Best car shampoo 2019

Top formulas foam up to shift grime, and leave a dry finish. We test the best car shampoo to buy

Any car spring clean has to start with ridding the bodywork of the winter grime that builds up after even the shortest journey on a wet road.

Unless you have professional kit, you’ll have to touch the car at some point to remove the final layer of dirt, but you can make life easier for yourself and the car’s paintwork by using a pre-wash. These are usually snow foams that go on via a pressure washer, ideally through a lance designed to create a thick white coating.

• Auto Express best car care cleaning and car care tips

Our current test winner is a Bilt-Hamber’s Surfex HD degreaser. Other top performers are Ultimate Finish Ultimate Snow Foam, Angelwax FastFoam and Auto Curators Essential Soak. Using a pre-wash and pressure washer or hose allows the bulk of the grit stuck to the bodywork to be removed without the risk of dragging it across a panel, damaging the paint.

With the car rinsed it’s time for the wash. Key here is to use a mitt – our test champ is Kent’s 2in1 microfibre noodle version – with lots of wash so grit is lifted into the strands and away from paint. The mitt also needs to be carefully rinsed with a grit guard at the bottom of the bucket or by using two: one containing wash and the other just rinse water.

How we tested them

All products make foam and clean, so we focused on those among our rivals that left the least water to be dried off with a chamois or microfibre cloth. We also looked at the cost of the products, because the price of a bucket of wash can vary significantly. 

Verdict

  • 1. Halfords Car Wash & Wax
  • 2. Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner 
  • 3. Diamondbrite Shampoo
  • Reviews Halfords Car Wash & Wax

    Price: £2
    Size: 1,000ml
    Rating: 5/5 

    At just £2 for a litre, Halfords’ Wash & Wax was the cheapest car wash on test by a big margin. It was similarly easy on the pocket when you calculate the price of a wash, with the required capful costing just 12p. But this product isn’t here just because it costs less than its rivals; it also left the driest finish after rinsing. While Wash & Wax isn’t the quickest at shedding water, wait a few seconds and the panel has just a few drops left. Our cost-effective champion.

    Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner

    Price: Around £7.50  
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 4.5/5

    Autoglym may have launched more car wash variations since Shampoo Conditioner made its debut, but it remains a great performer. It masters the balance between cost and performance better than the firm’s Ultra High Definition Shampoo, which comes in at more than twice the price. This former test winner doesn’t deliver a massive foam because it contains a water repellent that works well, and is ideal for our tests. It even has a pleasant pear-drop fragrance.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Diamondbrite Shampoo

    Price: £9.75
    Size: 1,000ml
    Rating: 4/5

    Diamondbrite’s Shampoo could have been designed for our test because it adds a protective film as it removes grime, much like a wash and wax. And it lives up to its claim, although we’re not talking wax-like water repellency here. Water starts to clear as soon as it is rinsed, and continues rolling off until there’s only a small amount left. You need just 25ml at a time, so the big pack helps keep the cost per wash down to 24p. As with the Autoglym, Diamondbrite has a pleasant fruity aroma.

    Power Maxed Shampoo 
& Ultra Wax

    Price: Around £9
    Size: 1,000ml
    Rating: 4/5

    A great test debut from the British Touring Car Championship team and car-care producer. The pack claims a “deep, glossy shine” thanks to the carnauba wax in the cleaning formula. We can’t judge the shine, but the added wax does mean water is rapidly beaded away. It couldn’t match our winner, but it was close and left an almost dry panel after rinsing. The big one-litre bottle helps it to undercut our champion on price, costing around 22p a bucket. 

    Buy it from Euro Car Parts here

    Angelwax Shampoo

    Price: Around £8
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 4/5

    There’s a pleasant fruitdrops perfume to this thick shampoo from Scottish detailing specialist Angelwax. We were still getting pleasing whiffs of it while we were washing. Unlike some rivals, you don’t need much of the concentrated formula to a bucket, bringing the cost in line with our winner. We were impressed with the foam, and it was next quickest to dry after the remarkable Autoglym.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Bilt Hamber auto-wash

    Price: Around £10  
    Size: 300ml
    Rating: 4/5

    Alongside its rivals’ bigger packs, former test winner auto-wash looks like an expensive way to clean your car. But this isn’t the case, because its secret is that you need just 5ml in a 10-litre bucket thanks to its highly concentrated biodegradable formula. Unlike its rivals, auto-wash contains no waxes or thickeners, but it still beads water away effectively. While it might not have been quite so rapid as we’ve seen in the past, it left very little water for the chamois to remove.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Halfords Car Wash

    Price: Around £6.50
    Size: 2,500ml
    Rating: 4/5

    Despite the big pack, Halfords’ own-brand car wash is not on our podium because of its cracking low price. You need to use around 50ml a bucket, so it works out only a few pence cheaper than our winner. Instead, it finishes as runner-up due to its impressive beading. It shifted water more rapidly than most of its rivals, if not quite as quickly as our winner.

    Buy it from Halfords here

    Simoniz Protection Car Wash

    Price: £7.99
    Size: 2,000ml
    Rating: 4/5

    If you’re after a cheap but effective car wash, look no further than this big pack from Simoniz. It’s a previous test winner, and while it can’t quite match our top two at shifting water, it does work – albeit a little more slowly. But it’s streets ahead on price: you need less than 20ml for a 10-litre bucket, so each wash costs a budget-friendly 7p.

    Turtle Wax Wash & Wax

    Price: Around £8
    Size: 1,000ml 
    Rating: 3/5

    Another shampoo that claims to leave “a high gloss, water repellent finish”, and it also delivers, clearly shifting water in our rinse test, if not with quite the same vigour as our Best Buy. Big litre pack helps keep costs down, but you need two large capfuls for a bucket, so each wash costs over 72p. When some rivals are under 20p, that’s going to hurt with our results so close.

    Buy it from Halfords here

    Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax

    Price: Around £17
    Size: 1,420ml 
    Rating: 3/5

    You need to take care when mixing this wash as we measured the recommended four capfuls per gallon as more than the 28ml alternative in the instructions. Even at the smaller measure, each bucket costs more than 70p. The good news is that the “just-waxed shine” is still present, as it beaded water to leave a few drops. It just takes a little longer than the best.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    ValetPRO Advanced Poseidon Car Wash

    Price: Around £6
    Size: 500ml 
    Rating: 3/5

    Usefully, ValetPRO claims this won’t remove any wax or paint sealants on the car and instead prolongs their life. We can certainly vouch for the fact it adds a water-repellent finish, to reduce drying time, although its progress was steady rather than spectacular.  It just can’t match the keenest-priced here, at around 35p a wash.

    Buy it from ShopnShine here

    CodeClean Premium Wash & Seal with Carnuba Wax

    Price: Around £10
    Size: 500ml
    Rating: 3/5

    This product from CödeClean aims to add a protective coat of carnauba wax as it cleans. And judging by our results from the rinse test it works well, as water beaded away rapidly – it was a match for our winner in this respect. But then so it should be, as you need 100ml of the liquid wax-like formula for a 10-litre bucket – so each wash costs just a few pence shy of £2.

    Mer High Shine Car Wash

    Price: Around £7
    Size: 500ml 
    Rating: 3/5

    We’ve been impressed with some products from this revamped Mer range, but High Shine Car Wash had to give best to rivals in the water beading test. Although we liked the amount of foam created and could see it working on the panel, it worked very slowly. So while it matched Angelwax in the rinse test, it comes in a little more expensive at 35p a bucket, which holds it back overall.

    Buy it from eBay here

    CarPlan Demon Foam

    Price: Around £12
    Size: 2,000ml
    Rating: 3/5

    If you want the snow foam look but can’t afford a pressure washer and lance, this achieves a similar all-white coating using just a hose. It delivers a good, thick, soapy layer through the supplied hose attachment, although there’s no water stop so you have to control the flow at the tap. It cleans easily for around 60p a wash, but we saw very little water shifting after rinsing.

    Buy it from Amazon here

    Muc-Off Ubershine

    Price: Around £10
    Size: 1,000ml
    Rating: 3/5

    Apple seems to be the car wash fragrance as this thick cleaner from Muc-Off is packed with it once mixed in the bucket. Ubershine’s biggest problem is cost as you need to use quite a bit, making each bucket £1 – although it does produce a big foam. While Muc-Off claims this contains softeners for a spot-free finish, its water beading was quite slow.

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