Can You Use Normal Car Shampoo In A Pressure Washer

This is probably the most asked question whenever the subject of pressure washers comes up. Pressure washers make all chores fun, there’s no denying that. So, of course, you want to wash your car with your new pressure washer.

Having spent a considerable amount of money on both the car and the pressure washer, you don’t want to damage either, so it’s a valid question. You probably still have some car shampoo in the cupboard from your pre-pressure washer days, and it makes sense that you want to use it up. But is it safe to use car shampoo in a pressure washer?

Do Regular Car Shampoos Work In A Pressure Washer?

If you’re expecting to see your car completely covered in foam, a process known as snow foaming, then you’re going to be disappointed if you use a pressure washer with car shampoo. Regular car shampoos can be used in some pressure washers but the results have been compared to using washing up liquid. No suds and very little bubbles, this means less cleaning action which in turn means it’ll take longer to get the car clean.

On top of this, regular car shampoos can actually damage the internal workings of a pressure washer. Even if car shampoo is watered down, it can still clog pumps, pipes and other components inside the pressure washer. 

Why Are Car Shampoos Bad For Pressure Washers?

pressure washing a car

Car shampoos are designed to be applied by sponge and washed by hand to get rid of the dirt and dust from the car. It all comes down to their chemical composition, most soaps are made by combining detergents with fats and oils. The dirt particles stick to the fatty, oily deposits and get rinsed off with water.

 It’s this fat and oil that can cause blockages to the internal components of a pressure washer. If you have a snow foamer wand or a foam wand attachment for your pressure washer, it’s OK to use car shampoo in that (as long as you dilute it first). Because it is the last thing the water goes through.  Foam attachments go at the end of the wand, so the shampoo doesn’t travel through the pressure washer.

What Is Snow Foam And Why Should You Use It?

Pressure Washing Snow Foam

When using a pressure washer to clean a car, even proprietary shampoos designed for pressure washer use, don’t produce a great quantity of suds. Depending on how dirty your car really is, pressure washing alone might not get it completely clean. Snow foam should be considered as a pre-wash. 

The wand produces a rich foam that completely covers the car and soaks into all that road dirt. Allow the foam to soak in for a while then rinse it off. Then pressure wash the car with car washing detergent.  

Foam lances can be purchased from any decent car accessories store including Amazon, Halfords, B&Q, Screwfix, Toolstation and many more. Prices start from around £15.

Which Detergents Work Best In Pressure Washers?

Detergents specifically made for use in pressure washers are made using synthetic chemicals instead of oils and fats. This allows them to run through the pressure washer without clogging or damaging the machine. It also allows them to act better under pressure, and work well with hard waters too.

You can get adequate results using a multipurpose detergent, but for a decent clean you need a car washing detergent. If possible buy a car washing detergent made specifically for your make of pressure washer. The guys who made the machine will want to use the best ingredients and materials to protect their machine and do the best job.

Hot Or Cold Water Pressure Washer?

Electric Pressure Washer

It’s a well-known fact that hot water cleans better than cold, just think about greasy dishes in the sink. We don’t try washing them in cold water because the grease would remain and the dishes would still be dirty. So how about pressure washing the car?

All pressure washers work on a cold water feed, but power washers have an internal heater that raises the temperature of the water before leaving the machine. Never try to use a hot water feed on your pressure washer or power washer. To do so would damage your machine and void any warranty.

The detergents that are supplied by pressure washer companies are designed to be used in their machines. Hot water power washers will have specifically designed detergents for use in them. If you have a pressure washer that runs on cold water the detergent will work in cold water, and so on. 

That’s another difference with car shampoos and pressure washer car detergents. Most car shampoos work better in hot water, which is nice because it keeps our hands warm while using them. Pressure washer car detergents don’t need heat to clean and we don’t need to get our hands in the way either.

Is It Safe To Use Car Shampoo In A Pressure Washer?

In our opinion, you should never use car shampoo in a pressure washer not only is it not designed to be used under high-pressure, but it will eventually damage your machine. Damages include:

  • Water Pump
    The chemical composition of car shampoo is completely wrong for use in a pressure washers system. The water pump will get clogged and burn out in a short space of time if using car shampoo.
  • Lance
    Due to the small diameter of the lance, the fats and oils in car shampoo will clog the pipe up and stop it from working.
  • Nozzles
    The nozzles on a pressure washer get clogged up easily enough under normal conditions without the extra stress of car shampoo blocking them.

SEE ALSO: How To Wash A Car With A Pressure Washer (& avoid common mistakes)

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use any car wash soap in a pressure washer?

You can use any car wash soap in a pressure washer but it will probably break your pressure washer and void any warranty. It’s recommended to always use a car wash detergent designed for pressure washers.

Can you use normal car shampoo in a snow foam lance?

You can use normal car shampoo in a snow foam lance, but results will be inferior to using specifically designed products.

Do Pressure washers need special soap?

Pressure washers need specifically designed detergents to operate correctly.

Is it worth using snow foam?

If you want to clean your car to a showroom finish it is definitely worth using snow foam as a pre-wash.

Should you rinse before snow foam?

You should not rinse before applying snow foam because due to the way snow foam works, it will stick to the dirt better without the surface being wet first.

Is it bad to pressure wash a car?

It is not bad to pressure wash a car as long as you use the correct detergents and keep the pressure to a safe level.

Can you pressure wash without detergent?

You can pressure wash without detergent but there’s no point. It’s like washing your hands without soap. If you pressure wash without soap all you’re doing is getting the surface wet, not washing it.

Do you dilute pressure washer detergent?

Most pressure washer detergents need diluting as they are sold in concentrated form.

Can you use a foam cannon with a garden hose?

You can use a foam cannon with a garden hose. Be sure it is a foam cannon specifically designed for use with a garden hose.

Is snow foam better than car shampoo?

Snow foam is not better than car shampoo. It should be used in conjunction with car shampoo. Snow foam the car first to remove ingrained dirt, rinse and then use a car shampoo to wash the car.

How long do you leave snow foam on for?

You should leave snow foam on for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the brand used.

Why is my snow foam watery?

There are 2 main reasons why your snow foam is watery, either you’ve got the mix wrong, usually too much water in the mix dilutes the foam. Or you’re using a low-suds snow foam.

Does snow foam work with cold water?

Snow foam works with cold water. It is designed to work with cold water pressure washers.

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