Car Wax Vs Car Polish

Wax vs Polish - What's the difference?


The two most frequently asked questions we receive are “What's the best wax to polish my car” and “What's the best polish to use to protect my car”

Some of you may laugh but it's surprising how mislead some people are! Unfortunately these two questions demonstrate the big misconception as the difference between a wax and a polish.

What is the difference between car wax and car polish?

Firstly, we need to ask this...What is a Wax? A wax in its natural form can come as vegetable waxes, carnauba, animal and bees wax to name a few. It's these natural properties of some of these waxes that make them ideal for use in car waxes, with the most popular for use in the automotive industry being carnauba wax.

Why is carnauba wax ideal for cars?

Well, there are a number of reason:

  • Carnauba Wax is virtually insoluble in water, meaning that it won't disappear or be removed very easily after each wash or rain shower.
  • It has a melting point of approx 82-86°c, so it can withstand high daylight summer temperatures without melting off your car.
  • It is one of the hardest waxes that can be found in its natural form and thus produces a very durable and extremely glossy finish when combined with other waxes and ingredients which we find in wax products. 

100% Carnauba Wax Products?

You may see adverts for waxes which contain 100% Carnauba Wax, so you may be lead into thinking that you're getting a tub of 100% Carnauba Wax. Well you really wouldn't want this, because carnauba is like concrete in its natural form. In reality, it's probably more like 1/3 carnauba! However, if you look at the percentage of the wax in the product (assuming that no other waxes are blended in like bee's wax) then it is possible to have 100% of the wax content being carnauba.

Most car waxes will therefore be a combination of the natural wax, solvents, silicone fluids, other waxes and colorants. Some will also contain abrasives, depending on the product being developed. It is necessary to add these ingredients to produce a softer product that can easily be applied to our paintwork.

By giving your paintwork its shine, your wax will effectively be “smoothing” out the surface of the paint by “filling” in many of the imperfections in the paintwork. Of course by claying your car first, you are getting rid of all the contaminants in order to achieve a smooth surface on which to apply your wax.... something which is vital!

Many car paint surfaces suffer from dullness and swirl, so there is only so much "filling" a wax can achieve, and all you are effectively doing is masking up the true potential of your paintwork. 

So in summary, a wax fills imperfections and protects your bodywork. They certainly help towards a shiny finish, but its primary job is protection. Learn more about which wax to use on your car here

What is a Car Polish?

Understanding what a car wax is, a car polish on the other hand is a product that uses fine amounts of abrasive compounds in order to remove very very fine layers of the top coat to flatten out the surface to ensure an equal reflection of the light, thus producing a highly polished look. Products vary in the amount of abrasiveness they contain and modern polishes will be made of what is known as "diminishing abrasives", which break down into further smaller particles as they are worked into the paint. These get finer and finer the more they are used/polished into the paint. Some polishes contain gloss enhancing oils which further aid the process in achieving that deep gloss shine. 

Can I just use polish on my car?

Well yes you can, but as explained, the polish will contain an abrasive of some sort and this will remove any wax that may have been on your paintwork prior to polishing. Your paintwork would therefore be shiny after polishing but no longer protected, which is where your wax comes in. This locks in all that hard work and protects your paintwork from future contamination and industrial fallout that it is exposed to on a daily basis! 

So what's a glaze?

Purple Glaze

To add to the myriad of products we have available to us to achieve that showroom shine, it's worth mentioning another product group called Glazes. These are products which contain NO abrasives but are a combination of gloss enhancing oils and Kaolin which effectively fill in any remaining imperfections in the paintwork to ensure a bright and evenly reflective surface.

Glazes are best suited to modern paints as a pure polish can will be alot more abrasive. Glazes can be used more frequently and more safely on these softer paint surfaces and still produce a very high gloss and wet look to your paintwork.

As with a car polish, it is still very important to wax immediately after using a glaze in order to seal and lock in that protection. This will be immediately noticable when you run water over the paintwork as you will get that familiar "beading" 


Hopefully this write up has helped to explain the difference between polishes and waxes, how they work and what difference they make to the look and protection of your paintwork. They should be used together in order to achieve the showroom shine combined with the protection your paintwork needs!

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