Choosing the best soap for your foam cannon can be a daunting task. With so many options out there, how are you supposed to find one that will make your car look like it’s covered in the same foam you’ve seen in YouTube videos?
Well, the good news is that you don’t have to worry too much about making a perfect choice. Most car soaps will work fine in a foam cannon – but if you want great performance, you’ll want to use a product that is intended for this use. Today, we’re going to see how 4 very common soaps compare when stacked head to head.
Choosing The Best Soap For Your Foam Cannon
Unfortunately, owning your own foam cannon comes along with an insatiable desire to spray the best foam, the thickest suds, the stickiest snow.
Personally, I’ve watched more YouTube videos of people washing their cars than any sane person has the right to, trying to improve my methods. Tons of people are touting that they have the secret to better foam, but selecting a proper soap is key to getting the results you’re after.
There are several characteristics that you’re going to want to be looking for when purchasing. If you’re at the level where you have a foam cannon, then presumably your vehicle is protected by some form of wax, sealant, coating, etc. A pH balanced soap will ensure it doesn’t contain anything harsh that will strip those protectants off your paint.
Harsh chemicals can also stain delicate surfaces and should be avoided. This should be the most basic criteria when deciding on a product.
Spraying foam is done mainly to provide maximum lubrication when washing. I believe it works well for regular cleaning on a vehicle that you are putting in the time and attention to keep scratch and swirl-free.
Next up, if you’re going to use a foam cannon, buy a soap that is designed for a foam cannon! This might seem like common sense, but if you just got it and you’re excited to use it, you might try using the soap you already use for hand washing. Uh yeah, that was me- guilty. No harm was done, but it led to disappointment in the performance of my new toy.
Foam cannon specific soaps will not only give you those thick, rich suds, but most importantly will stick to the vehicle longer. The foam isn’t going to do you any good if it runs off onto the ground instantly.
What Is “Snow Foam”?
The British detailing crowd has taken a liking to using soaps with a much higher pH than is common in North America. As noted above, neutral soaps are typical here (pH of 7) while their products are basic (pH of up to 14- that’s the highest the scale goes!). These are often referred to as “snow foam” (note: some products available here are using that in their names as well).
More care must be taken when using these products. For reference, bleach has a pH of 13, so gloves should definitely be worn if you decide to source and use these soaps. Still, they claim to be safe to use on ceramic coatings and should not strip wax or sealants.
Manufacturers recommend letting the snow foam sit on the vehicle for five minutes to let it work but caution to only use it on cool surfaces. While this is always a good recommendation, I’m curious if the risk for staining is greater with a high pH. Automated touchless car washes tend to use a mix of low pH and high pH chemicals to clean vehicles.
High pH chemicals are capable of breaking down organic matter like dead bugs and bird poop. They’re also extremely effective at removing oils and grease.
These harsher snow foams could allow for that same touch free wash versus a pH neutral and going over it with a mitt. Potential chemical damage or swirling from a mitt? Pick your poison, as they say!
Can You Use ANY Car Soap In A Foam Cannon?
Can you? Sure! You can probably put any liquid you want in that bottle and blast it all over your paint. That’s not the idea of the foam cannon though, so don’t do it! Soaps that are designed for use in a foam cannon will give you the best results. The suds will be thicker and creamier, encapsulating more dirt allowing it to be safely removed from the paint without marring the surface.
Since I personally use a gasoline powered pressure washer, it’s a bit of a hassle to keep shutting it down and firing it back up. An important trait for me is having foam that will cling to the paint well.
This way I can spray the whole vehicle down and when I come back around with a wash mitt, it will still be in place. I used plain old car soap before and it didn’t create foam- just soapy water that ran off almost instantly and completely.
Although soaps aren’t incredibly expensive, you can really burn through it fast when using a cannon. I like to mix with hot water for better foam but have found out that filling the whole bottle at a 10:1 ratio is actually twice what I need to spray my car. To eliminate waste, I set the extra aside and use that in a bucket for the next wash.
Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe To Use In Your Foam Cannon?
Dawn dish soap is extremely strong and will easily strip wax off your paint. It is not a product that you would want to use for a regular maintenance wash, but it does produce a massive amount of foam as you could imagine.
Dish soap also tends to leave behind a residue as it dries, which will likely clog up your cannon. I would not spray it through my cannon even if the goal was to strip wax off for this reason alone.
Foam Cannon Soap Comparison
I conducted an experiment to trial several different soaps to get a better understanding of their performance. Each was mixed with hot water using the same 10:1 dilution ratio. The cannon was set to max foam for each scenario and I rinsed out the bottle between each product.
The Volvo XC40 I used for this test had not been washed in at least several months and there was no water beading to indicate the presence of waxes, sealants, or coatings. Every soap I tested was specified as being pH balanced.
Meguiars Carnauba Wash and Wax
First up is the plain ol’ Meguiar’s Carnauba Wash and Wax that I had sitting in the garage for regular hand washes. It’s readily available in stores and would work fine in a pinch, but isn’t ideal. It doesn’t build up as thick as I’d like (first photo) and a good bit had oozed off the vehicle after only a minute.
Note how easily visible the details of the grille are and how much paint is left uncovered. The “Volvo” text is still legible in the initial photo and the foam is immediately beginning to sag.
I think you could get by using something cheaper like this, but I would recommend spraying a small area, wiping down with a wash mitt, then spraying another area. It just isn’t going to hang around long enough for you to spray the whole vehicle and get around it again with your mitt.
Chemical Guys Mr. Pink
Next up I used the Mr. Pink made by Chemical Guys which is only advertised as a standard car wash shampoo. It has a ton of great reviews on Amazon with lots of people saying it works well with their foam cannons. This was the first product I had bought to use with my foam cannon and I was a little disappointed after I got it and realized that it’s not designed or marketed for that purpose.
That said, I’m pleased with how well it works! This stuff goes on thick- note the spackled appearance of the foam when first sprayed. It smells delicious too, but I haven’t given in to the temptation to taste it yet, so no comment there. It totally covered the “Volvo” text and allowed a lot more to build up on the matte plastic area at the bottom of the bumper.
After letting it sit for a minute, it had bled off enough in some areas that the paint was bare again. It was a clear improvement over the Meguiar’s soap though.
Chemical Guys Sticky Snowball Ultra Snow Foam Car Wash
I had extremely high expectations for this next product: “Sticky Snowball Ultra Snow Foam Car Wash Soap,” another one from Chemical Guys. The marketing department really just threw all the words at it when they named it and it worked – I bought it.
Not only that, but the bottle promises “extra thick mega suds.” Well yeah, that’s what I want! I had saved this for last when I was running the test, because I strongly believed it would be the best.
It sprayed excellent, giving that same spackled appearance and allowing for it to build up on top of itself. Note how there is a vertical line coming down over the headlight and the foam is twice as thick as I sprayed across the front, then went over that same section when spraying the side. The other products tested weren’t able to do that.
So why was I disappointed? I guess I imagined being able to pile it on there an inch thick and make it look like it was covered in snow. When watching it to see how well it could hang on over time, it seemed like it was actually on there thick enough that the weight of the foam was too much. Maybe moving the cannon a bit faster and going for an even but thinner coating would have been better.
Adam’s Polishes Mega Foam
Last up is my favorite soap that I’ve used thus far: Adam’s Polishes “Mega Foam”. This stuff was incredibly satisfying to spray, going on very even and thick. Check out how it layered on the hood and windshield. The details of the grille emblem were completely obscured and it did an impressive job clinging to the paint for an extended period of time too.
It did bleed off and expose the paint in some areas, but this seems to be the result of how the foam pooled in some areas. The vertical surfaces of the doors were able to retain a lot of foam and no paint was exposed. Minus one point for a scent that brings back memories of some nasty cold syrup when I was a kid though- zero urge to taste test this soap.
While you can put almost anything through your foam cannon, stick with a name brand, quality soap that was designed for this use. Again, looking for a pH neutral product should keep your wax, sealants, and coatings unharmed.
Should you decide to experiment with “snow foam,” research what those chemicals could possibly do to your vehicle and your skin! Safety first, people. Regardless of which soap you go with, be sure to rinse out your cannon with lots of clean water when finished to keep it functioning properly for many more washes.
When Greg turned 16, he couldn’t afford something cool, so he decided to get a motorcycle. He’s owned about 20 different ones since then… and might have a problem. He also owns a 2021 Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet SS. Read more about Greg: