The Best Car Shampoo in the UK: 2020 Guide & Review

One of the essential tasks in car maintenance is regularly washing your car. Not only does it keep your ride gorgeous and sparkly clean, but it can also help prolong the vibrant colour of your paint.

When it comes to cleaning, many people would often visit the local car wash or a professional detailer. But did you know that you can do it just as easily at home, and at a fraction of the cost? The secret is in using the best car wash shampoo to help thoroughly clean your car while maintaining its finish.

But it can be challenging to pick one with such overwhelming choices, especially if it’s your first time buying one. Do you pick a shampoo or a snow foam? Well, if you prefer less bubbles everywhere, you should go with the former. And good news! We’re rounding out the best car shampoos in this article.

Best Car Shampoo: Our Top Picks

Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo

  • Sizes: 2.5L / 1L / 500 ml
  • pH Level: neutral
  • Type: heavy-duty car wash shampoo

The Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo is, hands down, one of the best car shampoos in the UK that’s been around for a very long time. The cleaner is a brilliant compromise between gentle and deep cleansing. It excels at stripping dirt from your car without doing any damage to the surface. Its gentle cleaning is because of Autoglym’s neutral pH formula.

The Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo breaks our preconceived notions when it comes to car wash shampoo – that suds and foams are essential to a good wash. While they are, Autoglym proves that it doesn’t need to be. Bodywork Shampoo is a low foaming shampoo that can clean just as effectively as any mainstream foam-heavy cleaner. We honestly didn’t think it could clean because it just felt like soapy water, but the results do speak for itself!

The low sud property of Autoglym is because of its water repellant film, which also makes this car shampoo super quick to rinse off and dry. The result is a streak-free and squeaky-clean finish. It’s the perfect prep work to make way for Autoglym’s legendary Super Resin Polish and Extra Gloss Protection.

And the great thing about this cleaning product is that it’s competitively priced. At around 60+ washes per 2.5-litre bottle, that comes down to just 26 – 30p per wash session. Overall, this Bodywork Shampoo ticks all the right boxes, making it the best car wash shampoo in our opinion.

Pros

  • Enhances water beading
  • Deep cleaning action
  • pH neutral
  • Rinses off easily

Cons

  • The scent is not that pleasant

Our Rating: 4.9 / 5.0

Angelwax Shampoo

  • Sizes: 500 ml / 5 litre
  • pH level: neutral
  • Type: pure car wash shampoo   

Angelwax touts itself as one of the gentlest car wash shampoos you can buy, and it certainly shows. This pure shampoo uses only natural ingredients without any additives. With a neutral pH level and foamy formulation, it can effectively strip off dirt while doing zero damage to your paintwork or wax layer, and even your skin!

One thing we love about Angelwax is its fruity, citrus scent, which can give you a pleasant and refreshing whiff every time you drive. It also has a fast-drying formula that’s comparable to that of the Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo, giving your car that nice, streak-free finish.

The only significant drawback of this car wash shampoo is its price, which is slightly more expensive compared to other cleaning products that come in bigger bottles. Nevertheless, Angelwax is an impressive pure car wash shampoo and is perfect for delicate and expensive paintwork.

Pros

  • Amazing scent
  • pH neutral formula
  • Fast drying

Cons

  • More expensive per wash compared to other shampoos

Our Rating: 4.7 / 5.0

Meguiar’s Ultimate Car Wash and Wax

  • Size: 1.4L / 473 ml
  • pH level: neutral
  • Type: wash and wax car shampoo

The Meguiar’s Ultimate Car Wash and Wax is, as the name says, one of the best car wash shampoos for both cleaning and waxing. And it excels in both.

Meguiar’s features high foam action, producing a healthy amount of soap suds that lifts dirt and grime, helping facilitate the deep clean that this shampoo gives. It’s thankfully pH neutral so that it won’t do any damage to your car’s finish.

The other component of this Meguiar’s shampoo is the carnauba wax enhanced with synthetic polymers. Not only does it add a layer of protection versus the harsh elements, but it also leaves a glossy finish that helps enhance the visual appeal of your car.

The only drawback with Meguiar’s is that its water beads take considerably longer to form, increasing drying time and risking streaks in your finish. And as a big name brand, the cost isn’t cheap, either.

Nevertheless, if you’re after an all-in-one cleaning solution that both cleans and protects, Meguiar’s is the best car wash shampoo for you.

Pros

  • Gives superior protection and shine to your car’s finish
  • Deep yet gentle cleaning action
  • pH neutral formula

Cons

  • Doesn’t bead water as well, so drying takes longer

Our Rating: 4.6 / 5.0

Turtle Wax ZipWax

  • Size: 500 ml / 1L / 2L / 5L
  • pH level: not neutral
  • Type: wash and wax car shampoo

Turtle Wax is a brand that’s familiar to anyone who’s ever waxed their car, but do you know they also have a line of car wash shampoo for the longest time? So it’s surprising that it’s only now that they’ve combined their shampoo and legendary wax into one package – the ZipWax.

ZipWax is a budget-friendly shampoo, costing just £12 for a 5-litre bottle. It’s certainly fantastic value for money, especially considering it’s both a car wash and wax solution.

The shampoo uses a super-concentrated solution that effectively cleans off any dirt, oil, grime, and soot from your car’s surface. Despite not being pH neutral (or, at least, it doesn’t indicate it), ZipWax is surprisingly gentle on your finish. That or the Turtle Wax takes care of any damage that the cleaner is causing.

Either way, the result is just the same – a glossy and shiny finish with depth, and a protective layer to boot. You’ll notice that the car is shinier and spotless with each cleaning session. Note that the amount of wax isn’t the same as what you would get with the Turtle Wax, but that’s to be expected.

ZipWax also adds a water repellant layer that beads water for easier rinsing and faster drying.

One drawback a lot of users report is that it doesn’t seem to sud as much with the recommended dosage of 1 capful per bucket of water. If you want a foamier shampoo, then you’d need to use significantly more, increasing the price per wash.

Overall, if you want to clean your car on a tight budget regularly, the ZipWax is a good pick for you. It’s gentle, effective, and adds considerable shine and gloss to your car.

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Water repellant formula
  • Deep cleaning

Cons

  • Doesn’t sud/foam as much

Our Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

GTechniq GWash

  • Size: 250 ml / 500 ml / 1L / 5L
  • pH Level: neutral
  • Type: premium car wash shampoo

The GTechniq GWash is a premium car wash shampoo made by a well-regarded company that specializes in professional car detailing. With those credentials, one would have high hopes for this shampoo. Fortunately, it delivers.

GWash is a powerful cleaner that produces a high amount of foam, which is the secret to its cleaning prowess. It breaks the bonds between the dirt particles and your car without the need for any physical scrubbing. It provides superior lubrication and prevents abrasion, making it some of the best car wash shampoo you’ll ever use.

Despite its power, GWash is a gentle car cleaner. It uses a biodegradable, pH neutral formula that works well to preserve the paint and wax finish of your car. It also dries up amazingly fast, so you get virtually no spots or streaks.

Since it’s a professional shampoo, though, it’s expected that it’s one of the most expensive car cleaning products you can get. However, the results do speak for themselves. Cars washed with GWash are slick and super shiny, and the scent is excellent as well. It feels like a professional detailer did the cleaning for you.

In our opinion, the GTechniq GWash is still bang for your buck. It lasts long with proper use, gives exceptional results, and is a comparatively inexpensive way to clean expensive cars.

Pros

  • High foam formula effectively cleans without any abrasion
  • pH neutral formula
  • Leaves a glossy shine with no streaks

Cons

  • Higher priced than any other car wash shampoo

Our Rating: 4.8 / 5.0

Bilt Hamber Auto Wash

  • Size: 500 ml
  • pH level: neutral
  • Type: pure car wash shampoo

At first glance, the Bilt Hamber looks more like a pill bottle you’d get at the corner pharmacy than a car cleaning product. But it’s actually a fairly effective and powerful car wash shampoo that doesn’t contain any additives, scents, or wax.

Now, you might think that this is an expensive option – after all, it costs almost £16 for a 500 ml bottle. But the reality is that Bilt Hamber is pretty affordable because you only need 5 ml of it per bucket. That translates to just around 16p per use – not too costly, isn’t it?

But is it effective? Fortunately, it is.

For its small dosage, the surfactants of the Bilt Hamber are unforgiving of grime and dirt thanks to its high foaming action. It’s also gentle on your car’s surface, especially the layers of wax and paint. Bilt Hamber is also non-corrosive, so it’s excellent for cleaning steel surfaces of some vintage cars.

Indeed, the Bilt Hamber brand is well regarded by enthusiasts, having won multiple “Best Car Shampoo” awards from prestigious publications. But while it’s an excellent cleaner, it’s simply not as effective as the best cleaners like Autoglym or even GTechniq. However, because Bilt Hamber is cheaper, it still serves as an excellent alternative.

Pros

  • Gentle pH neutral formula
  • Non-corrosive to bare metal surfaces
  • High foam, deep cleaning action
  • Compact bottle

Cons

  • An effective washer, but not as good as other brands like Autoglym

Our Rating: 4.8 / 5.0

Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash

  • Size: 532 ml / 1.8L
  • pH level: neutral
  • Type: pure car wash shampoo

Another entry from Meguiar’s, the NXT Generation Car Wash is the best car wash shampoo if you live in an area with hard water.

It uses a fully synthetic formula that contains water softeners that lessen the effect of hard water (which can exaggerate spots and streaks). Aside from giving a cleaner finish, soft water also helps the water foam more, increasing its cleaning ability.

Speaking of its cleaning ability, NXT Generation uses Engineered Synthetic Polymers (ESP) which gives superior foaming and lubrication, emulsifying and removing dirt from your car’s surface. The bubbles generally last throughout a typical cleaning session, which is a good sign. However, it feels less slick than other cleaners. The pH neutral formula also makes it gentle on your car’s finish and wax layer.

Overall, the Meguiar’s NXT Generation Car Wash shines best if you live in a place with hard water or have a consistent problem with water spots that other car shampoos can’t solve. Otherwise, it’s still an excellent cleaning product but not the most powerful in this list.

Pros

  • Contains water softeners to reduce water spots and streaks significantly
  • High level of foaming
  • Neutral pH

Cons

  • Not the most powerful cleaner on this list
  • Thick consistency makes pouring it a challenge

Our Rating: 4.7 / 5.0

Autoglym Polar Wash with Polar Blast Pre-Wash

  • Capacity: 2.5L
  • pH level: neutral
  • Type: pressure washer shampoo

The Autoglym Polar series is a tandem of car wash shampoos that are used specifically with high-pressure car washers. One is Polar Blast, a snow foam used for the pre-wash, and the other is Polar Wash, for the contact wash.

The Polar Blast pre-wash coats your car in a thick foam that helps loosen up some of the dirt. It also has the advantage of reaching every inch of your car, even the hard-to-reach crevices. In many ways, this works just like any other regular car wash shampoo. It’s also pH neutral to help preserve the protective layers of your car.

Polar Wash, on the other hand, is applied after the pre-wash and thoroughly cleans everything left behind by the Polar Blast. It’s also applied using a power washer, and then you need to agitate the foam with a mitt or sponge.

Just like anything Autoglym makes, both the Polar Blast and Wash are incredibly effective at cleaning your car and leaving it with a flawless finish. One minor caveat is that it’s best with a snow lance attachment, as a soap sub attachment will not produce the thick foam that’s needed for this cleaner to work.

If you’re thinking of investing in a power washer, this is the best car wash shampoo pair to complement that.

Pros

  • A two-step process that virtually removes all dirt and grime
  • Cleans even hard to reach places
  • pH neutral formula

Cons

  • Requires a snow foam lance attachment for maximum effectiveness

Our Rating: 4.8 / 5.0

Why Use a Car Wash Shampoo?

For years, people have been using anything from soaps to home detergents to clean their cars, and it does do the job. However, the problem with this is that some cleaning products are just too potent. They can damage the surface or strip away the protective wax layer of your car. Over time, you’ll notice a gradual fading of your car’s paint.

That’s where a car wash shampoo comes in. Their primary purpose is to remove dirt, grime, film traffic, and other pollutants without damaging your car’s surface. Car shampoos are made up of surfactants, which helps trap dirt particles from your car. Hence, you can remove them without the need to vigorously wipe the surface, which can cause scratches and swirls.

Beyond this, some car wash shampoos have added components like wax that adds a layer of protection or enhances your car’s finish.

Things to Consider When Buying Car Shampoo

Just like humans, there’s a wide variety of shampoos you can get for your car, each with their use cases. Sometimes, you might even need two kinds of car cleaning products in the same car washing session, depending on your methods.

Here are some of the things you need to consider when finding the best car shampoo for you.

The Types of Car Wash Shampoo

Not all shampoos are created equal, and their intended use isn’t even the same despite all of them being car cleaning products. Here are some of the types you need to be aware of:

Pure Shampoo is car shampoo in its purest form. Their only aim is to effectively wash off the dirt and stains from the surface of your car, without affecting or removing the protective layers already present.

Their purity gives them superior cleaning ability compared to other types of car wash shampoo. But because they lack any added benefits, they’re intended to be used with other car cleaning products for a more holistic care regimen.

One other reason you’d choose this over an all-in-one car wash shampoo that conveniently has more features is control. Professional detailers use pure shampoos to clean cars without messing up the delicate balance of protective layers that they’ve painstakingly built. They’re also ideal for regular sessions if you wash your car at home.

Heavy Duty Car Wash Shampoo is pure shampoo on steroids. As the name suggests, these are used for the most demanding of cleaning sessions. Think of a 4×4 after sloshing through wet mud all day for a week. And like pure shampoos, they also don’t contain any additives or enhancers.

Their cleaning power, however, comes at a price. They can strip away some of the protective layers on your car’s surface or even damage the paint. Thus, they’re not intended for regular use. Instead, heavy-duty car wash shampoos are best suited for the big, detailing sessions that happen 2 – 3 times a year. They can effectively do a deep clean on the car before applying new layers of wax and polish.

Wash and Wax Shampoos combine the cleaning power of car wash soap and the protection of wax, usually carnauba. This helps avoid damage from the elements, as well as giving your car a lovely glossy finish and vibrant colour.

A car wash shampoo with wax is excellent if you don’t actively wax your car as it gives you some of the benefits (although not as extensively as a real wax job). But even if your car already has a layer of wax, wax shampoos add a second layer that protects the first one.

Premium Car Wash Shampoo is some of the most expensive car wash products you can find, but they do offer a lot of added benefits. They clean in a much more delicate fashion, relying on extensive foaming to remove dirt rather than vigorous wiping. This helps avoid unsightly marks, swirls, and scratches on your car’s surface. These cleaners also have additives that help give a flawless finish after cleaning.

Premium shampoos are the car cleaner of choice for expensive cars (like vintage cars) or paint jobs.

Pressure Washer Shampoo is a type of shampoo that’s explicitly used with a high-pressure washer and foam cannon attachment. Cleaning your car with this equipment is a two-stage process that each involves a specific kind of shampoo.

The first one is called the pre-wash, which uses a specialized car wash shampoo called the snow foam. It’s so-called because it resembles a thick layer of snow that covers your car. The foam sticks to your car longer, loosening the dirt and grime to prepare it for washing.

The second step is the contact wash. While you can use regular shampoo in this step, there are shampoos made just for this purpose. Using them is much safer and prevents possible clogging of your pressure washer from too much foaming from regular shampoos or detergents.

Cleaning Ability

When it comes down to it, the most crucial consideration is how effectively a car wash shampoo is at cleaning dirt. It should also be your primary criteria when you’re comparing two products at different price points. Can the cheaper alternative clean better than the costlier product? Because if yes, then it might be worth it to buy the former no matter how many added features the latter has.

Related to its cleaning ability is the amount of suds that the car wash shampoo can produce. Generally speaking, having lots of thick suds is beneficial because it can remove more dirt without the need for vigorous scrubbing and, therefore, help prevent scratches. However, not every car owner likes a high-foaming shampoo. Some prefer a low-sud formula since it helps with water sheeting that makes rinsing the car easier.

Lubrication is also an essential property that can clean dirt away during contact washing.

pH Balance

pH balance is an essential aspect of car shampoos because it affects how effectively it cleans your car. Surfactants, which are the particles in shampoo that dirt clings to, works much better in an alkaline environment. The problem with this, though, is that it also damages the layer of wax or polish in your car.

That’s why it’s best to get a pH neutral car shampoo for your cleaning regimen. They are gentle enough to clean your car while preserving the protective layers.

There are certain situations where you don’t want a pH neutral car shampoo, but these are few and far between. For example, wax stripping shampoos (which have a pH of 9 – 10) are used by professional detailers to intentionally strip away old layers of wax in preparation for putting a new one. On the flip side, low pH cleaners are used by detailers to remove brake dust in older cars.

Quick Drying Formula

A car wash shampoo that dries quickly is vital to prevent a pet peeve of many car owners – water stains. These unsightly marks or streaks, which appear after you wash your car, kind of beats the purpose of you washing it in the first place.

Water streaks are caused by minerals and other particles in the water that’s left behind after it dries up. Sunlight and heat then “bake” these particles into your car’s surface, causing the faint white spots that you see.

A quick-drying car wash formula prevents this from happening, and makes your car wash session easier, too. This is done chiefly through a water repellant layer which promotes water beading, allowing them to quickly run down from your car’s surface instead of pooling there to dry.

Cost

When comparing the prices of car wash shampoos, you should go beyond checking just the price of the bottle itself. For example, a 500 ml bottle with a price tag of £20 might seem costly versus your other options. But if it gives you over a hundred washes, that amounts to just 20p per washing. Suddenly it isn’t so bad, after all.

Hence, the more important consideration is how much it will cost your per washing session. To figure this out, divide the price per bottle by the estimated number of washes of the shampoo. You’ll often get a price somewhere in the 10p – 30p range.

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