Fact Checked

What Is Car Polish?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Car polish is a product that removes dirt, grease, scratches and scrapes from automobile paint. It is a car detailing product that comes in several different forms such as liquids, sprays and creams. Car detailing refers to the cleaning and shining work done on vehicles. Many polishes contain solvents such as turpentine that clean the auto paint and remove impurities from it to allow the shine to show through.

Although car polish brings out the shine in a vehicle's paint finish, it's important to understand that polishes are not the same as waxes. This is confusing to many people since some waxes are sold as polishes and vice versa, but the two products are actually very different. Car wax applied to automobile paint acts as a protective layer. It's non-abrasive and fills in little dents in the paint finish. Polish on the other hand, is slightly abrasive and it removes surface grime.

Car polish helps remove dirt, grease, and scratches from car paint.
Car polish helps remove dirt, grease, and scratches from car paint.

While car polish can be used before waxing, car wax should never be used before polishing. Wax will seal in any dirt and impurities rather than remove them like polish does. Years of dirt build-up and exposure to sunlight can give auto paint a dull look that can usually be brightened and improved with polish. The polish often removes scratches or scrapes as well.

Car polishes may turn red cars pinkish.
Car polishes may turn red cars pinkish.

Car polishing is best done with a soft cloth. After adding a fairly large amount of polish to the cloth, a circular motion should be used when polishing a vehicle. Some people use an electric polisher to apply the polish, but many experts don't recommend this since these polishers often remove too much surface material and expose the undercoat. Even polishing a car too often by hand could reveal the undercoat.

Manufacturer's directions should always be followed when using polish. Red cars may not get a satisfactory result when treated with car polishes and may turn dull and/or pinkish. Vehicle polishing products should be first tested in an unnoticeable area of the car.

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Discussion Comments


i have been trying to develop a car polish with cutting and high gloss finish - no wax for the past year. somehow i have not been successful, could you please give me some guidelines.


Do you guys have any comment on Zymol car polish? The only two offered in my area are Zymol and Maguires car polish, and I've tried Maguires, which was OK, but I'd still like some better results.

How does Zymol work for you? Do you get pretty good results with it, or is it just so-so? I'm really hoping that I can find one of these that works, otherwise I'm going to have to start ordering polish off the internet.

Any advice?


@streamfinder -- I've used several brands on and off in the past few years, including Zaino car polish, Nu Finish car polish, and 3m car polish.

I get pretty good results with any of them, so I think that a lot of times it doesn't really come down to which polish you choose to use, but how good you are with a car polish buffer.

As with wax, hard work and patience is what's going to get you your nice shiny finish, not any particular brand.

Although I have noticed that most spray car polishes don't seem to work quite as well. I don't know if there's something difference in their chemical makeup or what, but they seem to get spotty easier than non-spray car polishes.

Well, there's my two cents -- hope it helped!


Thanks for this article -- I was confused on what the difference was between car wax and polish, but this totally cleared it up for me.

So now, after reading this, how do I choose the best car polish? Is there any one that is particularly better than the others?

I only polish my car once every few weeks, so I need one that's pretty durable.

Do you have any suggestions?

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    • Car polish helps remove dirt, grease, and scratches from car paint.
      By: Leo Lintang
      Car polish helps remove dirt, grease, and scratches from car paint.
    • Car polishes may turn red cars pinkish.
      By: md3d
      Car polishes may turn red cars pinkish.