What Is Carnauba Wax?


In this article, you will learn:

  • Why carnauba wax was once considered the gold standard for car waxes

  • The strengths and weaknesses of carnauba wax as an automobile coating

  • How to apply carnauba wax to your car’s finish

For decades, even before we used the term “detailing,” people were shining and protecting their cars with carnauba-based waxes – and for good reason. Back then, when people wanted to make their cars look great, carnauba wax checked a lot of boxes. It added a certain “wow” factor, it deepened the paint color, it helped water bead and run off the car, and it added a measure of protection to the car’s finish. Even though we have more scientifically advanced car waxes and coatings today, carnauba-based waxes still have an important role to play in the detailing routines of millions of car owners around the world.

So, what is carnauba wax? What makes it unique when compared to other waxes? And why and how should someone use it when detailing their car today? Let’s get to the bottom of all these questions and more!

The natural choice

Manufacturers in a variety of industries use carnauba wax as a raw material to make everything from car wax and cosmetics to dental floss, food and pharmaceuticals. For a material that’s so commonly used, you might be surprised to learn how uncommon carnauba wax is. In fact, carnauba wax can be found only in the leaves of one particular type of palm tree that only grows in northern Brazil.

As a car wax, carnauba wax got its big break when companies like Turtle Wax discovered its combination of performance attributes. Of all the natural waxes, carnauba wax is the toughest and has a high melting point. Both of these are critical to creating an effective and durable coating that needs to resist scratches and withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees. The last thing you’d want your car wax to do is wash off quickly or melt away in the sun.

Nature plus nurture

On its own, carnauba wax is not the buttery smooth product you see in the container of a paste or liquid car wax. It’s actually a hard, flaky substance. Car wax manufacturers add other ingredients, such as solvents, polymers and other waxes to make carnauba wax malleable and easy to apply to your car’s finish. As those other ingredients evaporate from your car’s painted surfaces, the carnauba wax cures and hardens on the clear coat, allowing you to buff it to a beautiful shine.

Beauty versus durability

When deciding whether to use a carnauba-based wax on your car, versus some other type of wax or coating, you should know the pros and cons of the different types of products. Of the natural waxes, most people find carnauba wax to be the best performer for durability and shine. As a natural ingredient, it has an indescribable glow that’s difficult to recreate with synthetic products. But, while it is durable compared to other natural waxes, carnauba wax isn't as durable as silicon-, ceramic- or graphene-infused coatings. It also doesn’t provide as much protection and chemical resistance, as a synthetic product. Choosing the right one for your detailing job can come down to how you use your car, what you’ll likely run into when driving and how often you plan to detail your car.

hybrid solutions ceramic wax line

Consider your mileage, driving conditions and detailing routine

There are a few instances when a carnauba wax may be a better choice for you than a ceramic coating or paint sealant. If your car is a weekend driver and remains parked in the garage most days, a carnauba wax is probably a great choice for you. If you have a show car and you want incredible glow and old school shine, a carnauba wax will deliver for you. Or, if waxing your car is a labor of love that you enjoy doing four or more times a year, go with something like Super Hard Shell Liquid Car Wax.

On the other hand, if we’re talking about your daily driver, or a car that gets a lot of exposure to the sun, sand, harsh weather and/or road salts, you’ll want to pick a wax or coating that uses more durable and protective ingredients, like super hydrophobic polymers, ceramics or even graphene, the world’s strongest protective ingredient. For the ultimate protection, we recommend Hybrid Solutions Pro Flex Wax or Hybrid Solutions Pro to the Max Wax.

hybrid solutions graphene flex wax

Wax on, wax off

If you have chosen carnauba wax, you’ll be happy to know that applying it is incredibly simple, regardless of whether it’s a paste or liquid. Start by washing and drying your car. You want a completely clean surface before applying anything to your clear coat. Next, remove any contaminants embedded in the surface with a clay bar or skip this step by using a carnauba-based, dual-action cleaner wax.

To wax your car, start at the roof and work your way down the pillars to the hood, trunk, fenders, doors and finally, the lower panels. Work in 2’ x 2’ sections, using a foam applicator to rub a small amount of wax across each section. Work the pad in a circular motion, following an even pattern, to consistently distribute the wax. Allow the wax to dry to light haze and use a clean microfiber detailing cloth to buff the area to a beautiful, glossy sheen. Continue working in 2’ x 2’ sections from the top down until you’ve covered the entire car.

wax on, wax off

Enjoy that beautiful glow

Once you’ve finished waxing your car, take it for a spin and show off your work! Your newly detailed car will surely turn heads with that trademark carnauba wax glow.


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.