The 10 Best Rubbing Compounds

Updated May 25, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Rubbing Compounds
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Whether you work in a showroom or detailing shop, or are simply passionate about your car's or boat's appearance, you'll always want one of these rubbing compounds on hand. They can quickly and easily remove scratches, swirls, oxidation and water marks from your vehicle's bodywork and windows, so it always looks its best. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best rubbing compound on Amazon.

10. 3M 03900

3M 03900 is a must-have as part of the auto cleaning and polishing regimen of the diehard gear head or anybody else who likes to keep their car looking great. If you use it after a wash but before the waxing, you will wind up with a paint job that is positively sparkling.
  • removes shallow scratches with ease
  • designed to be fast cutting
  • ineffective on deep marks
Brand 3M
Model 03900
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

9. No.7 08610

No.7 08610 can help to mitigate even the deepest scratches in your car's paint or clear coat finish, helping blend damaged areas in with the rest of the paint and restore some shine to a dull, faded paint job. It is also effective at removing water spots on windows.
  • can remove headlight haze
  • requires a lot of buffing
  • shouldn't be used on fiberglass
Brand No. 7
Model 08610-EACH
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

8. Star Brite Liquid

Star Brite Liquid is safe for metal and fiberglass surfaces, so if you have a boat and a car, you can just buy this instead of two separate formulas. Because it is liquid, it spreads evenly and is easy to apply whether by hand or with the use of a buffer.
  • available in two strengths
  • a little bit goes a long way
  • must strip off old wax before using
Brand Star Brite Liquid
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Meguiar's Ultimate

Meguiar's Ultimate can remove both above-surface contaminants and below-surface defects to prepare your car for a waxing. It can bring back some color and gloss to a severely neglected vehicle, so you don't have to pay for a new paint job.
  • restores a paint's wet look
  • can be applied by hand
  • doesn't remove hard water marks
Brand Meguiar's
Model G17216
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. 3M Marine Compound and Finishing Material

3M Marine Compound and Finishing Material is a two-in-one formula that does double-duty as you rub it in and buff it out of your boat. Not only will it clean the surface, remove saltwater oxidation and scratches, but it leaves behind a freshly polished gelcoat, too.
  • ideal for all fiberglass surfaces
  • won't clog up buffing pads
  • may damage a car's clear coat
Brand 3M
Model 06044
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Mothers Professional

A container of Mothers Professional is filled with the same industry-standard formula found in car detailing shops and auto showrooms. It gives your car a like-new finish and it's great for use on clear coats to remove heavy oxidation.
  • reconditions a paint job
  • removes surface impurities
  • not as harsh as many other options
Brand Mothers
Model 08612
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

4. Meguiar's Marine One-Step

Meguiar's Marine One-Step is the ideal way to bring back the luster of your boat or RV's gelcoat. It simultaneously cleans and polishes so you get amazing results in less time. Most users notice some color restoration, too.
  • removes moderate to heavy scratches
  • safe to use over vinyl graphics
  • takes a lot of elbow grease
Brand Meguiar's
Model M6732
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Griot's Garage Complete

Griot's Garage Complete offers micro abrasion to remove small blemishes, scratches, oxidation, and swirl marks from a car's paint job. It does a good job when applied by hand, but there is a noticeable increase in effectiveness if applied with an orbital polisher.
  • doesn't contain any fillers
  • wipes off in one pass
  • produces an ultra-fine finish
Brand Griot's Garage
Model 10862
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Turtle Wax T-415 Premium

Turtle Wax T-415 Premium can be applied and removed by hand or with the use of orbital and rotary polishers. It helps to restore and refine your vehicle's glossiness prior to that final waxing and is suitable for professional use in car detail shops.
  • removes 1500 grit sanding marks
  • bottle allows for easy application
  • can be used on all finishes
Brand Turtle Wax
Model T-415
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. 3M Perfect-It EX

A bottle of 3M Perfect-It EX can bring that shine back to even the most worn and scratched paint or clear coat jobs. It has extra cutting power and requires minimal passes to achieve perfection, so you get a car that looks great without a lot of grunt work.
  • removes a lot of surface blemishes
  • works well in high humidity areas
  • doesn't leave behind any residue
Brand Perfect-It
Model 36058
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

The Benefit Of Rubbing Compounds

When a vehicle first comes off the lot, it is glowing. The windshield and paint job are perfect, the tires and rims are immaculate, and it even has that new car smell. As the vehicle moves throughout its life, it picks up dust, dirt, animal excrement and many other things which lead to a deteriorating appearance.

Unfortunately, the process of washing away dirt and dust over time causes the tiny particles of dust and sand to scratch and dig grooves into that glowing surface. If there is too much time between washes, or the car is washed with dish soap, this is especially true. Dish detergents contain many ingredients which act to remove the wax, paint, and protective coating of vehicles.

Over time, this can leave the main paint body exposed to the elements, leading to even more damage. The scratches created are often barely visible to the naked eye at first; but over time they can become very noticeable. As these fine scratches build up, the car's surface becomes dull and hazy. Correcting this issue takes care and often years of practice. Using specialized machines and rubbing compounds, you can gently remove microscopic layers of clear coat to once again give the surface that soft, appealing glow.

The process is simple to understand, yet can be disastrous if approached improperly. Rubbing compounds contain tiny abrasives which cause scratches even smaller than the original ones which are dulling the vehicle's miraculous shine. Dust and other particulates cause deep scratches in the clear coat; by gently buffing out the big scratches that make the vehicle lose its luster, rubbing compounds allow users to bring everything back to a level playing field. It is this precisely even surface which allows the car to really shine, as less light is scattered by a perfectly even surface.

The Psychology Of Rubbing Compounds

The reasoning behind why humans enjoy the shine of a new car or a pair of high heels has received little research; it has simply been accepted as fact. Recently a team of researchers have analyzed the problem, and the answer is both obvious and surprising.

Using a series of tests, the researchers conclude that humans have a systematic bias towards glossy materials. When two groups were blindfolded and then asked to handle either glossy or matte paper, those handling glossy paper were much more likely to rate it as high quality. Then people were give advertisements printed on matte or glossy paper, and again the test results showed that gloss was always preferred. The team also eliminated the possibility that humans were simply attracted to glossy things like new cars because they are pretty.

The glossiness of any object is originally more related to its functionality. A glossy, waxed car resists the elements, glossy, laminated paper won't be ruined in water, and glossy shoes resist scuffs and puddles easier than unfinished shoes. The appeal and preference lies in the minds of those looking at the item, and it comes down to a very simple thing: the human need for water. In one study, thirsty subjects showed an enhanced desire for glossy objects, lending credibility to this theory.

There are situations in which this preference for glossy objects will not apply however, and this may be attributed to socialization. While mainstream luxury consumers will choose flashy, glossy items, those with actual wealth prefer simple, unglossed finishes and gentle colors. Similarly, an intellectual business or psychology magazine may lose readers if they choose a high gloss cover; as these options tend to cause a perceived loss of credibility from their readership.

The Process Of Protecting Perfect Paint

To really create that desirable glow in a vehicle, the final step is to protect the hard work of buffing. By buffing out the minute scratches in a cars paint job with a rubbing compound, a level surface is created. The best way to protect this level surface is to regularly seal and wax the coat. The various waxes and sealants on the market are applied with the same gentle care as rubbing compounds, but offer varying degrees of protection.

Sealants and waxes protect the freshly buffed painted surface from the effects of acid rain, bird droppings, dust, and sticky tree sap. Their action of each of these compounds is different. A sealant is a type of synthetic polymer that provides a high gloss finish while lasting much longer than a wax. Sealants are often made of the same types of polymers found in cars themselves. Waxes generally use a base of simple carnauba wax; with or without various additives and compounds. The case for using a wax over a sealant used to be much stronger, as waxes provide a much deeper shine and higher gloss level.

Modern sealants have come a long way, to the point of nearly replacing waxes entirely. Sealants boast higher melting points than wax, which makes them last longer in the elements while still providing much of the depth and shine that waxes do. The saving grace of waxes is that they can also be applied over a paint sealant, which enhances the protection on all the hard work that went into creating a vehicle's pristine surface.



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Last updated on May 25, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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