What’s a substitute for car wash soap?

I borrowed my dad’s car to go camping and now it’s covered in dust and dirt. I’d like to wash it before I return it to him, but I don’t own any car washing soap. Is there anything I can use instead?

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Answer provided by
Laura Salvas
Answered on Apr 13, 2022
Your dad must be proud of the great care you’re taking of his car! While car wash soap is always the best option since it’s designed to protect your vehicle’s paint, there are several products you can use as a substitute for car wash soap.
While some household soaps may seem mild, they often contain ingredients that help cut through grease and dirt and are abrasive.
These are the most delicate options:
  • Dish soap or hand soap and water
  • Shampoo or conditioner and water
  • Laundry detergent, well diluted in water
  • Baking soda, well mixed into water
Whenever possible, use environmentally friendly products since these soaps are not intended to seep into the ground. If you have any camping or unscented baby soaps, these are likely to be the most gentle.
You’ll notice the best options are the same types of soap we would use for our skin, clothes, dishes, and even baking. Harsher cleaners that we would not want to have close to our bodies or ingest are too abrasive for your vehicle and can cause severe damage to the paint.
When driving into the wilderness, always make sure you’re protected with a car emergency kit and the best car insurance.
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Have fun scrubbing!

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