Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?

Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?

Since cars were invented, people have been obsessed with washing and waxing and keeping their vehicle looking shiny and new.

There are thousands of different brands of cleaners and cleansers for cars, but one item has remained consistent in soap buckets around the world: dish soap.

It cleans your dishes so well, so why wouldn’t it work for your car? Even though it may seem to get your car squeaky clean, you may want to refrain from using this method of car cleaning.

So can you use dish soap to wash a car?

In a nutshell, you CAN, but you really shouldn’t. The ingredients that make up dish soap are known to be very effective in cleaning, so one would think that it would be okay to use on a car where bugs, dirt and all types of debris get dried onto the paint.

Will using Dish Washing soap damage your cars wax or sealant protection? Answer in this video before reading on more below…

Why Shouldn’t I Use Dish Soap to Wash my Car?

does-dish-soap-work-on-carsThe micelles (molecular “bubbles” that surround each speck of dirt) in dish soap are extremely strong and a little too harsh for the paint on a car. These micelles can literally break down a car’s wax and even paint over time.

After consistent use of dish soap on your cars exterior, you will start to notice a duller look instead of that shiny sheen that you love.

Unfortunately, after this happens, there is really nothing you can do to restore your car’s finish except to have the car repainted. Of course, the more you water down the dish soap solution, the safer the mixture becomes to use on a car.

What you use to wash the car makes a difference as well. Instead of using a rough washcloth, which is generally what most people opt for, choose a sponge.

If you do continue to use dish soap on your car, have it waxed regularly to protect it, not only from the elements, but also from the soap itself. With all of the products created specifically for car paint on the market, it is well worth splurging on a car wash soap particularly for your car’s exterior.

If you find that car soap is too mild to remove the bugs or tar from your paint, there are bugs and tar removers made just for these stubborn, dried on and very annoying deposits. Remember, using a soft sponge or lamb’s wool mitt can keep your paint from getting scratched and dulled over time.

How About Just The Wheels?

dish-soap-carsSo what about using dish soap on your wheels?

Unfortunately, the same goes for your wheels and rims. Although these parts of the car tend to be stronger and more resistant to dulling as quickly, it can still happen with regular use.

There are wheel cleaners that are designed to keep the wheels looking shiny and new while cleaning them thoroughly. Using a wheel shine product on your wheels can also preserve the appearance of your wheels of time as well.

Maintaining the look of your car’s exterior not only makes you FEEL good, but can also help in resale value. When you decide to sell your car, the first thing that potential buyers will see. This can make or break a deal, so taking care of your car paint is pivotal in getting the most money possible for your car.


In conclusion, it is best to refrain from using dish soaps and detergents on your car’s exterior. To make sure that your car’s paint is in its best condition for years to come, be sure to use a soap created specifically for your car. In the process, you will stop the promotion of oxidation and prevent stripping your car of its wax protection and essential oils.

A small purchase now can make the difference between a new or old looking car, years from now and is much less expensive than a new paint job!

Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?
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5 Responses to Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?

  1. I was wondering if there is a particular type of wax one can purchase to help correct the damage possibly done by using dish soap on a new car. We took our brand new car to a fundraiser, car wash and they used dish soap (antibacterial no less!) and since then the water spots are permanently there. Before waxing, I was hoping you could recommend a good one or something to help with this issue. They were just kids and did not know better but its a new car!

  2. Depending on how bad the water spots are you could try using one of the many cleaner waxes on the market. Sometimes these are referred to as “all in one” products. The use of a dual action polisher will greatly increase the effectiveness of this type of wax. Test a small area first to check. If that doesn’t work out as well as you’d hoped then the clear coat may need to be polished with a polishing agent. In either case even brand new cars need a clay bar treatment first. This alone may remove some water spots. All of these products are available at the local auto parts chain or Wal Mart. If time and tools are an issue you may need to call a local car detailer at least to get the clay bar/polishing done then go with a sealant afterwards.

    • Mild soaps might work but it is still not recommended. Dish soap can help accelerate the oxidation process and damage your car’s paint. You can probably do it once in a while if you have no other choice, but otherwise, just get a cheap car shampoo and get to work, it won’t really cost you a lot of money and will help preserve your car’s paint. Dish soap as an effective car cleaner is a myth and debunking myths like this is really important.

      • Certainly, a teaspoon of dish soap in a 2-3 gal. bucket of warm water shouldn’t hurt anything. Having our vehicles parked in the sun everyday probably does much more damage.

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