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What is an applicator

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Applicators are products that are used to spread, apply, rub or buff a certain product to a certain surface. These can also be referred to as an applicator pad. There are many several differen shapes, sizes and material that are used for this.

Why an applicator pad

When you’ve just spent the day polishing your paintwork to perfection, you don’t want to make new imperfections. When applying a protective product, you need to rub this over the surface. This mean there is mechanical friction between the applicator pad and the surface. The only lubricant is the product you are applying. If the medium that you are using to apply a product to the surface is very rough, it will cause surface imperfections on your freshly polished paintwork. It is important that the applicator is very soft and doesn’t cause surface imperfections.
Another important factor is the material used. Open cell foam will absorb more product, but also make spreading evenly easier. Closed cell foam will absorb less product, but will not make it easy to spread the product evenly. Micro suede cloth has the benefit of being lint-free, which is ideal for sticky substances or products that need a contamination-free surface.
Applicator pads can also be large enough to make it more comfortable for your hands to apply a product. By spreading the product over a larger surface, the pressure on your hand is spread over that surface. Meaning one hand will cover a larger area, making you have to do less passes.

Technically speaking, a polishing pad is also an applicator pad, since you are using it to apply polish to the surface. However, this would give a false impression on the product you are using, and might lead to confusion with less experienced detailers.

How to use an applicator pad

Applicator pads are very easy to use. You either rub the pad over the product, or apply a few drops of the product onto the pad. When the product has been applied, you rub the applicator pad over the surface with the side with the product touching the surface. Depending on the product you can make small circular motions, straight lines or a criss-cross pattern. After use it is recommended to rinse out the pad with luke-warm water and normal dishwashing soap. After the product has come out, rinse the pad out carefully to remove any soap being left behind. After drying, the pad is ready to be used again.
Although the above is the most common way of using an applicator pad, there might be different ways depending on the product you are working with.

Different types of applicators

There are several different types of applicators. Although some are not very commonly referred to as applicators, such as micro-suede cloths.

  • Foam applicator pad
  • Microfiber applicator pad
  • Microsuede cloth
  • Cotton applicator pad
  • Foam applicator block
  • Fingermitt

Applicator versus old shirt or kitchen towel

The material used to make an applicator pad will be aimed at a certain use. For example, a cotton applicator pad is aimed at applying a glass coating and is not suitable for applying wax. The same goes for a foam applicator pad, which is made to apply a sealant or a wax. Due to the chemical in a coating, it could dissolve when applying the coating to the applicator. Nonetheless, these applicators have been made with the surface and task in mind. A proper applicator pad will not cause surface imperfections to the surface.
An old shirt or a kitchen towel is not made with this purpose in mind. A shirt is made to cover your body, withstand daily use and be printed. A kitchen towel is made to absorb liquid and look good. Both of these products have never been designed with the purpose of being rubbed over a delicate surface that causes mechanical friction between the 2 surfaces. The cotton or polyester used to make a shirt or kitchen towel is much more rough then a specially manufactured foam applicator pad. In short; an old shirt or a kitchen towel will cause surface imperfections, spreads the product less evenly and might absorb much more then it should do.

Different uses for an applicator pad

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