Cleaning Guides

How to Polish Your Car Like a Pro

Whether you take your car to the car wash or like to give it a good clean yourself, it’s nice to go that step further and polish up the paintwork. Not only will taking care of your car give your car a premium look, but it will also help maintain the paintwork and prevent rust and corrosion from forming. But before you get your car polished out. Let’s make sure you know your waxing from your polishing.

Car cleaning newbies often think that waxing your car will make your car shine all by itself, but waxing is mostly used for preserving and protecting paintwork and taking out those deeper imperfections, once you’ve polished. So polishing, if done right, will leave your car looking shiny, and adding wax will add that protective layer.

So, if you:

  • Want to remove minor paint imperfections from your car;
  • Need to remove minor paint scratches and swirl marks;
  • Want to know how to bring back the spotless shine all by yourself.

…then read on!

Possible risks and hazards when polishing your vehicle

Polishing your car can be a fairly straightforward job when you know what products to use and how to use them, but there are things that can go wrong, so it’s always best to be cautious. Here’s a list of mishaps that can happen when polishing your car:

  • First and foremost, wear gloves. Getting polish on your skin can cause irritation or even burns;
  • If you’re using an electric polisher, be sure to keep loose clothing and hair away from the motor and spinning disc;
  • Work outdoors, it’ll help prevent you breathing in accumulated fumes;
  • One for the environment – make sure you don’t dispose of polishing products into the ground. Always read the label for information.
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Tools and materials for polishing a car

Fortunately, when polishing a car, you don’t need to invest in a shed full of products to achieve great results. Just make sure the sun isn’t shining too hard down on your car, because that can cause your solution to dry up before you’ve even started polishing it in. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rotary buffer/polisher or hand polishing pads
  • Hose and spray nozzle/pressure washer
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Car washing sponge
  • Polishing compound
  • Car wash soap
  • Multiple polishing pads
  • Car Wax

How to polish your car

There are many steps to polishing a car. It isn’t as simple as getting your polish out and turning your buffer on. It starts with a perfectly clean car, otherwise, you’ll just be moving dirt around your car and potentially adding more scratches. Here’s how you polish a car with a rotary polisher:

  1. Wash your car

    First of all, whether polishing by hand or using a buffer, you’ll need to clean the car first. And we’re not talking a quick once over; it needs a thorough clean if we want to achieve great results when it comes to polishing. A pre-wash or snow foam should be used first. This non-contact washing means the pre-cleaners are lifting the dirt, bug stains and stubborn contaminants away from the surface. A quick tip: you should wash your wheels and other not so common parts, such as the engine bay, first. By doing so, you will avoid cleaning dirt splatter later on.  

    Next, wash off the pre-wash foam using a pressure washer or a hose. It’s important you’re not using a high-pressure setting to wash away the foam because some stubborn dirt may not have dislodged just yet. Next comes the 2-bucket method to get your car looking fresh. You’ll have one bucket with shampoo wash solution for washing and one bucket with plain water for rinsing. Work your car from top to bottom using a wash mitt or sponge. If you can still see stubborn marks, a clay bar can help.

  2. Dry your vehicle

    The impurities found in tap water can leave marks on your car and can embed themselves into the paintwork, causing corrosion over time. Therefore, it’s important to dry your car thoroughly once it’s had a good clean. Not only that, when you come to polish your car, you’ll make a mess once it mixes with the leftover water. Microfibre cloths and natural chamois leather are great at soaking up water without leaving marks.

    Next, we need to mask up areas with tape that the buffer can potentially cause damage to. These areas are things like plastic trims, window rubbers, car badges and matte plastics – we wouldn’t want to turn that matte finish to a shine!

  3. Install a new polishing pad on the polisher

    Every time you polish your car, you’ll want to change your buffer pad. And it’s actually recommended you change your pad multiple times during the buffer process. That’s because dirt and paint can accumulate on the pad as you use it and transfer to other places on your car, causing new scratches to occur.

  4. Apply polishing compound to the area you’re beginning with

    Once you’ve chosen where you want to start to polish first, you’ll need to apply around 4 to 5 bean-size drops of polishing product to the polishing pad. Make sure you spread it around the pad evenly.

  5. Using the rotary polisher, spread the product around the area

    If you’re inexperienced, it’s best to use a low to mid-speed on your rotary polisher. Next apply constant pressure on the surface of your car, making sure to move evenly across it. The polish will eventually start to be absorbed and removed by the polishing pad, and the car’s surface will begin to heat up – don’t worry this is normal and it’s when scratches and imperfections start to disappear and shine starts to show.

  6. Move to a new area and repeat the process

    As you polish your car, be sure to check the buffer pad isn’t too caked in polish. Take time to rinse out the pad as you go along. If you can change the pad for a new one.

  7. Wash your vehicle again and use a microfibre cloth to dry the surface

    Wait, what? Wash my car again? This next step isn’t mandatory, but some polishing products require your car to be washed once it’s had a polish. It’s always best to read the label on the product you’ve been using. If you’re still noticing scratches, imperfections and deeper scuffs, waxing is advised. As mentioned earlier, waxing adds an extra layer of protection, shielding your car’s colour and shine.

Keep reading:
Cleaning Guides
How to Wax Your Car Like a Pro

How to polish a car by hand

If you’re new to car polishing, it might be best to do it by hand rather than using a rotary polisher. Polishing a car by hand is the safest option to use but it’ll take a little longer and a little more elbow grease. The process is exactly the same, as well as the tools needed, just minus the buffer. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Wash your vehicle thoroughly

As explained earlier, it’s important you wash your car before polishing. And it’s important it’s done well because if dirt or marks are left on the car when you start to polish, you’ll end up with more scratches than when you started.

2. Apply the product to a microfiber pad or mitt

Apply a small amount of polish in the centre of the pad, spreading it evenly around.

3. Start applying the polish to the chosen area

Once you’ve chosen your area to polish, apply the product evenly and firmly on the chosen area. You can use circular motions to do so. Change up your directions too so make sure you’re moving evenly across the paintwork. You should begin to see minor scratches disappear.

4. Buff out the remaining polish

When the polish has been applied evenly and only a light haze remains on the surface, remove it gently with a clean, soft microfiber cloth.

Remember to apply your polish firmly and evenly across the area. This will ensure you’re not working the paint in one area too hard. Even though you’ll need to apply pressure, it’s really important that you don’t scrub the paintwork hard and fast because this can cause an uneven finish. Check the label to make sure you don’t need to clean off the polish with another car wash. Once you’re done you can then apply a car wax. Yes, allways polish and buff before waxing!

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Don’t have the time or tools?

Taking care of your car can be a lengthy process, especially if you want to do a proper job and if you’re polishing by hand. If you don’t have the time to invest in creating that wonderful shine or you’re perhaps not confident enough to do it yourself, why not leave it to a professional? At FantasticServices we have mobile car care specialists on hand who will can take all that hard work from your hands! They can provide either just an exterior wash, a full car valet service or mobile car detailing too. Our mobile experts, come fully prepared with all the tools and materials, so you wouldn’t need to provide anything!


  • Cleaning your car first is a must if you want to prevent even more scratches
  • Using a firm but even pressure is key, whether using a machine or polishing by hand
  • If you’re polishing by hand, you’ll need patience, time and lots of elbow grease!


Have any car polishing tips for us? Tell us how you do it in the comments section below…

Img Source: Shutterstock/kurhan

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