A polishing pad is a tool that can be used to apply polish to a surface and process it in a mechanical way. Although these are most commonly used in combination with a machine polisher, there are also polishing pads to be used by hand.
Why use a polishing pad
A polishing pad helps to distribute the polishing agent to the surface, and to work it into the surface in a controlled manner. The material used to manufacturer the polishing pad has been made to use certain characteristics during polishing. Bigger cells in the foam can hold more paint residue or contamination, but will move the polishing agent with less friction or force. Also the stiffness of the material can have a different effect on how the polishing agent is moved over the surface. Using these unique characteristics with the right product will give you very much control over the end result. Its essential that a detailer know how to use the correct pad for the correct task.
Different types of polishing pads
Although all polishing pads are designed to process the polishing agent in a very controlled and stable way, there are many different types of materials used for the polishing pad. Each material has its own pros and cons.
Foam polishing pads
Probably the most common polishing pad, the foam pad comes in many different sizes, forms, colors and shapes. The main differences with the material itself is the size of the cell, the type of the cell and the thickness of the cell-walls. These change the stiffness of the pad and its capability of either absorbing material, or using more friction to move it around during polishing. Due to the low cost of production and the many different possibilities in design, the foam polishing pad is by far the most common polishing pad.
Microfiber polishing pads
The microfiber polishing pad uses long or short strain fibers on a firm back-plate (like thick cloth or stiff foam). The microfiber material is less capable of absorbing material and/or residue, but is capable of using more friction and pressure during polishing. The fibers used can be made from various materials, but are generally synthetic in nature.
Wool polishing pads
Wool polishing pads are either made from synthetic wool fibers or natural wool fibers that have been processed to form a common shape and size. They are often attached to a firm backplate and can be made on long fibers or short fibers. The type of fiber determines the effectives of the polishing pad. In general, wool pads or more rough then foam pads and give a superior cutting effect. Although reasonably common, wool pads require more care to keep them in good shape.
PE fiber polishing pads
Certain polishing pads can be made from synthetics strand of fibers that form a firm surface, these pads or usually not recommended for use on paintwork, but can give increased results on very hard surfaces such as glass or metal. These pads are often used in combination with special polishing agents that are designed to work with these hard materials.
The wetsanding pads can be made from various materials such as denim or coarse micro-abrasives and are designed to offer very high cutting power. The amount of cutting is so high that this is considered “sanding” instead of “polishing”. There pads should be used with caution and are often combined with liberal amounts of water of lubrication agents. They should only be used to remove excessive amounts of paintwork. These wetsanding pads are often used to remove orange peel or remove very deep imperfection.
Polishing pads by machine or by hand
Polishing can by done by hand or by machine, although the material doesn’t differ much, the shape and size of the pad can make it easier to use by hand or by machine. Technically speaking, you should be able to use a polishing pad for a machine by hand, but due to the shape and size, it might be very difficult to have proper control during polishing. Polishing pads designed to be used by hand don’t have a velcro backing and can’t be attached to a machine. Polishing by hand will often require much more time and effort then polishing by machine, but gives the user more control over the end result.
Colors used for polishing pads
Many polishing pads are color coded to show whether the pad is designed for heavy cutting or light polishing. Although manufacturers usually offer clear information on what color is for what type of polishing pad, most manufacturers use different colors. For example, the very light polishing pad made by Dodo Juice is black, but the light polishing pad from Chemical Guys is white. The heavy cutting pad from Supernatural is dark red, but the heavy cutting pad from Menzerna is green. Seeing as their are more then 50 different brands that manufacture polishing pads, it is very difficult to make 1 list with all colors and grades. It is best to consult the seller or the manufacturer for more information on the grades and colors used. Unfortunately, there is not 1 single standard for all grades or colors.