Does Wash And Wax Work?

I like having a clean car. However, I don’t have a lot of spare time on my hands due to a busy work schedule.

I’m envious of those who have sufficient time to properly detail their car(s) to their heart’s content.

I have to make do with trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ for keeping my car clean and presentable, without spending too much time.

Once every few months, I’ll put aside the time to properly

That’s why I’m always interested in car detailing products that claim to save time. For example, I did a review not too long ago about Turtle Wax’s “Hybrid” wax and polish (read the article here) which is a wax and polish all in one.

However, if you are after a fast and easy way to clean and protect your car’s paintwork, then a good “wash and wax” product is likely to be at the top of your list.

In this article I’m going to look at whether wash and wax products are any good, and whether or not they work at all.

Keep reading to find out more!

What Is Wash & Wax For Cars?

Long story short, a wash and wax product is a car detailing product that combines a car wash (also known as car shampoo) with a wax product.

Generally-speaking, these have always been two separate products.

You use the car wash/shampoo for washing dirt and grime off your car, and then you bring out the finish and protect the paint using a wax.

The idea behind a wash and wax product is that you can save time and effort by combining these two separate “objectives” into one product.

Sounds great in principle, right? But are wash and wax products really any good? In this article, we aim to find out.

Do Wash And Wax Products Work?

Not really, no … at least not how you might think.

Basically, a wash and wax product (even a good one) is not a substitute for a proper car wax.

Even a cheap, dedicated car wax that is properly applied – after washing and drying your car – is going to be superior to just using a wash and wax product.

The sales pitch for wash and waxes is that you can replace the somewhat tedious process of washing your car and then waxing it with a one step solution. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t work. At least not to the extent that the product manufacturer would have you believe.

Without wishing to get too scientific about it, the fundamental issues are that wash and wax products don’t have sufficient wax in them, and also that the application process doesn’t allow for the same level of bonding/adherence to your car’s paintwork as you would get when properly waxing your car.

What happens is that a thin, non-durable layer of wax will be deposited onto your car’s paintwork, and then this will quickly wash off or deteriorate to the point of uselessness.

So if you are really concerned with getting the best possible wax finish on your car, then you won’t want to rely solely on a wash and wax product.  Even a basic spray wax – which is not as good as a paste/cream wax – will do a better job than any wash/wax blend.

But does that mean that wash and wax products are completely useless?

No – not at all. In fact, these products still offer a great deal of value or utility provided you go into using them with appropriate expectations.

Who Is Car Wash & Wax Good For?

We’ve established that wash and wax products aren’t amazing (at least at replacing a proper waxing) but I still believe that there is at least one “use case” for this type of product where it makes perfect sense.

If you are the kind of person who wants to wash their car on a regular basis – but who doesn’t have the time to commit to doing a full detailing routine – then a wash and wax might be the right option.

For example, let’s say you clean your car every Saturday morning. In less than 30 minutes you can wash and dry your car with a good wash and wax; your car will be looking good, and you will also have some protection from the wax in the “hybrid” product … it’s just that the protection won’t be particularly long-lasting.

However, if you’re washing your car on a sufficiently regular basis, then that won’t be an issue.

In this scenario, using wash and wax still isn’t as good as using a separate shampoo and wax, but it’s nonetheless better than nothing!

Having used several different wash and wax products, I can attest that all of them yielded a shinier paint finish than using a car wash/shampoo alone … it’s just that the wax finish is very much superficial and not particularly durable.

Is The Wash Part Of The Product Inferior To A Regular Car Shampoo?

One criticism of wash and wax products is that because they try to do two things at once, they are neither particularly good at waxing (this bit is more obvious) nor washing/shampooing your car.

But if you are just after a product to wash your car with on the weekend, are you missing out massively on cleaning power by using a wash and wax as opposed to a higher-quality, dedicated car wash or shampoo?

Probably not.

The truth is that anyone who is sufficiently worried about the relative performance of a wash and wax versus using dedicated products probably wouldn’t use an all-in-one solution anyway.

Pro detailers and dedicated enthusiasts don’t tend to go for wash & wax products, because they aren’t up to their exacting standards (with one exception, which I’ll talk more about further on). This category of product is aimed squarely at those of us who want to find a trade-off between time and effort, and making sure our cars are clean and tidy.

It’s not like a decent wash and wax won’t clean your car. While there might be better shampoos, chances are you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Basically, if you are on the market for a wash and wax, then you aren’t going to notice any lack of performance on the shampooing/washing side of the equation. One exception might be if you like to use a foam/snow cannon when washing your car, as the wash and wax products I’ve used don’t tend to produce as much foam versus some regular car shampoos.

Why Some Enthusiast Detailers Like Wash & Wax Products

Related to the point above (that wash and wax products give you limited, temporary protection) some enthusiasts seem to like using these products as a way of extending the life of their regular car wax.

The argument goes that using a wash and wax will provide a “sacrificial layer” of wax – albeit a short-lived one – that can help to slow the decay of the proper wax you’ve applied during a full detailing session.

It’s challenging to find any scientific, hard evidence as to whether this works or not. But the idea of protecting your “proper” wax with the wax in your blended wash product does make sense.

At the very least, you won’t harm your existing car wax using a wash and wax product, so there is no real downside to waxing your car properly and then keeping your car clean with a wash & wax.

Conclusion – Are Car Wash And Wax Products Any Good?

If your goal is to protect your car’s paint finish (like a “regular” car wax would) then no, wash and wax products aren’t particularly great.

Even the more expensive products don’t do much in the way of providing lasting paint protection. Within a few days of application, the formulation will likely have vanished.

However, if your goal in using a wash and wax product is to enhance the aesthetic appearance of your car – at least on a temporary basis – and maybe extract a bit of short-lived paint protection (especially if you like to wash your car on a weekly basis) then using one of these products could be a good option.

For many of us, the objective of washing the car is to make it look better … and not to do the best job possible at protecting the paint finish of your car from the elements, dirt and contaminants.

At the same time, in the time-pressured modern world it can be hard to find enough hours in the week to keep your car looking good.

It’s in this sort of scenario that using a car wash and wax product makes perfect sense. If you are primarily concerned with having an easy, fast solution to making your car look better (and you are happy to take a bit of extra protection to boot – albeit short-lived) then using a good wash and wax isn’t a bad option.

However, if you are serious about car detailing and preserving and enhancing the quality of your paint, then you’ll want to invest in dedicated products.


  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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