Best Car Shampoo 2020: It’s a fundamental pillar of any car cleaning process so getting the right shampoo for the job is crucial. Whether it’s a full detail or quick maintenance wash, if you get the shampoo right then you’ll be on your way to a great finish.
It’s easy to assume that all car shampoos are the same. They often serve the same primary purpose of cleansing the paint by removing contamination. However, different shampoos often contain different elements which will change their behaviour or effect on the paintwork – hence why it’s important to use the best car shampoo for the job.
In this article we’ll be giving the Clean Car Talk recommendation on several car shampoos, each focussed on targeting a specific problem or use. We’ve also put together a buyer’s guide and FAQ section to ensure you know what to look for when buying your next car shampoo.
- Best All-Round Car Shampoo: Gtechniq G Wash Car Shampoo
- Best Car Shampoo for Quick Washes: Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner
- Best Value Car Shampoo: Sonax High Gloss Shampoo
- Best Gloss Enhancing Shampoo: Autobrite Direct Purple Velvet
- Best Shampoo for Hard Water: Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash
- Best Shampoo for Pressure Washer: Autoglym Polar Wash
High-quality shampoo offering all-round excellent performance, wash-safety and economy.
- Great foaming ability
- Impressive lubrication creates a slick feel
- pH neutral provides a gentle wash
- Helps to maintain existing waxes/sealants/coatings
- High concentration promotes an economical dilution ratio
- Fantastic cherry fragrance
- None that we could find
Whilst many car cleaning manufacturers have a range of various car shampoo, Gtechniq has focussed on perfecting a single shampoo product – and they’ve done a great job.
Gtechniq G Wash might slip under the radar of a lot of car cleaning enthusiasts when it comes to car cleaning shampoo, but it’s a very performant all-round car cleaning shampoo. Hence why it’s deemed the best choice in this article.
Gtechniq G Wash is a shampoo with great cleaning ability – offering a gentle yet effective clean on all levels of dirt and grime. On a well-maintained car, you may only need to use a few capfuls, making it economical to use every week. For a very dirty car, Gtechniq recommended using 4 capfuls to increase the strength of the shampoo.
In terms of foaming, G Wash is a high foaming shampoo which shows all the characteristics of a go-to shampoo for regular washes on your vehicle. This shampoo not only foams well but it has the level of lubrication you’d expect from such a shampoo.
If you wash your car regularly (weekly or fortnightly) then shampoo with lots of lubrication is essential, as this will reduce swirl marks and scratches on the paint – increasing the longevity of the gloss on your car.
Of course, G Wash is a pH neutral shampoo meaning that it won’t degrade any existing waxes or sealants on the surface of the paint. Gtechniq recommends this product as a maintenance shampoo on their ceramic coating. So you can be confident that it will help to maintain any wax, sealant or ceramic finishes on your car.
The slick feel of Gtechniq G Wash, combined with the fantastic cherry fragrance makes this a very enjoyable shampoo to use. It cleaning ability makes it a great all-round shampoo for all levels of car cleaning.
We believe that G Wash is one of the best all-round shampoos on the market at the moment.
- Size: 250ml | 500ml | 1000ml | 5000ml
- Price: £8.95 | £12.95 | £16.71 | £37.70
Shampoo offers a quick and effective clean, leaving behind a invisible water repellent film.
- Powerful cleaning performance
- Repels water, decreasing drying time
- Adds protective flim after every wash
- Increases gloss levels
- High concentration ensures it’s economical
- Low foaming compared to other shampoos
You won’t always be able to spend hours cleaning your car, so we’ve found a shampoo that is both easy and quick to use. Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo is a shampoo which offers both great cleaning performance and the added benefits of water repellency and a protective finish.
This is a shampoo that can be used on cars which already have wax/sealant protection or cars with no protection at all.
The key with this shampoo is that it adds a water repellant film to the paintwork. When you come to rinse the car with a pressure washer or hose after cleaning it, you’ll find that waterfalls off the car a lot quicker than traditional shampoo. This saves significant time when drying the car.
In terms of cleaning ability, Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner has the cleaning performance you’d expect from a well-established car cleaning brand. After all, they do hold a royal warrant as to the supplier of car cleaning products!
Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner offers enough cleaning bite to effectively remove road grime and dirt from the paint. It does so without also removing any waxes or sealants you’ve worked so hard to get on the car.
We can agree with Autoglym that this is a low foaming shampoo, but it never set out to be a super-suds solution. It still foams, just not as much as a traditional shampoo. More importantly, it still offers a good amount of lubrication – ensuring that dirt is safely removed from the paintwork without causing damage.
- Size: 500ml | 1000ml | 2500ml
- Price: £8.00 | £13.98 | £15.79
Everything you need in a shampoo at a modest price.
- Effective against road grime and grease
- High concentration produces 200+ litres of shampoo
- Contains anionic surfactants to soften water & increase foaming
- Produces a glossy finish with no streaks or residue
- Incredible value
- Fairly boring smell
- Not as slick as other shampoos in this article (low/medium lubricity)
Sonax High Gloss Shampoo ticks all the boxes of good car shampoo. This high-concentration formula offers a reliable clean against anything from light road grime to heavy dirt – making it a very versatile shampoo.
We love how safe this shampoo is against the paintwork. It’s phosphate-free and contains anionic surfactants which help to soften the water – thus producing a better foam. The high foaming suds are thick and long lasting, giving you confidence that harmful dirt particles are being lifted away from the paint.
Clean Car Talk would recommend using this shampoo on cars which have already been protected with a wax or sealant. The formula is gentle on existing protection – removing dirt & grime without stripping away wax/sealants. Sonax Gloss Shampoo doesn’t contain any waxes, fillers or gloss enhancers to it won’t actually add any protection, but it is a great maintainer.
- Size: 1000ml
- Price: £11.84
Buy on Amazon: Sonax High Gloss Shampoo 1000ml
High suds luxury shampoo with gloss enhancers, resulting in a stunning finish.
- Gloss enhancing elements create a deep, high gloss finish
- High foaming gives it a very slick feel
- Good cleaning ability against tough dirt & road grime
- pH-neutral so it won’t remove waxes/sealants
- High concentration allows up to 1500-1 dilution ration
- Risk of residue if using concentrated dilution
As the name suggests, Autobrite Purple Velvet is a shampoo with luxury in mind. It offers great cleaning ability whilst maintaining a slick feel between wash mitt and paint surface. This is ideal for those with darker coloured cars, as the high foaming abilities of the shampoo safely remove dirt from the paint’s surface – reducing the risk of ugly swirls or light scratches on the paint.
Purple Velvet’s party trick is the jaw-dropping finish it leaves on the paint. The gloss enhancing elements in this shampoo creates a rich shine, especially on darker coloured cars. It also has water-repelling properties which causes water to sheet off during the rinse process, making the subsequent drying process much easier.
Clean Car Talk recommends Purple Velvet to anyone who doesn’t mind paying slightly more for a premium-feel shampoo which offers a safe wash as well as a super high-gloss finish.
- Size: 500ml
- Price: £11.81
Buy on Amazon: Autobrite Direct Purple Velvet Shampoo 500ml
A fully synthetic shampoo designed to work well in hard water areas.
- Contains water softeners to combat hard water
- Reduces water spotting
- High foaming abilities offers a slick feel
- High gloss finish works great with all paint colours
- Thick consistency & lid size makes measuring a challenge
Straight from the Meguiar’s shampoo range, NXT Generation is one of the most underrated shampoos produced by the car detailing giant. NXT Generation is a purely synthetic car shampoo containing water softeners which help to combat hard water particles. This makes it great if you live in hard water areas, as it will increase foaming and will reduce water spots on your car.
The synthetic formulation provides a ph-balanced wash and enables the shampoo to emulsify dirt particles, lifting them safely away from the paint’s surface. This is not the most powerful of shampoos in terms of cleaning, but it offers a slick, soapy feel – giving you confidence that you’re not inflicting damage to your paint.
This shampoo is suitable for anyone, but it really comes into its own in hard water areas. Clean Car Talk recommends this shampoo if you live in a hard water area or you generally struggle with water spots on your car. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to dry your car but it will help to improve the washing process.
- Size: 532ml | 1800ml
- Price: £8.00 | £20.76
Part of the Autoglym Polar Series, this pressure washer applied shampoo achieves great results with speed and efficiency.
- Produces a thick blanket of foam/shampoo
- Quick & easy to apply
- Fairly economical at 25 washes per bottle
- Cleaning ability not as powerful as traditional shampoos
Polar Wash is a shampoo that’s designed to be applied to the car with a pressure washer and snow foam lance. Unlike conventional shampoos, this shampoo is applied to the entire car as a thick blanket of foam – making for a quick and easy wash process.
Whilst this shampoo does not offer the same level of cleaning ability as a conventional shampoo, it’s capable of tackling reasonable amounts of dirt and grime – it just struggles with the heavier stuff.
Read our in-depth review of the Autoglym Polar Range here.
- Size: 2500ml
- Price: £12.00
Buy on Amazon: Autoglym Polar Wash 2500ml
Best Car Shampoo Buyer’s Guide
What Makes a Great Shampoo?
Your choice of shampoo depends entirely on your needs. Like any other part of cleaning a car, a product should suit your needs which means there is no magical product that achieves everything. This is why most manufacturers have several variations of shampoo, each offering a slightly different result. However, there are some core properties which you should look out for when purchasing any shampoo.
The L.A.V. rule is a great way to determine if the shampoo has the ability to perform well as a shampoo, regardless of the additional properties it may possess:
Lubricity – Does the shampoo provide enough lubrication on the surface of the paint to safely lift dirt away during a contact wash?
Ability to Clean – Does the shampoo effectively remove dirt particles from the paint surface?
Value – Does the cost per use justify the final result of the shampoo? Why pay more for a shampoo that doesn’t achieve anything more than a cheaper alternative.
Types of Car Shampoo & Their Uses
1. Pure Shampoos
As the name suggests pure shampoos a quite simply a pure shampoo with no added waxes or gloss enhancers. Their aim is to remove dirt and grime from the car without adding or removing any existing waxes/sealants on the paint’s surface. This makes them a popular choice amongst car detailers because you have full control over what protection is on the paint’s surface.
2. Wash ‘n’ Wax Shampoos
Wax shampoos are essentially a pure shampoo with added wax properties (usually carnauba). These waxes leave a film of wax behind on the surface of the paint after cleaning.
Whilst they don’t offer the same cleaning abilities as a pure shampoo, wax shampoos do give you the benefit of added protection on a vehicle. These are great if you don’t wax your car but still want to benefit from a high shine finish and some protection from the elements. They’re also great if you wax your car because you’re essentially adding a sacrificial layer over existing wax layers. This will extend the life of any existing wax.
3. Luxury Shampoos
Luxury shampoos are those shampoos which are a bit more pricey, but usually offer a lot of great benefits. They’re usually full of additives, such as high-quality gloss enhancers and slick suds that leave an amazing finish on the surface.
Luxury shampoos are great for delicate washes, where lubrication is more important than harsh cleaners. A high foaming solution will reduce the risk of swirl marks on the paint because dirt particles are lifted away from the paint’s surface. This high-calibre of shampoo serves as great shampoos for vintage motors and expensive paint jobs – or if like me, you just want the best for your fairly average car.
4. Heavy Cleaning Shampoos
These highly concentrated shampoos have one goal in mind, providing a deep clean. Heavy cleaning shampoos are the heavy lifters of shampoos and are capable of cleaning the dirtiest of vehicles. This type of shampoo is so focussed on cleaning that they won’t contain any colourants, waxes, perfumes or thickeners – just cleaners.
I would not recommend heavy cleaning shampoos for regular washes because they tend to remove wax protection – not really leaving much of a gloss. However, these are great for big details where you want to give the car a deep clean before a polish and wax.
How to Wash Your Car Properly?
Pre Wash Before Contact Wash
Prewashing is an important stage of the car cleaning process. Whether you’re detailing a car or completing a regular maintenance wash, you should always prewash your car. Doing so will help to break down and remove heavy and loose dirt and road grime from the paints surface, prior to making physical contact. This is a proven technique for reducing swirls and light scratches on the paint, thus improving the overall finish of the car. It also gives the shampoo less work to do during the contact wash, resulting in a more effective clean.
Check out our Best Snow Foam article for more information on prewash products.
Two Bucket Wash Method
Through using the two-bucket wash method during the wash stage, you massively reduce the risk of transferring dirt back onto the paint.
For a detailed description of the two-bucket wash method, check out our two-bucket wash method guide. If you’re in a rush then here is a quick summary of this wash method:
- Fill one bucket with clean water and the other bucket with your car shampoo.
- Dunk your mitt into the soapy bucket before washing the car.
- After washing the car, rinse the dirty mitt in the rinse bucket to remove any dirt.
- Repeat the process until your car is clean!
We recommend Meguiar's Twin Swirl Free Paint Professional Car Wash Bucket Kit – two large buckets complete with grit-guards to ensure a safe wash.
Use a High-Quality Wash Mitt
There’s no point in getting your hands on the best car shampoo if you’re going to use it with a dirty old sponge.
The general rule of thumb with car washing is to avoid sponges, as they’re not effective at removing dirt from the paint’s surface. A sponge will tend to drag the dirt across the paint, causing scratches and ugly swirl marks.
Clean Car Talk recommends using a lambswool wash mitt for the best results. Lambswool is one of the softest types of wash mitt you can use, offering a luxurious clean on the most precious of paint jobs.
Always Dry Your Car
By not drying your car, you’re letting the water dry naturally on the paint. Unless you’re fortunate enough to own a water filtration system then this will likely lead to ugly water spots on the car. Not only are water spots ugly but once dried onto the paint, they can cause etching in the clear coat that may require paint correction to remove.
We’d always recommend using a high-quality drying towel to dry your car.
Can You Wash a Car with Dish Soap?
You should never wash your car with dish soap. Dish soap is designed to remove food grease and oil from plates, and it will do a great job at removing much-needed waxes and protection from your paint’s surface too. This will not only make your paint appear dull, but it will also expose the lightest of imperfections – completely killing the shine on your car.
Which Shampoo is Best for Black Cars?
Black cars are especially susceptible to swirl marks and light scratch during a contact wash. With this in mind, it’s important to use a shampoo with lots of suds and lubrication, to help lift dirt particles away from the paint.