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How to Apply Wax with a Polisher (Illustrated Tutorial)

Tired of spending all night in the garage with an applicator pad and paste wax? While detailing can take a lot of time, a polisher helps speed up the process.

In this post, you’ll learn step-by-step how to wax your car using a polisher. Once you learn the basics, you’ll never look back!

Benefits of applying wax with a polisher


Ability to remove light defects with a liquid cleaner wax

Not as exhausting as hand waxing

More consistent and even wax application

Before we dive in, here’s some basic gear you’ll need:

  1. Dual-action polisher
  2. Foam polishing pad
  3. Microfiber polishing pad or bonnet
  4. Liquid wax
  5. Handheld foam applicator
  6. Microfiber towels

Step 1 Prep the paint and make sure it’s clean


Be sure to wash and dry your vehicle before you begin.

At minimum, always remove dirt from a vehicle before you apply liquid wax; otherwise you’ll trap contaminants underneath the wax which makes it harder.

However, if you’ve recently clayed and waxed your vehicle, you don’t want to strip off existing wax. Wax, after all, is important to leave on your car for months at a time. If you already have a thin coat of wax, you can use a DA polisher to add another thin coat of wax.

That said, if your car has old wax (or hasn’t been waxed in a while), wash your car using a wax-stripping product like Clean Slate by Chemical Guys to give you a blank canvas.

Chemical Guys Wax and Sealant Stripper

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This product is basically a car soap designed to remove dirt plus remove old wax and sealants. Dish detergent and degreasers can strip wax as well.

Step 2 Apply wax to a foam pad


Apply about 4 to 5 dime-sized dots of wax to the pad.

Quick Tip

Always use an applicator pad, not a cutting pad when applying wax. These pads are generally red in the color-coded polishing pad system. I recommend a 5 or 6-inch polishing pad for larger areas.

After you apply a few dots of wax, prime the pad by using your fingers to spread the wax around; you can also dab the pad on the vehicle a couple times.

The idea is to break down the clumps of wax to avoid sling before you turn on the polisher.

Step 3 Apply a thin coat of wax with the polisher


In straight passes, apply wax on a slow-speed setting.

You only need a slow-speed setting when applying liquid polish because you’re not trying to cut or abrade the clear coat. Lower speeds also won’t sling wax all over your trim. If you have compressed air nearby, it’s a good idea to blow out your pad occasionally to dislodge trapped wax.

Did You Know?

Unlike waxes, compounds and polishes contain tiny abrasive particles used to remove scratches. These particles ‘cut’ and smooth the jagged peaks formed in the clear coat our eyes perceive as a scratch. These abrasives combined with wool ‘cutting pads’ and higher polishing speeds make this process easier.

Step 4 Apply wax by hand in tight areas


Add a small amount of wax to a foam applicator pad and apply with light pressure.

Polishers are great…but they can’t reach some hard-to-reach areas. Use a foam wax applicator pad to apply liquid wax around trim, door handles, and anywhere your polisher can’t reach.

Be careful not to get wax on your trim, as dried wax can be difficult to remove.

Step 5 Let the wax dry and buff off


Once dry to the touch, remove the dried wax until shine is revealed.

It’s important to wait for 20 or 30 minutes for the wax to dry before buffing off. Fold a microfiber towel into fourths and remove the wax. When one side of the microfiber towel is full of wax flip the towel over. Refold the towel, and you have two more clean slides! Use several towels if needed.

Can you buff off wax with a polisher?

Yes. Attach a microfiber pad to your polisher to remove wax. Microfiber is designed to lift, whereas foam pads are designed to apply products. Clean your pads as needed, or switch pads once full of wax.

You can also use what’s called a microfiber bonnet to remove dried wax. This accessory slips over your polishing pad and is perfect for wax removal. I like bonnets because they’re cheap enough to throw away after use.

Microfiber Bonnet for Polisher

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And that’s it! Always clean and dry your polishing pads after use by using a basic all-purpose cleaner and water.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of wax can I use with a polisher?

Always use a liquid wax with a polisher. you can either use an organic wax like carnauba wax, or a ceramic wax that lasts longer. I use Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnuba wax normally because I like the way it looks.

Should I always apply wax with a polisher?

It’s up to you! It comes down to personal preference and your vehicle. For example, if you have a show car prone to denting or with fragile paint…it’s generally safer to hand wax.

What’s the best pad for applying wax? Removing wax?

Red 5” pads are great for applying wax, whereas a microfiber pad will be ideal for removing it. A standard white foam pad can also be used if applying a cleaner wax. Cleaner waxes can not only leave behind protection, but are abrasive enough to remove light oxidation.

New to car polishers?

Check out our post on Polishers 101 for Beginners if you’re considering getting a polisher for applying wax or for paint correction. You’ll learn what type of DA polisher is the safest for someone with no experience, and what to know about these devices. Happy detailing!

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

This video course unpacks the fundamentals of washing and detailing. From exterior cleaning and blemish removal…you’ll learn the secrets that will give you spotless pro-level results!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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