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Wax before sealants, or sealants before wax

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In the field of protection, there are generally 4 groups of products: wax, sealant, hybrid and coatings. These products can be combined, but with mixed results. Knowing what the properties of a product are will clarify the end result.

The products properties

Different products have different properties. These give us a clue on how these will perform when used. There is no reason why a certain product can not be combined, but the resulting performance might not be wanted.

Wax

A wax will last a few months, needs to be removed, degrades over time and will only protect against superficial contaminants by sacrificing itself to prevent the contaminants from getting into contact with the paint underneath. It does fill in small imperfections, similar to a glaze and requires very little preparation compared to other products.

Sealant

A sealant will lasts a little bit longer then a wax, has more of a repellent behavior and will degrade in a way that requires less removal. Many sealants are more easy to apply. They are sometimes a bit more expensive, don’t fill in imperfections very well and require a bit more preparation before application.

Hybrid

A hybrid gives the filling properties of a wax, but with the durability of a sealant. They are often a little bit more expensive then wax, but don’t always last as long as sealants. They require less preparation then a sealant, and can be a bit more versatile then a wax.

Coating

A coating will give very tough protection, have great durability with long-lasting dirt repelling properties. It requires a lot more preparation but will offer great durability and resistance. It doesn’t fill in imperfections very well and is more expensive then the other products. It can also be a bit more difficult apply and is less versatile. It excels at protection and performance.

The downside of layering different products

Different protective products give different levels of protection. Each with their own pros and cons. For example: wax is easy to apply and fairly cheap, but wears off reasonably cheap with not much resistance. A coating lasts a lot longer, but requires much more preparation and effort. Putting a layer of wax on top a coating, means you apply something that is temporary, which degrades over time, on top of something that lasts very long and is semi-permanent. The wax will degrade, decreasing beading and sheeting even though the coating underneath is still going strong. Over time you will want to remove the wax, but doing this will negatively affect the coating as well. The wax will last months, and require removal. The coating underneath will lasts a year or more, but will be damaged when the wax is removed.
Seeing as the wax doesn’t last as long, and doesn’t offer the level of protection that the coating gives you, there is no logic in applying both products. Basically, you will cover an extremely tough and strong product that excels at protection with a temporary product that is designed to be replaced regularly. You are covering an armor with a raincoat.

combinations and their effect

The last product that is applied will give you the water behavior, and/or the level of contaminant repellent. The first product applied will provide the base for the second product.

Wax over sealant

The sealant will provide a synthetic base for the wax to be applied upon. The sealant will most likely last longer the wax, but needs more preparation then just wax alone. The wax will degrade within months, and will need to be replaced. The removal of the wax will also negatively affect the sealant, making it necessary to remove and replace the sealant as well.
Benefit is that the wax on top will fill in small imperfection and that the sealant will still offer protection, even when its not visible from the degraded water behavior.

Wax over hybrid

The difference between a hybrid and wax is reasonably small. Making it easier for the wax to bond with the hybrid. The hybrid on the bottom will last longer then the wax, meaning the wax will need to be replaced before the hybrid on the bottom has worn out. Removal of the wax will most likely remove the hybrid as well.
Benefit is that the wax on top will fill in small imperfections and the hybrid will more easily work together with the wax.

Wax over coating

The coating will provide a very strong and tough layer underneath the wax. But will require an almost perfectly prepared surface to be applied upon. The wax on top will last months at most, and will degrade over time. The worn layer of wax on top of the coating would need to be removed. The removal of the worn layer of wax will also affect the coating, making it perform less good. With the focus on performance, it would be best to remove the coating and reapply it.
Benefit is that the wax on top will fill in small imperfections and that there will still be a tough form of protection, even when its not visible anymore from the badly degraded water behavior.

Sealant over wax

The wax on the bottom layer will create an oily and unstable base for the sealant to be applied upon. This can negatively affect the performance and durability of the sealant. The wax will not degrade as much, but the sealant will have trouble bonding with the wax underneath. The sealant would need to be reapplied sooner then normal.
Benefit is that the wax on the bottom will fill in small imperfections.

Sealant over hybrid

The hybrid on the bottom will likely have a less long durability then the sealant on top, but the sealant on top can potentially be affected by the hybrid on the bottom. The sealant might not bond properly with the hybrid, causing the sealant having to be replaced sooner then normal. The hybrid on the bottom will not likely survive the removal of the sealant.
Benefit is that the hybrid could fill in some surface imperfections.

Sealant over coating

The coating on the bottom will provide a very strong and tough surface for the sealant, but the level or preparation needs to be almost perfect to get the most out of the product. The sealant on top will perform like expected but less long then the coating underneath. The sealant would require reapplication or removal within several months. The removal of the sealant will likely affect the coating on the bottom. It will still be there, but perform less good. Reapplication of the sealant would be needed to get the best water behavior. Same as when you only use a sealant without anything underneath.
Benefit is that the coating on the bottom will still offer protection, even when the sealant on top has degraded with very poor water behavior.

Hybrid over wax

A hybrid will have less trouble working together with a wax, since part of its recipe is based upon wax. The wax underneath might last a little longer then normal because it won’t see much wear and tear, but when the hybrid needs to be removed and re-applied, it will very likely also remove the layer of wax.
Benefit is that the wax has filled in some small imperfections.

Hybrid over sealant

A hybrid is part sealant, and will not have to much trouble bonding with the sealant on the bottom. The sealant on the bottom will most likely last longer then the hybrid, which means that the beading and sheeting will be gone before the sealant on the bottom needs to be replaced. Due to the decreased water behavior from the hybrid, you will probably like to replace the protection. Removal of the hybrid will either remove the sealant on the bottom or negative affect it.
Benefit is that the sealant and hybrid will be more likely to work together with little to no negative effect.

Hybrid over coating

The coating on the bottom will last a year easily, but the hybrid on top will only last months and will show degrades water behaviour. Seeing as the worn layer of hybrid will still sit on top of the layer, you won’t see much of the benefit from the tough coating underneath. By removing the hybrid, you will likely damage the toplayer of the coating, causing it to perform less well then it should. This would make you think the coating is failing, even though this thanks to the removal of the temporary hybrid on top.
Benefit is that the hybrid can potentially fill in some small surface imperfections, which the coating doesn’t do.

Coating over wax

The wax on the bottom will create a very unstable and temporary surface that makes it difficult for the coating to bond with. This will most likely make the coating perform much less properly then it should. Durability and overall performance will be negatively affect and the entire layer of product would need to be removed and reapplied within months.
Benefit could be that the wax might have filled in some small surface imperfections.

Coating over sealant

A sealant is also not a very good and stable base for the coating. The coating needs a perfectly prepared surface. The sealant is not that. It will probably perform slightly better then using wax as a bottom layer, but it will still not perform as well as the coating should.
Benefit could be that some sealants work better together with coatings then others, which would minimize the amount it affects the performance of the coating.

Coating over hybrid

The hybrid base will form an unstable and imperfect base for the coating, making it likely less perfect for the coating to bond with. The coating will likely last less long and perform less properly. The hybrid on the bottom will last months, and the coating not much longer.
Benefit is that the hybrid on the bottom could fill in very small surface imperfections.

Keep on applying a product on top

When a product is worn, it can either be removed and re-applied, or a new layer can be re-applied on top of the worn layer. Some products allow this more then others. Wax degrades and gets dirty. Applying a new layer of wax on top of dirty, old wax will provide a dirty and unstable bottom for the new wax. Which will affect its performance. When a sealant is worn, it performs less properly, but it will be less of an imperfect foundation for the new layer. Having less of a negative effect on the new layer.
Where possible, its recommended to remove the old layer and re-apply the product. But in situations where this is not possible, its has been shown that sealant are the least affected by a worn layer underneath.

Misconceptions about worn protection

Many beginning detailers believe that the water behavior is the best indication of protection. And in some cases this might be true. When a protective product is worn, it doesn’t disappear. The worn and broken down layer will still sit on the paintwork. Just like worn paint doesn’t disappear from wood. It would flake at the most, but it will still be there. Wax in particular becomes dirty by absorbing water and trapping dirt and contaminants. If a layer of wax is applied on top of a coating, the wax on top will degrade, get dirty and show very poor water behavior, even though the coating underneath is still going strong and is hardly effected. Due to the poor water behavior, you might think that the protection is gone, and the coating has failed. Even though you are looking at the poor performance of the wax, not the coating.
For best performance you are generally better off layering the same product, instead of combining product types.

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