How to use a rubbing compound on paint

Written by nathan fisher
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How to use a rubbing compound on paint
Rubbing compounds are effective at restoring painted finishes. (IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Rubbing compound is a loosely defined term referring to a growing group of polishes that are designed to remove minor damage, imperfections or oxidation, generally from automotive-type finishes. Rubbing compounds can also be used to remove layers of built-up wax from cars and boats, before recoating with new wax. For best results, use rubbing compound on paint when the temperature is at least 10 degrees C, and out of direct sunlight if possible.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Soap
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Clean, soft cloths or towels
  • Rubbing compound

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  1. 1

    Select a rubbing compound approved for the surface, such as metal or fibreglass, and paint type, like acrylic enamel, lacquer or clear-coat finish.

  2. 2

    Wash the painted surface with soap and water to remove dirt. Dry the washed surface with soft towels, or allow the surface to air-dry.

  3. 3

    Apply 1 tsp of rubbing compound to a clean cloth, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Some compounds call for a damp cloth while other compounds can be applied with a dry towel.

  4. 4

    Rub the compound into the paint in short, circular motions, approximately 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Allow the compound to set on the paint according to the manufacturer's instructions, as some types of compounds need to be allowed to dry before being wiped from the surface.

  5. 5

    Remove the compound, with a clean section of the cloth, by rubbing in the same circular motion used to apply the compound.

  6. 6

    Continue applying and removing the rubbing compound in 12-inch sections, until the entire surface has been covered. To be sure no sections are missed with the compound, overlap the already rubbed section with fresh compound by approximately 1 inch. Use a clean area of cloth each time you apply compound to the paint, changing out towels as needed.

  7. 7

    Inspect the entire surface for any areas you may have missed with the compound. Touch up any missed spots as needed.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not use a rubbing compound designed for acrylic paint on clear-coat automotive finishes as it will strip the clear coat and scratch the underlying paint.
  • While an electric buffer will save time when applying compound, you wish to forgo it, unless you are highly experienced with the machine, because the buffer can damage the finish if used incorrectly.

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