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Car Wax Techniques

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See also Wax Overview | Waxing Technique | Wax Product Recommendations

When I'm polishing my car, I like to use an orbital buffer. But when I'm waxing my car, I haven't found that the machine helps very much and in fact I think it goes slower than it does by hand.

Applicator. I like to use a microfiber sponge to apply the wax. The name is not 100% accurate in that the "microfiber sponge" is really microfiber cloth wrapped around a regular sponge.

Surface Preparation. The surface of the car should be absolutely clean before you begin waxing. If it isn't clean, waxing will scrub grit into the surface and scratch your paint.

Direction to Apply the Wax. On top panels (hood, trunk, roof), use front-to-back motions. On side panels, use up-and-down motions. I'm not sure why this matters, but it seems to work. The main point, I think, is forget about the old "circular motion, wax on, wax off" idea. That's just a recipe for putting swirl marks on your car. If you drop the applicator, even if it looks clean put it in the wash and get a new one; it isn't worth the risk of grinding unseen grit into your finish.

How Thick to Apply the Wax. Most waxes work best when applying a very thin layer. You're going to rub off the excess anyway, so there's no benefit in putting it on thickly. I find it easier to apply thin layers when I keep the applicator slightly damp. I keep a spray bottle filled with water handy for this purpose.

Removing the Wax. Some waxes recommend immediate removal, some recommend letting them haze first, and some (notably Zaino) recommend a specified drying time of 15-30 minutes or more. Follow the manufacturer's directions in this regard. Remove the wax with a clean towel, turning the towel often to avoid scrubbing any foreign substance across the car. Be careful not to let the towel touch the ground. If it does, put it in the wash and get a new towel. I have gone back and forth between using large vs. small towels for this. The advantage of large towels is that you don't need as many of them. The disadvantages are that you have to keep refolding the towel and it's easier to accidentally drag part of a larger towel on the ground. I've mostly been using smaller towels lately.

What Kind of Towels to Use. As with every other aspect of car detailing, there are strong opinions about whether 100% cotton or microfiber towels are better. I've used both, and both work well. The advantage of microfiber, which for me is compelling, is that the tiny fibers seem to do a better job of completely removing the wax, which essentially means that removing the wax and buffing the car occur simultaneously. Another way of saying the same thing is that, given the same wax, I think I get a slightly better shine when I remove the wax with microfiber rather than cotton. On the other hand, cotton towels seem easier to maintain than microfiber. Cotton seems to release the wax in the wash, whereas microfiber seems to hold on to some of it. You also have to be careful not to use fabric softener with microfiber. Fabric softener actually makes the fibers hard, which defeats the purpose of using microfiber in the first place. Chemical Guys have a micro-fiber cleaning detergent.

The Results. The pictures below are of my Audi right before I sold it. Not bad for 6 1/2 years old!

See Also

Wax Overview

Wax Product Recommendations

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