How To Make Your Very Own Homemade Car Wash Soap

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Learning how to make homemade car wash soap is a cheap and convenient DIY for every car owner. Why spend extra money and fuel to go to a car wash or have someone else wash your car when you (or a family member) could do it yourself? There are a few schools of thought to which ingredients make the best homemade car wash soap, so we will go over them here and you can decide for yourself what will clean your car the best. So, go grab your hose and get ready to wash your car.

Many car manufacturers would tell you it’s best to wash your car with soap that is made specifically for your car, but the truth is there’s no real secret or special ingredient that makes their soap solution any better than a homemade car wash soap. Not only is this option cheaper, but most of the items you’ll use are items that you already buy for your day-to-day life.

So, before you jump into washing your car, we must get some supplies together. Specifically, I’m talking about the ingredients you’ll need for your homemade car wash soap, but we’ll also get into the tools you need to actually wash your car. It’s important that any supplies or chemicals that you use to wash your car will not damage the paint or end up costing you more when you were trying to save money. So, be wary about buying quality ingredients and supplies that will be beneficial to your vehicle. Also, once you get the right supplies, you’ll have them for future car washings, only having to replace the soap ingredients when you run out.

So, let’s get started.

Supplies and Ingredients to Get Started

car wash

The first thing you need to make homemade car wash soap is a large bucket you’ll be filling with water and the other ingredients for your soap. The simplest homemade car wash soap recipe is water, baking soda, and dishwashing liquid such as Dawn or Palmolive. There is debate though about the harshness of this soap; some say to use less baking soda and that dishwashing liquid will strip the wax off of your car, but it will not damage the clear coat on your paint job. It’s up to you if you want to use this recipe and then re-wax your car if necessary.

Another recipe recommends borax and powdered laundry detergent in place of the baking soda which can be harsh on your car, but insists that laundry detergent is fine for your car because of the clear coat. Others have suggested baby shampoo, but most believe it is too mild to really remove any build-up of grime and we agree. You may want to play around with these ingredients to get a solution you like and that works for you.

When thinking about which brand of products to buy, you may want to consider an alkali-free soap. Alkali is the chemical that will strip off wax and paint. If you do use an alkali soap, it’s important to re-wax your car after washing. Also, a soap that has no phosphate or chlorine will be better for your car as phosphate will not only damage your clear coat but also the environment. Usually, these soaps are vegetable-based oil soaps and can be mixed with warm water. If you trouble find that or it’s too expensive, you could also try a petroleum-based laundry detergent, which would also be free of phosphate and chlorine. You would mix that with warm water and a cup of liquid dish soap.  

Also, do not use any products that contain acetone to remove bugs or tar. This can be anything from nail polish remover to Raid insect spray or WD-40; these products will damage your car and dissolve the clear coat and maybe even affect the paint.

For our recipe after considering these others, we’ll recommend that you use the one with water, liquid dish soap, borax, and powdered laundry detergent.  

Now, let’s put these ingredients together.

Steps to Making Homemade Car Wash Soap

car soap

Step 1

Get your bucket and fill it with water; you may want to make two of these buckets if your car seems extra dirty.

Step 2

Pour some liquid dish soap into the bucket, enough to get some suds going. You’ll need about half a cup to a cup depending on how much water you’re using.

Step 3

Add Borax, about a tablespoon per 5 liters of water. Borax is what will help keep your car streak free. Also, when you rinse the car, make sure all the soap has washed off, which will also ensure that there’s no soap residue leaving your car with a streak-free shine.

Step 4

Add 12 tablespoons of powdered laundry detergent. The laundry detergent will help with getting the tougher grime off your car that the soap is too mild to affect.

Step 5

Make sure everything is mixed well in your bucket and you can go wash your car.

How to Properly Wash Your Car

car wash service

Washing your own car can be a therapeutic and satisfying activity. Not only do you get to spend time outside, but it’s a great time for quiet contemplation and even listening to some music or a podcast. You can even make it a family activity if the kids want to play outside with the hose.

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So, once you’ve gotten your handmade car was soap ready, it’s time to actually wash your car. You already have your bucket of homemade car wash soap, so you will need a large plush sponge or large wash mitt; something that will trap the dirt, but also be gentle on the car.  You should fill a second bucket with plain water so that in between sections, you can rinse the mitt and start fresh. You’ll also need a scrubbing brush for the wheels and access to a hose.

First, make sure that your car is parked in the shade. If it’s too hot or sunny, the car will dry in the sun and leave streaks. With all your materials ready to go, you can hose off the car with a gentle stream of water. Don’t use a nozzle or try to pressure wash, this is just an initial rinse to soften and loosen the dirt. You’ll start with your wheels since they’re the dirtiest part of the car and you don’t want any debris landing on your already clean car. Use a long, skinny brushto clean the rims on the wheels, and if they seem clean, just use the mitt to give them a once over. Once the wheels are done, you’ll wash the body of the car from the top going downward. Using only the mitt to prevent scratching the paint, you’ll soak it in your handmade car wash soap and scrub sections of your car. Every so often, you’ll want to dip the mitt into the clean water to wash off debris, then back into the soap, and continue circling the car as you scrub and rinse with the hose. Make sure the car is staying wet throughout the cleaning process to prevent water streaks.

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Next, you’ll want to remove any tar or bird droppings because these will damage the paint. Using warm water and a microfiber rag, carefully scrub to remove them. If you have to use tar and bug remover, you can, but it is abrasive so use sparingly. A different way to remove tar, bird droppings and bugs is to use a more concentrated version of your homemade car wax, maybe with an extra tablespoon of borax. Then use a spray bottle and spray close to the area to knock off any loose pieces, letting the solution soak and soften the contaminant. Gently rub it with a microfiber towel until it’s fully removed. You may need to repeat the process a few times depending on what it is.

Rinse the car again, making sure all the dirt and grime has been removed. Use a stiff brush to scrub the tires of any dust and grime that may be left. It’s now time to dry your car with either a microfiber towel or a squeegee that will effortlessly remove the excess water. Once that’s done your car will be shiny and streak-free. If you have to re-wax, now is the time to do it.

That’s how easy washing your car can be.

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This whole process should only take a few hours and you’ll be happy that you did it yourself and didn’t have to pay extra money to have someone else do it for you. Now, you have a clean car and you made your own homemade car wash soap; you’re ready to move on to your next DIY project, or just take a well-earned break and watch some TV. Your car will be waiting for the next adventure and you can sit back feeling reassured that it is clean and ready for action when you do decide to go out.


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