Is dish soap bad for cars?

A car is a worthy investment to make. It makes commuting easier, and convenient for you. With the right maintenance, it can even fetch you a relatively good resale value in the future.

By right maintenance, it means doing the right things like cleaning and washing your car using the right products. Right products are the key word here because a trivial mistake like using dish soap on the car, instead of a specially formulated car soap can do more harm than good to the car.  It is only the right product that helps bring out the shine. The wrong products and soaps can lead to scratches and a dull finish.

Is dish soap bad for cars?

Don’t worry. It’s not only you. Practically everyone first considers using dish liquid on cars. They feel that as the soap can clean dishes so efficiently, there should not be anything wrong about using it to clean cars.

While dish soap can and will make your vehicle squeaky clean, you shouldn’t be using it. Now you may wonder why you shouldn’t be using it because they don’t harm fragile dishes; so why can’t it be used on automobiles.

Besides, you may feel that there is no point in spending money buying a specific car soap as dish soap can clean it as effectively. However, if you find out what dish soap will do to your car, you may think twice about thinking to save money by not buying specific soaps and products for washing your automobile.

Why dish soap is bad for your car

You should not use dish soap because of the various ingredients it contains, which can have very detrimental effects on your vehicle’s paint. When you take a look at both dish soaps and car soaps upfront, you will be surprised to learn that they actually have the same DNA.

This is because they are used with the same surfactant packages like Sodium and Dodecylbenzene sulfonic acid. They however come in varied densities, and these packages are then neutralized with Sodium Hydroxide, Triethanolamine or Isopropanolamine.

So the base ingredients of both types of soaps are similar. It is the other ingredients which cause so much damage to your vehicle in the long run and is the reason why you should not wash car with dish soap.

1.    Dishwashing products also contain salt. It is added to cut costs and also to reduce viscosity for easier working and washing of your cutlery and vessels. So you can imagine what it can do to your auto. It ends up corroding the paint with time.

2.    Dish soap also contains caustic soda or soda ash, which is added to neutralize long chain organic acid. This is what makes the soap alkaline in nature and is responsible for breaking down the paint binders.

3.    There are also ingredients like scouring agents and any other miniature particles that end up scratching the paint surface. The continual scratching of paint naturally reduces its thickness to leave you with a thin coat of paint on your vehicle body.  

4.    The soap also contains foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulfate that ends up breaking down your car paint’s binders. It even removes any varnish or clear lacquer coat you may have painted onto your vehicle to serve as a water repellent.

With dish soap containing so many harsh ingredients, its prolonged and continual use will end up giving your vehicle a dull finish. You may also end up with a yellowed surface instead of the shine you are looking for. The paint may even end up corroding and wear out.

Dish cleaning liquid is great for removing grease and caked on food, all because it is an abrasive soap. Using abrasive soaps on car paint is not at all advised because it only accelerates its oxidation process to make your vehicle look dull.

Don’t think that it’s just dishwashing liquid that you cannot use on your car. Even hand soap, laundry soap, and any other household cleaners are off limits. They are not pH balanced and so will end up damaging your vehicle’s paint. This is why you should just use a soap specially formulated to clean your car.

If you do not do anything about this like change soaps or discontinue using dish soap, you won’t be able to do anything much once the paint on your vehicle starts corroding and thinning.

You will not be able to restore the car’s luster. The only thing that you can do is repaint it, which cost a lot of money. So if you thought you would be saving money by not buying specific washing products, you thought wrong.

You will end up spending lots more repainting your car because of the damage caused by your dish soap or any other household products. If you have no option than to use dishwashing liquid or any other household product, then you will have to first properly dilute it. You will also have to regularly wax your automobile to protect it from elements and the soap.

It is also better to use a soft sponge or lamb’s wool mitt for cleaning your car because anything harsher can scratch and dull the paint with time.

What makes a good car soap?

With so many products available today specifically for use on cars, it is definitely worth spending the extra buck on them to maintain your vehicle’s beauty.

The rule of thumb to follow while looking for the best car soap is to buy something that is high-quality. High-quality soaps are naturally expensive, so look for soaps in a simple package which is cheaper than the fancy packed soaps.

Besides, if you find that the car soap isn’t strong enough to remove the tar and bugs from the car paint, you can always use bugs and tar removers. These are products produced specifically for use on removing stubborn and dried deposits on the car paint.

Car soaps are better for your vehicle because they contain more lubricants that are much better for its surface. They, for example, contain waxes and silicone emulsion that gives your automobile’s body an extra shine.

On the contrary, dishwashing liquid has antiseptic agents that help get rid of germs. Dedicated car wash products are specially designed, and mild and safe enough to use on automotive paint. For best results, wash using a large, soft sponge or a lamb’s wool mitt.

What about using household products to wash only the wheels?

This is another no-no. Though your car wheels and rims are stronger and don’t dull so quickly, regularly washing it with dish soap can dull it. It’s instead better to buy and use specially formulated wheel cleaners.

You can alternatively also use bug and tar removers give your wheels a shine and to preserve your wheels’ appearance with time. It is better to clean wheels using a soft, nonabrasive cloth and not a sponge. All the accumulated dirt quickly blackens the sponge.


So to sum everything up, the answer to the question can you use dish soap on car is Yes. This means that there is no rule stating that you cannot use dish soap on your car. The only issue is that you will have a huge problem on hand if you do.

Most important is that continued use of dish soap on car will strip your vehicle of its paint and shorten your wax life. There are some soap brands that are so abrasive in nature that they will also add to the corrosion of your car paint.

Instead of taking a risk with dish soap, it is always better to buy a good car wash soap. The reason is that they don’t just contain detergents, but also lubricants that help retain the shine of your paint and wax while protecting your paint from dust particles scratching on it.

It is always better to maintain your car to its best potential. It not only makes you feel good but also helps increase its resale value. Remember, you may have to sell your car one day, and the first thing potential buyers look at is its paint and looks, which can either make or break a deal.

The actual reason for your washing your car so frequently won’t be justified if you use dish soap on your car. You only end up dulling the car’s exterior and even corroding paint, which does not help with your car maintenance at all.

It is instead better to buy a good quality car soap that is specifically designed to stop oxidation of the car paint and prevents stripping your car of its wax protection.

It, in turn, helps keep your car looking much better for years to come, and in turn, fetch you a better resale price if and when you finally have to sell your car. Besides, it also saves you money because car soap is anytime cheaper than a new paint job!



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About Me

Hi there, I’m Rod. Honestly, I don’t do much cleaning around the house (and until recently – my car)…

But I’ve always been strict and disciplined in keeping with my workspace clean and organized; my office, my desk, my bookshelfs, etc. A lot of that discipline comes from studying Lean methodologies in the past.

One thing I’ve struggled with has been keeping my car clean! So lately I started buying a few items and putting in some work!

I became interested with “best practices” for detailing a car, and that’s what you’ll find on this website. Hope this information helps you!

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