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What is a Paint Sealant? A Comprehensive Guide

Walk down any car care aisle, you’ll see a variety of paint protection products and terms used…including the word sealant. You’ll find paint sealants typically beside waxes, but what exactly are they? Manufacturers like to throw around terms like wax, sealant, and ceramic without explanation…so today I’m going to cut through the noise.

In this post, you’ll learn exactly what a paint sealant is and how to decide if it’s right for you.

What is a paint sealant?

A paint sealant is a man-made vehicle paint protectant that comes in liquid form, offering slightly longer protection than natural wax.

On the spectrum of paint protection products designed for your vehicle’s clear coat, sealants are commonly on the lower end.

Chart: Longevity of Paint Protection Products in Detailing

Paint sealants vs. ceramic coatings

Paint sealants differ from traditional non-spray-on ceramic coatings because sealants don’t create a hard enough protective layer to hold up for years at a time.

How long will a paint sealant last?

Paint sealants typically provide water-beading vehicle protection for 3 to 6 months, as opposed to traditional carnauba wax which lasts a few weeks. Some synthetic sealants are cheaper than others and will need to be reapplied every couple of months, others claim up to a year of protection. 

Even though synthetic sealants last longer than traditional wax, think of them as companion products, not one vs. the other. For example, carnauba wax is less glossy and more natural, which is why many people use it as a last-step product on top.

Just to Clarify…

Many spray-on paint sealants on the market today contain ceramic compounds like silicon dioxide (SiO2), and are sold as ‘ceramic’ sealants or waxes. While this can be confusing, traditional ceramic coatings contain a higher concentration of SiO2 than sprays and normally come in small bottles or kits. Professional ceramic coatings can be expensive and more difficult to apply evenly—but they can last 5 years or more.

If you’re a beginner and need a good paint sealant you can apply easily, I recommend Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze 21. I personally like this product because you can apply it either by hand or with a polisher. It goes on like carnauba wax, so you can easily see what you’ve applied and buffed off.

Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze 21 Synthetic Paint Sealant

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How to apply a paint sealant

Some liquid paint sealants you can simply spray on, spread across the vehicle using a microfiber towel, and you’re done. Other paint sealants come in lotion form, so you’ll need to apply the product directly to a microfiber towel or applicator pad. Some products recommend a dwell time of a few minutes before wiping off, so always check the label for instructions.

I like to fold my microfiber towels in fourths whenever applying spray waxes or sealants by hand since I can flip them over or re-fold them to expose a clean section. If in lotion form, you can apply paint sealants a lot faster with a polisher.

Check out our post on how to apply wax with a polisher for a step-by-step tutorial for beginners.

Should you use wax with a paint sealant?

It’s perfectly fine to apply a layer of natural wax on top of a paint sealant for added warmth and protection. This layering process is completely optional.

You can use a spray-on wax each time you wash, but you’ll only need to re-apply paint sealant a few times a year.

Prepping your vehicle for paint sealant

Quick Tip

Always wash your vehicle prior to adding a paint sealant to remove any dirt or contaminants to ensure the sealant adheres to the clear coat properly.

If your paint feels rough to the touch after washing, you should learn how to clay your car to remove stuck-on contaminants. Contaminants can prevent protectants from properly bonding to your paint’s clear coat.

You can also use a car soap specifically designed to remove old layers of wax and sealants if it’s time for a clean slate. Just always be sure to re-apply protection!

Chemical Guys Wax and Sealant Stripper

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Even if you opt for a more permanent ceramic coating, a sealant or wax can still help protect the paint as the ceramic coating slowly breaks down over time. Good luck and happy detailing!

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

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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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