Car Polish and Wax: Are They the Same? Which Comes First?

January 27, 2012

Car polish and wax are products used to help protect your vehicle. There are many different car detailing and protection steps you can take. All of these products will help protect the paint job. You can use both polish and wax at home and incorporate them in part of your car washing schedule. They will help to keep your car looking fantastic, and if used regularly, your car will look like new.

Car Polish

Car polish is used before you apply the wax coat. It is used to remove grease, dirt, scrapes, and scratches that cannot be removed from washing. This is a type of car wax prep and car detailing product. Polish comes in the form of creams, sprays and liquids and contains solvents that will remove impurities to allow the paint to shine through.

Polishes are different from waxes as the polish will remove dirt but will not provide any protection. It is used before waxing and you want to use a pretty large amount of polish on a cloth. You want to polish using a circular movement or you can even use an electric car polisher. You do need to be careful, because if you polish too much, then you may take off too much paint and expose the primer or undercoat.

Car Wax

Car wax is used after washing and polishing to add a layer of shine to the car as well as a layer of protection. It is a type of paint sealant. If there is any dirt or stains on the paint, then the wax will seal it on the car. Wax will protect your car from UV rays and will prevent pollution and other dust from damaging your car. It also minimizes the moisture that comes into contact with the paint, as water causes corrosion.

Many people feel that waxing can damage the car but not if you use a good quality wax that contains natural ingredients. Using wax will actually increase your car’s life and can be very beneficial. You can apply car wax very fast and there are many different brands and forms of wax. You do not want to apply a lot of wax as too much can actually damage the paint. It is best to apply a thin, even layer using a sponge or soft cloth.

So What Should You Use?

The use of polish or wax will depend on what your car needs. If you have a lot of scratches or rust then polish will be the product of choice. Waxing helps to protect the car and produce a high shine. You should wax your car approximately every 3 months, but polishing only needs to be done when you notice problem spots.

Ultimately you should check out your car after washing but before waxing to see if you need to use polish. By getting to nicks and scratches quickly you can minimize damage. Scratches that are left untreated can begin to rust and may eventually form small holes.


Before using any type of wax or polish it is important to read the directions and perform a test on a small spot. The ingredients of wax and polish all vary and may affect your cars paint in different ways.

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