Is Bathroom Cleaner Effective in Cleaning Your Car’s Engine Bay?

Do you like to show up for the occasional “Cars and Coffee” car meets or simply just want to keep your car’s maintenance and keep it as clean as possible? In either case, you might want to clean up your car’s engine bay, since there’s nothing more embarrassing than having a pristine-looking car, only to be sweating bullets with a nervous smile on your face when some says, “Let’s take a look under that hood!”

You can avoid the potential embarrassment by either diluting some engine degreaser or grabbing a can of “Gunk” to spray down your engine, or you can resort to the bathroom section of your local store and grab a can of “Scrubbing Bubbles.” But can that stuff really clean your car’s engine bay?

Let the bubbles do the work

Using Scrubbing Bubbles to clean a car’s engine bay is a common trick used by car enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, if you run a Google search on the topic, you’re sure to find a plethora of message board posts over the years from enthusiasts in every automaker from Chevrolet to Honda. I personally read about it on a Honda Element owners forum about a decade ago and personally tried on my Honda Element (when I had it).

A "before and after" shot of a Honda Accord engine bay cleaned by Scrubbing Bubbles
A “before and after” shot of a Honda Accord engine bay cleaned by Scrubbing Bubbles |

I can honestly say that it does work, although, it doesn’t work as well as some of the real engine degreasers in the “automotive” section of your grocery store. Go figure. But if you want to try it at home, here are the simple steps to get those smiling bubbles cleaning up your dirty engine bay:

  • Lift your car’s hood and let the engine cool down until it’s cool to the touch
  • Spray on the Scrubbing Bubbles liberally throughout the engine bay.
  • Let it sit for about 5 minutes. All of the hard-working bubbles will disappear quickly, don’t worry, that’s normal.
  • Spray down the engine bay with a hose or pressure washer. Try not to focus too much on one part of the engine bay so that too much water doesn’t pool up. Spray it all evenly.
  • Let the engine bay dry for at least half an hour. You can also wipe down parts of your engine with a microfiber towel to speed up the process.

As always, try this process at your own risk. You can technically spray down the battery and electrical parts safely, just as I did. However, some people are wary of doing that, so it’s up to your own discretion.

What are the results?

My own results were similar to those shown around the Internet, including various Youtube videos: Scrubbing Bubbles works pretty well in getting the engine bay clean, and as a bonus, it makes it smell really good, too. Just remember to get the one without bleach in it as that may cause some damage to parts of your engine bay. Apparently, the active chemicals that are used to clean the soap scum and crud off of your bathtub are effective on the dirt and grime in your engine bay.

If you want your engine bay to have more of a shine when it’s all said and done, then grab some tire shine and spray it on the plastic parts and hoses. That should keep it looking, and smelling, showroom fresh for at least a month or more.