thread: poor packaging that led to product leaks in the delivery process, and an overly pungent, perfume like smell. These negatives seem to be few and far between, but do point to some common issues that might be of a concern to some buyers. Regardless, Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class is one of the best car washes on the market, and you’re likely to be hard pressed to find any that can beat it in both quality and effectiveness.

  • Easily cleans away dirt and grime
  • Leaves a streak-free finish
  • Highly concentrated liquid
  • Highly popular with current and past customers
  • Consistent complaints on poor-quality packaging, leading to spilled liquid in shipping

The Good:

Optimum Car Wash

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Optimum offers several different versions of their highly-rated car wash. This includes their standard line, Optimum Car Wash. When it comes to concentration, Optimum has even the top-rated Mothers California Gold and Meguair’s Gold Class bested on that end.

With Optimum Car Wash, you can expect twice the life of the top-rated brands, with a ½ oz to 1 gallon of water ratio. With that kind of concentration, you can get as much life out of their 32 oz bottles as you would with the 64 oz bottles you get with the other top-rated brands. This is good for buyers, as Optimum does not sell its bottles above 32 ounces. You will pay more for each bottle than with the other brands, but you will get twice the life.
While Optimum Car Wash is highly concentrated and designed to give you maximum life, it is also pH neutral, and designed with biodegradable chemicals. You’ll not only be able to wash away the filth that collects on your car during the week, but also ensure you won’t harm your hands or the environment in the process. Optimum does not make any promises of a streak-free or water-spot-free finish, but it does promise to protect your car’s wax and paint through its pH neutral formula.

Customers who have tried this product praise its pH neutrality and its scent. Not that you’ll be smelling your car much after you finish cleaning it, but hey: if you want to, at least you’ll know it smells fantastic! With 4.7/5 stars on Amazon, this product is certainly a buyer’s favorite.

  • Very highly concentrated
  • pH neutrality protects paint and clearcoat
  • Very popular with current customers
  • Does not offer a completely streak-free or water-spot-free finish

3M Car Wash Soap 39000

3M Car Wash Soap 39000
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Despite owning the Meguair’s brand, 3M makes and sells its own branded car wash soaps. The 3M Car Wash Soap 39000 might sound like the car wash of choice for the terminator, but 3M delivers it specially for you, the average car owner and enthusiast. This car wash is the only one that boasts a phosphate-free formula, as well as a delicious cherry scent. After washing your car with this product, you’ll want to stand outside of it, immersing yourself in the wonderful scent of your car.

The 3M Car Wash Soap 39000 unfortunately only comes in a 16 oz bottle. However, it is still fairly concentrated, with a 3M recommended 1 oz. to 1 gallon of water ratio. You’ll be able to get fewer washes out of it as a result, and will unfortunately pay more for the experience than you would with the other top-rated brands. However, the 3M Car Wash Soap 39000 has the highest rating of any other car wash soap on our list. Proudly boasting a full and almost unheard of 5/5 average customer rating on Amazon, this product’s buyers have literally nothing but the highest praise for the product. Take that with a bit of a grain of salt, however. While maximizing in average ratings, this product only has 16 customer ratings as of the time of this product review.

This product offers you similar features to other top-rated brands. You’ll be able to clean the dirt and grime, and be able to ensure that your car’s coat, paint and wax are completely unaffected. Likewise, the gentle-cleaning liquid gel in this car wash formula will protect against potentially damaging water spots.

  • Extremely popular with current customers
  • Gentle formula that protects car clearcoat and paint
  • Highly concentrated
  • Not widely used by car aficionados
  • Does not come in more than 16 ounce bottles

Car Wash Soaps Buyer’s Guide

New to the process of buying car wash soaps? Consider this simple things before making your purchase:

Liquid-to-Water Ratio
This is important solely for the purpose of saving you money. Most good quality car wash soaps come in concentrations that provide for a 1 ounce to 1 gallon of water ratio. This means that generally, however many ounces the bottle contains is about how many gallons you should be able to produce from it. The higher the concentration, the more you can get from your bottle. Car wash bottles generally range in ounces that are divisible by 16 (16, 32, 48 or above), with those in the lower ounces typically boasting higher concentrations to account for the lack of liquid material.

Formula pH Level
The pH level of your car wash soap formula is a factor of the formula’s acidity or alkalinity. Most soaps have some level of alkalinity to them that aid in the breaking up of dirt and other solid materials that may have an acidic nature to them (such as bird droppings). However, a pH level that is too high reflects a formula that is too alkaline, while a pH level that is too low reflects one that is too acidic and could damage your car’s wax, coat and paint. However, a formula that is completely neutral (water, for example, is completely neutral) may do very little in the way of actually cleaning your car. When buying a product, it’s best to find one that has some pH level above neutral, but not so high or low that you’ll do damage to your car’s exterior with long term use.

While this is a minor part of your car wash soap purchase, it does matter. Scented car wash soaps can be a big turn-off to some buyers. A car wash scent that has an overly pungent smell may linger on your car and be a problem for those with certain allergies. Most car wash soaps do come with some scent, usually mimicking some form of fruit (cherry, lemon).

Water Spot and Streak Resistance
Most car wash soaps boast that they can protect against water spots and streaks. Water spots can be potentially damaging to your car’s paint if left unattended to, and streaks leave the car looking dirty even after cleaning. Look for a car wash soap that at least attempts to make the claim of helping you avoid both. Typically, a car wash soap that advertises a quick-drying solution is one that will help you avoid both of these.

If your car is looking a little lack-luster, make sure to purchase the right car wash soap. Finding the right balance for what you need will ensure that you car maintains that same, fresh-off-the-lot look you fell in love with the day you bought it!

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