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Can I Use Shampoo to Wash My Car?

Can I Use Shampoo to Wash My Car?

If you are planning on washing your car, you may be thinking the shampoo you used to wash your hair will work as well with your car. After all, soap is soap, right? Can you use shampoo to wash your car?

Regular cleansing shampoos can be used to wash your car if needed but they should not replace car-specific soap on a long-term basis. Most shampoos contain mild ingredients that won’t dull your point job or strip off the wax given that you don’t leave them on your car too long and are thoroughly rinsed off afterward.

Here’s what else you need to keep in mind when it comes to washing your car with shampoo!

Wash a Car With Shampoo

Whether you are on a very tight budget or perhaps ran out of your usual car shampoo and don’t have time to head out to a big-box store, the good news is that you can grab that bottle of shampoo you have in your shower to wash your car.

However, before you dive into this venture, it’s crucial you remember a few things!

First, hair shampoo and car shampoo may look alike in many ways. Nevertheless, not all shampoo is created equal.

Despite what you may think, there is a reason why there is a section in the store for hair shampoo, and another one for automotive shampoo.

While the shampoo you use on your hair produces a luster and shine on your locks that you absolutely love, it may not do the same on your car’s paint!

As you can guess, these two types of shampoos are formulated much differently. Thus, what may be good for your hair may actually harm your car’s finish.

Can I Leave My Shampoo on My Car For a Long Time?

Absolutely not. In fact, if you decide to use your regular shampoo to wash your car, quickness will be the key to success. If you are used to taking a leisurely approach to washing your car, you’ll need to speed it up quite a bit if you are using your hair shampoo.

Since hair shampoo and car shampoo are formulated very differently, what may make your hair shine could actually have your car’s paint fading away before your very eyes.

If you don’t want to be washing off the hair shampoo from your car and finding spot after spot on your car that is virtually paint-free, you will need to apply the hair shampoo to your car’s surface, then immediately rinse it off with water.

Can I Use Hair Shampoo On a Sunny Day to Wash My Car?

While you can use hair shampoo to wash your car on a bright sunny day, we find it is usually better if you use it on a day that is partly or mostly cloudy.

By doing so, this decreases the chances the hair shampoo will accidentally dry while on your car’s surface. If this happens, you can probably say goodbye to the paint that was underneath the shampoo.

To get the best results, pick a cloudy day to use hair shampoo on your car, then have the garden hose nearby to wash it off soon after it is applied.

Can I Use a Kitchen Sponge with Hair Shampoo when Washing My Car?

If you use the same type of sponge you use to wash your dishes when washing your car with hair shampoo, you will be creating a potential recipe for disaster.

While the hair shampoo may cause your car’s paint to fade away if left on too long, the dishwashing sponge you have in your hand to scrub the dirt off your car will likely be scratching whatever paint is left behind.

Just as the hair shampoo and car shampoo may look alike but are quite different, the same holds true for sponges. A kitchen sponge is made to be more abrasive since it will be used to scrub off food particles from plates and pans.

However, a sponge specifically made for washing a car will be far less abrasive, meaning you can rub it across your car’s surface without the worry of scratching the paint.

Will I Need Lots of Water When Using Hair Shampoo on My Car?

While it’s always best to try to conserve as much water as possible when washing your car, you’ll need to use quite a bit if you are using hair shampoo to get your car looking great.

Since it is critical to not let the hair shampoo dry on your car’s surface, you will be constantly applying the shampoo and then quickly rinsing it off. Due to the possibility of your car’s paint being damaged, if the shampoo is left on too long, you won’t be able to skimp on the amount of water you use for the washing.

If you opt to use hair shampoo regularly to wash your car, you’ll not only be spending much more to buy the shampoo but also expect to see a big increase in your monthly water bill.

Can Baby Shampoo be Used to Wash My Car?

Even though baby shampoo is formulated so that it can be used safely with babies and small children, it is unfortunately still potent enough that it can severely damage your car’s paint if left on too long during a typical washing.

Like regular shampoo, you should apply baby shampoo to your car’s surface, then immediately rinse it off with water.

Should you be doing only a touch-up on your car instead of a full-blown washing, a good trick to remember is to use a baby shampoo that has been diluted with water.

When you do this, you can usually remove tough dirt from your car with little worry about damaging the paint.

What if I Damage My Car with Hair Shampoo?

If you damage your car’s paint while washing it with hair shampoo, you may be on the hook for the repair costs.

In many cases, manufacturers will state in the owner’s manual how to properly clean the car, which will often include a list of what not to use. Thus, if you use hair shampoo, you may not get any sympathy from your car dealer.

If you use hair shampoo to wash your car, do it at your own risk!

Frankly, we’d find a few minutes to go get some car shampoo at the big-box store.

Conclusion On Washing A Car With Shampoo

Washing your car with dedicated vehicle cleaners is also the best option, but if you don’t have any on hand, then hair shampoo can be used to do the job.

Just follow the steps and tips in this article to ensure your paint job is safe, and you can have your car sparkling like new!

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!