The best all-purpose cleaner (APC) for your car

One of these sprays will quickly become a cleaning essential.

Spraying a liquid onto a car

by Ryan Gilmore |

Resorting to the typical car comparisons for car cleaning products, all-purpose cleaner (APC) is the humble VW Golf. A solid and very capable choice, even if it's not the most exciting or dramatic.

In a world of exciting snow foam (Toyota GR Yaris- loads of fun yet useful) and ceramic coating (surely a tech-packed McLaren of some description), it can be easy to overlook how good APC is.

We're here to rectify this, making the case for the single spray that can be used to clean pretty much any surface is essential and should find itself on your shopping list. We've listed our favourite APCs currently for sale, factoring in price, quality, whether it's kind to the planet and how many surfaces it can be used on to determine the best one for sale.

The best all-purpose cleaner for your car

Bilt Hamber Surfex-HD

The best overall APC
Bilt Hamber Surfex-HD
Amazon

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Our top choice for APC is from Bilt Hamber. Entirely water-based and biodegradable this powerful cleaner is suitable for use on pretty much any surface you'll find in a car, including fabric upholstery. It's recommended you dilute it for lighter cleaning tasks which means a one-litre bottle should last you ages. Even better it can also be used as a degreaser when used in a more powerful dilution.

Read our review of Bilt Hamber Surfex-HD here

Autobrite Direct LTD Citrus Wash

The best pre-wash and APC combination
Autobrite Direct LTD Citrus Wash
Amazon

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Working as both a pre-wash and an APC, Citrus Wash from Autobrite Direct is a clever and hassle-free way of preparing a car for shampooing or simply removing excess dirt. Made with citrus oils to help enhance cleaning ability, this product proved to be an excellent cleaner and great value for money when we tested it. It's just a pity it's not biodegradable.

Read our review of Autobrite Direct LTD Citrus Wash here

Gtechniq W5 5 Citrus All Purpose Cleaner

The best bulk-buy APC
Gtechniq W5 5 Citrus All Purpose Cleaner
Amazon

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This giant five-litre bottle of biodegradable APC will leave you enough diluted cleaner to clean an ocean tanker, so a fleet of cars will be a doddle. Like the other examples here, it's dilutable depending on your cleaning needs, from neat down to 10:1 for shifting lighter grime. It's also safe to use at any dilution on any wax or sealant applied to a car.

It's not just designed for car materials, Gtechniq proudly boast that this APC is suitable for cleaning concrete and furniture which makes it a clever cleaning option for around the home too. It only has a 12-month shelf life after being opened but is available in a 500ml bottle too.

CarPlan CDC101 Surface Cleaner

The best budget APC
CarPlan CDC101 Surface Cleaner
Amazon

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This isn't quite on the same level as other APCs, simply because it can't be used on soft surfaces (like your car's seats). That being said, for use on hard surfaces including glass, it's still a solid choice for cleaning and can cut through grease and grime with ease. It's good value for money and will leave a nice citrus scent once you're done. If anything it's an AAPC (almost-all-purpouse cleaner).

Meguiar's G9624EU All Purpose Cleaner

The best premium APC
Meguiar's G9624EU All Purpose Cleaner
Amazon

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A rather expensive option and not as environmentally conscious as others, this APC from Meguiar's is still a very good choice for cleaning your car. It can be used inside and out on hard and soft surfaces and is effective on grime and grease.

What you need to know about APC

What is APC?

All-purpose cleaner is, basically, an all-purpose cleaner. Designed to remove grime, grease and dirt from pretty much any surface you can think of, APC is a generalised cleaner that's a bit of a Jack of all trades. Often alkaline-based (it's safer for cleaning cars than acid) and bleach-free they're safe to use in a car. Many can also be diluted depending on the scale of cleaning required too. Expect heavy dilutions to be perfect for shifting baked-in gunk and lighter mixes to be more useful at lifting stains.

Does that mean I can chuck away my other cleaning products?

Hold your horses on that one. just because APC can be used on almost all surfaces to clean them doesn't mean you won't need other cleaning products. Specialised products will better clean and protect surfaces even if APC can be used to quickly give them a spruce up.

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