Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Is your chemical checklist up to date?

February 15, 2012

Detailing chemicals fall into a few categories:

  • Cleaners;
  • Compounds;
  • Polishes;
  • Waxes and paint sealants; and
  • Specialty chemicals.

At the time this article was written, most of the major detail chemical companies in the U.S. and a few in Europe were contacted for information on any new and innovative products they might be introducing or have introduced to the market in the past year. None responded, which would lead one to believe they do not have anything innovative to share or they do not want to share it for this article.

Cleaners: This category includes carwash shampoos, engine degreasers, wheel cleaners, all purpose cleaners, tar and grease removers, carpet shampoos, extractor shampoos and glass cleaners. As far as I know there is nothing new in the field. Although one company claims to have a "non-acid" wheel cleaner that is environmentally-safe, safe for human use and works almost as well as hydrofluoric acid cleaners. Personally, I have used this product and it does do an excellent job.

Compounds: These compounds are used for correcting paint finishing problems such as scratching, dulling, oxidation (single stage paint) and removing wet/dry sanding marks. These are a relatively simple chemical to formulate. The only new innovation in this product area was the development of a "microfine" compound to remove spider scratches in a clear coat without causing more scratches than you are taking out. Most of the major companies offer a microfine compound.

There has been talk of compounds for ceramic clear coats, but I personally feel that this is more rhetoric than real. Although a German company whose compounds sell for over $100 a gallon has some compound products that many detailers swear by. Personally, I have never used them, so I cannot provide any direct commentary on the product, but at $100 plus per gallon they better be very, very good from my point of view.

Polishes/swirl removers: Used to remove buffer swirls and holograms or just smooth out and bring the paint to a high shine. I have not found anything new and was not contacted by any of the chemical companies offering anything new in this area. Although one company has introduced a polish for black cars that is a copy of the very famous Liquid Ebony polish that was popular with detailers in the 1980s and 1990s but seems to have disappeared as the company that produced it is no longer in business. It is said that this copy of Liquid Ebony performs as well or better.

Waxes/sealants: If you go to the detail forums or Google "paint sealants" you would think that there are numerous new and innovative products available. However, I have found that most of the miracle claims made about paint sealants and the testimonies are without any scientific proof to validate the claims. Waxes and paint sealants are protection products and basically formulated in the same way by many companies. Some may have a higher shine than another which means it will not be as durable. One that is more durable will not have as high a shine. One is easy to apply and remove and another is not so easy. No one product in this category can be all things to all people. While some chemical marketers would have you think that they have the answer to "never waxing your car again," the legitimate detail chemical companies I have found do not make wild claims about their products because they are dealing with professionals, not car enthusiasts who want to believe that the wax they paid $200 is worth it. Sorry to say, but there's nothing new and innovative in this field.

Specialty chemicals: These represent all other detailing chemicals that do not fall into the other categories mentioned. Products such as vinyl and tire dressings, leather conditioners, fragrances and biological odor eliminators, glass polish, fabric protectants and stain removers. Again, these chemicals are basic, a combination of ingredients to achieve a desired result. To my knowledge there is nothing new or revolutionary in this category. Of course, some products are better than others and that has to do with how they were formulated by the chemist and the issue of price.