Wax is a clear thin coating that protects glossy paint finishes. The coating is very thin- mere microns thick. Wax particles fill in light scratches in the clear coat, resulting in a glass-like surface that is reflective and smooth to the touch.

Wax offers a thin sacrificial layer of protection against outdoor elements.

Do you hate washing your car? It could be because your car’s paint isn’t sealed. Waxing your paint seals porous surfaces, making the paint surface smooth. Soap, grime, and dirt rinse off much more easily on a sealed paint surface.

Wax is water repellent too. This means not only does wax repel rain and car wash water, it also means that after rinsing, a car with wax will be much easier to dry than one without wax because less water sticks to the paint compared to a car without wax.


Wax is made from:

  • Real carnauba wax
  • Hybrid – A blend of real carnauba wax and synthetic materials, or
  • Fully synthetic materials

Natural carnauba waxes are derived from a Brazilian palm tree leaf. This type of wax has oils that can clean and when dried, is hard and has a glossy appearance. High-end full synthetic waxes are called sealants (or ceramic-infused sealants or ceramic coatings) and are generally more durable than natural wax, with protection measured in months rather than days. Hybrid waxes contain both carnauba wax and synthetic polymers, combining the glossiness of natural wax with the durability of synthetic materials.

Many workers and farmers in Brazil who process raw carnauba wax are subject to severely poor working conditions. Wax also doesn’t last very long- usually just a week at most or until your next car wash, and have since been replaced by sealants in the detailing industry for several decades. However, wax products have high profit margins and don’t last long so car detailing manufacturers and car washes aggressively market waxes. Because of the unfair sourcing and poor durability associated with wax, I don’t offer wax. Instead, for professional jobs and on my own cars, I only use full-synthetic American-made sealants, ceramic-infused sealants, and ceramic coatings. Having said this, wax continues to be very popular with many drivers.

Types Of Wax

There are several types of paint protection products broadly categorized as wax:

  • Cleaner Wax
  • Wax & Dry Products
  • Spray Wax
  • Liquid Wax
  • Paste Wax

Cleaner Waxes

Cleaner wax is also known as polishing wax, all-in-one wax, 3-in-1 wax, and polish wax.

Cleaner waxes were my go-to detailing products many years ago when I first started detailing cars. These products are a great introduction for anyone curious about paint correction. Cleaner waxes save time because they reduce the 3 steps of compounding, polishing, and waxing to 1 relatively easy buff on, buff off step with the help of fillers that hide swirls, oxidation, and other paint defects.

Cheap car wash services generally use cleaner waxes to save money on labor costs when they upsell polishing services. While cleaner waxes are great because they get the job done by making the paint appear flawless, these products contain fillers which only temporarily mask swirls, oxidation, and other paint defects. The swirl-free finish of paint eventually washes off to reveal the holograms and swirls that were originally on the surface when paint is polished with cleaner wax.

Cleaner waxes generally come in liquid or paste form. I prefer liquid cleaner wax because it’s easier to use than cleaner wax in paste form.

Meguiar’s Cleaner Wax is the classic bottle that started it all. This all-in-one product literally created the hobbyist car detailing industry in the 1970s because of its ability to hide imperfections like swirls without the need for a machine polisher and continues to be very popular with enthusiasts and DIYers.

Wax As You Dry Products

Wax as you dry products combine drying and waxing in one simple step. While not as effective as some other forms of waxing, wax and dry products offer unbeatable convenience and a wax coating in a fraction of the time it normally takes.

Spray Waxes

Spray waxes are the most common consumer wax products. These products are really easy to use because wax dispenses from a spray nozzle. With advances in the automotive detailing industry, some high quality spray wax formulas are now nearly as good as professional paste waxes and liquid waxes. Spray waxes are applied by hand with an applicator pad.

Liquid Waxes

Liquid waxes are similar to spray waxes but in general, are more durable and offer more gloss, but are more a bit more difficult to apply than spray waxes because of a thicker consistency. While spray waxes are watery, liquid waxes are thicker like lotion. Because of this thicker consistency, dried liquid wax requires more elbow grease to buff off your paint compared to spray waxes when it dries.

Paste Waxes

Paste wax is the old school way to wax. It’s the most durable and glossy form of traditional wax. It usually comes in a tub with a foam applicator pad. You get the foam applicator pad, push it into the tub and spin it around to work the wax onto the pad. Then you take the pad to the paint’s surface of the first panel you’re waxing and spread it evenly across the paint. Buff dry once the wax has dried. Paste wax, like liquid wax, also requires a bit of elbow grease to buff off.

Because car care manufacturers, car washes, and cheap detailers in San Gabriel Valley continue to promote highly profitable wax products, wax continues to be popular despite having been replaced by sealants in the detailing industry for several decades. This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for wax in car detailing anymore. For example, if you’re presenting your car for a competitive show, then a final layer of spray wax might be a good idea for you because natural carnauba wax, while not durable, is highly glossy and could give you that extra edge you might need for award-winning shine. If you know someone who could benefit from this advice, then please pay it forward by sharing a link to this page. Thanks, now go wash your car!

Categories: Exterior