We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Whether you work in a showroom or detailing shop, or are simply passionate about your car’s or boat’s appearance, you’ll always want one of these rubbing compounds on hand. They can quickly and easily remove scratches, swirls, oxidation and water marks from your vehicle’s bodywork and windows, so it always looks its best. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.
10. No.7 Heavy Duty
- Can remove headlight haze too
- Requires a lot of buffing
- Shouldn’t be used on fiberglass
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
9. Star Brite Liquid
- Available in two strengths
- A little bit goes a long way
- Must strip off old wax before using
|Brand||Star Brite Liquid|
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
8. Mothers Professional
- Reconditions a paint job
- Removes surface impurities
- Not as harsh as many other options
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
7. 3M Marine Compound and Finishing Material
- Ideal for all fiberglass surfaces
- Won’t clog up buffing pads
- May damage a car’s clear coat
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
6. Blue Ribbon Micro Cut
- Works well on base coats
- Doesn’t produce a lot of splatter
- Needs a finishing compound afterward
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
5. Meguiar’s Marine One-Step
- Removes moderate to heavy scratches
- Safe to use over vinyl graphics
- Takes a lot of elbow grease
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
4. Griot’s Garage Complete
- Doesn’t contain any fillers
- Wipes off in one pass
- Produces an ultra-fine finish
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
3. Turtle Wax T-415 Premium
- Removes 1500-grit sanding marks
- Bottle allows for easy application
- Doesn’t contain any silicone
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
2. Meguiar’s M8501 Mirror Glaze Diamond Cut
- Creates minimal swirling
- Safe for all clear coats
- Best applied by rotary buffing
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
1. 3M Perfect-It EX
- Removes a lot of surface blemishes
- Works well in high humidity areas
- Doesn’t leave behind any residue
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
The Benefit Of Rubbing Compounds
When a vehicle first comes off the lot, it is glowing. The windshield and paint job are perfect, the tires and rims are immaculate, and it even has that new car smell. As the vehicle moves throughout its life, it picks up dust, dirt, animal excrement and many other things which lead to a deteriorating appearance.
Unfortunately, the process of washing away dirt and dust over time causes the tiny particles of dust and sand to scratch and dig grooves into that glowing surface. If there is too much time between washes, or the car is washed with dish soap, this is especially true. Dish detergents contain many ingredients which act to remove the wax, paint, and protective coating of vehicles.
Over time, this can leave the main paint body exposed to the elements, leading to even more damage. The scratches created are often barely visible to the naked eye at first; but over time they can become very noticeable. As these fine scratches build up, the car’s surface becomes dull and hazy. Correcting this issue takes care and often years of practice. Using specialized machines and rubbing compounds, you can gently remove microscopic layers of clear coat to once again give the surface that soft, appealing glow.
The process is simple to understand, yet can be disastrous if approached improperly. Rubbing compounds contain tiny abrasives which cause scratches even smaller than the original ones which are dulling the vehicle’s miraculous shine. Dust and other particulates cause deep scratches in the clear coat; by gently buffing out the big scratches that make the vehicle lose its luster, rubbing compounds allow users to bring everything back to a level playing field. It is this precisely even surface which allows the car to really shine, as less light is scattered by a perfectly even surface.
The Psychology Of Rubbing Compounds
The reasoning behind why humans enjoy the shine of a new car or a pair of high heels has received little research; it has simply been accepted as fact. Recently a team of researchers have analyzed the problem, and the answer is both obvious and surprising.
Using a series of tests, the researchers conclude that humans have a systematic bias towards glossy materials. When two groups were blindfolded and then asked to handle either glossy or matte paper, those handling glossy paper were much more likely to rate it as high quality. Then people were give advertisements printed on matte or glossy paper, and again the test results showed that gloss was always preferred. The team also eliminated the possibility that humans were simply attracted to glossy things like new cars because they are pretty.
The glossiness of any object is originally more related to its functionality. A glossy, waxed car resists the elements, glossy, laminated paper won’t be ruined in water, and glossy shoes resist scuffs and puddles easier than unfinished shoes. The appeal and preference lies in the minds of those looking at the item, and it comes down to a very simple thing: the human need for water. In one study, thirsty subjects showed an enhanced desire for glossy objects, lending credibility to this theory.
There are situations in which this preference for glossy objects will not apply however, and this may be attributed to socialization. While mainstream luxury consumers will choose flashy, glossy items, those with actual wealth prefer simple, unglossed finishes and gentle colors. Similarly, an intellectual business or psychology magazine may lose readers if they choose a high gloss cover; as these options tend to cause a perceived loss of credibility from their readership.
The Process Of Protecting Perfect Paint
To really create that desirable glow in a vehicle, the final step is to protect the hard work of buffing. By buffing out the minute scratches in a cars paint job with a rubbing compound, a level surface is created. The best way to protect this level surface is to regularly seal and wax the coat. The various waxes and sealants on the market are applied with the same gentle care as rubbing compounds, but offer varying degrees of protection.
Sealants and waxes protect the freshly buffed painted surface from the effects of acid rain, bird droppings, dust, and sticky tree sap. Their action of each of these compounds is different. A sealant is a type of synthetic polymer that provides a high gloss finish while lasting much longer than a wax. Sealants are often made of the same types of polymers found in cars themselves. Waxes generally use a base of simple carnauba wax; with or without various additives and compounds. The case for using a wax over a sealant used to be much stronger, as waxes provide a much deeper shine and higher gloss level.
Modern sealants have come a long way, to the point of nearly replacing waxes entirely. Sealants boast higher melting points than wax, which makes them last longer in the elements while still providing much of the depth and shine that waxes do. The saving grace of waxes is that they can also be applied over a paint sealant, which enhances the protection on all the hard work that went into creating a vehicle’s pristine surface.