Short Answer - pH neutral car shampoo, unlike those with stronger chemicals in them, will not damage your car's paint or the Ceramic Coating protecting your car's paint. The same applies if you use any different kind of paint protection like automotive wax, polymer sealants, or paint protection film.
Long Answer - Oh boy! Looks like we're going on an adventure.
If you are the Average Joe car owner and are using your car as a workhorse or just as a way of transportation from point A to point B, then you probably do not care about what kind of Car Shampoo you will be using on your car when giving it the good ol' clean.
In that case, you probably do not care about pH Neutral Car Shampoos and are more likely interested in using dishwater detergent diluted in some water instead to do the job.
Worry not! You might still find this article educational either way! Now, if, on the other hand, you are one of us - a proper car enthusiast, then you already know about them, in which case we will do our best to try and teach you something that you might not know.
But for all you others, that have heard of the term 'pH neutral' or 'pH balanced' car shampoo, but aren't quite sure what to make of it. You are at the right place to educate yourself on this topic and learn all there is about it.
Of course, we aren't scientists or chemists to teach you everything about chemistry and how it all works on a molecular level, but we know a lot about this topic because it affects our work heavily and the more we know, the better of a service we can provide for our customers and a better job e can do about caring for cars! So let us dive into what it all means!
What does pH neutral mean?
Well, the correct term is 'pH neutral' even though you might find people using 'pH balanced as well. Both refer to the same thing, but we just want to be as accurate as possible.
The pH scale measures how acidic or alkaline/basic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic while a pH higher than 7 is alkaline.
If you want a more detailed explanation, a substance is ranked on this scale based on how many hydrogen ions it has in it. The p stands for the German 'potenz', meaning power or concentration, and the H for the hydrogen ion (H+). The pH concept was introduced by S. Sørensen, a danish scientist, back in 1909.
The pH scale is also logarithmic, meaning that, for example - pH 2 is ten times more acidic than pH 3.
You might be sitting there and thinking to yourself, "But CCE, what is all this scientific stuff? I just like cars!". Worry not our fellow car detailer! We will try and teach you all the basics, so you know exactly what you are buying, and who knows, you just might find yourself in a heated conversation with a scientist one day so all this stuff might give you the edge in the interaction.
All of you have probably heard of the word 'acid'(no, not THAT acid), and while you might not know exactly how it all works, you would definitely know that something acidic is likely, not good for you. You also likely haven't heard of a substance being a base or it being alkaline as well. So the further something goes left from the center of this scale, is more and more dangerous for you. The same goes if it leans too far right as well.
Here are some examples of what everyday items would be ranked at each pH value:
pH 0 - battery acid, hydrochloric acid
pH 1 - stomach acid, sulfuric acid
pH 2 - lemon juice, vinegar
pH 3 - grapefruit juice, orange juice, soda
pH 4 - tomato juice, beer, acid rain
pH 5 - black coffee, pepto bismol, bananas
pH 6 - urine, saliva, milk pH 7 - distilled water ( pH neutral ) pH 8 - baking soda, seawater, eggs pH 9 - toothpaste, hand soap
pH 10 - mild detergent
pH 11 - ammonia, cleaners
pH 12 - soapy water
pH 13 - bleach, oven cleaner, lye
pH 14 - drain cleaner, caustic soda
So, what about regular tap water or normal rain?
Rainwater and water, in general, would affect your car the most outside of cleaning it, so what about those two? That really depends on where you live and where you get your water, what kind of pipes you are using - things like that. Also, rain heavily depends on soil and air pollution. So rain might be more or less acidic, depending on where you live.
If you have acidic rain that is valued at around pH 4 in one bucket and you want to make it less acidic, you would have to add 9 buckets of regular water to bring the pH number by one to pH 5 or 99 buckets to bring it down 2 numbers to pH 6, or 999 buckets to pH 7 to make it neutral. That is what logarithmic means.
While you probably will not find yourself in a position where you need to make acid rain less acidic unless you currently live in a post-apocalyptic future world, making it really weird that you are still in Ceramic Coatings, who are we to complain? No one is prouder than us! You might find yourself in a situation where you bought a concentrated solution of car shampoo that needs to be watered down for usage in a 10:1, 100:1, or even 1000:1 ratio. If you see this, you will know why you need to water it down and what will happen to the pH value of the car shampoo that you are currently using.
If you would like to learn more on how to deal with water spots on your car, especially if yo use heavy water regularly, then read our article on that matter.
Can't I then just take regular car shampoo and water it down until it becomes pH neutral?
Well, no, not really, because while it may be pH neutral at that point, it might not be strong enough to deal with the grease, dirt, and grime that it was designed to deal with. That is why pH-neutral car shampoos are more expensive.
In this article that we wrote, you can learn more about how to maintain your ceramic coating correctly, so that it lasts much longer.
Ok, now I have learned all the basics about pH value, but still, why use pH-neutral car shampoos instead of regular more acidic, or more alkaline car shampoos?
If you are using paint protection of any sort, Ceramic Coating included, stronger pH value car shampoos will damage the protection in question weakening it to the point it is completely eroded from the paintwork of your car, effectively neutralizing it. So if you have Ceramic Coated your car and expect it to last for a very long time, by using pH-neutral car shampoos, you are ensuring the Ceramic Coating isn't being damaged and will last for however long the manufacturer claims it should last ( providing the manufacturer of the said Ceramic Coating has given us accurate data ).
Otherwise, if you use strong chemicals on your Ceramic Coating you might find it performing worse or being completely gone after a few good washes. That would also indicate how good of quality the Ceramic Coating you are using is.
But the manufacturer of this Ceramic Coating claims that this coating resists chemicals from pH 1 to pH 13!
That claim is most likely true, but you could also just say that the said Ceramic Coating resists chemicals from pH 0 to pH 14 as well. Resisting something doesn't mean that you will be unaffected by it. It just means you will be affected less. More slowly.
So while the damage on a Ceramic Coating from just acid rain at pH 4 would be minuscule, it would still be there. Also, while the Ceramic Coating will resist a chemical with a pH value of 13, for example, it will still be damaged, and given enough exposure the paint protection will at one point fail. The same goes for pH 0 and pH 14. Much higher quality Ceramic Coatings will survive a few washes with some strong industrial cleaners that are rated at pH 14, or contain hydrochloric acid rated at pH 0.
We would still recommend not using those strong chemicals on Ceramic Coating, though.
A handy feature Ceramic Coatings give your car's paint is its slickness that prevents dirt to stick to the surface of your car as hard as it would if the Ceramic Coating wasn't there. That allows you to use less aggressive chemicals for your cleaning. Car Shampoos that are pH neutral will usually do the trick just fine, and you won't need anything stronger to get rid of any grease or dirt to make your car shine as if new once again!
The one that we use is Mr. Pink pH neutral Car Shampoo.
Get your Mr. Pink pH neutral Car Shampoo on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/37gOA4a
Throughout the years, we've been working with various brands, but this one has stuck with us for a very long time now, and we are more than happy.
Compared to some, it might seem a bit expensive, but when you want superb results that both you and the customer will be happy with, then we definitely recommend this that we know for certain will get the job done right.