January 11, 2018 5:30 PM  |  Posted By: Mark@PD
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Related Categories: Detailing


People often ask “what is the best polish to use” or “what type of polish do you use”?

To be honest I think they are asking the wrong questions and don't properly understand what polish is, what it contains and how it works.  So in the next few paragraphs I’m going to try and explain what a polish contains, what it is used for and the types of polish available.

BMW M3 corrected paint

How does Polish Work?

Without getting to technical modern car polish contains diminishing abrasives suspended in a carrier fluid.  When you rub the polish onto the surface of the paint the abrasive particles remove a microscopic layer of clear coat.  What this means is that we can lower the level of clear coat below the depth of swirls and scratches therefore removing them.  Polish will also remove hazing, water spots etc. from the surface.  Machine polishing will remove a larger amount of clear coat faster than polishing by hand.

Types of Polish

There are many types of polish on the market from many different manufactures all offering wonderful results, it’s important however to know what the different types of polish do so you buy the correct product for the job.

  • Glaze
  • Pre-wax Cleanser
  • Pre-sealant Cleanser
  • Cleaner Polish
  • All in One
  • Compound
  • Finishing Polish


A glaze is not a polish but I have put it here for reference as it is included in other products so an understanding is necessary.  It is a shine-enhancing product that goes on after polishing but before a wax or sealant. It is made with oils and wetting agents that amplify your paint’s shine and improve the clarity.  Glazes are usually used by car manufacturers and body shops to prefect freshly painted surfaces before the vehicle is handed over to the customer.  Glazes generally do not have protective qualities, but they may have fillers that hide any slight imperfections in the paint.  A glaze is often used by a body shop after compounding to restore the shine and eliminate haze.

Carbon black BMW E60 corrected

Pre-wax Cleaner

As the name suggests this is used prior to applying a carnauba wax, it contains a small amount of abrasives and a larger amount of oils to clean and prepare the surface for the wax. 

Pre-sealant Cleanser

This may sound like the pre-wax cleanser it is in fact different, as the pre-sealant cleanser uses solvents to clean and prepare the surface.  This product will help your sealant bond to the paint and provide a more durable and long lasting finish.  Products like Jeff Werkstatt and Klasse are sold in kits containing a cleanser and a sealant and should be used as such.

Cleaner Polish

Basically this is a product that contains diminishing abrasives and a glaze.  It will freshen up the look of the paint by removing light swirls and hazing.  It also contains glazing agents so it will fill defects in the paint and leave a good shine.

All in One

This is the most popular type of polish that people reach for.  As the name suggests this product is an 'all in one', it contains abrasives, glazes and a wax, however the results will be short lived.  It will not remove much clear coat and will not cause any surface hazing, these products tend to have a lot of fillers which mask any defects.

Series 1 Lotus Elise wet sanded and corrected


A compound is a polish containing abrasive particles, it is used in order to remove a significant amount of clear coat.  If your paint has a lot of scratches, swirl marks or type two water spots the detailer may use a compound to remove these.  These products will leave hazing in the paint as they are aggressive, if you have dark coloured paint you will need to follow up with a finishing polish.

 Finishing Polish

This is a jeweling polish that is used to remove very minor imperfections in the paint.  It improves the gloss and clarity and is a must on dark coloured paint after compounding to remove the hazing.  On light coloured paint e.g. white and silver it’s not really necessary as you won’t see any hazing in the paint.


Most people when they think of polish think of an 'all in one', however as I hope you now see there are many types of polish that you can use depending on what you want to achieve.  It is important to remember that all polish contains oils, these will be left behind on the paint.  So in order to check your work properly you must wipe down correctly with a panel wipe. 

If you need any help selecting a polish or with technique get in touch we are a mobile detailing business in N Ireland, we'll help as best we can.

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