Why Can’t I Just Wash and Wax My Car?


Why Can't I Just Wash and Wax My Car?

Sponsored Post By Chuck Bennett
Founder & CEO of Zymöl

The Corvette factory offers a brilliant variety of paint colors and finishes. Although today’s paints are far more beautiful than yesteryear, the paint thickness is far less. Compound this problem with increased exposure and you have the basic question…Why can’t I just wash and wax my car?

Clear Coated Paints are not Magic:

You will damage your Clear-Coated-Paint when you use many of the car waxes on the market today. That’s because most commercial products are made for the way cars used to be painted. With a very thick (18-26 mil) color coat directly exposed to the atmosphere. This ‘ONE-Stage’ paint needed strong solvents or abrasives in the wax to remove oxidation, soiling, and stains. But most cars built after 1990 have a thin layer (6-7mil) of basic color paint, covered by an even thinner (1-1.5mil) “Clear- Coat” paint. This ‘TWO-Stage’ paint is easily damaged (scratched) from the abrasives in ordinary commercial waxes. After spending many hours waxing your car you may have “swirl marks” or “cob-webbing”. These are nothing more than patterns of tiny scratches. Some waxes claim to be made for clear coated paint-but they leave a film or residue when dry that is hard to rub off, and, rubbing harshly will definitely do more damage.

Unfortunately the world’s finest waxes will not produce a brilliant shine or lasting protection if applied over dull, oxidized, soiled paint or old wax. Normal washing will not remove oxidized paint, minor swirl marks, old wax, insect tar, acid rain, and catalytic converter residue (hydrochloric and sulfuric acids). Proper Pre-Wax Cleaning is necessary to remove these impregnated contaminants and provide a fresh, clean surface to which the wax can adhere.

The difficulty is how to clean the paint safely without using abrasive grit, harsh solvents, or destructive Clay Bars. Typical cleaner wax products “scrub” the surface clean with petroleum solvents and compounds which can accelerate paint oxidation and aging.

Why Can't I Just Wash and Wax My Car?

Photo Credit: ID 23626370 © Flynt | Dreamstime.com

Paint MUST be cleaned BEFORE it is waxed. If you adhere to the basic following steps, you can almost guarantee success.

Step 1:

Before you wax your car ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, wash it thoroughly. Any dirt or grit that is on your car’s surface will scratch the paint that you are trying to protect. We recommend non-acidic, non-phosphoric, low- or no sodium-based liquid car washes that claim to do nothing but wash. Be on your guard against multi-function products, there is no replacement for common sense and lots of warm water.

Step 2:

Before you wax your car ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS clean the paint thoroughly. All painted surfaces should be cleaned with a non-abrasive, safe cleaner prior to applying wax. Use oils blended with microscopic cleansers that have natural astringent properties to penetrate and extract trapped dirt, impurities, and dead oxidized paint adhering to the primary painted surface. As you apply the pre-wax cleaner it will penetrate and break down everything on the surface of the paint encapsulating grime so it can be easily wiped off without scratching the paint or clear coat. Minor swirl marks and scratches are visually reduced by removing the leading “edge” of the dead paint surrounding the scratch. This robs sunlight of a sharp edge to cause a reflection. The oils will also attach to the released deposits and allow these deposits to be wiped off using a simple terry towel or Microwipe.

Step 3:

Now that you have completely cleaned your paint’s surface revealing paint with life and luster, follow with a coat of high-quality natural wax to protect and shield the paint. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use a non-abrasive wax. (The subject for our next article.)

For maximum paint protection and shine, clean your paint twice a year (seasonal and geographic adjustments required) and apply a maintenance coat of wax every one to two months. Remember, Wax degradation cannot be seen. When we think our cars are crying out for attention, we are seeing new paint damage.

The real mistake made by most enthusiasts is thinking that waxing is enough…Pre-wax cleaning is the difference between a good-looking car and a great-looking automobile.

Until next time…this enthusiast-writer is going to go out to wash and CLEAN his car, apply my waxID and celebrate the Holidays!

Zymol WaxID





  1. While there’s nothing blatantly wrong here, this article leaves out a lot of important details, like never using a swirling motion to wash or wipe your car (thus avoiding swirl marks), using clean microfiber cloths (and managing them so you don’t use debris-tainted ones later), separate buckets for soap and rinse, and dirt guards in your buckets to help keep dirt at the bottom. I personally spray my wash mitt off each time with clean water.

    But perhaps the most important thing to understand is that every time you touch the surface, you are increasing the likelihood of scratching it, no matter what you do.

    For drying, I recommend using a solution made just for drying, like Ammo Hydrate, which basically lubricates your cloth (I am not affiliated with Ammo NYC in any way). I’ve tried other similar products but it is by far the best. In fact, I recommend watching the Ammo NYC tutorials on YouTube, as they take washing cars to another level and he washes everything from multi million dollar, one-of-a-kind vehicles, to corvettes. I learned a ton watching these years ago and the paint on my 2017 vette looks like new because of it (and Xpel), despite 45K miles.

  2. In step 2 what is this safe oil based cleaner? Is there a recommendation for a product? If you do not use a clay bar or polish what is the mysterious cleaner?

  3. Should explain why a clay bar is “destructive”. Used with detail spray as a “lubricant”, clay bars leave the paint on my ’07 Corvette and my ’01 Silverado feeling very smooth and looking beautiful when followed with MOTHERS Carnauba Ultimate Wax.

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