How to Buff & Wax a Car

by Contributor

A good wax and buff is one of the cheapest ways to make your car look like new. To save even more money to get that shine, washing and buffing your car is simple and done at home with a few basic techniques. Make your car's surface glisten like it's fresh from the dealer's floor to make your car really stand out.

Clean the car well using a mild dish soap in warm water. Add 1 tbsp. of dish soap for every 2 gallons of water. Mix the soap into the water. Dip in the terry cloth rag and use it to gently scrub away any dead bugs, dirt, and any other debris on the car. Make sure that you clean well to get "invisible" road salts off of the car. Rinse and change the towel often to keep dirt that you scrubbed off from scratching the car.

Clean the car with a degreaser (the kind that is, according to the label, designed to not damage paint). Spray the degreaser onto the car. Use gloves and fresh terry cloths to scrub away the dark oily dirt from the road that did not come off with the soap and water. Make sure that you get all dirty residue off of the paint before polishing. Wash off the degreaser with warm soapy water. Dry the car completely, but do not leave "lint" on the surface from the towels (let it drip dry).

Wax a small area at a time (2-feet square) in a cool (not cold) location to keep the wax form changing its properties while you put it on. Attach the sponge disk according to the instructions. These instructions will vary buy the type of disk you buy. Put a terry cloth bonnet on the buffer disk and tighten the drawstrings. Tuck in the drawstrings to prevent them from getting in the way.

Put a smear of wax on the edge of the terry-cloth covered sponge. The lump should be about one and a half thumbs in size (width and thickness). Grip the buffer firmly before turning it on. Use light (if any) pressure and a circular motion to buff the car with the wax. The circles should be the size of the sponge itself and should overlap by 2/3 of the circle. Progress in the same direction from right to left or left to right (not both) to buff in rows that progress from the car top to bottom. Work the wax into the paint by going over it several times in as many layers as your desire. One coating will be enough, if done regularly (every 3 months). Work in patches that are 2-feet square.

Remove the wax as you go with a fresh, clean cloth bonnet, progressing the same way as you did when you applied the wax. If you have a second buffer, you can use this instead of changing bonnets to remove and apply wax. If the wax gets into crevices, use a horsehair brush (soft bristle) to remove the wax. Wrapping a piece of clean terry cloth rag around a toothbrush may help to remove the wax better. If there is a scratch that does not penetrate the clear coat completely, the wax can fill the crack to camouflage it. Change the cloth frequently as it becomes coated with wax. Look for spots that you may have missed before going on to the next section of the car.

Polish the entire car where the wax was applied with fresh microfiber or chamois cloths. Again, use a circular motion, going over the wax. Use speed and light pressure towards the surface of the car to polish the wax to a high gloss.


  • check Keep the sponge and cloths in a clean location to keep them free of grit and dirt. Hand washing each cloth will make it last longer but is very dirty work.


  • close Some cars need a new paint job and washing it will remove loose paint. There is risk whenever any car is polished that the paint job will be incompatible with the process or materials. Consult a professional about the process you will use with your specific paint job. Wear gloves and safety goggles during this process to protect yourself from the chemicals during the process.

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