Difference Between Rubbing and Polishing Compound

Written by nicholas salvatore | 13/05/2017
Difference Between Rubbing and Polishing Compound
Use wax after compounding (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Daniel Cooper)

Bringing a car's finish back to its original lustre with compound is a challenge, but if you choose the wrong compound you could do serious damage to your paint job or get poor results.

Rubbing Compound

Rubbing compound is a gritty, abrasive product used to remove oxidise paint from a car's finish. It is the strongest compound available.

Polishing Compound

Polishing compound is often used before waxing to eliminate scratches and light oxidation. It is much less abrasive than rubbing compound.

Which Compound Should You Use?

If your car's finish is very dull and has a good deal of oxidation, then rubbing compound would be a good choice. Polishing compound can be used to remove scratches or to restore a slightly dull finish. Test an area of paint first.

Compounding the Car

Compound should only be used after the car is washed and dried, and be applied to a one-foot-square area with a damp cloth. As soon as it dries, it should be removed.


If you use rubbing compound, it is important to wax the car after compounding. Some polishing compounds contain wax, but it never hurts to give the car an extra coat.


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