Car Wash

Does Shampoo Damage Your Car Paint? — [Myths & Facts]

Hair shampoo can indeed damage and/or fade car paint. This happens only if the hair shampoo is left on the car’s exterior for a long time or not washed off thoroughly. 

Hair shampoos are formulated to be gentle on the scalp and hair, but it is too harsh for car paint. A harsh, abrasive shampoo can strip the wax off your car, leaving it vulnerable to scratches, swirl marks, dull paint finish, and damage.

But remember, this happens only occasionally. Most of the time, if you opt for an appropriate, non-abrasive shampoo, it won’t significantly damage the car paint. 

So, Can I Use Hair Shampoo To Wash My Car?

Remember, it is not the hair shampoo that damages the car paint, it is how long you leave it on the car’s exterior or interior and the technique you use to wash your car. So, you can technically use any hair-washing shampoo to wash your car. 

However, there are some key things that you need to keep in mind. 

  1. Time — Hair shampoos are not meant to stay on surfaces for extended periods. Apply them as fast as you can and rinse them off promptly.
  2. Technique — Ensure you use proper car-washing techniques to avoid damaging the car’s exterior or interior. Do not use car wash brushes with rough bristles. 
  3. Brand — Some hair shampoos are more harsh than others, so they may not be suitable for use on car surfaces; choose carefully.
  4. Rinse — Once the shampoo is settled, rinse it off your car with water as quickly as possible to avoid potential damage to the car’s paint.

What I meant so far is that you can use hair-washing shampoo on your car’s exterior as long as you follow the proper guidelines. Ensure you have a non-abrasive shampoo and apply and rinse off promptly using proper washing techniques. 

What Hair Shampoo Is Most Suitable To Wash Car?

Baby shampoo” is the most suitable option for washing your car as an alternative to a dedicated car shampoo. Always choose a pH-balanced, sulfate-free, gentle, and non-stripping shampoo that is designed for sensitive hairs. 


Remember, you should know how to make a proper cleaning solution of water and the hair shampoo you choose. If I need to use baby shampoo, I mix 2-4 capfuls of the shampoo per gallon of water to make a cleaning solution. 

Tips To Avoid Damaging Your Car Paint With Shampoo

Avoid using car washing sponges. Sponges can trap dirt particles and can scratch the car paint. I always use washing mitts, not sponges, to wash my vehicles. 

Wash your car with the Two-Bucket Method. Prepare two 1-gallon buckets, filling both with clean water. Mix the soap in one of the buckets, leaving the other bucket with fresh water only. 

Soak your washing mitt in the soapy bucket and start the washing procedure. Each time you need to rinse, use the bucket with fresh water only, not the one with the cleaning solution. 

Don’t wash your car in direct sunlight. Shampoo dries quickly in direct sunlight, leaving streaks and spots on your car. Find a shady spot or wash your car early in the morning or late in the evening.

Use the right tools for the job. A microfiber sponge or wash mitt is gentle on your car’s paint and won’t scratch or damage it. Avoid using rough brushes or scrubbers, as they can scratch your car’s paint.

Rinse thoroughly. Be sure to rinse your car thoroughly with clean water before and after shampooing to remove any dirt after washing or debris that could scratch the paint.

Why Is Car Shampoo Better Than Hair Shampoo?

Suppose you have both hair-washing and car shampoo. In such a case, I strongly recommend opting for dedicated car shampoo. Why? 

You are sure that car special shampoo won’t harm the paint. This is because car shampoos are specifically formulated to remove and clean dirt and grime without harming the protective layer of paint. 

Car shampoos also contain ingredients that protect the paint from UV rays, contaminants, and other elements that can damage the paint. 

How To Use Car Shampoo During Car Wash?


1. Choose The Right Car Shampoo.

When washing my car, I start with selecting the right car shampoo to avoid damaging the paint. I opt for a car-specific pH-balanced shampoo that doesn’t have harsh substances that can strip off the paint’s protective layer. 

To make a more precise decision when choosing a car shampoo, I never forget to read the label to ensure that it’s safe to use on the car’s paint. 

Note: If you want to learn more about the ideal car shampoo, its types, or the related facts and figures, I have added a dedicated section below. Once you have learned the use of shampoo, check the section below before buying a car-friendly shampoo.

2. Rinse Your Car Thoroughly With Water.

To ensure proper cleaning without damaging the paint surface, I thoroughly rinse my car with water to remove any loose dirt or debris before applying shampoo. I typically use a hose or pressure washer to wash away the grime. 

3. Prepare The Shampoo Following The Given Instructions.

I always follow the shampoo bottle’s instructions to prepare the solution. Typically, I need to dilute and mix the shampoo with water in a bucket before applying it to the car’s surface.

4. Apply The Shampoo Using a Sponge/ Wash Mitt.

Using a sponge or wash mitt, I apply the shampoo to my car’s surface, starting from the top and working my way down. I never let the shampoo sit on the car for too long as it can dry up and leave marks on the paint surface

Tips: Rinse your mitt or sponge frequently to remove any debris or dirt that might put scratches on the paint.

5. Rinse Your Car Thoroughly Again.

After washing the car with shampoo, I rinse it off thoroughly with water to remove any residue. I ensure to rinse every nook and cranny, including the wheels and tires, to eliminate any remaining shampoo.

6. Dry Your Car Via Microfiber Towel. 

I use a microfiber towel or chamois to dry the car’s surface. I never use regular towels or rags as they can scratch the paint surface. I pat the towel on the surface to absorb the water rather than rubbing it back and forth.

Different Types of Car Shampoos & Their Benefits

There are various types of car shampoos available in the market today. Each type has its own benefits and can provide a suitable type of protection for your car’s paint. 


Following are some of the common types of car shampoos (I use for my car), along with their benefits that you can choose to make your car shine like glass

pH-Neutral Shampoos 

These shampoos have been specially formulated to preserve the natural pH balance of your car’s paint. They are gentle and free from harsh chemicals that may cause harm to the paint.

Wax-infused Shampoos 

These shampoos contain wax particles that help to create a protective layer on your car’s paint, providing added shine and protection.

Foam Shampoos 

These shampoos are great for creating a thick lather that assists in getting rid of dirt and grime easily. They are also gentle on the paint, reducing the risk of scratches.

Ceramic-Infused Shampoos 

These shampoos are designed to create a hydrophobic layer on your car’s paint that repels water and dirt, providing long-lasting protection. This way, an extra layer of protection covers your car, like having ceramic coating applied to it

All-In-One Shampoos 

These shampoos combine cleaning, waxing, and polishing properties, providing a one-stop solution for car washing.

[Note: Choosing the right type of shampoo for your car depends on your specific needs and preferences. 

However, regardless of the type, it is essential to ensure that the shampoo you use is safe and gentle on your car’s paint.]

Can I Use Hand Soap To Wash My Car?

Using hand soap to wash a car is pretty much similar to using hair shampoo. You can use hand soap if you don’t have car shampoo, but ensure it is not abrasive. Make a gentle cleaning solution and apply and rinse it off promptly. Don’t let it sit on the paint for a long while. 


Hair shampoo can be utilized to wash a car without damaging its paint. Do not leave the hair shampoo on the car’s exterior for long. Not all hair-washing shampoos can damage car paint. Always choose a non-abrasive shampoo. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Hair Shampoo To Wash A Car?

Yes, you can use a non-abrasive, mild baby hair shampoo to wash a car. However, ensure not to let the solution be on the car paint for a long while. Rinse it off promptly. 

Can I Use Body Wash To Wash My Car?

Although possible, I don’t personally recommend car paint. It may contain moisturizers, fragrances, and other additives that can leave residues or harm the car’s finish. I suggest you opt for a shampoo particularly formulated for cars.

Does Soap Damage Car Paint?

If left for a long time, regular household soaps, such as laundry detergent or dish soap, can be too harsh for car paint and may cause it to fade, lose its shine, or become dull over time. 

How Can I Wash My Car Without Damaging Paint?

To wash your car without damaging the paint, use a high-quality pH-neutral car shampoo, a soft sponge, or a microfiber wash mitt, and follow proper washing techniques. Avoid using abrasive materials or excessive scrubbing.

Does Hair Conditioner Damage Car Paint?

A hair conditioner is not designed for car paint and may contain ingredients that can leave residues or harm the paint’s finish. It can damage the car paint if you leave it on the exterior for a long time.