Washing your own car might have seemed pointless when you could get it professionally valeted for less than a tenner, but the Sunday-morning car-wash is a great British tradition that has suddenly had to make a comeback. A good wash takes less than half an hour and can cost as little as 20p. Those savings can quickly add up – especially if you’re washing off mud and dust on a regular basis.
Doing your own wash also means you know the job’s being done thoroughly and carefully, using the most suitable cleaning products. That starts with buying a decent car shampoo, designed to cut through layers of road grime and leave your paintwork gleaming.
Here are ten of the best car shampoos, any of which will give you an effortless shine – along with our buying guide tips that’ll ensure you get the best car shampoo.
Top 10 The best car shampoo uk in the 2021
What Angelwax lacks in no-nonsense marketing, it by far makes up for in performance – claiming to be the purest formula. Its products get the job done and this Superior Automotive Shampoo is no different.
Using only natural products, this is a great choice for those with sensitive skin or allergies, since it doesn’t contain any detergents. Nonetheless, it fights it out proudly to remove grease and grime from the road, without creating streaks. It is a pricier choice, but a little goes a long way so this has staying power.
2.Power Maxed Csuwrtu Car Wash Shampoo and Wax
Well known on the race circuit, Maxed Power sees its fair share of grit and grime.
This slightly alkaline formula doesn’t strip wax coatings but will shift the grease and dirt built up on the bodywork and wheels. Fans like this formula since the foam lasts for the whole wash and the wax seal, which forces water to bead very quickly, will win over even the most hardened skeptics.
This 1-litre bottle also offers good value-for-money since you shouldn’t need more than four capfuls to get a great clean.
3.Meguiar’s G7164 Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo & Conditioner
Another concentrated formula is the Autoglym Car Shampoo Conditioner, which safely cleans and produces a glossy water repellent barrier. It’s a pH neutral formula that’s removes all types of dirt without stripping any polish or wax.
In terms of using the car shampoo, it only need 2 to 3 caps of the formula per bucket, which makes the 500 ml bottle far more long lasting than you would expect.
Autoglym produce a range of car shampoos but this is their low foaming formula with the added benefit of a water repellent barrier. If you would prefer a more budget friendly alternative, their standard shampoo is a great alternative.
4.Gtechniq W1 G Wash 500ml
Gtechniq are a highly reputable brand among professionals and detailing enthusiasts and are well-known for their quality products. The G Wash is a great example of that reputation and is designed to be a powerful car shampoo.
It’s a high foaming formula that’s designed to effectively break the bond between the dirt film and your car’s paintwork.
The Gtechniq G Wash is a high quality car shampoo that’s packed with additives for a safe yet deep clean. It isn’t the cheapest but you get what you pay for and it won’t disappoint.
5.Large Autoglym Bottle Quality Bodywork Shampoo
What the Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner lacked in its ability to make lots of foam, it more than made up for in our water-beading test. Not only did it leave very little water on the bodywork for the leather to clean off, it beaded quickly, too. At 30p a wash, it’s also competitively priced, making it the winner on our test. Assists in preserving the finish and appearance of your vehicle and Contains special additional ingredients which form a glossy water-repellent barrier.
6.Bilt Hamber Auto Wash Car Shampoo (500ml)
The bottle looks like something you might pick up from a pharmacy, and the contents are extremely concentrated: even though you only get a small quantity of auto-wash, it goes a very long way, working out to a cost of just 17p per bucket. Unfortunately, while Bilt Hamber is a respected name, the potency of its formula seems to have been reduced in recent years. Even though it was effective, the product left the surface of our test car slightly less water-repellent than the best-performing car shampoos.
7.Meguiar’s ME G12664 NXT Generation Car Wash
Meguiars NXT shampoo is highly concentrated so even though the initial price may look high, the large container and small amount required will easily make this last a year for 1-2 cars being regularly cleaned. This makes it cheaper than cheaper shampoos but also giving a quicker and easier shine.
Meguiars NXT does its job really well, breaking down dirt and stubborn marks with ease.
Once you’ve finished washing, the shampoo easily rinses off and the premium polymers leave a glossy just-waxed finish.
Great all round car shampoo that will maintain most wax and sealants with ease.
8.Autoglym New Improved Car Shampoo 5L
Autoglym have been producing quality car care products for years and are now known world-wide due to their commitment for quality.
This is a ph-netural shampoo so is safe for all wax and polish but does contain a conditioner.
While this effectively adds polymers to enhance gloss and also de-water to help the drying stage.
Its a great shampoo but I personally prefer their, originally trade only, pure shampoo.
It doesn’t have the conditioners but is a far nicer shampoo to use, smells of cherry and is still wax-safe.
9.ValetPRO Advanced Poseidon Car Wash
The name certainly makes a statement, and this shampoo did a reasonable job of cleaning our test car, with neat water beading on the surface, even if the water-repellent surface wasn’t as effective as the best. The price of 38p per wash is on the high side, but the shampoo is claimed to be gentle to protective wax and sealants on the car – even prolonging their life. You’d have to use it for years, versus other shampoos, to test the veracity of that claim, though.
10.SONAX GLOSS SHAMPOO (1l)
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.
How to choose the best car shampoo
Why do I need a special car shampoo?
Car shampoo is designed to leave your car with a shiny, water-repellent finish that’s easily rinsed off at the end of a wash. A nice aroma is a bonus, as is a reassuringly thick layer of foam in the bucket.
What ingredients should I look out for in a car shampoo?
Many shampoos contain carnauba wax, which is extracted from palm leaves and helps give your paintwork a shiny, showroom-style finish. Even if your shampoo contains carnauba wax, however, it’s best to properly wax your car after washing to provide optimum protection from the elements.
Is it worth paying a premium for expensive shampoo?
Not always. Some of the best-performing products work out much cheaper than more mediocre rivals. But when you compare prices, don’t simply look at the cost of the bottle: check how much you’ll need to use per wash. Some extremely concentrated shampoos require just 5ml to be added to a bucket of water, while others need ten times the quantity, so they work out much more expensive in the long run.
What’s the best way to use car shampoo?
Start by rinsing your car thoroughly, to remove as much dust and grit as possible. This will reduce the risk of scratching your car when you apply the shampoo. Next, dilute the shampoo – making sure to follow the instructions, since (as we’ve mentioned above) the recommended quantities can vary significantly.
Now use a quality sponge or microfibre mitt to apply the shampoo from top to bottom of the car. Leave the wheels until last, to ensure you don’t accidentally end up picking up grit with your sponge and scratching the paintwork. Wring the sponge out into a separate bucket, so the collected grime doesn’t get transferred back onto the car.
Once your vehicle is fully lathered, rinse it thoroughly with clean water and then dry it with a chamois leather. Finally, a layer of car wax will protect the newly-washed sheen and make it easier to clean. Buy an aqua wax that’s applied to the car once it’s rinsed and you can cover both jobs at once.
If you have sensitive skin, consider wearing latex gloves or Marigolds. Car shampoos contain tough degreasing agents, designed to shift caked-on dirt: they aren’t kind to skin.
As a general rule, it is good practice to wash your car at least once a week or once every couple of weeks. You should also take the time to polish the paint at least every six months and to apply a coat of wax at least every three months to further protect then paint against contaminants and UV damage.