Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Choose the right wax or polish

July 1, 2009

When it comes to detailing the exterior of a vehicle, it is essential to use the right product and equipment to achieve the goal set forth. Because there are so many products on the market, sometimes it’s hard to know what to use and when.

If you’ve been in the business for a few years you probably know most of the products and tricks of the trade. However, if you’re new to the industry, it can be quite confusing. The idea behind this article is to inform you of the different types of products and equipment needed to perform professional detail services.

The right way to apply

The first step in understanding the different products is to properly clean the vehicle. Before you get started, the vehicle should be washed of all road grime or contaminants on the surface. Next is determining which service you are offering.

For instance:

  • If it is a quick wash and wax, then a speed glaze or similar type of product is best.
  • If the paint has light scratches or oxidation, a compound would be the next step. Then, finish with any type of wax.
  • If it is a newer vehicle and the customer wants to maintain that shine, a one–step wax is a great option as it performs double duty in mild situations.

Certain waxes will offer better protection than others, so consult with your supplier for your best options. A paint sealant offers some of the best protection and lasts longer than conventional waxes. Studies have shown that most waxes get soft and begin to break down at 80° F degrees, while many paint sealants are heat resistant up to 250° F degrees. Many car dealers offer this as a protection plan and charge roughly $400 to $800.


Compounds are made to remove light scratches, scuffs, oxidation and many other contaminants such as bird deposits, bugs, road grime, and tree sap, etc. The degree of difficulty to remove or minimize the problem in the paint will dictate which compound to use.

If you’re not sure which product to use, it’s a good idea to start with the mildest first, and then upgrade if needed. Most vehicles have a clear coat paint finish and using a clear coat compound does the trick 90 percent of the time.

You will need a more aggressive compound in order to take out deeper scratches or after wet sanding a scratch. Although you can rub out scratches by hand, using a professional buffer is much easier and less labor intensive. A buffer is good for light problems or a hi–speed buffer when speed and heat is needed to repair the problem.

You can finish the job by applying a swirl wax, paint sealant, cream wax or polish.

Speed glazes

Speed glazes are one of the best quick wax products on the market. Most of these products are made to be used as a quick finish. You can apply them to the paint while wet or dry.

Many carwashes use this product for a quick and inexpensive express detail. Car dealers will use this product to wipe off finger prints on showroom vehicles. It’s as easy as spray on and wipe off.


Waxes include a multitude of products. Basically, all of these (whether paste, one–step, swirl, polish cream or finish) work the same way. Once the paint has been treated with a compound or clay to remove overspray and other contaminants, you can use any of these products to finish the job.

Any type of buffer, orbital, cyclo or hi–speed, will do the job, just make sure you use the correct pad for finishing. Talk to your supplier if you’re not sure of which pads to use. The rule of thumb is, if it feels course or rough, it is used for cutting. With compounds, if it feels soft, it is used for finishing.

When using the orbital, usually there is a terry cloth side and a velour side. Use the velour side for finishing.


Clay bars are used with a lubricant that removes the contamination from the surface. A clay bar is not designed to remove scratches or oxidation. It is a great product to get a paint finish to feel like glass. A step–by–step procedure would be to clay the paint, then compound it if needed, and then finish with wax or a sealant.

Caution: If you have never used a hi–speed buffer, it would be a good idea to go to the junk yard and get a hood to practice on before starting. Or attend a professional training program that many companies offer.

Once you know what to use and how to use it, you will not waste materials, time, or money, which of course, helps your bottom line.

Michael Patrick, owner of Appearance Plus in Melbourne, FL, has owned and operated two carwashes, six detail super centers and product distribution routes since 1987.