Car Care ‘Hacks’…Are They Worth It?

Can you put hair conditioner on your car? Can you use dish soap as a car wash soap alternative? And more importantly…should you?

The Internet is full of “one weird trick” for everything – including cleaning and detailing a car. But should you really play home chemist when it comes to car care?

We took a look at some of the “hacks” floating around Pinterest and assessed whether they might be worth a shot or not!

Homemade “Armor All Tire Shine”

Many DIY websites tout a mixture of baby oil, water, and dish soap as an alternative to Armor All Tire Shine products.

Try it? No.

First, any mixture containing dish soap should not be anywhere near a vehicle. If this solution reaches the painted part of the car, it can strip wax. This will expose patchy areas of your car to the elements.

Second, this might produce an initial glossy look, but won’t do much to protect your tires. Real Armor All Tire Shine contains conditioners that actually nourish tire rubber. Plus it reduces damage from future ozone and element exposure.

Third, Armor All products are cheap. You can get a full bottle of Tire Shine for about $5 at Target. This is not a significant savings over buying baby oil, soap, and a spray bottle.

DIY Car Wash Soap

There are tons of DIY recipes for homemade car wash soap. They usually contain a mix of laundry detergent, dish soap, and a light abrasive like borax or baking soda.

Try It? No. 

Armor All Soap

Cheap & effective!

As mentioned above, dish soap can strip wax off of vehicles. Laundry detergent will do the same, and abrasive baking soda isn’t a great idea. A professional car washing liquid will take all the grime off without scratches. You can order a 64 oz. bottle of Armor All Wash & Wax from Kleen-Rite for only $5. Advance Auto Parts also has the same size in stock for just under $7, if you prefer a brick-and-mortar retail option.

“All Natural” Car Wax

This was one of the more surprising recipes we found. I didn’t expect that anyone would want to take the time to make this product. It seems time intensive, involving a blend of waxes and oils that need to be melted, mixed, and cooled.

Try It? Probably not.

This seems like a lot of work for mediocre results. Yes, commercial car waxes do contain carnauba wax, beeswax, and oils like some of these at-home mixes. But, professional products also contain specific emollients, petroleum distillates, and resins. These products help the wax move easily, shine the car, and protect the surface. An at-home blend is going to be harder to apply and will leave the surface cloudy. It might not do any lasting damage, but it won’t look nice.

DIY Car Conditioner

Conditioner bottle

This is definitely not a real thing!

Some people suggest putting HAIR conditioner on a recently washed car.

Try It? Only if you like wasting time!

At worst, this will screw with existing wax and paint. At best, it will do nothing. Hair conditioner is for use on porous surfaces (hair), which your car is not. Plus, it rinses away completely in water as intended – there will be no lasting protective effect here.

Mason Jar Air Fresheners

This so-called hack involves putting candle wax chunks into a small 4 oz. Mason jar, punching holes in the lid, and placing it in a cup holder. The idea is that as your car gets hot, the wax will soften and release scent.

Try It? Sure!

This is self-contained and won’t hurt anything. It could be a good way to use up leftover wax blocks from a household scent warmer, or leftover candle bits. It only seems like it could work in the summer months, though.

Our final verdict? Stick with professional products, either at the car wash or at home. You’ll save time, get the desired result, and protect your car effectively!

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