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Can You Use Dish Soap To Wash Your Car? What To Know!

dish soap

There are a ton of products for car cleaning and exterior maintenance. The sheer number of them can be overwhelming. Worse, many of them are expensive. Everyone wants their car to look good and be free of dirt, dust, and bird droppings but do you need to shell out the money for expensive car care products? These questions have been asked by many people looking for a solution to their dirty cars.

One of the most frequently asked questions that arise seems like common sense. Can I just use dish soap to wash my car? It cleans, and it’s cheap. What else could my car need?

On the surface, it feels like one of those clever internet hacks, but the answer is more complicated than that. While dish soap is a lot cheaper than automotive soap, it is not designed to be used on your car.

To answer the question, in short, no, you should not use dish soap to wash your car. Here is why.

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Your Car Is Not a Dish

Dish soap is designed for dishes. That might sound obvious, but cars and dishes are not the same. They are, in fact, completely different. Dish soap is engineered to break up food particles, grease, fat, and oils. Unless you live in a cartoon, very few cars are being slathered in old food and driving around town.

Furthermore, dishes are often made of glass or plastic. Few dishes are made from the same kinds of materials that cars are made from. Car bodies are a mixture of aluminum, fiberglass, industrial plastic, and steel. Your car is not made out of the typical ceramic or glass that most dishes are made out of.

Cars also come with an extremely specific type of paint and a clear coat. Many people like to keep their car waxed and shined. Dish soap will break through the wax, and, over time, it can start breaking down the surface of your car’s paint as well. Dish soap does not know the difference between a car’s wax coat and a greasy coating on a dinner plate. The result is premature oxidation of the car’s paint, and that is bad.

The paint on your car is extremely specialized and is not at all similar to the paint on your walls or the paint on your coffee mugs. It is an expensive and highly designed system put on at the factory to protect the body of your car from the elements for years to come. Jeopardizing that can cause a ton of headaches down the road.

pouring dish soap on sponge
Image Credit: Pexels

Cars Require Special Cleaning Solution For a Reason

Dish soap is actually considered to be very abrasive compared to other soaps, no matter what the commercials with oil-soaked animals say. The exterior of a car does not respond well to abrasive soaps. Dish soap is so abrasive that it can actually damage your car’s paint over time, which can be a huge pain.

Compromised vehicle paint leads to rust spots, rough spots, and it makes future cleanings harder and harder. Using dish soap over time can lead to these issues developing and getting worse. That is why car soap is specially designed to work with auto paint and clear coats. Car soap does not simply get the dirt off your car, and it also works to keep the paint healthy.

Washing your car with the proper type of cleaning supplies will keep it clean, healthy and it will allow the exterior paint to last a lot longer than otherwise. That is what goes into the long-term maintenance of your car’s exterior. When washing your car, you need to consider both the short-term and the long-term implications of your choices.

Can I Use Dish Soap On My Car In An Emergency?

If you absolutely have no other option, you can use dish soap to clean a specific spot on your car. One washing with dish soap won’t cause lasting damage, but you should follow up any use of dish soap with the use of special automotive soap. You can also use dish soap on your car’s windows. Windows are glass, like dishes. If you use dish soap on your windows, be sure to prevent any of the abrasive soap from getting on your car’s paint for the best result.

In most cases, waiting until you can clean your car with the proper products is advisable to use dish soap. However, there are some people who will not abide by a spot of bird poop on their car even if there are no car soaps in sight. Just be cautious and know the risks.

divider 5Bottom Line

You should not use dish soap to wash your car. Dish soap is not designed for car washes, and repeated use of the abrasive soap can cause lasting wear and damage to your car’s exterior paint. Dish soap is designed to break down tough food waste on glass or ceramic dishes, not to rinse dirt off specialized automotive paint and aluminum. For the best results, always choose a soap specifically designed to wash cars. Your vehicle will thank you for it.


Featured Image Credit: Jim Barber, Shutterstock

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