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Which Car Shampoos are Best for Car Paintwork?

by Neil Allen /

On more than a few occasions, I’ve winced as I see people squirt a load of washing up liquid into a bucket, fill it with warm water, watch as suds galore overflow, soak a sponge and begin to scrub away gleeful as their car goes from dirty to clean.

Why wince though, you say! After all, they’re doing good keeping their car looking shiny, right? Well, yes and no

close up hand car wash

Firstly, let’s tackle using why washing up liquid is bad for your car’s paintwork. Fairy, Stardrops, Persil and other brands you can think of, are designed to clean dishes and pots and pans, soaking through stuck-on food effectively in order to make removing them easy, and leaving the items shiny. And at this they’re obviously very good.

So, that’s good for your car, right? Actually, no. Washing up products contain detergents, which clean very well, but they also strip away (or badly diminish) the life of any polish, wax or sealants you’ve applied to the paintwork.

An example of this: if you wash the dishes using liquid detergents, afterwards your hands feel dry, and if used regularly the skin begins to crack (painfully) through lack of moisture. This is because the detergents strip away the natural moisture in your skin, and you then have to use hand cream to help replenish and repair the dry areas.

It’s the same with using washing up liquid on cars. After washing up detergents have stripped away any protective layers on the paint and exterior trim, they are then far more susceptible to the colour fading. Never a good look.

They also usually contain salt, which will absolutely worsen any rust spots your car may have!

Paintwork damage to your car is something you always want to make sure you avoid – that’s what Chipex touch up kits were made for! So you always want to be certain that however you’re washing your car, you’re not weakening the paint.

So, what should you use to wash you car? As with almost every product available, there are different ends of the market for car shampoo.

At one end, there are the ones you can buy from most auto stores, which are just a few quid for around 3 litres or so, where you can just dump a load in a bucket, get a load of foam going, and they do the job fairly decently.

At the other end of the market are the higher-priced ones. But there’s always a reason for the price with these types of car shampoos. Often, a buyer will compare the two side-by-side and reason ‘I can get a big tub for a few euros, so why buy 500ml for for £10?’.

And fair enough – if you’re only looking at the quantity. However, it’s often the case that the 500ml product has such a high dilution rate (they will usually tell you this on the label), that you’ll actually need far less product per bucket of water than the cheaper product, and in the end the cost is pretty much offset.

Also factor into this though, that the higher-priced car shampoo contains lots of ingredients that’ll do more than just clean and add shine. For instance, they will be pH-neutral, which means they are non-acidic and are alkaline-free, therefore being safe for paintwork, in not making rusting worst, and will not remove/diminish any wax or sealant you may have already applied to the paintwork, whereas the cheaper ones may not have this benefit.

A good quality car shampoo can also contain wax, which not only brings a depth of shine to the paintwork, but also protects and adds longevity to any protection you’ve previously applied to the paint and glass, i.e. wax or sealant.

Car shampoos are now becoming high-tech too. As an example, Nanolex are a company who specialise in creating car detailing products which work on a molecular level, using nano-technology.

Nanolex created a re-activating car shampoo, which ‘forms a chemical and molecular bond with previously-applied protective layers [of sealant] and refreshes them’. They also sell the same for Matte paintwork – which is normally exceptionally difficult to maintain.

Quite incredible, and it can only be great for us car owners as this technology filters down to other car shampoos too, allowing us wash our cars safe in the knowledge we’re actually doing them good when removing that road grime!

Of course, there are many other high quality car shampoos out there, and rather than just going for the big manufacturers, why not take a look at the smaller ones too, as they often make great products and sell them at a surprisingly reasonable price, considering the amount of time and energy that goes into developing a car shampoo.

So, rather than grabbing the nearest bottle of washing up liquid in the cupboard, take a few minutes to choose and buy a good car shampoo, and your car will benefit hugely both in the long and short term. This way, at least you’ll know any paint chips you need to touch up aren’t from your cleaning skills!

If you’d like to read some independent reviews of car shampoos, please visit this website.

Written by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com

Image licence from Envato/Photodune.


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