Car Care / Griot's Garage

5 Gotta-Know Wax Application Tips

Griot’s Garage has collected some great car care tips and tricks over the last 21 years. We also learned a few things while developing our new Premium Carnauba Paste Wax that will definitely help you have more fun in your garage! And fun is what it’s all about, right? So here you go… the top five, gotta-know wax application tips.

Everybody loves a fresh coat of wax; the smooth surface, deep gloss, and ultra-clean paint send petrolheads into a spin of auto-euphoric bliss. Even in the dark of wintertime, wax gives your car that much-needed glisten of cleanliness. You know the feeling after a fresh wax; that extra glance back and satisfied smile before you lock the doors and walk away. It’s possible to make the wax process even more enjoyable. Here’s how…

1) It’s All In The Prep

A well-prepared surface is the only way to begin any waxing project. Good preparation improves adhesion, speeds up the process, and ensures maximum clarity and shine. There are a few different levels of prep, depending on the car you’re working on and what your goals are.Griot's Garage Paint Prep

If you’ve been using a different brand of wax, if the car is new to you, or even if it’s just been a couple years since you’ve “started fresh”, finish your wash process with Paint Prep (info | video). This product strips old waxes and sealants from the paint, so all the work you do is going right on the paint; no old buildup or inferior products getting in the way.

Next step is Paint Cleaning Clay (info | video), and this should be done any time you polish or wax your car. For those that don’t know or have never used clay before, it removes embedded contaminants that stick to the paint and don’t come off with your normal wash. It prevents that buildup from being sealed in (which reduces shine) or worse, from building up in your pad and creating swirl marks as you polish or wax.

Next stop is Pre-Wax Cleanser (info | video). I won’t go so far as to call this “essential” like claying, but man I love this product. Pre-Wax Cleanser dissolves polish residue and leftover Speed Shine that you may have missed prior in the detail, then evaporates leaving a bare surface that begs for wax. This is always part of my final wipe down before applying wax.Professional Masking Tape

Last stop before the wax hits the paint is masking. This is a must. While there are remedies if you skip this step, being proactive and taping your trim will save you time and headaches in the long run. It allows you to wax right up to the edge and prevents the inevitable “oops moments” that happen even to the best of us. Griot’s Garage Professional Masking Tape (info | video) is a great choice here.

2) Thinner Is Better

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. One of the most common mistakes in wax application is applying too much product (yup, we sell the stuff and still tell you to use less). Over-application leads to product waste and difficult removal. A thin application will actually bond to the paint and cure better (since “extra wax” on top inhibits curing). Use a small amount and burnish until you can barely see it. An organized cross-hatch method of application will help you keep track of what’s been waxed.

3) Layer It Up

While a thinner coat is better, that doesn’t mean you can’t apply multiple coats to increase the depth of shine and gloss. There are a couple routes you can go when it comes to layering your wax. The more common method is to apply a thin coat, allow it to cure, buff off the excess, repeat. (Bonus points for waiting a day between coats, as the wax will harden a bit more, allowing for better layering). However, to cut down on application time, skip the buffing and apply a second (thin) coat right over the top of the cured first coat. Then, allow that coat to cure before buffing (this is the method we cover in the video for Best of Show Wax).

4) The Last Thing To Touch Your Paint

It’s easy to overlook the importance of the towel you use to buff wax. An old t-shirt, a baby’s diaper, or even unwashed micro fiber towels are some of the popular “no-no’s” I see and hear about. We’ve spent a good amount of time talking about the importance of micro fiber and giving you techniques for proper use. I’ll just take a quick second to remind you to use the right towel and always keep it clean. You spend a lot of time perfecting the paint up to that final wipe down, so always double-check to make sure you grab a towel that is gentle and effective.

5) Wax Removal Tips

Over-application, allowing wax to dry too long, and various other unforeseen or accidental issues can make buffing difficult at times. Here are a couple tips for buffing our Best of Show Wax and Premium Carnauba Paste Wax if you run into tough removal.

For Best of Show Wax (commonly over-applied), a quick mist of Spray-On Wax onto the dried wax will make buffing almost effortless. Check out this video to see it in action.

Our Premium Carnauba Paste Wax cures pretty quick, so if you allow it to dry too long, it’ll take a bit of elbow grease to remove. However, with a quick application of some fresh Premium Carnauba Paste Wax right over the top just before buffing, you’ll be back to the fun.

There you have ’em… the top five, gotta-know wax application tips! We’re always learning from our customers. Do you have  tips of your own? Please share them in the comments, and…

Have fun in your garage!


  1. What bums me out the most is that with this year’s annual Christmas gift of $500 plus worth of Griot’s goodies that my wife bought for me is that I asked for and received three of your wax sticks. Had I known about your new paste wax, I would have waited a few days for it. Also, to add insult to injury, I found out about the “Can #1 contest” a few hours after the entries were closed. So much for the email notifications….

    I can’t wait to try the new wax though. I’m sure it will exceed all of your customer’s expectations.

    [Editor’s Note, 4/16/2014: Carnauba Wax Stick Has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion]

  2. Now the obvious question now is: How does this new paste wax compare to Best of Show? With BOSW touted as the best Concours wax, when/why would one use the new Griot’s paste wax?

    • All excellent questions… As with a lot of things, personal preference plays a big piece. From there, the “best” wax really depends on the car and your goals. But I’ll give some quick highlights and notes on each based on my experience.

      Best of Show Wax – Excellent depth; best filling capability to hide imperfections. Better for show cars as durability (around 2-3 months) isn’t as good as our others. I love this wax on black, red, and other dark colored cars!

      Carnauba Wax Stick – Bright shine and very (very) easy to work with. Goes on easy, cures well, and a breeze to buff. I’ve been a big user of this on my personal car cause I love the shine, ease of use, and durability (4-5 months), plus my car is white.

      Premium Carnauba Paste Wax – I’d say many of the characteristics of this wax on how it looks on the car compare to the Carnauba Wax Stick. It does have an extra month or so of durability, but the hydrophobic technology is what really sets it apart. The tighter water-beading and reduced surface tension is very impressive. This will probably replace Carnauba Wax Stick as the primary wax on my car.

      So, if you’re looking specifically for a concours wax, I’d probably still lean toward Best of Show Wax since it has excellent color, depth, and clarity; depth being key. But, every car is different, so trying different options and seeing what works on your will always produce the best results.

      Hope this helps!

      [Editor’s Note, 4/16/2014: Carnauba Wax Stick Has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion]

      • Thanks Derek for that explaintion really helped out. Think I may try the new wax out on my truck in the spring but stick to the BOS on the black Mustang!

  3. I agree with MJN above. Thanks for taking the time to explain it. I too may have to try the new wax on my truck…after hunting season of course. I’m assuming the only way to properly apply it is to use Paint Prep to remove the left over Best of Show Wax?

    Now if you guys would put it into a wax stick. That would make it so easy to apply.

    [Editor’s Note, 4/16/2014: Carnauba Wax Stick Has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion]

    • My pleasure.

      All of our products are compatible, so Paint Prep wouldn’t be “necessary.” But it is always a good practice to strip all the wax off the surface on a relatively regular basis; I try to do it every couple years on each car. Swapping to a new wax is a good excuse to do it, too.

      Also, when it comes to putting this in stick form, from what I’ve heard from our Product Team, I don’t think it is possible due to the temperature of the wax when it is poured.

  4. OK, Received the tin of Premium Carnauba Paste Wax today. Applied it to one of my vehicles this evening. Wow, it looks better than the Carnauba Stick Wax which is my favorite. I also use BOS wax from time to time and do not see a difference. This is on pearlescent beige metallic paint.

    Great stuff. My only complaint is that the size of the tin does not allow even application of wax to the large red wax pads. No problem with the small pads and I can apply the wax to a quarter of the large pads.


    [Editor’s Note, 4/16/2014: Carnauba Wax Stick Has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion]

    • Waxed a second car last night. A bright yellow vehicle. Wow, this wax really brings out the color and clarity. Better than Best of Show or the Carnauba Wax Sticks which are excellent as well. I did not clay or polish either car I waxed with the Premium Carnauba Paste Wax since I wax them so often, the paint was smooth and ready for wax.

      Yes, I do clay and sometimes polish my vehicles depending on how long the previous wax coat was applied. And yes, Only Griot’s Garage supplies and tools are used.

      Richard, you have the best stuff. Make sure he sees this message.


      [Editor’s Note, 4/16/2014: Carnauba Wax Stick Has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion]

      • Confirmed the performance of the wax in the rain on both cars….. Wow. Awesome the way it beads so tiny. And the way water flies off while driving.

        A confirmed covet to the new Premium.

  5. Great information. Thank you!

  6. Hi Derek, I just want to say awesome and very detailed steps. This is the first time reading your post. You covered lots of details that professional used in detailing exotic cars. Masking is something many people ignore and I learned that when I had those ‘oops’ moments. ‘It’s all in the Prep’, ‘Thinner is better’ and ‘Layer it up’ are the best tips I’ve learned about car waxing in the past. Although lots of work, they give the best results. Look forward for your next posts!

  7. This post is really helpful. Do you suggest polishing out light swirl marks and water spots after step two? Thank you.

    • You’d actually want to do any polishing after clay and prior to applying any wax. Looking at the processes described in this post, it would happen about half way through Step 1, after clay and prior to Pre-Wax Cleanser. Pre-Wax Cleanser does a really good job removing polish residue, so it’s ideal for preparing the surface for wax after polishing.

      A few quick descriptions in the order of application…
      Clay: A deep cleaning for the paint removing all surface contaminants.
      Polish: Improves the surface by removing swirls, scratches, and other imperfections in the paint. Doesn’t provide protection.
      Wax: Protects and enhances the paint.

  8. To remove excess wax with Spray-On Wax, while seemingly paradoxical, works like a charm! Read that in my Handbook, glad you reiterated it here.

    Wonderful post, love your products, and I enjoy talking to your pleasant support staff on the phone when I have questions.


  9. One question I have which isn’t addressed here, is about the time frame to re-apply any wax. I waxed my car two weeks ago, do I need to go through all the steps of pre-waxing, ect., again, or can I just wash and re-wax my car? I wanted to just add a little more protection and shine to what looks pretty good now. What’s the rule of thumb for a situation like this?

    • Jerry, In that period of time, you can re-apply wax to your car after a normal wash/dry. The extra steps would be for a car that has not had attention in some time.

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  12. i like your article but there is few points missing like..1.Choose a good quality car wax; if doubtful ask the car dealer which car wax is suitable for your car. This is because some car waxes contain abrasives that may damage the car paint; so it is always better to use a non-abrasive wax on your car.

    2.Never apply the wax on car when it is too hot or cold; so wax with the car parked in a shady and cool place.

  13. This is very informative. I don’t want this happen to my car. This is very bad. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. I had no idea that using less wax on your car is more effective. It seems like the more wax you add, the better it will make the car look. If I do wax my car soon, I will be sure to use less wax to make a thinner layer then repeat to add more layers.

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