The use of liquid dish detergents in lieu of specially formulated car wash
soaps is an area of hot debate. If you search the Web, you'll find most auto
enthusiasts recommend against using any dish soap as it will "strip the
wax." Whether or not this is realistic claim based on chemistry, or if it
is a marketing ploy, remains to be seen.
You'll also find anecdotal reports like that in the following link
that state that using Ivory Liquid Dish Soap is fine for washing cars. In fact,
that link makes some good arguments in favor of using Ivory Liquid DIsh Soap.
In my research on this topic, I also read a forum post that stated that Car
& Driver magazine recommended Ivory Soap at some point back in the 1980s,
but I've been unable to corroborate that reference.
P&G, the makers of Ivory, have nothing about this on their Web site; I've
submitted a question to them asking if Ivory Liquid Dish Detergent is safe for
I had a friend who was a chemist who always used Ivory Liquid Dish Soap to wash
his vehicles. I've gone the other route, using car wash soaps formulated for
washing cars. While I appreciate being frugal, I'm not sure I'd risk my car's
paint job for what amounts to small savings by using liquid dish soap vs. car
I've not done a price-per-ounce comparison, but I know Walmart sells
reasonably-priced car was soaps, e.g. Blue Corral, by the gallon. A gallon of
car wash soap should last you a long time.
The one item in this tip I'd recommend against is adding laundry detergent,
especially powered laundry detergent, to your car wash formula. If the powder
does not dissolve fully, it could scratch your paint.
on August 19, 2010 4:06 PM
As a follow-up to my earlier post, I received the following e-mail response
from P&G re: using Ivory Liquid Dish Soap for washing cars:
"Thanks for contacting Ivory.
"People often tell us about the unusual uses they've found for our
products. Unfortunately, we can't encourage this type of product use. Our
safety-testing and research help us confidently say that our product will do
what we designed it to do, which is clean dishes. This is the only uses we can
"I would suggest trying Mr. Clean or another product made for washing cars.
"I hope this helps.
I expect one would receive the same response from any manufacturer of liquid
dish soap: they test it for dish washing only.
Nice of them to plug their Mr. Clean car wash line of products.
on August 19, 2010 4:54 PM
I've always heard about the vinegar/water thing for your windshield, but AAA
says not to do it. They made it a quick youtube video. I don't remember why they
said that though.
on August 19, 2010 5:35 PM
You really shoudn't be washing your car in the driveway. The runoff and waste
of water is prohibitve environmentally and financially.
on August 19, 2010 6:29 PM
I've also heard dish soap is a bad idea for the same reasons. Dr. Smoke has
said it all. I have overseen a lot of student car washes (fundraisers) and I
just buy a gallon of car wash liquid at the store and that way I won't have any
angry people when the students are finished!
on August 19, 2010 7:16 PM
Unless One needs to pressure wash something from a vehicle (mud, slime, etc.),
washing at home is FAR more "eco-friendly"!!! There, you can squeeze
the nozzle trigger when water is needed. IT'S OFF THE REST OF THE TIME!
Besides, it's way-far more economical. A bucket or two of water, an ounce or
two car wash soap, and you get to water some of the lawn to boot. Most folks
aren't equipped to understand this, so they prefer to only believe what the
left-wing TV tells them. (Sad, but true.)
The readily discernable differences are enough to use Commercial washes
formulated for automotive paints: no streaking or hazy finish, easier rinse,
& far better shine when dry.
HOWEVER, I do use vinegar for glass, chrome, etc. FAR cheaper & safer, plus
it's already in the house for cooking, laundry, carpet stains, windows, coffee
pot, counter tops, etc.
Great tip on the tire cleaner. Thanks! Eager to try it.
on August 20, 2010 1:21 AM
@Cmdr. Ron: Well, I don't watch left-wing *or* right-wing TV, but I do know
that the water used at commercial car washes is recycled. Sure, they use more
of it, but it gets used over and over.
Washing your car in the driveway is certainly cheaper, but if you're using a
commercial cleaning product, you're essentially pouring that product on your
lawn, on all your neighbors' lawns, and into whatever nearby waterway catches
all your runoff.
Here's what the EPA has to say on the subject: www.epa
.gov/owowwtr1/NPS/toolbox/other/KSMO_CarWashing.pdf. I hope you don't
consider that left-wing propaganda.
on August 24, 2010 10:02 AM
Here's a far more economical way to clean your car while still being easy on
the paint, use Rinseless carwash, it's both economical and there is no runoff so
it won't hurt the environment since you don't rinse it off, you also use less of
it in your bucket, about an ounce does it all, they seem to clean better as the
soap encapsulates the dirt and wipes away with a clean towel or better yet
microfiber towel, awesome shine, you won't return to the other carwashes when
you try this method and they come in larger sizes which last you much longer
than regular carwash soaps, I had my bottle of rinseless carwash for a year and
it is only down about a quarter of the bottle and I wash my car about every
other week and oh they have wax in those rinseless car washes, people come by my
car after washing in awe of the beauty of the car wash results, in my opinion
you could not get a better wash at a carwash and it's so quick and easy.
on February 07, 2011 2:03 AM
Stop making a big deal out of washing cars, if you want to use dish
soap do it.
My car is 13 years old and I wash it most often with Dawn dish soap & the
finish still looks great after all these years !!
on May 23, 2013 12:49 PM
Note: The EPA source I cited on car washing has moved. You can now find it
http://www2.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/act-and-around-your-home. Note that
waterless products, as recommended by angle4022, are one of the solutions it
on May 23, 2013 2:38 PM
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