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Polish vs Wax: The Differences

Arup Das, 01-Apr-2010

Page 1

Fine, they're not as different as chalk and cheese may be but wax and polish are not exactly identical either

Many people love to show off their car. But if it’s dirty it’s very difficult for anyone to be proud and such a joy is also shortlived as the paintwork becomes scratched, stained with oil marks and dust. Ageing of the exterior paint is a natural process that gives a dull look to the car. It’s important to keep your car clean not only for your pride but also to prolong the life of your paintwork. There are two main methods to give your paintwork a wonderful shine, you can use a car wax or a car polish. Many people are unaware of the difference between a car wax and a car polish, people may choose between these products simply based on price rather than understanding. Adding more confusion in everyone’s mind, nowadays car polish and car wax seem to have become interchangeable terms but the fact is that there is a huge difference between the two when it comes to automotive paint and paint protection. No wonder many people think of car polish the same way they think of furniture polish, or nail polish – something that's applied and leaves a shiny surface.

Car polish versus car wax

A car wax works like a nail polish. Although the latter is called polish, what it really does is leave behind a protective layer on the nail. Car wax does the same thing; it leaves a protective layer of wax on the car, after it has been polished. To aid its protective abilities, most waxes now come with UV inhibitors that protect the paint from the sun’s rays.

A car polish on the other hand, uses abrasives to remove minor scratches and swirl marks from the car's surface. Polishing is used when the paint on the car has dimmed or lost its sheen, thanks to oxidation. Frequently polishing is not recommended since its abrasive properties can damage the surface of the car’s bodywork.

When to use whichWhen to use which

Before deciding whether to wax or polish your car, wash your car thoroughly and make sure it is dry. Then lightly run your fingers over the paint, feeling for rough spots or elevated specks. If the surface is smooth you need to only apply wax and wipe off as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If you feel little bumps or irregularities, the defects are below the surface and the car needs to be polished before you can apply any wax on it.

Combo product

There are plenty of products that claim to be combination products that have both wax and polish but seldom is this fact made very clear on the bottle! In fact, more often than not, they are labelled either as ‘wax’ or as ‘polish’. Unfortunately the marketing guys don’t seem to care much about defi nitions and will call their product whatever they think sounds best. So take care to always read the label properly and ensure that you're really buying a product you need. Our take is polish your car fi rst if required and then wax it. Forget the so-called combination products.

Pros and consPros and cons

Used too often, polish can eventually scrape off the clear-coat and the paint. In such a case, the car will need to be repainted. However some polishes contain mild abrasives or polymer blends that do little damage. Polish's advantage is that it will shine longer and water will continue to bead for upto a year. Wax needs to be applied more often and can actually melt if it gets hot, particularly on fl at surfaces, like the roof and hood, exposed to the sun.

Easy steps for a shine

  • The first step is to wash the car. Hosing down the car loosens dirt and other particles from the body surface.
  • Wash the car with a mild shampoo and then rinse it.
  • Dry the car completely so as not to leave water spots.
  • Apply the polish on the car evenly. Do not put polish on surfaces that cannot be buffed.
  • Rub with a soft dry cloth in circular motions. Be careful not to rub too hard and not in the same direction as any scratches on the car.
  • Once the car is properly polished and is shining, apply a thin coat of wax on the surface of the car.
  • Rub the surface with a fresh soft dry cloth. The wax will put the all important protective layer on the polished surface of the car.
  • Remember you should never wax a car in direct sunlight. Find a shaded area to do it.
  • Polish off the wax as soon as possible, before it hardens. If the wax on the surface is already hard then do not try to rub it. Apply a little more wax on the same area to soften it and then rub it off as normal.
  • A soft terry cotton cloth or a microfibre cleaning cloth are best suited for polishing and waxing your car.

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