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Polishing vs Waxing: What to Know

Polishing vs Waxing What to Know

Why your car might need waxing and polishing

Cars are constantly exposed to contaminants and the elements, in an unending shower of sun rays, dust, mud, rocks, bird poop, and other cars banging into them. Over time, these elements deplete the quality and shine of car paint, making the vehicle look old and rusty.

Many people are fine with simply driving their cars and doing the bare minimum to keep them clean. But those who adore their cars? They go all out in making sure their automobiles look stunning all the time and give their mechanical babies the best treatment and maintenance practices. If you’re one, then you probably understand this.

You want to keep your vehicle shiny and squeaky clean for as long as possible. Enter regular polishing and waxing.

Many people confuse both processes as the same, but they are not. This post covers the details of polishing and waxing, their differences, and why you may consider one over the other as your car exterior’s saving grace.

Before going into the details, note that car polish will take care of dirt and scratches on your car, but wax will restore the radiance of your car’s paint job.


Car polishing is a simple process that helps remove dirt, oxidation, watermarks, scratches, swirl marks, and other slight flaws that disfigure the exterior of your car. Car polish helps achieve this by removing a super thin layer of car paint, and with this thin layer goes all the surface blemishes on the car. Basically, car polish acts as an abrasive to smoothen car surfaces, without causing any major damage to the car’s paint job.

Car polishes come in varying levels of abrasiveness. However, some are so smooth that they aren’t referred to as abrasives at all. Check out this list of non-abrasive car polishes that offer a shine that will last for months.

These non-abrasive car polishes do not contain any ingredients that chemically erode car paint, so they can be used by professionals and amateurs with near-reckless abandon.

It is advisable to apply car polish before waxing, as it restores oxidation-induced degradation of car paint. The smooth end results of proper polishing should last for about a year.


In simple terms, waxing enhances the look of a car’s paint job. Its job is not to clean or remove blemishes from car surfaces. All the cleaning must have been done prior to applying car wax. Car wax is typically applied after polishing to make the car’s paint coating appear shiny and attractive. Just like car polishes, they generally come in cream, spray, and liquid form.

Think of waxing as a complement to polishing, but remember that it can be applied even without having done any polishing. Instead of removing a super thin layer of car paint like car polish, car wax creates its own car shine by setting a smooth, protective coating on the paint.

Almost every car wax on the market contains a vital ingredient known as carnauba or Brazil wax. Carnauba is important in car waxes because it can withstand UV rays and high temperatures of over 180 degrees Fahrenheit without melting. It's also insoluble, so it doesn’t wash away with water. Carnauba, in combination with colorants, solvents, liquefiers, and sealants, is responsible for the glossy and shiny finish of car waxes.

The car waxes on this list of best car waxes do not produce the conventional sharp glittering shine, but a warm, sparkling glow that will surely turn people’s heads when you drive by. They also provide long-term protection against contaminants.

Unlike car polish that is applied only once a year, it is advisable to apply car wax between two to four times annually as the wear limit for these car waxes is generally between 8 to 12 weeks.

Polishing and Waxing Comparison

The contrast between polishing and waxing is quite obvious. Polishing is deployed to remove road dirt that won’t get off by washing with soap and water, smoothen the car surface, and remove any paint oxidation.

Waxing on the other hand gives a glossy finish, and protects it from contaminants. Both processes go hand in hand (polishing before waxing), but they can be done independently of each other.

Note: If you live where it snows, it is advisable to wax your car before and after winter. If you live in a tropical region where it gets very hot, wax your car before summer to protect the paint from UV radiation.

Tips for polishing and waxing

There are professionals in the field of vehicle polishing and waxing, but if you can’t get your car to them for some reason, don’t worry. Polishing or waxing a car isn’t hard. However, it takes time, energy, and of course, the right products and equipment for the job.

Stick to these tips for polishing and waxing you should be fine:

  • Never wax your car windows.
  • Never polish or wax your car in the sun. Do it under a shade instead.
  • Ensure that you thoroughly clean your car before waxing. If you don’t, any dirt stuck on the car during waxing will be sealed in.
  • Buffing too much or too hard with an electric car polisher will severely damage the car’s paint job. Be careful while using one.
  • Don’t use the same piece of material for washing, polishing, and waxing. Doing that will lead to cross-contamination of products (polish, wax, and soap).
  • Applying too much wax or polish can make the coat uneven and unattractive, so be careful. To ensure this, use microfiber towels to wipe up any excess.
  • After washing your car, spray on a finishing product. A finishing product wipes off fingerprints or smears that may have occurred while you were washing the car. Ensure you do this before commencing polishing or waxing.

Final Note

Consider waxing and polishing your car from time to time - even if you are not a car freak. Waxing and polishing will rejuvenate the quality and gloss of your car paint and also protect it from other contaminants.

Looking for the perfect wax and polish brands for your car? Check out these amazing products to find the best polish and wax for your car.

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