Buying Guide: Best Car Polishing & Rubbing Compounds (2017 – 2018)

car polishing compound

Car polish is very similar to what is called rubbing compound, and is used to maintain or restore the finish on an automobile. Sometimes terms polish and wax are used interchangeably, but they are different. A wax maintains the shine and protects the finish, while a compounding rub does deep cleaning on and in the surface of the vehicle. Wax protects the work you did polishing. It is important to do both.

Compounding rub is a mild abrasive that actually peels away some of the clear coating on your vehicle. Decades ago vehicles had many coats of paint and then were coated. You would get the color of the paint on your pad as you used compounding rub in those days. Now when cars are made, they do only a few coats of paint with a lot of clear coat covering that paint. The theory behind compounding rub is the same, it just works a little different now.

#1 Top Rated Car Polish & Rubbing Compound (Editor Selection) — Click Here!

Over time dust, water and other environmental things like bird droppings or salt from highways that are treated in cold conditions, all produce a buildup of grime on your car. Just washing your car will not take that grime away. It is not really noticeable, but what you do notice is that over time the paint or finish becomes dingy or dull looking. Compounding rub, or polish, digs into the clear coating to remove this buildup of grime, which will make the finish look like new again.

Our Car Polishing & Rubbing Compound Ratings At-A-Glance

car polishing ratings

Top 10 Best Car Polishing & Rubbing Compounds for the Money

Here you'll find our list of the best car polishing and rubbing compounds options based on our team's ratings of the products. If you want to read reviews or get more product information, just scroll down the page or click on the links.
PRODUCTOUR RATING
Meguiar's G1016 Smooth Surface Clay Kit
Meguiar's G1016 Smooth Surface Clay Kit
(9.3 / 10)
Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System
Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System
(9.3 / 10)
Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay
Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay
(9.1 / 10)
Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover with a Polishing Compound
Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover with a Polishing Compound
(9.5 / 10)
Griot's Garage 10862 Complete Compound
Griot's Garage 10862 Complete Compound
(9.7 / 10)
Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_16 V Line Polish and Compound Kit
Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_16 V Line Polish and Compound Kit
(9.2 / 10)
Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_101 V36 Optical Grade Cutting Polish and V38 Final Polish
Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_101 V36 Optical Grade Cutting Polish and V38 Final Polish
(9.7 / 10)
Chemical Guys CLY_403 Heavy Clay Bar
Chemical Guys CLY_403 Heavy Clay Bar
(9.5 / 10)
Mothers 08612 Professional Rubbing Compound
Mothers 08612 Professional Rubbing Compound
(9.7 / 10)
Nanoskin (NA-HDC16) HD Cut Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound
Nanoskin (NA-HDC16) HD Cut Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound
(9.5 / 10)

Car Polishing & Rubbing Compound Reviews

Still not sure which of the items in the chart above is a good choice for your ride? Check out what our editors have to say below.

Meguiar’s G1016 Smooth Surface Clay Kit Review

Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Kit
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Removing surface contaminants and restoring a smooth-as-glass surface to your car’s paint finish has never been so easy! With Meguiar’s Smooth Surface Clay Kit, you can make your wax protection last longer than ever. The non-abrasive clay bar instantly, safely and easily removes paint overspray, fallout, environmental contaminants and more, which makes waxing easier and longer lasting. It even includes two 80-gram bars, clay lubricant and a microfiber towel. Simply put, this Smooth Surface Clay Kit provides the best performance and gives the best value you can find.

Pros: Helps old paint go from dull to bright, gets rid of dirt and grime that washing doesn’t

Cons: Clay can occasionally be mild or too gentle

Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System Review

Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System
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The Mothers California Gold Clay Bar System provides an instant detailed look to any vehicle. It is safe to use on paint so you can help define your vehicle’s natural beauty. It works hard to remove any embedded grains of metal from the surface as well as tree sap paint overspray, and any airborne environmental deposits. It creates an all new look for your vehicle, even if it is a few years old. With regular use, you will see a long lasting effect. The kit comes with two clay bards, a microfiber towel, and the Showtime instant detailer. 

Pros:  Works well and lasts a long time.

Cons: Spray leaves a residue and has a strange minty smell. Takes a lot of work to complete.

Griot’s Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay Review

Griot's Garage 11153 Paint Cleaning Clay 8 FL.OZ
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Anyone who has had to deal with imperfections in their paint jobs or troublesome messes on their home such as sap or bird droppings can understand just how frustrating these things can be. Griot’s Garage Paint-Cleaning Clay works well for these things and more. It is easy to use and easy to store, making it an easy buy for anyone who may need it. It also comes from a trusted brand that has been making quality products for years now.

Pros: Simple to use, affordable, compact for convenient storage

Cons: Occasional difficulties with respect to water spot removal, may require multiple attempts to clear away debris depending on the variables

Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover with a Polishing Compound Review

Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover with a Polishing Compound for Premium Car Scratch Repair and Car Polish, 9965, 8 oz.
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Does your car have scratches, scuff marks or swirl marks? They’re no match for Car Scratch Remover from Barrett-Jackson. This ultra-fine polishing compound removes scratches beautifully and leaves behind a wet-look, glossy shine with no powdery residue. Just buff it on and wipe it off for easy car detailing! With Barrett-Jackson Car Scratch Remover, your car will look new again in no time.

Pros:  Easy to use, easy to clean up, safe to use on all painted finishes (including clear coat), works very well for scratches, leaves a nice shine

Cons: May occasionally cover up scratches but not remove them

Griot’s Garage 10862 Complete Compound Review

Griot's Garage 10862 Complete Compound - 16 oz.
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Tired of spending hours in your garage cleaning your car and trying to protect its paint? Griot’s Garage Complete Compound will help you cut down on your cleaning time. This compound uses cutting edge abrasive particles to help you get rid of blemishes in your car’s paint. This compound brings out the beauty of your car’s paint, and leaves a finish that is ready for waxing. This compound is also easy to buff off, unlike old paste wax that took lots of elbow grease to rub to a shine.

Pros: Safe for all automotive finishes, including clear coats and shimmer paints. Easy to use.

Cons: Handles only minor scratches, less effective on deep scratches that have been scratched down to the metal under the paint.

Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_16 V Line Polish and Compound Kit Review

Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_16 V Line Polish and Compound Kit (16 oz) (4 Items)
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Use this kit once and your car will absolutely shine! The Chemical Guys V-Line Polish and Compound Kit is engineered specifically for scratch-resistant and ceramic clear coats. Its optical grade micro abrasive technology is perfect for enhanced clarity and precision. The kit includes includes four 16-ounce bottles: V32 Optical Grade Extreme Compound, V34 Optical Grade Hybrid Compound, V36 Optical Grade Cutting Polish and V38 Optical Grade Final Polish. Each bottle is designed for use with dual action and rotary polishers and formulated using no silicone or fillers.

Pros: Low price, superior polish

Cons: More instructions needed

Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_101 V36 Optical Grade Cutting Polish and V38 Final Polish Review

Chemical Guys GAP_VKIT_101 V36 Optical Grade Cutting Polish and V38 Final Polish
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Want to get rid of imperfections in your car’s paintwork?  These professional-grade products restore your car’s finish.  V36 Cutting Polish is ultra-refined to remove moderate to heavy paint blemishes.  Ultra-refined V38 Final Polish eliminates the need for covering up or filling in, removing light paint scratches permanently.  Both products remove holograms and grit sanding scratches and can be used with a DA or rotary machine.  They are dust- and powder-free, designed for extended work time, and formulated for the highest level of optical clarity.

Pros:  Products are very effective when used together, easy to use.

Cons:  May not work as well on very deep scratches. 

Chemical Guys CLY_403 Heavy Clay Bar Review

Chemical Guys CLY_403 Heavy Clay Bar, Black (100 g)
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Designed with flex-clay technology, this black, heavy clay bar can be used on glass, painted surfaces, metal, plastic, chrome, and fiberglass to restore your car’s finish.  Easy for anyone to use.  This product removes debris embedded in paintwork, so your car surfaces feel clean and smooth as glass.  Works best when used before applying wax or paint sealant.  Elastic detailing clay effectively draws overspray, dust, pollution, and contamination from your car like a magnet, even if your vehicle hasn’t been detailed in years.       

Pros:  Safe, effective, non-abrasive.

Cons:  Has been known to sometimes leave slight scratching, marring, or streaking, especially on dark colors.    

Mothers 08612 Professional Rubbing Compound Review

Mothers 08612 Professional Rubbing Compound - 12 oz.
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Want to give your car a showroom-quality finish?  This industry-grade compound can be used with a soft microfiber buffer to remove scratches, water spots, car wash scratches, and other imperfections, and your car is ready to wax.  Effectively streamlines paint touch-ups, even for cars fresh off the factory floor. Designed for professional retailers with its proven formula, it is safe enough to be used by the everyday auto owner.  Available in a convenient 12-ounce size, this product contains a high-quality formula utilized by auto body shops all over the world.  

Pros:  Is not as harsh as some products, restores paint defects to mint condition.

Cons:  Product has only mild abrasive effect, making heavier paint transfers more labor-intensive.

Nanoskin (NA-HDC16) HD Cut Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound Review

Nanoskin (NA-HDC16) HD Cut Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound - 16 oz.
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Does your car have marks or paint imperfections you’d like to remove? Check out Nanoskin HD Cut Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound. It’s a super fast-acting compound that removes 1,000 to 1,500 grit sanding marks, heavy oxidation and other serious paint imperfections and defects from all types of automotive paint surfaces. In addition, it prepares your car’s surfaces for wax or glaze. Plus, it contains no silicone, wax or fillers. Your car will look so amazing you’ll forget about any of its previous blemishes!

Pros: Low price, smooth finish, quick results

Cons: May have poor cutting power on occasion

What To Consider Before Buying

Experts recommend using a buffer of some kind that will apply and remove the compounding rub evenly. It is nearly impossible to do that evenly by hand, an it is much harder work. The same car care experts say you should only use compounding rub as needed, no more than once or twice per year. Eventually you would wear off the paint on your car if you did it too much.

A compounding rub, or polish, is needed to give the finish of your car a deep cleaning. It uses an abrasive to clean off imperfections or other things that have diminished the shine on your automobile.

There are medium and ultra fine types of compounding rubs. Medium is for the dirtiest cars, while the ulta fine is for what would be considered normal dirt buildup. Modern polish is made with more of a mixture of the two, and there is no need to get different levels of abrasives to get an even finish.

There is also something called a glaze, which is a compounding rub in a sense, but is not abrasive. Glaze has oils and a chemical called koalin, which fills up the imperfections that have developed in the finish. Glaze does not last long at all though, so you need to apply wax immediately to keep it from being washed away. Glaze is more of a cover, similar to wax, but does work on the finish itself.

With newer vehicles it is probably better to use a glaze in rotation with polishing because eventually you could wear off the paint.

There are also polishes for certain colors of cars. It is perhaps more for a family of colors. White, silver and light colored cars need a specific kind of polish designed for that, while black, or darker colored cars need a different type of polish. The labels on bottles or cans of polish are usually clearly marked as to which they are for. There are also polishes specifically for brightly colored cars such as red.

There are some milder compounds that are for any color, an these are the most widely used. Purists swear by the compounds for different colored cars though and it may depend on how much of a perfectionist you are. The ones for specific colors generally cost more, and they may be better if applied correctly. These are for people who enter cars in car shows. For the typical motorist with an “ordinary” car, the extra expense might not be worth it.

When using a rubbing compound it is important to do only a small section at a time. you might do the hood as one project, and then a fender, and so on. Using a compounding rub takes a long time and it is hard work, unless you use a buffer, and even then it takes effort.

There is a wide variety of compounding rubs or polishes available. If you are a typical user who has an average type car, any commercial polish will probably work fine. The extra cost for the highest quality probably will not be worth it for you. However, if you have a classic car, or something like a new BMW, you might want to try a more exotic or high dollar polish. The higher cost polishes are better, but you need to decide whether you really need that extra quality that only car professionals will recognize anyway.

The most important think to keep in mind though, when using a polish or compounding rub, is that you need to protect your work by waxing it immediately. Keep in mind that you are peeling away a very small amount of the finish when you use this product.  Polish or compound is a cleanser, and it will remove any wax that is already there, so while it will restore the finish and look great, it is very much not protected. A good coat of wax preserves the finish that has been exposed and brought back to life by the compounding rub finish.

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