Why Dish Soap is Not Acceptable for Car Detailing or Washing


dish soap washing vehicles

At Automotive Protection Services, we’re proud to provide car detailing services where we work directly with each individual client. Some of our clients entrust all their exterior vehicle cleaning needs to us, while others may wash their own car at home while still coming to us for occasional detailing services – there’s no wrong answer here!

For those who do perform periodic car washes on their own, there are a few important tips or expertise areas we’ll often pass on to ensure you aren’t compromising your vehicle or our ability to detail it properly. One such area, which doubles as a common question we’re asked by clients: Can you use your home’s standard dish soap to wash your car’s exterior? The simple answer: No, you cannot. Here’s a quick primer on why, plus some basic tips for home car washing.

What Dish Soap is For

To understand why dish soap is not acceptable for washing cars, you have to understand what dish soap is meant for to begin with. The primary purpose of these products is to remove grease and various forms of stuck-on debris – usually food, but also various greases and oils that result from cooking. For this reason, dish soaps are what’s known as abrasive soaps; they are able to get into surfaces and pull sticky substances or buildups off of them.

For your vehicle’s exterior, this is not an ideal quality at all. Abrasive soaps are not meant to go on car paint – they will simply begin doing the same thing they do on dishes or other cookware, beginning the oxidation process and making the paint look bland and dull. In addition, if the car has a wax protective coat or any rubber areas on the exterior, dish soap will damage these as well.

What Your Car Needs

Rather, your vehicle needs a dedicated car soap that’s full of lubricant. These soaps are much slicker than other home soap options and will not perform any abrasive processes. This means that other home soap types, such as laundry soap, hand soap and more, should also not be used for cars.

Home Washing Tips

In addition to using proper car soap, here are some basic exterior vehicle washing tips to ensure your car is in great shape – and can easily be detailed by our pros when needed:

  • Start with the wheels, which tend to have the most dirt – then refill buckets and water for cleanliness on the rest of the car.
  • Rinse the entire car with a hose, including debris from wiper blades.
  • Pre-treat stains from bugs or droppings using tar removal soap approved for cars.
  • Soap one side of the car, scrubbing in gentle straight lines – avoid circular motions, which will create swirl marks.
  • Rinse the side you’re on and then go to the other side, the ensure the entire vehicle dries properly.

For more on why dish soap is not acceptable for washing your car’s exterior, or to learn about any of our vehicle detailing, window tinting or other vehicle protection solutions, speak to the staff at Automotive Protection Services in Fairfax today.