Stuff We Use: What’s the Best Car Wash Soap?

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

stuff we use whats the best car wash soap

On our never-ending quest to improve this place by listening to feedback from the B&B, we are taking a new tack with these product posts, choosing instead to focus on items we use and have purchased with our own meager income. After all, if we’re giving you the truth about cars, we ought to give you the truth about car accessories.

Following up on the recent Stuff We Use which highlighted the brands of foam cannons we deploy on our own vehicles, it seemed appropriate to showcase the soap chosen to use in those things. Of course, good car suds doesn’t care if you mix it up in a cannon or a bucket – just be sure to avoid scratching the paint, ok?

Actually, it’s a decent idea to kick this article off with a note about car washing techniques. Whether one uses a cannon or bucket, a key component of not harming yer ride’s paint is to deploy a washcloth (or mitt, or whatever) that’s smoother than an android’s bottom. Some gearheads take it to the next level with expensive towels and the like, which is fine for those who can afford such expenditures. Our main message is to use a cloth that’s clean and soft, one which is rinsed frequently and pitched into the laundry hamper if it comes anywhere close to getting dropped on the ground.

For those of us not using a foam cannon, there is merit in the so-called ‘two bucket’ method, which sees the user have separate buckets for suds and rinsing. The intent here is to keep the grime that has been wiped off the car from being reintroduced to the soapy wash water. Some folks place a plastic filter-like grate near the bottom of their wash bucket to trap dirt, a notion which is also a decent idea. The main takeaway here is to only touch the car’s paint with a soft, clean cloth.

But back to the soap. This author’s go-to is the Mr. Pink suds from Chemical Guys. Not overly cheap but on sale now for about a decade and backed by a swarm of positive reviews, this stuff never fails to work itself into a frenzied lather of the type one would see in car wash commercials or that one Liv Tyler video with the Geo Metro. It works equally well with a foam cannon or bucket, though the cannon will provide extra (and likely thicker) coverage much more quickly. 

As a bonus, the stuff smells great and you can make all the Reservoir Dogs jokes you want to anyone within earshot. The product is designed as a concentrate, which doesn’t mean it pays attention in math class. Rather, the crew at Chemical Guys say just 1-3 oz. of Mr. Pink in a 5-gallon wash bucket should be more than enough to create a foam frenzy. If there are any scientists in the audience, please feel free to weigh in on the claim that Mr. Pink is pH balanced, a trait making it gentle on all exterior surfaces of an automobile.

Another product of this type on our list is the Mega Foam from Adam’s Polishes. What this company saves in marketing and attractive bottle design they more than make up for in creating a good soap. Like Mr. Pink, this stuff also draws many positive reviews from strangers on the internet, and we’ve had good luck with it in our own driveway. The company boasts 10x the normal concentration of standard soap formulas, though it definitely does not provide ten times the amount of soap as the Mr. Pink stuff. They’re probably talking about the discount brands which we tend to avoid.

I’ll take this opportunity to also recommend a product called Optimum No Rinse. This stuff is a car wash soap alternative designed to only require 1 oz of product per 2 gallons of water, an amount which should be more than enough to wash your entire car. Pro tip: go out and buy distilled water at Walmart for this task since that liquid is almost guaranteed not to leave spots on the finish. Mix up the recommended ratio of ONR and distilled water, then pour it into a clean spray bottle. Since this task isn’t undertaken too frequently and intended only as a stopgap for keeping yer car looking good between washes, spending a couple of bucks on distilled water for this express purpose shouldn’t break the bank.

For reasons known only to my addled brain, no fewer than four of our last half dozen cars have been painted black – a shade that looks great when clean but can appear shabby if not kept up. This is where ONR helps immensely, especially in the dead of winter. The product is designed to encapsulate and create a barrier between dirt particulates and an automotive finish, meaning the prepared mixture can be liberally sprayed onto a lightly dirty surface and wiped away with a clean towel. This is perfect for mid-winter cleanings in the warmth of a heated garage or in the confines of a condo’s underground parking lot. We wouldn’t recommend this approach with an extremely dirty car – but it is the only time we’ll ever lay washcloth to paint without thoroughly rinsing a car first. In fact, this method feels utterly wrong the first time you try it, but the results speak for themselves.

As always, this series will continue to focus on items we’ve actually used. Now, as with the last post, go get cleaning.

[Image: Ultraskrip/]

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2 of 11 comments
  • Wjtinfwb Wjtinfwb on Jun 13, 2023

    Usually just buy whatever car wash soap is on sale at the big box, but I'll try the Mr. Pink stuff next time I'm running low. I will however give an endorsement to Chemical Guys Micro-Fiber wash mitts. Just bought a two pk. ($15) off Amazon, they're way better than the cheap mitts at the big box, holding a ton of water and soap and having a super deep pile that keeps the dirt off the surface touching the paint. Chemical Guys Microfiber towels are good too but I see little difference between those and the gold color ones on sale at Costco in a bulk pack. I used to love washing my own cars, fell out of love as I got older. Now, with the right products, an afternoon washing my Bronco and my wife's MDX is enjoyable again. Almost as enjoyable as the cold beers immediately following while I admire the fruits of my labor!

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Jun 13, 2023

      Same here! I haven’t hand-washed my car since new in 2019! It takes me longer to drag the hose and bucket out, get the soap going, then clean everything up and put it away, than it does to actually wash the car! 🤪 My local car wash just replaced all their equipment, and I have the car professionally detailed at least once a year, plus I recently started parking in a garage near work instead of a surface lot, so between that and my garage, the car isn’t going to get any paint abuse!

  • Kwik_Shift Kwik_Shift on Jun 13, 2023

    Who ended up winning that car wash prize package?

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