Car Repair and Maintenance

Can You Wash a Car with Dish Soap?

Can you wash a car with dish soap? Apparently, dish soap is not designed for a car. However, you may be able to wash some spots on the vehicle with dish soap.

Typically, dish soap commercials advertise dish soaps for dishwashing. They contain properties capable of removing tough stains and oils. In this regard, dish soap is bad for your car since it gets rid of wax/protection.

Dish soap removes grease and stains from dishes, and such stains require specific properties to remove them. So, when you apply it to your car, it affects the paint. Using dish soap on your car once will not damage it, but repetitive use fades the paint. If you have used dish soap on a vehicle by mistake, mix carwash soap with water and apply to the area to keep it protected.

Can You Wash a Car with Dish Soap?

Experts do not recommend washing your car with dish soap. A typical dish soap, as mentioned earlier, contains effective cleaning agents that can ruin the car paint, leaving the finish dull and lackluster.

Dish soap is unique for tough dirt removal, and it contains strong grease-fighting properties. When you apply these properties to a car, the wax or protective coating is stripped, making the car vulnerable. UV damage and oxidation are common problems since your car is exposed to a higher rate after losing its protective properties.

A car soap, on the other hand, contains added lubricants and softer detergents with balanced pH that slips dirt off a car. It also sudsy, such that it holds dirt to prevent micro-scratches that form swirl marks, making the vehicle appear dull.

Meanwhile, ensure to purchase a good quality car soap because some car soaps will damage your vehicle like typical dish soap.

Nonetheless, you may use dish soap when prepping a car for paint correction to remove older wax. Depending on the manufacturer, it may be OK to use dish soap for washing car wheels. You may wash the tires with it too, but definitely not the car body.

Also, avoid washing up liquid when cleaning a car; it is bad for the paintwork. Preferably, use liquid soluble wax and warm water to wipe the car.

Is washing a car with dish soap bad for the finish?

Understand that dish soap, including Palmolive, Dawn, etc., does not harm your car directly. A typical dish soap uses solvents that dissolve cooking oil and grease. However, the solvents, when in contact with a car, dissolves the protective wax, exposing the car to elements like UV rays.

In essence, why it is bad to wash a car with dish soap is that the protective wax is washed off, making the car vulnerable to road salt, dirt, bird dropping, etc. Of course, you would expect a bad finish thereafter.

But if you must use dish soap, wash the car with Dawn to clean dirt for subsequent procedures, including finishing compound, orbital polisher, and clay bars. Finally, apply a fresh wax coating to protect the paint.

Can you use Dawn soaps instead?

Dawn soaps are dish soaps, so the same recommendation applies. Nonetheless, using a dawn soap depends on the intent. Some car owners wash cars with Dawn soap if the car is coated and clogged with improper soaps and road grime.

Using Dawn soap can remove waxes and oils from a vehicle. After washing a car with Dawn soap, follow up with the decontamination process to get rid of impurities from the paint. You may then apply wax or sealant to protect the finish.

If you are tempted to wash a car with dish soap, make sure it is a pH-neutral soap. You want to also be careful with the washing technique to retain the wax and oil.

Can you clean a car window with dish soap?

Generally, dish soap is considered too harsh for a car because it removes the paint oils, causing the car body to oxidize faster. Regarding the car windows, ensure that the dish soap does not touch the paint. Do not apply excessive soap on the window, and make sure to wipe it off immediately. If possible, avoid rinsing the window until the soap is completely off. Do not also use detergent to wash laundry car.

As mentioned earlier, you may use dish soap to remove tougher stains, bugs, grime, and sap. Do not make it a habit, though, and use glass cleaner to get rid of the remnants.

What’s the best soap for washing your car?

The best soap to use for washing a car depends on where you live. Typically, winter months are harsh on cars, and you need waxed car soaps for paint protection. It also keeps rust from eating up the vehicle.

Do not use a dish or straight soap. Otherwise, you are inviting its contents to strip the wax and oil from your car paint. But if you intend to dewax and rewax the car, you may use dish soap. However, make sure to use clear coat wax or finish to keep the vehicle from rust.

You may consult your auto detailer or refer to the car owner’s manual for a guide regarding what soap is best for your car. The nearest hand carwash can also recommend what soap your vehicle requires and the best way to keep it clean.

Final Thoughts

To damage a car paint I easy, and dish soap is just one of the methods. Most vehicle owners follow practices that damage their vehicle paints unknowingly, which is why a home car wash is not entirely okay, especially without professional tools.

If you are concerned about your vehicle, consider a pressure washer or have a professional clean your vehicle while maintaining its paint properties.

Finally, the product of washing a car with dish soap for an extended period is a dull finish, yellowed surface, and subsequent exposure to rust or corrosion. Make sure to follow a professional car washer’s recommendation to retain the quality of your vehicle paint, including the wax and oil.

Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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