What are you trying to accomplish?
Contaminants can be anything from insects, tar, tree sap or rail dust (little orange dots on your paint) etc.
This category can also include below the surface (in the paint) defects such as scuffs, etched-in bird dropping or water marks etc.
This sections covers all paint protection products such as waxes, sealants, ceramic coatings.
Click here if you need towels specifically designed for use on exterior paint.
Not all contaminants that bind to your paint are visible to the naked eye. To get the best results from any final wax, coating etc. do the simple "baggie test". Take a plastic bag (grocery bags work great) and run your fingers over the paint. If it feels rough it is contaminated & doing a clay bar type treatment on the paint will make your wax or coating look better & last longer.
What do you need to remove?
Removing any old wax, polish & oil residue is a critical final step before applying a ceramic coating
Paint overspray is easiest removed by clay barring
Iron deposits are any metallic particles that stick to your paint. The 2 most common are brake dust & rail dust. Rail dust appears as little yellow dots on your paint that look like tiny rust spots
Mechanical removal of paint contaminants involves clay barring the surface. There are 2 types of clay bars...
1) Conventional Clay
A Clay bar is a malleable bar (almost like putty) that with a clay lubricant you rub over the paint surface. Contaminants become trapped in the clay
2) Synthetic Clay
Synthetic Clay has a polymerized rubber surface that you rub over the paint. As you do contaminants are broken away. You get more uses out of synthetic clay & no special lubricant is required (regular car wash soap works great)
Cleaner waxes are waxes that contain detergents and/or a fine polish to clean your paint as you wax
Scuff marks or isolated scratches can often be removed by hand.
If your vehicle is covered in swirls (scratches) the best solution to restore the paint is to machine polish the surface (do a paint correction). There are a number of easy to use DYI polishers available
There a number of factors involved in selecting the right paint protection for you. There are 4 basic categories of products. Understanding the basic features of each will help you select the right product to meet your needs...
WAX - Waxes come in spray, liquid and paste versions. They are very easy to apply. Waxes sit on the surface of your paint. Wax products will provide a good shine to your paint but are not very durable. Even the best quality waxes will only last 3 -4 months. They can be a great solution for summer only driven cars but are perhaps not the best choice if you are looking to protect your paint in the harsh winter months.
SEALANTS - Paint sealants contain polymers. The polymers actually bond to the paint creating a harder shell. Sealants come in liquid form and are applied in a very similar way to a liquid wax. Because of the polymers sealants are more durable than waxes & provide protection from the elements. Sealants last anywhere from 6 - 12 months. If your paint has metallic flakes a sealant will make the flakes "pop" a bit more than wax
COATINGS - The most common type of coating on the market are Ceramic Coatings (although there are also coatings now available that contain Graphene) These ceramic coatings contain Si02 particles (tiny particles of glass). These particles bond to the paint surface giving a very durable surface that is highly reflective and slick which gives great water beading. Ceramic products have by far the best chemical resistance (best protection from bird droppings, tree sap etc.). Because of the slickness of the surface, ceramic coated vehicles are easier to clean. Most DIY ceramic coatings have a durability of 2-3 years. Although not a great level of skill is required to apply a 2 year coating on your vehicle, they are a bit more time consuming to apply than a wax or sealant. Another important factor to consider is that paint preparation is very important. You should clay bar the vehicle & use a wax/polish remover product before applying your coating to ensure your paint is contaminate free. Applying the coating to a clean surface allows the coating to bond properly & will give the optimum gloss effect. Also remember that if you apply a 2 year coating over a lot of scratches you are sealing in those scratches for 2 years. If you want to get into the world of ceramics at a more "entry level" there are a number of spray on or liquid "wax" products available that have a 6 month to 1 year durability.
DETAIL SPRAYS - Detail Sprays are generally used as a maintenance product between washes and or waxing/sealing etc. They are great for removing dust, fingerprints etc. Use a detail spray whenever you want a quick shine. Although most detail sprays do contain some type of protection, the shine & durability lasts for days or weeks as opposed to months. Most detail sprays also work great as a clay lubricant.
Foam & microfiber applicators for applying waxes sealants & coatings