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Can You Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Car? (Dawn Dish Soap?)

It may seem a bit silly to wonder if dish soap is alright for washing your car. After all, it’s something many people have used, especially if they don’t have a certain goal in mind beyond a simple cleaning. You’ll want to weigh out the pros and cons though, and here, we’ve laid out a discussion on whether this kind of soap is an ideal cleansing agent for an automobile.

Ultimate Decontamination Soap. (Far Better Than Dish Soap)

Your vehicle's surface is filled with contaminants. Some of these may be visible, such bug guts, bird droppings, water spots, and tree spots. And some contaminants, such as iron deposits, brake dust, and overspray may not be visible to the naked eye.

In addition to contaminants, you may also have previous waxes and sealants still on your vehicle's surface.

These contaminants sit atop your vehicle's "clear coat", which is the layer of resin directly above your car's paint.

The key to a sealant lasting as long as it should is applying it directly to the vehicle's clear coat. This way, it won't sit atop contaminants, which causes the sealant to degrade quickly.


Short Version: What We Recommend

Though dish soap (or dishwashing detergent) may be effective to break down wax if that’s all you have around at the moment, it really isn’t ideal as a long-term solution and should never be used after you’ve had a wax or ceramic coating on your car and you want to maintain it. For car washes at home on a frequent basis, Torque Detail Decon Car Soap or Ceramic Car Wash from the same company are your best bet.

Washing your car can be stressful - there are questions like what products are best to use, whether you first need to put down a protective coating, and what will help you maintain the appearance of your vehicle while keeping it from damage. Read on to learn more about whether or not you should use dish soap to wash your car in detail.

Is Dish Soap Safe For Your Car's Paint and Clear Coat?

If you’re new to car ownership or washing a car yourself, you may be unaware of what’s ideal to use when washing it. You may have heard stories of people using dish soap and it working “just fine” to get dirt off while not causing any damage. However, is this really the case?

The short answer is that it doesn’t harm the clear coat on your vehicle, so, it may be fine to use in a pinch if you don’t have anything else around. However, it isn’t a particularly good idea to use it for regular maintenance washing purposes.

The Key Detail: It Removes Wax, But How Well?

Another consideration is that dishwashing liquid tends to remove wax from your car. This is especially true if you have a soap that includes abrasive particles - basically, anything with those little blue particles that are useful in scrubbing stubborn materials from your pots and pans. This is a cause for concern because you want at least some wax to remain on your automobile. The wax serves as a protective barrier against corrosion in the winter or anytime there’s going to be harsh debris hitting your car. Soaps like Dawn will do a great job at stripping this wax right off.

On the other hand, if you’re actually looking to take wax off your vehicle, such soaps can be quite effective. Just remember that you’ll need to work hard even with something like this. Think about how much you need to scrub when you’re trying to remove grease from your pans and pots, even if you have something with abrasive particles. Though being used in the detailing world, you might want to reconsider if all you’re looking to do is give your car an excellent cleaning in terms of dirt and debris.

Read The Label: Key Ingredients You Don't Want In Your Dish Soap

Do you tend to pay close attention to what’s in your dish soap (or even hand soap)? If you’re like most people, chances are that you don’t, or that you look for a product with scrubbing beads or other abrasive materials that stand up to whatever gets stuck on your dishes. Can you imagine how such a soap will behave on your vehicle?

There’s a belief that dish soap can negatively impact the rubber on your vehicle if used often enough, making your car look dull. Although there isn’t much scientific study behind this conclusion, it’s important to watch out for such issues.

Another point to make here is that not only is this type of soap not so great on the surface of your vehicle, but longer exposure to some dish soaps can irritate many people’s eyes. Some of the chemicals also aren’t great for your health, so even if you do use ones with such chemicals, you’ll want to avoid direct exposure as much as possible.

Dish Soap Can Remove Wax, But It's Not A Car Wash Soap

As mentioned above, you’ll surely remove wax when you put dish soap on your car, especially if you do so on a frequent basis. This would be your goal if you want to strip the surface bare to work on buffing out scratches or claying your vehicle - in fact, you can’t do such things if you don’t have a bare surface on which to work.

Dish soap or laundry detergent definitely shouldn’t be used as a replacement for car soap. If you’ve got a quality car soap, it won’t strip away wax. You’ll want to do your research to make sure that the product you buy is appropriate for the purpose you have in mind.  

Ceramic Car Wash from Torque Detail is amazing for auto enthusiasts and an ideal product to have at home as part of your routine cleaning repertoire. It won’t remove car wax - in fact, it will add a protective coating to your car. This high-lubricity formula contains ceramic to provide that extra protection, and it’s pH balanced to make it harsh on contaminants while at the same time being soft on your car. Your paint job will look nice and refreshed afterwards.

Are you looking for something that will remove wax while also serving as a high-quality car soap? Torque Detail’s Decon Car Soap is a good choice in this respect. It’s more effective than a dish soap at taking wax off, removing grime, bird dropping, bug guts, tar, and is ideal for decontamination purposes.

How To Remove Wax With Dish Soap

Ok, so Dawn dish soap is all you have on hand. No worries. Although it's not our #1 recommendation We'll still give you some steps to use it safely to wash your car.

When it comes to intentionally removing wax with dish soap, and other household cleaning products, you’ll want to be prepared, as there’s a certain way this should be done. Get your materials ready and make sure you’re using plenty of hot water.

What You’ll Need

  • Wash bucket with hot water and your soap of choice (Dawn?)
  • Soft terry cloth or microfiber towel
  • Sponges

Step 1.) Clean Your Car

It helps to start out with a clean base. If you prefer, you can use a hose for this step or just your bucket of hot water with a sponge and soap.

Step 2.) The Details

Next, put the soap onto a soft cloth and start out with the trim. Gently rub the trim’s surface so you can remove as much wax as possible. It’s better if this soap does not have any abrasive properties - regular old dish soap will work here.

Some people may opt to use a clay bar or other product containing clay to remove even more wax and do so more effectively.

What To Do Next: Applying A Wax

The Hybrid Car Wax & Sealer You've Always Wanted.
Mirror Shine by Torque Detail

★★★★★ "Saw this being promoted on a big YouTube channel and thought why not try it. Was a bit skeptical but WOW. Super easy to apply and car is shining. Water still pelts off 3 weeks later! Gonna ditch the wax and will continue to use." - Josh S.

What You’ll Need:

Step 1.) Give it a good wash

This is another one of those tasks you don’t do to your vehicle before you wash it. In fact, this is a good general rule of thumb when applying anything new to your car or getting out scratches so that you’re able to see exactly what you’re doing, without any dirt and debris getting in the way. Make sure it’s properly rinsed before you go any further.

Step 2.) Prepare your applicator pad

Next, put a little bit of Mirror Shine on a panel of your vehicle. Start with a little and increase as needed.

Step 3.) Work it in

Work this into the paint using a cross-hatch or circular pattern. Don’t repeat the same pass more than twice, and always work in smaller areas at a time.

Step 4.) Removal of excess

Once you see that the product is sweating on the paint (or after about 45 seconds), take the clean microfiber towel and remove the ceramic, as it’s now done its job. Use an LED light in order to ensure there’s no residue left over.

Conduct this same process with your chrome, headlights, rims, and plastics. The ceramic can also be used on glass.

What To Do For Consecutive Washes: DON’T Use Dawn Dish Soap As Your Car Soap

Now that you have your protective coating on your vehicle, you won’t want to use dish soap anymore to clean it, as this can strip the coating off.

A better option is to use Ceramic Wash soap from Torque Detail. It provides a nice wash while enhancing any coating you have on your automobile to maintain that beautiful shine. If you’re looking for a quick way to clean your car without the hassle, you can use a waterless wash product. Get the same level of clean without having to worry about whether or not it’s going to be harsh on your car’s paint or remove wax when you want to leave it on.

Another option, especially if you’re in a hurry and want to do a minor touchup is Turbo Waterless Detailer. It’s a quick detailer spray that allows you to wash your vehicle without a garden hose.

Summary: Dish Soap Is A Decent Wax Remover But…

It’s in your best interest to use a product that’s designed specifically for removing wax without having any negative impact on your vehicle rather than using household cleaners. One such product that’s good for this is Torque Detail Decon Soap. If you do decide you want to continue to use dish soap, we’ve given you some tips on how to do so effectively.

The most important thing to remember is that you always want a protective coating on your vehicle to keep it in its best possible condition and avoid scratches and nicks. This is why you should put a protective coating on right after you use dish soap or wax remover.

For those in-between washes when you aren’t putting on a new wax coat or removing anything, it’s a good idea to go for Torque Detail Ceramic Wash. This way, it won’t matter how often you clean your car - it won’t strip anything away or dull the shine. Another useful piece of information in your car cleaning toolbox.

  • Published on Oct 27, 2020