Soft99 Neutral Creamy Shampoo review: semi-skimmed cleaning

The charismatic JDM shampoo that does things a little differently.

Soft99 Shampoo next to a toy car

by Ryan Gilmore |

Of all the words available to name a car shampoo, ‘creamy’ is certainly a daring one. 'Creamy' points more to rich desserts like profiteroles and choux pastries than cleaning. But Soft99 don’t want you to think of French bakeries - it wants to let you know that its shampoo lathers up for easier cleaning, quicker rinsing and a reduced risk of scratches.

Proper lubrication is very important for preventing leaving scratches on a car's paintwork. If you've ever heard that horrific squeaking sound from a sponge against paintwork, that's down to a lack of lubrication between the car and the sponge.

Most car shampoos will lather up to ensure there's adequate lubrication but Soft99 goes a step further. Neutral Creamy Shampoo is designed to become a thick foam to ensure maximum lubrication and ensure there's no chance of leaving scratches on paintwork.

What is Soft99?

Detail shots of the shampoo complete with instructions, Japanese name and bottle design.
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/CAR

Founded in Japan in 1954, Soft99 started out making car waxes before establishing itself at the forefront of car care innovation, first with the novel but excellent Glaco rain repellent range and more recently with quartz coatings and interesting (but sometimes misplaced) takes on more conventional car care.

The products all have a certain charisma about them that put me in mind of the early Gran Turismo games or ‘90s sporty Kei cars with garish stripes, bright colours and busy styling. The packaging, in particular, is so endearing and this shampoo is no different, with a wild and busy array of colours designs and Japanese kanji, all wrapped around a reassuringly robust and squidgy plastic bottle.

Soft99 even affixes a sticker with the instructions written in English, handy for those of us not fluent in Japanese. There is one issue with these instructions though, namely a vagueness on how much shampoo to use. Its website clearly states to use 75ml of shampoo to every 10 litres of water, something that's bizarrely missing from the English instructions.

Foam like a (Suzuki) Cappuccino

The foam from the shampoo on a wash mitt
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/CAR

You're probably expecting a foam akin to a nice bubble bath, those larger bubbles held together that slowly disintegrate overtime before settling into a thin, weak layer like most car shampoos. Soft99's foam is on the next level though, its bubbles are smaller and densely packed together like the microfoam you'd find in a nice cappuccino with only minor agitation. There's a genuine bonus to this type of foam too, the bubbles remain stable for longer and it clings well to any surface, a quick dunk of your hand into the bucket will prove that.

It certainly lathers up more than any other shampoo we've tested. That foam doesn't dissipate either, it's incredibly stable due to the small bubble size. That's good news for lubrication as those bubbles will help prevent scratches as you wash the bodywork using a wash mitt.

The actual car cleaning ability is adequate. It's good for moderate levels of dirt but will struggle against anything particularly baked-in. If your car has a decent coating applied this shampoo will perform well, but for serious cleaning, a stronger shampoo will be needed. Although, there is a way to use this shampoo to get better cleaning results that doesn't require a bucket, supposedly.

No bucket needed you say?

A car bonnet with foam on it
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/CAR

Yes, well kind of. Soft99 proudly proclaim that this shampoo can be applied directly to a wet sponge and then used to clean a car avoiding the need for a big bucket of water. We tried it with a sodden wash mitt and the foaming ability was even better than from a bucket, it was almost like a snow foam.

The cleaning ability appears to be a little better, but you'll use so much more of the product it becomes uneconomical. It doesn't help that the product sloshes out of the bottle like a cheap aftershave being doused on a moustached 1970s detective either. So don't go throwing your buckets away just yet.

The shampoo freshly applied, drying and removed with no water marks
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/CAR

Another unusual innovation with this shampoo is that it shouldn't be an issue should it dry on a car's bodywork. You're probably aware that most car shampoos will leave unsightly white marks if allowed to dry on bodywork and the only way to shift them is to re-wash a car, a problem that only gets worse in the summer as the sun dries out body panels quicker.

Soft99 claims that it's perfectly acceptable to let the foam dry onto a car because it won't leave any marks once rinsed off with water. Naturally, this claim was tested by letting the shampoo dry on the car bonnet before rinsing it away with water and seeing if it left anything unsightly. The dried-on shampoo came away with simple rinsing after drying on the car, there wasn't even a need to break out the pressure washer, hose water was enough to rinse away the shampoo leaving behind spotless paintwork.

This is a much-needed feature considering the fact the foam dries incredibly quickly. You can see it beginning to harden as you agitate it and it's especially noticeable when working in direct sunlight.

Verdict

The recommended amount of shampoo next to the bottle
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/CAR

Soft99 Ph Neutral Creamy Shampoo is quite unlike any other car shampoo we've come across and judged purely as a shampoo it doesn't do particularly well.

Sure it lathers up well but struggled on more baked-in bits of debris. Add in the clever innovations however and the shampoo becomes more recommendable; the lubricating abilities are almost unmatched and the fact it can be left to dry without leaving behind residue makes it perfect for summer use.

What can be concluded is that this shampoo is the perfect shampoo for those hot summer months, just so long as your car isn't too dirty.

4/5

Pros Cons
• Amazing lubrication • Not biodegradable
• Fun to use • Not the strongest shampoo we’ve seen
• Perfect for summer use

How we tested it:

To test Soft99 Ph Neutral Creamy Shampoo I cleaned a car following both the instructions printed on the bottle and Soft99's website. The car was moderately dirty and pre-washed beforehand to loosen any larger bits of debris ready for shampooing.

Other products used in this test: Autobrite Direct Citrus Wash | Oxford 20-Litre Detailing Bucket With Grit Guard | ShinyCar UK Wash Mitt | 26 JPN Drying Towel | Ryobi Power Washer

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