Last Updated on February 4, 2024 by Stewart

Car shampoos are available in such large numbers, it is no doubt that it raises the question “what is the best car shampoo?” There are several price points to consider with this, and it’s important to make sure that a car shampoo is picked out that suit the individuals needs. To that end, this list should give enough insight into what the best car shampoo is.

Some shampoos contain a small amount of wax, which is great for those that are short of time, whereas others solely contain shampoo without any additives in them. Each have their pros and cons and it’s important to recognise this and use the correct shampoo when cleaning the car.

The majority of the shampoos are also pH neutral, meaning that it should not cause any premature degradation to any waxes or sealants that have been applied. This is on the basis that the correct dilution ratios are followed.

I have personally tested all of the shampoos listed below in order to give you as much information as possible about them. This will give you the best information and make the choice that is right for you.

When carrying out the testing, this was all on the same car using different shampoos on different panels. The car was equally dirty all over. The two bucket method was also used to prevent scratches and swirls on the paintwork. However, I didn’t use pre-wash on the car. The reason for this is that I wanted to see the absolute cleaning power of each of the shampoos. Whilst this can result in scratches to the paintwork, it was a trade off between that, and to see how well each shampoo fares in extremely dirty circumstances. When you’re washing your car, I would always recommend a pre-wash, something which is also recommended by the team at Autoglym.

After using all of the shampoos, the car looked amazing:

Results after using the best car shampoos

Autoglym UHD Shampoo

This may not be readily available in every country, but in the UK, it’s extremely easy to get a hold of. I’ve already written a full review of it, and it can be found by clicking here. For those that are in a pinch time wise, I’ll briefly go over what makes Autoglym UHD Shampoo my number 1 choice for the best car shampoo.

The first is the smell. It really does smell great. This is often something that is overlooked, but having a great smelling product really does add to the overall experience of detailing a car. It is a bit more expensive than other brands on the market, but the cleaning power from it is second to none.

It makes cleaning even extremely dirty cars a total breeze and there’s never any worry about scratching or swirling the paintwork thanks to the large amount of suds that it generates. I would also say that due to it being so high foaming, as well as pH neutral that UHD shampoo is the best pH neutral car shampoo for cars as well as being the best car shampoo for ceramic coatings. In all the years of car detailing, this is the one that I’m impressed with the most. It leaves the body work extremely well lubricated, which greatly reduces the chances of scratching the car whilst carrying out a wash.

The cleaning power of this is exceptional, and for over 10 years in detailing, it’s the best car shampoo I’ve ever used. It should be noted that UHD Shampoo does not have a wax added into it, which is ideal for those that prefer to add a true wax to their car.

As an added bonus, it is also a great way to clean your alloy wheels. A small amount of UHD Shampoo in your bucket and you’re good to go. I always like to wax my alloys, and using this shampoo really does help to break down brake dust and road grime.

Autoglym Ultra High Definition Shampoo, 1 Litre - High Foaming Car Shampoo Leaves a Silky Smooth, High-Gloss Finish
  • Ultra-premium car shampoo provides a luxuriously smooth finish with an invigorating, sensual fragrance

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax

Ultimate Wash and Wax is one of the older shampoos from Meguiar’s and it has certainly stood the test of time. As is the case with the UHD Shampoo, this is pH neutral so it’s safe for any coatings that may be on the paint. It doesn’t foam up as much as some of the other shampoos on this list, but it is extremely cost effective. In addition to this, it also has the benefit of having wax in it as well.

Although the wax content in this product cannot provide the same level of protection as a standalone wax, it is still effective in adding a layer of protection between washes. With carnauba as one of its ingredients, it can create impressive beading when the surface is wet and enhance the glossiness of the finish. Regularly using Ultimate Wash and Wax is an excellent method for maintaining the car’s protection. While it is suitable for any car color, it particularly enhances the glossy appearance of darker shades like black. I used this on several black cars, including my own one that I previously had and it looked amazing. The shine from it had me grinning from ear to ear.

The cleaning power of it is really good, and even on particularly dirty cars, it cuts through the dirt well.

I’ve found that it does glide over the car relatively well, although it isn’t a smooth on the paintwork as UHD Shampoo is which is curious since  it has a wax component in it. When it comes to washing the windows, and mirrors, Ultimate Wash and Wax is also a great way to make them hydrophobic meaning that the water will literally fly off the windows at higher speeds.

Whilst some car shampoos can be used to clean alloy wheels, I wouldn’t recommend using Ultimate Wash and Wax for this. This is due to the carnauba in it potentially adding wax to the brake discs. This can make it particularly difficult for the car to brake properly which is extremely unsafe.

Meguiar's G17748EU Ultimate Car Wash & Wax 1.4L, Shampoo that leaves a deep, glossy, just-waxed shine
  • Clear coat safe Carnauba and synthetic polymer technology gently cleans the paint while leaving additional wax protection behind

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash and Wax

Well, that’s quite a long name for a shampoo! The Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash and Wax is part of the same popular Turtle Wax range that includes their famous spray wax, more of which can be read about by clicking here.

When I was using this shampoo, I was really happy with it the cleaning power of it. Even more so when it didn’t generate anywhere near the same amount of suds as UHD Shampoo did. I was blown away by just how well it cleaned I spite of this. I was worried that the lack of suds would mean the cleaning power wouldn’t be as strong. I was wrong! Even on the lower parts of the car, it was able to safely and efficiently remove the dirt.

Another concern of mine was the lack of suds resulting in the potential of scratching the car. Whilst using it, no scratches or swirls were inflicted in the paintwork, so another plus point for the Turtle Wax.

It does work out a bit more expensive than UHD given the dilution ratios you need to use, but if the car is coated with other Turtle Wax products, this is a really good shampoo to complement them. What I really like about it is the fact that it has Si02 ceramic properties within it. This does add a better degree of protection when compared to the Ultimate Wash and Wax, but again, it is more expensive. Due to the extra protection that it gives, I would rate this is as being the best car wash and wax shampoo.

It should be noted though that it is recommended that one panel is washed and rinsed off at a time. This is compared to the other shampoos on this list which can have all of the car washed in one go before it is rinsed off.

I’ve never used a shampoo like this before, but at the same time, it was really quick to remove the remnants of the car shampoo, even when using a garden hose. I did try and wash a few panels and rinse it off and found that it was a bit trickier to remove. During my testing, I found that when it was tricky to remove the residue, applying the shampoo onto the same panel and then rinsing it off resolved any issues.

Likewise, as it the case with Ultimate Wash and Wax, this should not be used on alloy wheels since it can cause ceramic protection to be mistakenly applied to the brake discs which is highly unsafe.

Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wash & Wax Car Shampoo 1.42 53340 - Car Cleaner with Ceramic Protector, Easy Rinse Formula That Removes Road Dirt & Leaves A Clean Glossy Finish
  • Super-Slick Formula - Ceramic Wash & Wax formula breaks up road grime, soil, and other residues without scratching your finish. Simply wash on and rinse off for a long-lasting shine

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Autoglym Polar Wash

This is part of the ‘Polar’ series which also includes a pre-wash and a sealant.

So this is a different kind of shampoo when compared to the others on this list. Autoglym Polar Wash is specifically designed to be applied through a snow foam lance with a pressure washer. Granted, not everyone has access to a pressure washer, so this option isn’t available to everyone. Having said that, this is a really great way to clean the car.

Instead of adding the shampoo to a bucket, and then using the mitt to transfer it to the car, the car is covered in shampoo with the foam lance, and then a wash mitt is applied directly to the paint to clean it.

This is a nice option in the winter months and saves the user having to dip their hand in and out of two cold buckets. In this instance, all you need to do is dip the mitt into the rinse bucket. Unless you use the multi-mitt method of cleaning the car.

This is a great way to lay down a large degree of shampoo to the car in a short period of time to give it a thorough clean. It does work out a bit more expensive though than some of the other options on this list, but it’s so good that it couldn’t not be included. It can be applied with any snowfoam lance, but Autoglym have developed their own variant to be specifically used for the Polar series, so for those that don’t already have a snow foam lance, I would recommend the Autoglym option.

Autoglym Polar Wash, 2.5L - Snow Foam Car Shampoo Safe for Wheels, Paint & Trim
  • Safe and effective snow foam car shampoo for home pressure washers. Polar Wash creates a thick, high-cling, blanket of car foam shampoo

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Autoglym Polar Blaster Snow Foam Lance, Car Wash Foam Gun For Pressure Washer Application, Kit
  • Unique car wash snow foam lance designed to work in harmony with all Autoglym Polar Series products - Polar Blast, Polar Wash and Polar Seal

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Gtechniq W1 G Wash

The Gtechniq W1 G Wash is a super foamy shampoo that provides excellent cleaning power.

A key benefit of W1 G Wash is that it is pH neutral and therefore it is completely safe for any car with protection on it, be it a Gtechniq coating, paste wax, or a sealant. During my testing of it, it did not degrade the protection products I had on my car, or the other cars I used as part of the testing process.

It can be used used on the paintwork, but also on wheels as well by increasing the amount of shampoo that is added to the bucket. It is the most expensive shampoo on this page, but for anyone that has Gtechniq coatings on their car, it’s something I highly recommend. It complements them extremely well. I have personally used this on friends cars that have Gtechniq coatings on them, and the protection remains in tact, wash after wash.

When using it, it felt as though the wash mitt was gliding over the paint work, and this was with 30ml of shampoo in a 10 litre bucket. It dissolved the dirt on the car with ease, and at no point was I concerned that it would inflict scratches on the paint work.

Testing in an IK Foam Pro 2 gave reasonable results as well, but if this is going to be used to clean wheels, I would stick with keeping this in a bucket instead. This is a seriously impressive car shampoo.

Gtechniq Car Shampoo. Auto W1 GWash Shampoo for Cars. Dirt and Stain Remover Car Cleaning Kit with Pink Grapefruit Fragrance. 100% Biodegradable Foam Cleaner, Wheel Cleaner and Screen Wash - 1L
  • EFFECTIVE HIGH FOAM CAR SHAMPOO - cleans more effectively than ordinary car shampoo as it lubricates the dirt particles to avoid abrasion and chemically breaks bonds between dirt and paintwork when car cleaning - a must have for any car washing kit

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner

Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner was the first car shampoo I ever used, and it still has it’s place in my cleaning regimen.

For the best bang for your buck, I would recommend the 2.5litre version. With that, you only need 1 cap full of shampoo per 10 litres of water. What I really like about that is that it means you can get at least 120 washes out of one bottle. For those that are on a tight budget, but still want an exceptional finish, this is the car shampoo for you.

Unlike other shampoos on this list, it is low foaming, which a lot of detailers prefer. The clean that this shampoo gives is nothing short of exceptional. It effortlessly cuts through dirt and grime, leaving the bodywork feeling silky smooth and also glossy. It should be noted that the latest version of this formula does not contain an anti-corrosive agent (the older formulation did).

What I really like about it is that there is a rinse aid including in the shampoo. This really does help to remove the shampoo residue from the car quickly. I’ve found that this is a great option to clean the car when it’s sunny, since the shampoo is lifted away quickly with just the hose. There is also a small degree of protection in the shampoo as well, meaning that the water sheets off of it with ease.

Thankfully, the shampoo is also pH neutral and Autoglym claim that it won’t strip waxes or sealants from the paintwork. Having tested this product for years, I can safely say that this claim is true. For the last 10 years of using this, I’ve never noticed that it caused any premature degradation to the protection that was on the car. It also boosted the gloss on my car which is a nice bonus.

Another top tip for this is that it can be used to clean door jambs and shuts. I like to make this up in a 500ml bottle. I add in 5ml of product to 495ml of deionised water and it is a great way to clean these grubby areas of the car. I use one microfibre cloth to mop up the grime, and then use a clean one to dry the area off.

Last update on 2024-07-18 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Car Shampoo FAQs

Can I use washing up liquid if I don’t have any car shampoo?

No, washing up liquid contains a high amount of salt and other chemicals which can cause a lot of damage to the paint work. Always use one of the shampoos listed above.

Do I need to wax my car if I use a wash and wax shampoo?

Generally speaking, a wash and wax shampoo has a small amount of wax in it. These are great for topping up pre-existing wax that is is on the car. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as the sole form of protection on the car. A true wax is a much better option.

If my car is extremely dirty, should I use more shampoo than suggested on the bottle?

No, this would be wasteful. The manufacturers have determined the maximum amount of shampoo needed to bring about a deep clean of the car. By using more than this, it’s really just costing you money. It may also cause premature degradation of any waxes or sealants that you have on the car. Instead, I would recommend that you use a high quality snow foam.