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A guide into wax

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Carnauba waxes are the traditional automotive paintwork protection. Carnauba wax is secreted by the leaves of a tree in the rainforests of Brazil in order to protect the leaves from the blistering heat. It is one of natures most durable waxes with excellent protective properties that makes it ideal for protecting paint. Alas, the tree can continue to secrete the wax to continually update its protection, but your car cannot do this – so its down to you to keep your wax protection updated to keep your paintwork protected! Most carnauba wax products use Grade 1 Yellow Carnauba wax in their formulations – this is the highest grade of carnauba wax available.


Different types, different properties

There are a few different types of wax, and they all have their own properties. These can be summed up like:
*this is a general list, it may not apply to all waxes on the market

Natural wax

  • Good micro beading
  • Good filling
  • Less durability
  • Less sheeting

Synthetic wax

  • Good sheeting
  • Good durability
  • Less filling
  • Less beading

Hybrid wax

  • A mixture of both natural and synthetic product, but never with all the properties in one

The wax-effect

The look generally achievable from a carnauba wax is one of a warm glow to paintwork that comes from a glossy and rich looking finish that has great depth. However, carnauba wax is a natural product and therefore contains impurities. The wax is “yellow”, and is not completely transparent so the finish will lack the ultimate reflectivity provided by the sealant and in some cases paint features such as metallic flake can be slightly muted. Much has been done to improve this by for example further refining yellow carnauba to ivory (white) carnauba which helps to remove any yellowing effects the wax may provide. Nevertheless, the warm glow and depth provided by a carnauba wax are still highly sought after, hence why sealant manufacturers are trying to copy it with sealants.

Generally speaking, carnauba waxes have lower durability than sealants and therefore require updating on a more regular basis. To apply a wax, always follow the manufacturers instructions, here are some generic tips:

  • Use a sponge or microfibre applicator for application by hand.
  • Use a finishing pad for application by machine.
  • By hand, apply in circular motions first and finish in straight lines to ensure even coverage.
  • By machine spread product evenly at a low speed (speed 2 – 3)
  • Less is more with protective products, a little generally goes a long way.
  • Keep the layers thin, remember the residue you remove is wasted product!
  • For some waxes, curing time is required – perform the swipe test before removing residue (see below)
  • Buff off residue with a microfibre towel.
  • If residues resist easy buffing, don’t apply heavy pressure – instead spray the MF towel with a little QD and this will help remove the residue. Or wait longer and try again.

Swipe Test

This test is carried out to see whether a wax residue is ready for removal. With a clean finger, gently swipe it across a small area of paintwork. If the residue comes away easily, then the product is ready to remove.


Carnauba waxes can be layered to improve durability and appearance, however caution should be exercised with the amount of layers applied. Carnauba wax is a natural product and as such can be slightly opaque in some more traditional paste carnauba waxes. Too many layers will cause a yellowing effect where the opacity builds up to mask the beauty of the colour of your paint.

Spit Shining

Normally, if you want to apply multiple layers of a protective product it is necessary to wait 12-24hrs between each coat. However, it is possible to apply two layers of a carnauba paste wax in one go by using the technique of spit shining. This is the generic technique I use for spit-shining:

  • Apply the wax as normal to the first panel then spray with a little QD spray to wet the surface. Do not buff.
  • Repeat for three more panels (we generally call the roof two panels, so roof, bonnet, front wing to start for example)
  • Go back to your first panel and apply a second layer of wax and work until the QD beads dissappear and you are left with a residue as you would have normally. You can buff the panel first if you like, QD then re-wax but I just re-wax over the original layer.
  • Repeat this on the other panels.
  • Buff off residues.
  • Repeat over whole car.

Spit shine is used to enhance the reflectivity and durability from a carnauba wax and has been known to produce awesome results.

Best of Both Worlds

As mentioned, the appeareance generated by sealants and waxes are very different but it is possible to get the best of both worlds – sealant durability with carnauba wax warm glow by applying both to your paint. Always apply a sealant layer first and finish with a carnauba wax for the icing on the cake. Indeed some manufacturers have products which contain sealant and carnauba.

All In One Products

Many products on the market perform more than one task at once, it has fillers to mask minor swirls, glazing oils to enhance the wetness of the shine and deepen the colour and sealant to provide protection. AIO (All In One) products save time in a speedy detail, but for superior defect removal it is necessary to use dedicated cleaners and polishes. However, for a quick detail AIO products are very useful indeed. Many AIO products, benefit from the application of a “pure wax” (ie a wax that’s sole job is protection, no cleaning abilities) afterwards as the icing on the cake to top off the look of the detail.

Maintaining the Finish

As mentioned at the beginning the protective layer that you put on paint is still subjected to all of the harsh elements and is therefore abraded away over time. Thus it is necessary to top up the protective layer regularly to ensure you have good paintwork protection.

How Do I Know When To Top Up Protection?

When you wash your car, watch the rinsing water carefully. When rinsing with a flow of water the water should sheet off of the paintwork leaving behind the odd water bead. If the water lies in large flat regions, and doesn’t sheet off the paintwork then it is time to top up the protective layer. Also, while water beading is not the best indicator of protection, the presence of small, tall water beads when it rains shows a good protective layer, while larger flatter beads can show a weaker protective layer.

Topping Up Protection

This is simply a case of adding an extra layer of LSP to your car. Or, you could use a different sealant/wax – its up to you. If you have topped with a carnauba wax, it is best to keep topping up with a carnauba wax as sealants were not designed to bond to carnauba waxes and this can adversely affect the durability of a sealant if its applied ontop of an existing wax coat (even a weak one).

Spray Waxes

While many detailers here are happy to maintain their finishes by regular washing and occasional (every few weeks for me in the summer) protective layer top-ups, it is also possible to use sprax wax products after washing to keep the wax protection topped up.

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