Is hair shampoo safe for a car wash?

By Arif

Rinsing shampoo for car wash

So, you found yourself in a situation where you desperately needed to wash your car but didn’t have any car soap/shampoo on hand. Sighting the urgency, you start wondering about using hair shampoo for washing. But, is hair shampoo safe for a car wash?

If not, can you use body wash to wash your car? Or baby shampoo? Etc. After all, shampoos are designed to clean and lather so why not use any shampoo right?

In this article, we’ll dive into the topic and explore whether hair shampoo or any shampoo/soap other than dedicated car wash products are safe to use on a car.

You will also learn about the alternatives to car shampoos and find some of the answers to questions related to shampoos and car wash.

Is hair shampoo safe for a car wash?

Yes and no. If it’s a matter of occasionally using hair shampoo for car wash then yes you can. Hair shampoo is a competitive alternative to car wash shampoos and works really well if used appropriately.

However, making a habit of using hair shampoo repeatedly for washing can generate problems for your car paint.

Hair shampoo contains ingredients that may leave residues or streaks on your car’s surface. At the same time, hair shampoos lack the lubrication levels offered by dedicated car shampoos which could increase the risk of scratching the car’s paint during the wash.

So, if it’s a one-time wash or part of an urgent plan then go ahead and use hair shampoo for washing your car. But, to protect and maintain your car’s original paint and wax avoid using it regularly.

Does hair shampoo damage car paint?

The simple answer is yes. This is because hair shampoos aren’t specifically designed and formulated for car wash.

Will you use car shampoo to wash your hair? I am sure not. Similarly, using hair shampoo to wash your car may strip away the protective layer of wax on the paint.

Washing hair with shampoo

Hair shampoos contain harsh chemicals which if not thoroughly rinsed off, can leave behind residues that can dull the paint and cause it to look hazy.

Secondly, hair shampoos have certain acidic pH levels to remain gentle on scalps. On the other hand, car paint prefers a more neutral or slightly alkaline environment that is helpful in preventing wax, protecting the paint, and keeping it shining.

In a nutshell, hair shampoos can potentially damage car paint due to the chemicals and pH levels they contain.

Dos and Don’ts while using hair shampoo for cash wash

If you are still planning to use hair shampoo for car wash then here are some of the dos and don’ts tips to help you achieve better washing results:


Dilute the hair shampoo with water. The dilution ratio should be appropriate as overly concentrated liquid increases the risk of damaging the paint.

Be gentle while applying the shampoo. To achieve proper gentleness use of a soft wash mitt or sponge is required.

After washing with the shampoo, make sure to rinse your car thoroughly with clean water. This reduces the risk of streaks or spots from capturing the paint.

Use soft and clean towels or microfiber cloths to dry your car’s surface. This helps prevent water spots and gives your car a polished finish.

Cleaning a car with sponge


Never use the shampoo straight on the car paint without mixing it in water. Don’t use hot water, as it can also affect the paint.

Avoid scrubbing vigorously. Harsh scrubbing or using abrasive materials can lead to scratches or swirl marks on your car’s paint.

Don’t leave the hair shampoo for extended periods on the car’s surface or even let it dry on your car’s paint. Such negligence could damage the protective coatings.

Don’t skip waxing. Hair shampoos may strip wax from your car’s paint so ensure to reapply wax after washing to maintain protection and enhance the shine.

Can I use body wash to wash my car?

Technically speaking yes you can use body wash to wash your car. It could be one of the other alternatives to clean your car one time. However, if you are thinking of doing it again and again then hold it.

The body wash is formulated for use on human skin with a different pH balance, moisturizers, oils, and fragrances.

These ingredients are great for human skin but not necessarily suitable for your car’s exterior surface. The long-time use of body wash chemicals and acids cause dullness of car paint.

Moreover, body washes typically lack the lubrication properties found in dedicated car wash soaps and shampoos. Lubrication shortage could inadvertently result in scratches or swirl marks on your car’s surface.

So, while it may be tempting to use body wash for car washing, it’s better to stick with a product specifically designed for washing your car.

Is baby shampoo safe for a car wash?

Well, it depends on your personal choice. If your baby is fine with it then go ahead and use it for car wash. Jokes apart!

Baby shampoos are usually gentle with milder formulations and a neutral pH balance. That means it won’t be as damaging as an adult body wash or shampoo. As a useful alternative, baby shampoo can be on your list for a quick car wash.

Again, it is not a natural cover-up for a traditional car wash liquid or soap. Since the additives and conditioners are minor in baby shampoos it won’t be strong enough to provide effective cleaning while washing your car.

In summary, baby shampoo can be a viable option for a car wash but remember to exercise caution, and ensure proper lubrication during the washing process. More importantly, don’t make it a habit to use baby shampoo as a permanent solution for your car wash.

Car shampoo alternatives

There is no doubt that dedicated car shampoos are the best option to wash your vehicle. however, if you find yourself in a situation of washing your car in urgency without access to car shampoo or soap then here are some of the alternatives you can use:

Dish soap – I am personally not in favor of using dish soap to clean a car nevertheless it remains one of the potential replacements for car shampoos. Dish soap is designed to cut through grease and grime, making it effective for removing dirt from your car’s surface.

On the flip side, the chemicals and additives in a dish bar can be harmful to car paint. Regularly using dish soap can potentially strip away wax or protective coatings.

So, use it sparingly and consider re-waxing your car after washing. It is better to opt for mild dish soap rather than hard ones for fruitful results.

Laundry detergent – Who says laundry detergent cannot be used outside laundry? Oh yes! If it is a matter of shining your vehicle detergent is another usable option.

But do not use any detergent. Look for one that is free of dyes, fragrances, and additives. Such products are generally milder and less likely to cause damage to your car’s paint.

However, just like dish soap detergents are responsible for taking away your car’s original paint, the surface of the car is vulnerable to losing wax and coatings with regular use of laundry detergent as well.

As a precautionary measure, use them judiciously and ensure to re-wax your vehicle after every wash.

Vinegar – Another great alternative to car shampoo is vinegar. This common liquid that is part of your kitchen is a handy option to shine your car.

The natural ingredients of vinegar effectively strip the grime and dust without being too harsh on the car paint.

For getting the best results a thorough rinse is required to avoid spots on the car’s surface. With all the positives it doesn’t mean you use vinegar to wash your car forever.

No matter how safe the ingredients of natural vinegar are you may be leaving the wax and paint of your car to lose its effect in the long run.

Additionally, all-purpose cleaners and baking soda are some of the alternatives to car shampoo that are worth mentioning. Whichever option you choose to clean it’s crucial to select a non-abrasive and non-acidic cleaner to avoid damaging the paint.

Remember, while these alternatives can work in a pinch, they may not provide the same level of lubrication, protection, and shine as dedicated car wash soaps/shampoos.

It’s always best to consult with a professional or do thorough research before using any alternative cleaning products on your vehicle.

Final thoughts

While hair shampoos can be used as an alternative to car wash soap or shampoo occasionally it is not an ideal choice for regular car washing.

Hair shampoos are formulated for a different pH balance and purpose, which in some way or another has the potential to harm your car’s paint or strip away protective coatings in the long run.

You can also use several other options in the cleaning segment such as body wash, baby shampoo, etc. however all these products are temporary car washing solutions.

For a permanent and professional cleaning purpose, it’s always best to use dedicated car wash soap or shampoo specifically designed for automotive use.

This ensures proper cleaning, lubrication, and protection for your car. More importantly, car soaps and shampoos are comparatively cheap and offer comprehensive results in terms of shine and appearance.

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I am the founder of TheCarPlus. As a passionate car owner and enthusiast, I offer practical solutions and insights from my own personal experiences combined with extensive online research.

The purpose of creating this website is to empower fellow car owners and motorcyclists like 'YOU' with knowledge and practical solutions to enhance your vehicle's performance and aesthetics.

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