After testing many different shampoos, we found that the best car shampoo is the Meguiar’s Gold Class. It’s a unique formula that includes safe, biodegradable detergents and is also packed full of paint conditioners for a more radiant finish. Alternatively, the brand’s Wash & Wax Ultimate formula is a great option to consider if you require additional protection and a “just waxed” finish. However, if you require a budget-friendly shampoo from a reputable brand, the Autoglym alternative is perfect and it includes special additives to provide the paintwork with a water-repellent barrier.
To rate the car shampoos within our roundup, we based our recommendations on testing, our experience using multiple shampoos, the latest research and several factors. Some of the factors that we considered included the shampoo’s cleaning power, formulation (wax or conditioners), finish it leaves (gloss additives), scent and value for money.
Best Car Shampoo Overview
- Best Overall: Meguiar’s Gold Class
- Best Wash And Wax: Meguiar’s Ultimate
- Best pH Neutral: Autoglym Bodywork Conditioner
- Best Professional: Gtechniq W1 G
- Best Heavy Duty: Meguiar’s Plus+
- Best For Shine: Mer High Shine
- Best Budget: Turtle Wax Zip Wax
- Best For Pressure Washer: Karcher 3-in-1
When cleaning your car, it’s crucial that you avoid using any household cleaners as they can strip any waxes or sealants previously applied. The majority of car shampoos are pH neutral, which makes them completely safe to use. If you are new to cleaning cars, we have written an in-depth guide on how to wash your car that walks you through each step.
Below is a list of the best car wash shampoos that are safe to use on all exterior surfaces and effectively remove all types of dirt or road grime.
The Best Car Shampoos
1. Best Overall: Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo
By far the most popular car shampoo in the UK is the Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash. It’s designed to wash and condition the paintwork in a single step with rich and luxurious suds that safely lift dirt away.
It’s a completely safe to use and biodegradable formula that’s suitable for all paint types and it also doesn’t compromise any previously applied car wax products.
Although it’s more expensive per litre than many of the alternatives, it’s a professional-grade car shampoo that truly is “Gold Class”. The concentrated formula goes a long way and it can even be used as high foaming snow foam.
2. Best Wash And Wax: Meguiar's Ultimate Car Wash & Wax
Another car shampoo by Meguiar’s is their Wash & Wax formula, which is designed to leave a deep, glossy, “just waxed” shine. When compared to the Gold Class alternative above, this formula is a car wash and wax and this is because it contains carnauba and synthetic polymer technology within the shampoo.
Unlike other wash and wax shampoos, Meguiar’s promises that their formula can lift dirt and grime with ease. This is important to note because many formulas containing wax struggle to lift dirt and also offer limited suds. From testing, we can confirm that the brand’s promise is true and we were very impressed by its cleaning power.
If you want a single-step application to wash and wax your car, the Meguiar’s Ultimate formula is the perfect solution. Its popularity speaks for itself and the list of positives is a clear sign that we were impressed when testing the formula on our own cars. However, if you do use this car shampoo, we recommend using warm water because we found that it increased the amount of suds quite significantly.
3. Best pH Neutral: Autoglym Bodywork Conditioner
Another concentrated formula is the Autoglym Car Shampoo Conditioner, which safely cleans and produces a glossy water-repellent barrier. As with many of the alternative car shampoos, it’s a pH-neutral formula that removes all types of dirt without stripping any polish or wax that has previously been applied.
In terms of using the car shampoo, it only needs 2 to 3 caps of the formula per bucket, which makes the 500 ml bottle far more long-lasting than you would expect.
Autoglym produces a range of car shampoos but this is their low-foaming formula that’s able to create a water-repellent barrier. If you would prefer a more budget-friendly option by the brand, their standard shampoo is a great alternative.
4. Best Professional: Gtechniq W1 G Wash Car Shampoo
Gtechniq is a highly reputable brand among professionals and detailing enthusiasts and is well-known for its quality products. The G Wash is a great example of that reputation and it’s designed to be a powerful car shampoo.
In terms of the G Wash’s composition, it’s a high-foaming formula that’s designed to effectively break the bond between the dirt film and your car’s paintwork.
To conclude, 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. Best Heavy Duty: Meguiar's Car Wash Plus+
The Meguiar’s Car Wash Plus+ is one of the brand’s latest car shampoos that’s designed to provide a heavy-duty wash.
Unlike any other formula within our roundup, this shampoo is designed to be put directly onto a wet wash mitt and then used to deeply clean the paintwork. The benefit of this type of wash is that it acts in a similar way to a clay bar, which is to break down polishes and waxes that were previously applied to the paintwork.
Another great benefit of this particular car shampoo is the fact that it contains abrasives, which means that it’s able to polish away swirl marks and light scratches.
To conclude, the Meguiar’s Car Wash Plus+ is the perfect solution if your car is covered in tough dirt, tar and bugs. The fact that it also contains micro polishing agents to help remove scratches and swirl marks is also a great bonus. However, for use as a regular car shampoo, we would recommend one of the alternatives in this article. This is because this formula is best used for when the car hasn’t been cleaned for a long time or you need to remove previously applied polishes and waxes.
6. Best For Shine: Mer High Shine Shampoo
The Mer High Shine Shampoo is a popular option that’s designed to lift stubborn dirt and produce a streak-free finish. It’s an advanced formula that uses the brand’s patented Auto Shine Technology for an excellent finish.
Mer is well-known for its highly-rated car polish and its High Shine Shampoo follows the brand’s great reputation. It provides a deep clean and leaves a glossy water-repellent shine that’s long-lasting.
7. Best Budget: Turtle Wax Zip Wax Car Wash
Turtle Wax is another popular detailing brand in the UK that produce a wide range of products. The Zip Wax formula is one of their many shampoos that’s enriched with carnauba, which produces an enhanced shine to the paint.
This particular shampoo is also the brand’s new and improved formula that’s super concentrated and designed to dry spot free.
Overall, the Turtle Wax Zip Wax offers outstanding value for the money when you consider its cost per litre and the fact that it’s enriched with carnauba.
8. Best For Pressure Washer: Karcher 3-in-1 Plug & Clean Detergent
The Karcher 3-in-1 Plug & Clean is a unique car shampoo because it can be plugged straight into a pressure washer or used with a lance. This means that you can discharge the shampoo onto your car as well as rinse it clear with ease.
According to the brand, the formula has been designed to dissolve dirt, dry quickly and produce a brilliant shine every time. However, it’s important to note that this product isn’t to be confused with snow foam because you still need to use a wash mitt to clean your car once you’ve sprayed it on.
Using a shampoo that can be discharged using your pressure washer is very desirable for many people and the Karcher 3-in-1 is by far the best option. However, to ensure that you get the best value, we highly recommend purchasing the brand’s 5-litre refill container to top up your bottle because we found that it does go through it very quickly.
How We Tested & Rated
Almost all detailing brands in the UK offer a car shampoo of some sort and this means that the market is currently very saturated with hundreds of formulas to choose from.
Therefore, to create our roundup of the best, we tested a range of the latest car shampoos to provide our first-hand experience and verdict. With regards to our testing, we tested how effective they were on all types of dirt as well as the finish that was left behind. We also used the shampoos on cars that varied in the amount of dirt for a more thorough test.
Below are a few photos of us testing some of the car shampoos that we recommended during our roundup.
During our testing, we ensured that we followed the shampoo’s instructions on the bottle in terms of preparing the formula in a bucket and applying it to the car.
To give you an idea of how we test the car shampoos, below is a video that we posted on our YouTube channel that shows us testing the highly rated Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax.
Whilst using many of the different types of car shampoo, you may notice that some foam up more and also cling to the paintwork better than others. Below is an example of the Turtle Wax suds clinging onto the paintwork.
As well as testing and our experience using multiple car shampoos, we also carried out plenty of research and considered several factors. Some of the factors that we took into consideration included the shampoo’s cleaning power, additions in the formula such as wax or conditioners, bulk buy options and also their value for money.
Investing in a quality car shampoo allows you to clean your car more effectively and also prevents a streaky finish.
All of our recommendations are produced by top detailing brands in the UK and have been thoroughly tested for the best possible results. However, if you haven’t got access to a hose pipe, you could try out some of the latest waterless car wash products that simply spray on and wipe clean.
For further information regarding any of our car shampoo recommendations, feel free to get in touch and we will try to provide our assistance where possible.