Washing a car is the first step in car care and detailing. That is why choosing a good car shampoo is important since it is the first step. Get it wrong and one might have a tough road ahead in detailing. Most modern car shampoos try to balance cleaning power and protection. Cleaning power is the ability to remove heavy dirt such as road grime, oil film, birds droppings, tree sap, dead bugs, and so on. Protection is in the sense of not harming the car surfaces and not removing existing wax and sealant during cleaning. These two seems to contradict each other. If cleaning power is too strong, it would strip away existing wax and sealant but if cleaning power is too mild, then the shampoo does nothing. It is always a tough balance that car shampoo manufacturers try to achieve these days. There are some car shampoo that supposedly have wax or sealant in them but I am not so sure if the wax in the shampoo is as good as say, a spray wax.
Before I go on with my favorite car shampoos, let us get things a little clearer here. When washing a car, most car shampoo would try not to strip existing wax or sealant from car surfaces. However, car shampoos that do strip away wax and sealant is NOT always bad. If we are just doing a regular maintenance wash, then a shampoo that does not strip away wax and sealant should be used. However, if we are doing a full prep wash to reapply wax or sealant, a shampoo that strips away old layers of wax and sealant is a good choice here. A clean surface makes polishing easier with lesser residue.
Regular maintenance wash --> shampoo that does not strip away wax/sealant
Full prep wash for re-waxing/ re-sealing --> shampoo than can strip away wax/sealant/oil
In general, using dish washing liquid to wash your car is a NO NO but if you are doing a full prep wash, dish washing liquid might be a good choice. So, pick the right shampoo for the right job.
In this post, I would share the shampoos that I used mostly for regular maintenance wash. Without further a due, here are the contenders :-p
From right to left: Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner, Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash, Meguiar's Ultimate Wash & Wax, CarPro Iron-X Snow Soap.
Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner
Descriptions from the manufacturer:
It is'nt the most glamorous task, but every external clean begins with a really good, thorough car wash.
Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner is a pH neutral formulation. It is packed with active ingredients which clean your vehicle, without stripping away any polish or wax you have previously applied.
Just add two capfuls to a 10L bucket of water. The shampoo can be used with warm or cold water and combines cleaning power with suds, allowing the sponge to glide over surfaces.
Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner contains a water repellent film. As you rinse off the shampoo the film stays behind causing the water to sheet off the surface, helping you to dry the car quicker.
I like this shampoo a lot. It comes in a thick lime green liquid with a pleasant candy scent. It is the shampoo with the highest dilution ratio among the lot - 20ml to 10 liter or 0.2ml per 100ml (I normalized the dilution ratio for easier comparison).
True to the claim of the manufacturer, after washing with this shampoo, I always notice that water runs off faster on car surfaces (faster water sheetings) compared to my other shampoos. One draw back of this shampoo is its lack of suds (soapy bubbles). When washing with a wash mitt, it feels like washing with plain water to some extent but do not get me wrong here, its cleaning ability is good.
As for pH level testing, I would say yes to it being pH neutral. Since I would hose down my car with normal tap water and dilute car wash shampoo with normal tap water, it would be fair for me check the pH level of the water supply first.
It seems that the water supply to my place is a little acidic, pH5. This would act as a control for me in determining if a car shampoo is pH neutral or not.
The pH level of the diluted Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner (as per recommended dilution ratio) is the same as the control. So, yes. It is pH neutral.
- High dilution ratio
- Good water sheeting
- Low suds
Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash
Descriptions from manufacturer:
Meguiar's® Gold Class™ Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner is a rich and luxurious product designed to both wash and condition paint in one easy step. The premium formula gently foams away tough dirt, road grime and contaminants without compromising wax protection.
- Gently foams away dirt and grime, while conditioning your paint.
- Premium formula gently foams away dirt and grime.
- Conditioners reveal color and clarity.
This is another shampoo that I like to use often. It is definitely a "rich and luxurious" product as it has plenty of suds with thick foam. In fact, this shampoo has the most suds among the lot. This helps the wash mitt glide smoothly on the car surfaces. Also, because of the thick foam, the diluted car wash tends to soak up more or hold up longer in wash mitt. This help in "releasing" more shampoo by squeezing the wash mitt during washing. It comes in a thick gold-orange liquid and has a nice scent. The dilution ratio is 1oz per gallon (0.77ml per 100ml). I think this is just a very nice shampoo that does not strip wax and does not leave anything behind as I do not notice any change in water behavior on car surfaces after washing. I do not think of this as a negative point as I always use a spray wax after washing.
This shampoo is also pH neutral after dilution. (Note that the water supply to my place is slightly acidic as mentioned above).
- Rich and thick suds
Meguiar's Ultimate Wash & Wax
Ultimate Wash & Wax is the perfect way to clean and shine your car's finish in-between regular waxing by boosting your wax protection, glossiness and shine! Meguiar's® Ultimate Wash & Wax is compatible with all Meguiar's® washes and waxes.
• Leaves a deep, glossy, just-waxed shine.
• Carnauba and synthetic polymer technology in our most premium wash.
• Incredible sudsing action safely lifts dirt and grime.
This shampoo comes in a thick bright yellow liquid. The dilution ratio is the same as Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash at 1oz per gallon (0.77ml per 100ml). It smells like a combination of mango and jack-fruit. To be quite honest, I do not fancy the smell as it seems like a stench from rotten fruits rather then fresh fruits. It reminds me of a stench from a garbage pile with a lot of mango skins. The suds are okay but a bit less than Gold Class. As for the claim of having carnauba and polymer sealant in it, that I am not too sure about that. As my wife's and my DD always have an underlying wax, it is difficult for me to tell if there is really wax in this shampoo or not. I do not notice a specific change in water sheeting and also water beading.
Testing Meguiar's Ultimate Wash & Wax for Wax
Personally, whether or not this shampoo does have wax is not important as I always follow up with spray wax after every wash. However, for the sake of this post, I decided to test this shampoo out on the claim of wax.
I do not have a spare hood for testing like most professionals do and I do not fancy taping my DD for testing. I was looking for days to find a perfect test surface and I finally found it in the least expected place. A tiled face in my kitchen. Yes, yes, this might not be perfect as it is not a painted surface but the glossy surface on the tile feels like a clear coat surface on a car so it should be a close match. However, there is one problem. The face is vertical. This would make it hard to test water sheeting and water beading. Anyway, I had devised a test method. It might not be perfect but at least should let me "have a feel" on the results.
Before that, something not related to the test but related to "having a feel". During my university days I was taught by a very good professor in thermal fluids. Every time when he is too engrossed in explaining the wonderful thermo fluids concepts to us, he would grab one of us; his students; in the arm and told us, "I want you to have a feel!". One of the best professors I have ever known.
Okay, let's get back to business. For a start, I washed the panel with dish washing liquid to strip away any dirt and oil that would affect the testing.
With the panel is squeaky clean, I taped it up into 3 sections.
The panel on the left will act as a control. For the middle panel, I sprayed it with Meguiar's Ultimate Quik Wax and buffed. I only sprayed a little to prevent over-spray on to the other panels. For the panel on the right, I washed it again with Meguiar's Ultimate Wash & Wax, rinsed, and dried it.
As for the test, I used a streamlined spray of water to see how fast it runs off and also to look at the water beads. Results in video below.
I am not sure if this could be seen from the video. The water seems to run off faster on the middle panel because of the wax. The panel on the right (with Ultimate Wash & Wax) also ran off faster, maybe a little slower than the middle panel but definitely faster than the left control panel.
I tried to look at the beading.
The water droplets on the control panel looked inconsistent and not rounded.
I tried to look at the beading.
The water droplets on the control panel looked inconsistent and not rounded.
The water droplets on the center panel looked more rounded. Some water beading here.
The water droplets on the right panel (with Ultimate Wash & Wax) did not look round. No apparent water beading here.
So do Ultimate Wash & Wax leave some kind of wax after washing? Yes, maybe. Even though the water did not bead, the water still ran off faster.
Done with the wax part. You be the judge.
This shampoo is also pH neutral. (Note that the water supply to my place is slightly acidic as mentioned above).
- Contain some very little wax
- Priciest of the lot
- Less suds
- I do not like the smell
CarPro Iron-X Snow Wash
Description from manufacturer:
- Iron-Removing Multi-Use Cleaner
- Pleasant Minty Scent
- Safe on all CQuartz coatings
I do not recommend this shampoo for regular maintenance wash as it would strip away wax and sealant because of its degreasing properties. This shampoo comes in a pink liquid. There is a scent of mint but the chemical smell will over-power it. This has the lowest dilution ratio of 1:8 or normalized to 12.5ml per 100ml. So if I use 10 liter of water, then I will need 1.25 liter of shampoo! Nuts!
According to CarPro USA, if a foam lance is used, it will take 400ml per car. Good business for them. I do not follow the dilution ratio as I do not have that much of shampoo to spent. I bought this many years back for RM50 per 500ml. It is extremely hard to find now. What I normally do is to add a few squirt into a wash bucket followed by a squirt on the wash mitt for each wipe. The manufacturer claimed that this would remove trapped iron on car surfaces much like Iron-X but it is only weaker. Personally, I have never seen this shampoo turn purplish like Iron-X but it is a good degreaser. That is why I would use this shampoo to strip off old wax and sealant. However it is more economical for me to use a dish washing liquid now.
This shampoo is pH neutral too. (Note that the water supply to my place is slightly acidic as mentioned above). So it is slightly better than dish washing liquid that is basic (alkali).
- Can strip away old wax and sealant in a pH neutral formula
- Crazy dilution ratio
- Chemical smell
- Hard to find here
There you have it. My favorite car wash shampoos.
Okay, I have one more shampoo to add here. This is technically a rinseless shampoo but it still could be rinsed, right?
Optimum No Rinse Wash and Shine (ONR)
This is the famous ONR from Optimum Polymer Technology. Let see the manufacturer's description.
"No Rinse™ Wash & Shine is the most technologically advanced car wash system that only requires 1-2 gallons of water to wash the entire car. No Rinse™ Wash & Shine does not require rinsing since there are no soapy surfactants to wash off into the storm drains.
This unique product contains substantive polymers which bond to the paint and protect it during the wash. Therefore, No Rinse™ Wash & Shine offers greater protection and lubricity than conventional car washes leaving a sleek & glossy finish behind afterwards. The waste water in the bucket can be used to water the lawn or disposed of into a sink, where it will be treated!
Additional benefits are faster washes, ability to wash anywhere at anytime including washing inside the garage during the cold months, no messy water runoffs, and greater looking car finishes. These are some of the reasons No Rinse™ Wash & Shine is being used by many professional detailers across the country (see testimonials)."
I also have the version with wax called Optimum No Rinse Wash and Wax (ONRW). If used in a rinseless manner, I could really feel the wax on the car surfaces after washing. My hands would get a waxy feeling after washing with this ONRW.
ONR comes in a thin blue liquid and ONRW comes in a thin green liquid, maybe slightly thicker than ONR. Both have pleasant scents. They have zero suds since they are meant to be rinseless. Both of them have good cleaning ability. The dilution ratio is 30ml to 8 liter of water or 0.375ml per 100ml which quite economical.
For pH level, I did not check the ONRW as it is just ONR with added wax.
ONR (and ONRW) is pH neutral. (Note that the water supply to my place is slightly acidic as mentioned above).
- Multi-use as rinsless car wash and also quick detailer.
- Good dilution ratio
- Zero suds
That is it for this post. Have fun washing your car.