Detailing Products
by Paul Gasparola and Angela Brown
Professional Detailers Association

If, reading various product labels, you're confused as to what is a "cleaner wax" and what is a "polish" or even "wax", to say nothing of "compounds", you aren't alone. Even their makers only differentiate between "cleaners" and "polishes" or even "waxes" and "polishes". Determining the correct product to use for restoring or maintaining a shine is not always easy. For the most part, there are rubbing and polishing compounds, sealers and glazes, one-step cleaner waxes and protecting waxes. To help solve this dilemma, the following has been compiled for a quick general reference of these products.


Often a watery, sometimes transparent liquid, glazes have two primary jobs: to fill in tiny scratches and buffed to shine. Glazes are applied with a 100% cotton cloth and allowed to dry. The glaze dries as a haze then buffed to a shine, a shine, which, almost immediately, must be protected by a wax. If left un-waxed, the glaze and its benefits are quickly dissipated by sunlight.


Sealers perform and are applied much like a glaze. The chief difference between a sealer and a glaze is... the visible effect on the finish. Glazes give the finish a higher luster than does a sealer. However, sealers generally do a better job of enhancing a finish's depth of color and reflective clarity. Like glazes, most sealers lose their effect unless protected by wax.


Some products are liquid polishes, designed for hand application. These products use cleaning solvents to remove dead paint, stains and imbedded dirt not removed by washing. For light oxidation problems, they work fine and are quick and easy to apply. As with compounds, sealers and glazes, you must understand that these products do not protect paint. You must apply wax afterward for protection. Application can be made in about and followed by a wax or a one?step cleaner wax.


For cars with good paint, a one-step cleaner wax is quick and easy to use. You can remove slight oxidation, hide swirls and give paint some protection, all in a one step application. These are perfect for people who like to maintain their car on a consistent basis. To reach a high level of shine with protection, this is good. For show quality work I do not recommend combination products.


Polymer sealant technology provides durability of traditional wax products, but with the introduction of amino functional silicones. Sealants are used mostly for the after-market. Amino functional silicone fluids posses the ability to cross link, forming a large polymer layer for protection. Car dealerships are famous for offering treatment to customers purchasing a car. Poly coat and similar products combine polymers, silicones and waxes into a single treatment that is supposed to last up to a year, as long as it is rejuvenated according to schedule. "Car Show People" wonder about the effects this type of Product as it does not allow the paint to breath. Cars should not be covered with anything but carnauba / montan wax. Others wonder about the silicones in poly-sealants and their effects on future paint jobs or touch-ups. The silicones penetrate body fillers and metal, making a new paint job or touch-up difficult. Body shops dislike silicones because they cause "fish-eyes" in new paint.


Clear coats and urethane paint finishes need special polish designed to remove oxidation, harsh scratches, swirl marks and to restore color. Then to complete the job with a non-abrasive carnauba/montan based wax. The end result will be a deep paint finish as smooth as silk and as clear as glass.


Most waxes are described as their soft or hard wax. Hard waxes, including carnauba (vegetable) and montan (fossil) tend to have a higher melting point thus provide a hard film finish. They promote excellent gloss, color intensity and durability. Softer waxes, including paraffin (mineral petroleum) and beeswax (animal) tend to have a low melting point thus provide a softer film finish. They provide less shine. Synthetically produced (man-made) wax can do little to improve the paint finish but has ease of use. Good paint needs wax to help keep it oily because paint never really dries. Paint also needs to breathe, and wax helps keep pores open. Wax preserves the paint, inhibiting oxidation. Waxes typically come in hard paste (no water), pre-softened paste, cream or liquid. These forms are arrived at by a simple adjustment of the raw material. Wax has four important functions: 1) it protects the newly exposed fresh paint or clear-coat layer, 2) it protects the scratch filler removed, 3) it produces a brilliant, mirror like shine; and 4) it weather and water proofs the finish. How durable are waxes? This is open to discussion. A normal wax product might last 30 to 45 days. How long depends on the climate, quality of wax used, how often the car is washed, and if it is garaged are many factors to answer to the question. Do once-a-year waxes work? A once-a-year wax is typically not a wax, but are polymers or paint sealants. They may also have chemical cleaners in them to provide a good bonding to the paint surface. When people see the car's finish losing its shine, they assume it needs waxing. Actually the surface may need polishing and then a good natural wax. The ultra wax job for paints other than high-tech is two applications of polish, two of cleaner wax and three of carnauba/montan based wax. It will probably take two days to do the job, but the results will be brilliantly noticed.

There you have it straight talk on difference of chemicals. Choose wisely.

2002 Angela Brown and Paul Gasparola