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How to prepare paintwork before polishing

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When you are going to polish any surface, you are going to rub a product over the surface. While doing this you need a very controlled matter of particles to move over the surface to have any control over the result you’ll achieve. Preparing the paintwork will help you to get as much control as possible.

Why all that preparation of the paintwork?

When you are moving particles over any surface, you want to have full control over what they will do. Having unwanted particles can result in unwanted results. If you have unwanted particles moving over your surface, you can’t control how they interact with the surface and what type of effect they give. For example, iron particles can be present and have very sharp uneven shapes and edges. This means that they can “scratch” the surface much more then a polishing particle would. The result can be that you create deeper marks with the moving iron particle, then the polish you are using. You also have no control over how long it takes for the iron particle to loose it’s effect, which could mean that it keeps on scratching when the polish particles have been broken down.
Moving around unwanted particles can result in more deep scratches and swirls then the ones you are trying to remove.

What are you aiming for

In an ideal world, you would be aiming for a surface without any unwanted particles. Perfectly clean or anything except for the surface itself. In the case of automotive paintwork, you are looking at just paintwork. No dirt, sand, dust, iron particles, water, mineral deposits etc.etc. Just and only paintwork.
When you apply a polish, and start working it in, you want to be in full control over the end result, and only a perfectly clean surface can bring you this control.
In the real world, it’s almost impossible to get a perfectly clean surface, however, you can try to get as close to perfection as possible.

Things that are not enough

Many people will believe that they just need to wash their car to get a perfectly clean surface. The truth is that this is not true. After washing a surface, there will still be trace amounts of certain particles left. Iron particles are difficult to wash off, as are grime and tar. Here is a little list of preparation that is not enough to achieve full decontamination:

The steps

A perfectly clean surface is very difficult to do. Even the small amount of dust in the air will prevent you from achieving this. However, you can strive to achieve the best cleaned surface that is possible given the situation. Full decontamination is the aim.

  • Consider using snowfoam to loosen up the dirt, and wash off a big part of the dust
  • Consider using a TFR to loosen up any grime
  • Wash the surface to remove any dust and dirt
  • Use a fallout remover to chemically remove any iron-oxide particles
  • Consider using a tar remover if there is tar and/or glue on the surface
  • Clay the area with a claybar and claylube
  • Wash the surface again to remove any traces of the claylube
  • Consider using a silicon remover if you think any such product was used in the past
  • Use a panel wipe, such as IPA (or similar) to remove any oils left behind

After the paintwork has been cleaned as much as is possible, it will feel smooth to the touch. Any water behavior should’ve changed as well. However, perfect beading or sheeting won’t occur.

Some pointers to take into account

  • Try to work on a cool surface, a hot or cold surface might have an effect on how well certain cleaning products perform
  • Remember that claying can cause marring. Even the best technique of claying can cause marring
  • Don’t let product dry up. Once fully dried up, they can leave trace amounts behind even though they are not visible to the human eye
  • It is impossible to tell how clean a surface really is by looking or touching it. The only perfect way to know for sure, would be a microscope. So don’t judge by feeling or looking, but use an effective procedure

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