Why You Should Never Use Bleach to Wash your Car

Washing your car is super important, but unfortunately, it’s often done wrong. Whenever you wash your car, you need to make sure you’re using the right products and tools to avoid damaging the paint, glass, tires and trim.

In this article, I’ll be talking about using bleach to wash your car. I’ll explain why it’s a terrible idea, and what you can do instead. So let’s get started!

The Quick Answer

You should never use bleach to wash your car because it can damage the finish and cause staining. It’s also a hazardous chemical so can cause damage to yourself. Instead, you should use a car shampoo to wash your car safely and use an all-purpose cleaner on the interior.

Bleach is Hazardous

This is the most important reason why you should never use bleach to wash your car. Bleach is a hazardous chemical that shouldn’t be inhaled or in contact with your skin or eyes.

Wearing gloves and a mask can reduce the risk but it doesn’t eliminate it. There are much safer substances to use when cleaning your car which won’t damage your skin.

Plus, even if you wear gloves, the bleach can still get on your clothes. It can soak in and touch your skin. And it can also stain your clothes too.

Bleach Will Damage Your Car

Bleach can damage the paint and trim on your car. It’s a corrosive substance, so it can wear away the clear coat on your car. It’s important to preserve this clear coat because it’s what protects the colour from UV damage and fading over time.

Bleach can also cause staining on your rubber trim, paint and metal trim, especially if left to dry and not thoroughly rinsed off, but even if left on for just a few minutes.

Bleach Strips Wax

As well as damaging yourself and your car, bleach can also strip the wax. Waxing your car is very important because it helps to protect the clear coat. This layer of protection not only makes your car look nice and shiny, but it also helps to prevent fading over time.

Bleach is an alkaline chemical which degrades wax. Using bleach to wash a car will essentially strip this wax away so there is no protection left on the surface, hence accelerating the rate at which your car finish fades and dulls.

What Should You Use Instead?

Okay, so if you can’t use bleach to wash your car, what should you use instead?

First things first, let’s address the dish washing soap debate. It’s true that you should never use dish washing soap to clean your car, for similar reasons why you shouldn’t use bleach. Dish washing soap strips the wax on your car so it should definitely be avoided.

You should use products specifically designed to clean your car to make sure you’re doing it safely and not damaging the finish.

This means, you should use car shampoo to wash your car. It is safer for your skin, won’t damage your car’s paint, and won’t strip the wax.

Which Car Shampoo is Best?

This is normally the next question car owners ask when they find out they can’t use bleach. There are absolutely hundreds of high quality shampoos out there that will make your car clean and shiny, without damaging the clear coat or trim.

Garage Therapy Car Shampoo

This is a highly concentrated, high-foaming and cost effective car shampoo that’s safe to use on all exterior surfaces. It’s a no nonsense shampoo with no wax or protection in the formula, so you will need to apply that afterwards to ensure your car is protected. You’ll also need to order it online as it can rarely be found in retail stores.

Can you Use Bleach to Clean a Car’s Interior?

It’s not recommended to use bleach on your car’s interior because it can cause staining and is dangerous when inhaled or when it comes into contact with your eyes and skin. Instead, you should can an all-purpose cleaner.

For the best results, and to clean your car safely, you should use all-purpose cleaners that are specifically designed to clean your car.

I use a product called Surfex HD by Bilt-Hamber. It can be diluted to clean both the interior and exterior of your car and has excellent cleaning and degreasing power. Make sure you dilute it adequately though, you don’t want to use it too concentrated or it can cause damage and staining.

How to Properly Clean Your Car

Here are some final tips to make sure you’re cleaning your car properly.

  • Always thoroughly rinse your car to remove as much dirt as possible. Use a pressure washer if you have one.
  • Use a microfiber wash mitt to clean your car, not a sponge. Sponges drag dirt and grit across the paint causing micro-scratches which make your paint look dull.
  • Use plenty of suds and make sure your wash mitt isn’t dirty. Always rinse it between washing panels.
  • Dry your car using a microfiber towel to avoid water spots. Don’t use bathroom towels because they can scratch your paint.
  • Apply wax to your car every 2-3 months to make sure it’s protected from the elements and to stop the paint fading over time.
  • Clean the interior using an all-purpose-cleaner to avoid dirt and grime build-up.

Check out this complete guide to washing your car without causing scratches.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog to learn more about cleaning your car the right way.



Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on autocarehq.com and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

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