The Best Way to Remove Old Wax

Some detailers will say that Dawn dish-washing liquid is the best way to remove old car wax or paint sealant. While it is true that it removes paint protection, it’s not the best method. Here we’ll tell you why and what to use instead.

Dish detergent in general has a high pH, meaning it’s alkaline. An alkaline soap, while effective, really dries out surfaces. You know the term “dishpan hands” – that comes from the intense drying effect repeated dish-washing has on your skin. This alkalinity makes Dawn and other soaps like it great dish soaps. They really cut through grease and get dishes clean. BUT that’s not what you want for your vehicle. The rubber and plastic surfaces on the exterior of your vehicle (the soft materials) will dry out and fade with repeated use of dish soap. You might think the occasional wash with dish soap won’t make a big difference and you’d be right, but there are many factors working against those rubber and plastic surfaces. Every day, it’s bombarded by UV rays, accosted by dirt, and then there’s just the natural process of aging that any material undergoes. Add to all that a super-drying wash with an alkaline dish soap and you’re accelerating the aging process of your vehicle’s rubber and plastics. It’s the combined effect of the environment and the occasional shortcuts we take with our cars that make them look older, dingier, and faded long before their time. Always use a car shampoo for your vehicle and leave the dish soap to the dishes.

The best way to remove old layers of wax and paint sealants is a pre-wax cleaner or detailing clay. They’re not going to affect rubber and plastics because you’re not even using them on rubber and plastics! Detailing clay is a mechanical way of removing whatever is on the paint. You’re rubbing the clay bar over the paint and it’s taking in any coating or debris to leave the paint perfectly clean. A pre-wax cleaner or cleansing lotion has chemical cleaners that lift old wax and embedded dirt from the paint. (The cleaners could discolor plastics or rubber but you’re using a pre-wax cleaner only on the paint, whereas a dish soap is going to get on everything.) A pre-wax cleaner can even remove mild oxidation. Your vehicle will actually look and feel better after using a detailing clay or pre-wax cleaner. No dish soap can do that!


  1. Detailing Clay is a great, GREAT product for any of you that haven’t used it before. For all the other steps of the waxing process I’ve found the Best Car Waxes and wax products can really make or break how your paint turns out. I’ve been an auto detailer for 9 years and really focus on paint restoration and how to properly wax paint. I enjoy articles like this one on wax because of how effective Clay Baring the car is! Nice post!

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