Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?

By Trevor Spedden 06/22/2023 8:00am

Dish Soap Car Wash

Yes. Nonabrasive dish soaps are safe to use when washing a car. Soap maker Dawn even recommends using its dishwashing soap to remove grease and grime from exterior car surfaces. Although dishwashing soap is acceptable under certain circumstances, it should never be the first choice for a well-maintained car. Dish soap is so effective at its job that it will remove more than just stubborn contamination. It will remove any previously applied car wax or paint sealant and leave the paint unprotected.

Dish Soap Car Wash Microfiber Towel

Despite what some say, some dish soaps are nonabrasive. Some manufacturers, like Palmolive, say on their websites that their soaps contain no harsh abrasives. Suppose you find yourself in a pinch needing to remove stubborn grime from a car’s paint and don’t have car shampoo available or want to strip off any previously applied paint protection products before adding a new layer. In those cases, dish soap is a perfectly safe soap substitute.

PRO TIP: Washing a car with dish soap — something I have done — is a persistent topic that has stirred up its fair share of controversy across the internet. There are many unconventional uses for household products and DIY car cleaning hacks that safely and effectively clean your car. Just be sure not to confuse dish soap with dish detergent because the formulas are very different, and the latter often comes in a powdered formula that dissolves in hot water. For the most part, a car wash uses cold water, and there is a risk that undissolved ingredients from a detergent could scratch the paint.

When your vehicle is kept clean and in great condition, it helps to retain your car’s value.