What is a good car soap alternative?

I need to clean my car in the next few hours, but I just realized I don’t have my usual car soap. I don’t really have time to go pick some up. Is there another good car soap alternative that I can throw together in a pinch?

Andrew Biro · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
Good question! While it’s usually recommended that you stick to an actual car soap to clean your car, there are a few alternatives that you can use if absolutely necessary.
Some of the popular alternatives are:
  • Dish soap and laundry detergent: These contain ingredients that can harm your car’s finish—if you have to use either, make sure to dilute them heavily with water before washing your vehicle.
  • Shampoo—especially baby shampoo: A decent alternative to car soap, but should also be diluted with water before use. 1/4th cup of baby shampoo (or dish soap) can be combined with a 1/4th cup of baking soda and mixed into a bucket of warm water to form an adequate cleaning solution—but you’ll want to rinse it off quickly to avoid residue.
If you have it, wheel cleaner is the best alternative to car soap, as it is specifically made to wash part of your vehicle and will not contain potentially damaging ingredients.
In general, you’re going to want to avoid cleaning agents containing chemicals like:
  • Ammonia
  • Phosphate
  • Chlorine
  • Triclosan
  • Coco diethanolamine
  • Perchloroethylene.
These chemicals can damage your car’s protective top coat and may even strip the paint in large quantities (and they aren’t good for the environment, either).
Beyond using the right car soap on your car, make sure it’s protected with a good
car insurance policy
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Jerry partners with more than 50 insurance companies, but our content is independently researched, written, and fact-checked by our team of editors and agents. We aren’t paid for reviews or other content.

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