How Does Wax Restores Car’s Paint


In this article you will learn:

  • The basics of paint restoration

  • The purpose of car wax in automotive care

  • How some waxes work to restore paint while others don’t

The term “paint restoration” gets thrown around a lot in detailing circles. Professional detailers know exactly what this means, but many people who are just learning about car restoration use the term broadly and sometimes incorrectly to describe washing or waxing their cars, so let’s clear this up. Washing your car does not restore your paintwork, and, depending on the kind of product you’re using, waxing your car may not either. In this guide, we’ll take a step back to provide some clarity on the topic.

First of all, what do we mean when we say “paint restoration?” That answer is pretty straight-forward. It’s the step in your detailing process when you use polishing agents to remove scratches, swirls, stains and oxidation from your car’s clear coat. Washing your car thoroughly, including removing embedded contaminants from the clear coat, is necessary prep work for paint restoration. Likewise, waxing your car isn’t a restorative measure, but car wax does help to protect your car’s paint finish after you’ve corrected it.

Makes sense, right? You might think so, but there is an exception to this rule, and it’s called “cleaner wax.”

What is a cleaner wax? How is it different from other waxes?

The standard car waxes that most people know and love add protection and a nice, glossy sheen to a vehicle’s clear coat. This is true whether you use carnauba wax, bee’s wax, synthetic polymers or any other combination of wax and protectants. We recommend using these products after you correct any damage in your car’s clear coat. That’s because polishing removes any wax layer that had been present before you corrected the paint and because you’ll want a protective barrier on top of your newly restored finish.

Similarly, cleaner waxes add shine and protection to your finish, thanks to these same wax ingredients, but they also contain built-in polishing agents. This combination means that for a clear coat with very light scratches or oxidation, you can knock out your waxing and paint restoration in one easy step. The tradeoff for this convenience is that cleaner waxes won’t fully restore more severe damage and imperfections, and they don’t provide the same deep, glossy luster as a dedicated wax product, but they do offer a convenient, single-step option for light-duty paint restoration.

However, if you’re looking for a product to help you avoid the need for a new paint job or give you an easy fix for a classic car restoration, a cleaner wax is not the right tool for the job. That level of paint restoration is going to require a more specialized and aggressive polishing compound, followed up by a separate wax or sealant product for gloss and protection.

How to restore lightly damaged paint with a cleaner wax

Dual-action cleaner waxes make paint restoration simple. Just wash and dry your car to remove all soils and, then, using a foam applicator, apply a cleaner wax like Carnauba Liquid Cleaner Wax or Hybrid Solutions Polish & Wax lightly across your car’s finish using small, circular motions. Work in 2’ x 2’ sections, wiping away any extra wax with a clean microfiber cloth. If you find that your cleaner wax isn’t sufficiently removing scratches and oxidation, the damage to your clear coat may be too severe for a cleaner wax. Switch to a dedicated polishing compound and continue buffing your exterior panels until all imperfections have been removed. Then, add a layer of protective wax to your newly restored finish.

restore lightly damaged paint with a cleaner wax

How to restore paint with average to heavy damage

For most cars, everyday usage leads to more severe damage than a cleaner wax can resolve. In these instances, you’ll need to polish and wax your vehicle in two, separate steps. You’ll start by washing and drying your car by hand. Then, put your hand inside a plastic bag and run it across the surface of your car, particularly on the front. You’re checking for tiny bumps that make your clear coat feel like anything other than smooth glass. These bumps are contaminants that get stuck in your clear coat. If you feel any, use a clay bar and clay bar lubricant on the surface of your car to lift these pollutants from your clear coat.

Next, it’s time to polish. We recommend using our Hybrid Solutions PRO 1 & Done Polishing Compound because it works great on everything from light to heavy-duty damage, depending on the polishing pad you use. Once you’ve polished the entire car, protect that beautiful finish with a high-performance wax. We recommend Hybrid Solutions PRO Flex Wax for an incredible, high-gloss shine and months of protection against future damage to your vehicle.

restore paint with average to heavy damage


Subscribe for your newsletter and the rewards will be in your inbox before you even get there


News, events and insights from Turtle Wax® worldwide


Exclusive offers and discounts on Turtle Wax® products


Regular treats and surprises for all subscribers

Thanks! You should receive a confirmation email shortly.