Car Wash Soap Alternatives and DIY Car Wash Solution

by Joshua Thomas

It is always important to keep your vehicle neat and clean because a dingy one is never interesting to drive. Worst yet, a dirty car can also lead to problems as some of the dirt and debris can find its way to sensitive parts.

To clean your car, a good car wash soap, lots of water and a few hours to spare are all you need. However, sometime you might not have car wash soap or you might also just prefer not to use it because you do not like the results it produces or even just find the scent unbearable.

The good news is that you do not always have to use car wash soap as there are many other alternatives available out there. Below is a list of some of the best ones.

Car Wash Soap Alternatives and DIY Car Wash Solution
Car Wash Soap Alternatives and DIY Car Wash Solution

Car Wash Soap Alternatives

1. Dish Liquid Soap

Dish liquid soap is formulated to cut through grease, which is what makes it highly effective for cleaning up utensils. What this means is that it can also be effective in dealing with certain types of car dirt like grease and oil.

When using dish liquid soap, you will also need to first water it down with water to ensure that it will not be harsh on your paint and also make sure that you use it sparingly as too much of it can ruin the paint.

Dish soap is highly effective at removing grime and dirt, but it will also often leave a residue that may require a lot of polishing to remove, and so you need to decide whether you are ready to put in the work or not.

2. Laundry Detergent

Car Soap Alternatives
Car Soap Alternatives

Mild laundry detergent is one of the best car wash soap alternatives because the formulation is potent enough to remove almost any kind of grime and build-up on the vehicle.

However, you also need to be extra careful when using laundry detergent to ensure that you do not damage the vehicle’s paint job because some can be very harsh on the paint.

The best way to ensure you use laundry detergent safely will be to first dilute it before applying it on the vehicle’s surface.

Also, the paint type you have on your vehicle will determine whether the laundry detergent damages it or not, and so before you decide to go with this option, you need to check the paint type you have on the car to determine whether it can handle laundry detergent or not.

3. Hand Soap

While hand soap will not be the best thing to use to clean up your vehicle, and it is also not as effective as regular car wash soap, when you do not have anything else it can still do a surprisingly good job.

With hand soap, you will need to use lots of it to get the foam that you want and also to cover the vehicle adequately. But this should not be a big deal given that it is easy to get a cheap brand out there given the wide availability of hand soap.

Better yet, most hand soaps will come with an amazing scent, and you also get to choose from a wide variety of scents, which means you can easily make your car smell just how you like it.

With that said, if you are dealing with a very dirty car with some tough stuck-on debris that needs to be removed, you will be better off using other alternatives on our lists as hand soap might not be potent enough.

4. Baby Shampoo

Given that baby shampoo is meant for use by babies, it should be obvious that it will have a gentler formulation than most other cleaning agents on this list.

Hence, it will not be very harsh on your vehicle, but this also means it will be less potent when it comes to dealing with heavy dirt and grime build-up and might not be very useful in some situations.

Baby shampoo is also more effective for certain situations than others such as removing bird droppings from the car surface and other areas like the windows.

However, when using baby shampoo, you will need to make sure that you wipe it immediately you finish cleaning the vehicle as leaving it too long can fade the paint. And it will also be a great idea to dilute it with water before applying it to the vehicle.

5. Wheel Cleaner

Wheel Cleaner
Wheel Cleaner

If you do not have car wash soap but have some wheel cleaner lying around, you need not worry as you will still a good enough product that you can use to clean your car.

Some wheel cleaners out there have pretty much the same formulation as car wash soap with only a few extra ingredients added to make them effective at cleaning your wheels.

Hence, with a little tweaking such as diluting the wheel cleaner with water, you can make it good enough for washing your car.

Also, note that some types of wheel cleaner can be harsh on a vehicle's paint job, and so you need to use very little of them and make sure they do not stay on the vehicle for longer than necessary.

6. Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the most popular DIY home cleaning solutions, and many people will use it for everything from cleaning dishes to rinsing out coffee machines and eliminating odors in fridges.

What you might not know is that baking soda is also a great alternative to car wash soap and will be very useful for cleaning up your vehicle.

However, unlike other cleaning agents on our list, it will not deliver satisfactory results when used alone.

For the best results, you should use baking soda to make a cleaning solution by mixing it with dishwashing liquid and some warm water.

And when it comes to using this mixture to clean your vehicle, you will only need to mix it thoroughly and add more water to dilute it so that it does not damage the paint job.

7. Regular Household Cleaners

Car Wash Soap
Car Wash Soap

Household cleaners are among the most widely used cleaning agents as many people will use them to clean up everything from bathrooms to kitchen counters.

But while the household cleaners can also be useful for cleaning vehicles, it is important to note that most will contain very harsh chemicals, and so you need to be very keen when using them to ensure you do not end up with faded or damaged paint.

The best way to ensure you do not damage your car’s paint when using regular household cleaners will be to choose a milder type or water it down to reduce the harshness.

8. Hair Conditioner

A hair conditioner will not necessarily leave you with a spotlessly clean vehicle but it is still quite useful when cleaning up your car.

Washing the car with a hair conditioner that contains lanolin helps to remove grime and will also give the surface a nice shine.

The lanolin in the hair conditioner will give the vehicle's surface a freshly waxed look, and better yet, it can also repel the rain, which further protects the paint for long.

But, like with all other car wash soap alternatives, you need to be careful with the particular product that you use, and make sure that it does not contain any harsh ingredient that can leave permanent paint damage.

How to Make Homemade General Purpose Car Wash Solution

How To Make Homemade General Purpose Car Wash Solution
How To Make Homemade General Purpose Car Wash Solution

If neither of the car wash soap alternatives recommended above works well for you, the other good alternative will be to make your own car wash solution at home.

A homemade car wash solution gives you greater control over the ingredients, and so you can easily fine-tune it to meet your specific needs.

What You Need

  • 1 cup liquid soap or broken mild soap
  • 1 bucket warm water
  • 2 buckets cold water


Add the liquid soap or broken mild soap to an empty tub or container and then pour in the warm water. Stir thoroughly with a stick or long spoon to mix the two ingredients, while also making sure that you break down the soap chunks completely to dissolve them.

After allowing the soap mixture to sit for a while, it will be ready to use on your vehicle. And when using it to clean your car, make sure you rinse it out with lots of cold water after use.


Car cleaning is often a straightforward process that only requires you to have a good car wash soap, lots of water and a few other things like a bucket and clean microfiber cloth. But, you can still clean the vehicle even without a car wash soap as there are many alternatives.

These car wash soap alternatives are mostly things you already have in the house such as laundry detergent, hand soap, baking soda, and even baby shampoo.

But when using these alternatives, you need to be cautious to ensure you do not use something too harsh on your car’s paint surface as you do not want to damage it.


  1. 13 Weird Tricks to Clean Your Car - Reader's Digest

About Joshua Thomas

Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.

He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.

His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.

Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.

Leave a Reply