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Step-by-Step Guide: How to Use Rubbing Compound for Car Scratches

How to Use Rubbing Compound for Car Scratches

rubbing compound featured

Welcome to our step-by-step guide on how to use rubbing compound to effectively treat car scratches. Whether you’re dealing with minor imperfections or deep scratches, rubbing compound can be your go-to solution. In this article, we will explain what rubbing compound is, how to use rubbing by hand and with a polisher, and provide you with some essential tips to achieve the best results.

To use rubbing compound properly: Wash the affected area down with an automotive grade soap first. Afterwards clay bar the area to remove and surface contaminates so you don’t push in any small pebbles. Apply the rubbing compound to a microfiber towel or orbital buffing pad and use circular motions to buff out any fine or small scratches. Multiple passes might be needed and for the best results follow up with a polishing compound. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Rubbing compound is used to remove the scratches on your paints surface
  • Rubbing compound can be used to restore color depth or damaged paint. 
  • It can be applied by orbital buffer, dual action polisher, or by hand.
  • It acts essentially as a ultra-fine sandpaper
  • Can renew the top player paint finish (when used with polish)
  • Most will be paste like where some may be solid
  • Anyone can do this at home 

What is Rubbing Compound?

how to use rubbing compound finished

Rubbing compound is a type of abrasive compound that is specifically designed to remove scratches and imperfections from the paintwork of a car. It contains fine abrasive particles that work to level out the surface, making scratches less visible or even completely eliminating them. Rubbing compound can be used on both clear coats and traditional car finishes. It is an essential tool for any car owner who wants to restore the appearance of their vehicle.

Related: What Is Car Detailing?

How To Use a Rubbing Compound

how to use rubbing compound

Clean the Car

Before you begin the process, it is crucial to clean the car body thoroughly. Use water and soap to remove any dirt, grime, or debris from the car surface. Cleaning the car ensures that the compound can work directly on the scratch without any obstructions.

Make sure you only use a automotive grade washing soap or conditioner whenever performing any cleaning or repairs on your vehicle. Most supply stores will have easy to use options available.

Need an easy to use car soap? Here’s my recommendation:

The Chemical Guys Hydro Suds is my go-to at home car wash. It smells great, it’s easy to use, and about a cap full gives me a full car wash. Since a little bit goes a long ways and this does such a great job cleaning, give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed!

car detailing soap

Prepare the area

Next, prepare the area where the scratch is located. If the scratch is surrounded by painted areas, protect them by applying masking tape. This will prevent the rubbing compound from accidentally coming into contact with the paint around the scratch.

While it doesn’t really matter if it gets on other areas of paint or not, leaving it on can leave streaks and other blemishes. We’ll get into how to use rubbing compound properly here shortly, but first, make sure you grab the right tool!

Choose the Right Tool

Depending on the size and severity of the scratch, you can choose to use rubbing compound by hand or with a polisher. By hand, you will need a clean microfiber towel, while a polisher will require specific pads and a dual action polisher or buffer. 

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How To Use Rubbing Compound By Hand

how to use rubbing compound by hand

Applying the compound by hand:

To apply the rubbing compound by hand, put a small amount onto a clean microfiber towel.

I cannot express how important it is to apply the compound to your towel and not the surface itself. While some like to apply it specifically to the vehicle, I like to place small even amounts even over the pad or towel to ensure an even finish. 

Pro tip: If you cannot see the scratches up close, try using a bright light to make the light scratches easier to see. 

Use light pressure and circular clockwise motions which will help in spreading the rubbing compound around evenly. Use circular motions again to rub the compound into the scratch, putting pressure on the area. Continue rubbing until the compound is evenly spread over the scratch.

It’s important to use firm pressure when applying by hand. You have to use some elbow grease in the applications process by hand and maintain consistent even pressure in a circular motion. Buffing by hand is much less aggressive and it’s important to know buffing with a DA Polisher (Dual-Action Polisher) typically yields better results. 

Once you’ve worked the compound in you should notice it makes the scratches disappear as you wipe away any excess compound. Make sure you use a separate clean rag or towel to wipe away any excess debris. At this point it should make the scratch invisible and leave your paint looking like new. 

If you keep up on your paint often, you should be able to upkeep that showroom sparkle without the need of a polisher. You should never be using a paper towel and any other rough rag to clean your vehicle. 

How To Use Rubbing Compound With A Polisher

polishing car with buffer

Applying the compound by polisher:

If you decide to use a polisher, make sure you have the appropriate pad attachment for your specific polisher. Apply a small amount of the compound directly onto the pad and spread it evenly over the scratched area. Turn on the polisher and move it in a slow, circular motion over the scratch. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep the polisher moving to avoid burning the paint.

Pro tip: Start on a low setting first then work your way up to a medium to high setting. This will smoothen the paint and try to remove any fine scratches.

I recommend for any beginner to start with a dual action polisher as paint burning is a lot less common. The correct way to use a dual action polisher is to let the machines weight do all the work. Don’t apply any pressure when you use a wool pad or if you use an orbital polisher. Let the polisher/buffer do the work for you. 

In Case You Missed It: How To Detail Your Own Car!

As always when finished, follow up with another clean microfiber towel, or by using another clean rag or microfiber cloth. When finished, I recommend you polish the surface after to restore the reflection and gloss for best results!

How To Use Rubbing Compound – What Compound Should I Use?

There are many types of different rubbing compounds available. For most around the house uses I’ve had luck with the following – they are in order of favorites:

Meguire’s Ultimate Compound:

A very cost effective DIY friendly compound. Very beginner friendly and usually always available. Apply, buff, remove and you look brand new!

rubbing compound

Don’t Forget Polish:

When done compounding and removing those scratches don’t forget to use this beginner friendly DIY ready polish to restore the gloss and reflection after!



polished car finale

So long story short, rubbing compound is a valuable tool for car owners looking to remove surface scratches and imperfections from their vehicles. Whether you choose to apply it by hand or with a polisher, following the correct technique is crucial to achieve the best results. 

Remember to always start with a clean car, prepare the area around the scratch, choose the right tool for the job, and apply the compound using the appropriate technique. With some patience and effort, rubbing compound can bring back the shine to your car’s paintwork and make scratches barely visible.

Make sure to finish the process by applying a coat of polish or wax to protect the newly treated area. By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to effectively use rubbing compound and bring your car’s paintwork back to its former glory. Good luck car enthusiasts!

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