Waxes & Sealants: Which is right for you?

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 | Posted by:

Car Care, Griot's Garage, Tech

If the most important step in caring for your paint is keeping it clean, a proper coat of wax or sealant to protect your paint is a close second. But with five different options from Griot’s Garage for paint protection, which is right for you and your vehicle? It’s a question we’re asked every day, so let’s lay out the facts and make your decision easy.

First Stop: Wax vs. Sealant

The goal of any wax or sealant is to provide a protective coating while enhancing the surface to provide maximum color, depth, and clarity. Waxes and sealants will perform differently in terms of longevity, surface enhancement, and ease of application. I’ll work to explain those differences and set your expectations appropriately. But, in the end, finding the wax or sealant best suited to your vehicle will likely come down to experimentation and personal preference.

Pure carnauba is hard as a rock.

Carnauba wax is organic and naturally water-resistant. It’s mixed with other materials to make application possible and to maximize the appearance of the surface it protects. Sealants are non-organic, polymer-based products designed to mimic wax and improve upon it in some ways. Typically, sealants last longer than waxes and waxes look better than sealants. To choose, you’ll need to weigh the variables. How often do you want to detail, how much time will you spend, and what are your goals?

Waxes: Which one?

Best of Show Wax® – The Concours Wax
As the name (more than) hints, Best of Show Wax® was designed with show cars in mind. It is a liquid carnauba wax that gives superior color, depth, and clarity. It also has excellent filling capability to hide swirls or scratches that may not have been fully removed during the polishing step. Best of Show is amazing for black, red, and other bold, dark colors. It lasts 2-3 months before needing to be reapplied, so it is better for cars that aren’t driven in harsh weather often (or if you don’t mind detailing every few months). Also, it can be easy to over-apply, which can make buffing difficult, so make sure you follow the proper application steps and burnish it in with a nice thin coat.

Premium Carnauba Paste Wax – It’s Hydrophobic!
Premium Carnauba Paste Wax
boasts many of the same characteristics as the wax stick. Both are carnauba paste waxes that are easy to work with and have a bright shine, but Premium Carnauba Paste Wax has hydrophobic technology, which really boosts protection. Not only does it last an extra month or so, the tighter water-beading and reduced surface tension is very impressive. In a nutshell, the hydrophobic nature reduces water contact with the paint decreasing the likelihood of water-spotting and causing the water to “jump” off your paint more quickly.

Sealants: Which one?

Paint Sealant – Long-Lasting Protection
Sometimes the reality of life (or the sheer size of your truck or SUV) might make it difficult to detail each of your vehicles a few times a year. With easy application, long-lasting protection, and still an excellent gloss, Paint Sealant is the ideal solution. Typically you’ll experience at least 6 months of protection, but if you’re using our Spray-On Wax regularly with your washes you’ll see up to a year of life without needing to reapply it. If your vehicle is parked outside, sees harsh weather, or is taken through the occasional drive-thru car wash, Paint Sealant is a great option to keep your paint looking good through it all.

One-Step Sealant – The Daily Driver

If everything about Paint Sealant sounds like what you’re looking for, but you’d also like to remove a few swirls at the same time, go for One-Step Sealant. It’s the only one of our paint protection products recommended to be applied with the Orange Foam Polish Pad because it has a slight polishing property (a hair more mild that Machine Polish 3), so as you’re applying your sealant you’re also getting a bit of paint correction. A great product that’ll make your car look awesome without a whole lot of effort.

I hope this information helps you find the right wax or sealant for your car. If you’ve already tried a few and would like to share your experience, or if you still have questions, the comments are open! And, to ensure you always get the best results, check out our article, 5 Gotta-Know Wax Application Tips.

Have fun in your garage!


Posted by:

56 Responses to “Waxes & Sealants: Which is right for you?”

  1. Steve Says:

    Paint Sealant and using Spray-On Wax after every wash easily lasts a year on my garaged daily driver. Last year, I learned somewhere on the website or FB that the sealant should stay on for an hour before buffing (that wasn’t on the bottle directions). I really noticed the difference. Great products!

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Steve. You’re correct… we do recommend a one-hour cure time for Paint Sealant (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAAG9Hsmxdk). Glad you’re having fun with our products!

      Reply

      • Brian Says:

        I have left it on for an 8 hour period (overnight) and then came back and hit it with the Best of Show Wax. It was AMAZING!

        Reply

        • Dennis Johansen Says:

          I always wax my F 150 after the sun has gone down and I let it set overnight and buff it off at 6 AM the following morning, before the sun hits it. My F 150 (1998 with 190,000 miles) looks like new and I get comments from people frequently. It has mostly the original paint on it and when I tell people that, the think its a lie. The old paint looks as good as the new paint. When I bought it in 98, the first thing I did is drive it home, wash it and wax it. It s never had a buffer on the paint…always by hand. Your products are the best I ve ever used….and I ve used a lot!

          Reply

      • Mike Says:

        What about the one step product? Is the same true?

        Reply

      • Jim Says:

        Is there a difference in paints (and what wax/sealant to use) that are on German, Asian, and US produced vehicles?

        Reply

        • Mike Says:

          For all intents and purposes, no. Of course there are different formulas and chemical make-ups of paints. But in terms of what products can be applied to a fully-cured paint, the differences are insignificant.

          Reply

  2. Thom Z Says:

    Are there any special precautions for a Corvette.

    Reply

    • Derek Says:

      With waxes and sealants, there aren’t any special precautions. However, if you are polishing, some of the newer Corvettes have pretty hard paint that can require some extra effort when trying to remove swirls and scratches.

      Reply

  3. Marlin Says:

    I have been seeking a good method to prep, polish and wax my 44′ fiberglass sailboat. Will this sealant stand up to salt air and salt water?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      A salt air environment will certainly lessen the longevity of any surface protection product. In your case, One-Step Sealant will work best, and still provide several months of protection. Paint Cleaning Clay will remove from the gel coat all of the contaminants you can feel with you fingertips. The level of effort will really depend on how well you can access and work around the various areas of your sailboat. If your fiberglass isn’t highly oxidized, applying One-Step with a Random Orbital will take care of the oxidization (since it has polishing properties). If you are removing heavy oxidation, I suggesting using Machine Polish 2 (or even MP1, then stepping down to a finer polish) prior to applying One-Step Sealant.

      Reply

  4. Russ R Says:

    If I use the Paint Sealant, can I get extra protection by applying the carnuba wax afterward?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Yes. If you don’t mind the extra effort, stacking your waxes can be beneficial. Be sure to apply Paint Sealant first. The conditions that you live in will determine how much “extra life” you’ll get from this approach. You might also try Spray-On Wax if you’re looking to extend the life of your sealant without waxing your vehicle a second time.

      Reply

  5. t le Says:

    Does the new premium carnauba wax stain trim?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Depending on the type of trim, it is possible. Best to err on the side of caution and prep trim with our Professional Masking Tape. Address any “oops” spots as quickly as possible with Dried-On Wax Remover.

      Reply

  6. Todd S Says:

    I also have a 50′ fiberglass Cruisers which I have detailed spot on with the help of you products my question is to get all summer protection which would be better after polishing should I apply the paint sealant first then follow up with the premium carnuba wax or the other way around? I use the spray wax on my trucks but if I were to use that on my boat that would intail a lot of towel polishing everytime I wash the boat, Do you think it would work OK with the chamy I currently use on a pole to dry the boat?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      If you’re willing to put in the effort to wax a 50′ Cruiser twice (wow!), then you would definitely apply Paint Sealant first, prior to a coat of carnauba wax. Regarding Spray-On Wax, it may prove difficult to buff dry with a pole-mounted chamois. However, since you have both, I would suggest trying an area on your boat to see how well it works. If it does work out, I’d also suggest rinsing out your chamois well a few times with clean water so it still performs its primary job of absorbing water and drying your gel coat. Hope this helps!

      Reply

      • Bob Says:

        Mike,
        In reading your response to Todd S, I find myself in a similar situation but am new to machine polishers. In fact, I am getting ready to buy the 6″ one from Griot and would like a little advice. I have a 40 foot boat with light oxidation on the gelcoat. The hull is emron paint so it polishes out nicely by hand but I’m thinking it is time to go machine polishing. So the questions are what is the correct product(s) to remove the oxidation on the gelcoat and then polish/sealant it and the hull with afterwards. I’m thinking sealant since it appears to last longer too. Which pads for which purposes, etc. Is there a kit that would meet my needs? Thank you in advance!

        Reply

        • Mike Says:

          Yes it is time for a machine! If you find the oxidation polishes out easily by hand, then our Machine One-Step Sealant Kit will polish and protect in one step. And with the machine it will be a breeze! Once the oxidation is removed, you could follow-up with Paint Sealant every couple months for more protection (especially since the marine environment deteriorates sealants more quickly).

          Reply

  7. Herbert Hoover Says:

    Hi my name is Herbert and i have a oxidixed 1988 bmw 750il which one do you recommend for my baby so she can be a show car she have great paint. Thanks

    Reply

    • Brian Says:

      I recommend using the Machine Polish 2, then Paint Sealant, then finish with Best of Show Wax. As always do this in the shade while the car is cool (early morning).

      Reply

    • Mike Says:

      From your description, I would first focus on taking care of the oxidation with Paint Cleaning Clay and then polishing with our Random Orbital and Machine Polishes. Once you have achieved the finish you want, follow-up with a great wax like our Best of Show Wax (and definitely check out our application tips here: http://www.inmygarage.com/?p=2267).

      Reply

  8. David B Renfre Says:

    1993 Corvette, This is aused Vette. i just got and the paint in not factory…it is Black with some silver flake in it. i have done nothing but wash it so far but i am seeing some swils in the paint.
    can you tell me what will work the best to clean, strip and wax with.

    thanks for any help you can give.

    David

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      First, wash with a high-quality car wash. If you are interested in removing the swirls, use our Random Orbital and machine polishes, followed by Pre-Wax Cleanser, and then the wax or sealant of your choice (the article above does a good job explaining the differences). If you simply want to hide the swirls, our Paint Glaze has good fill characteristics… just wash first, then prep the surface with Paint Prep. After using Paint Glaze, you can seal it with the wax or sealant of your choice.

      Take a look at our Detailer’s Handbook and full library of videos for tons of detailing how-to’s.

      Reply

  9. Lois K Says:

    Hi there, I have a 2009 toy hauler (smooth-sided) with big, dark blue “splash” graphics. I am pretty convinced that a solid treatment with One-Step is the way to go before hitting the road for the RV season. My concerned is those crazy graphics. Will the One-Step cause them to discolor? Should I use Paint Sealant only? Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      One-Step does have very mild polishing properties, so it is probably safest to avoid your graphics with that product. You could One-Step the paint and use Paint Sealant or wax on the graphics. Or, if you’re not concerned with polishing at this time, just use wax or Paint Sealant on everything. Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Reply

  10. George G. Says:

    Hello all, I have a question regarding the sealants. I would like to apply Griot’s “One-Step Sealant” to my car by hand (and not a random orbital). That being said, is there any “polishing” benefit to be gained by hand application? If no benefit is achieved with hand application, then is it just better to go with Griot’s “Paint Sealant” instead.

    Reply

  11. craig strain Says:

    WHAT SHOULD ONE USE ON A FIBERCLASS BOAT TO PREVENT OXADATION ??????????? REPLY TO

    STRAIN1@NETZERO.NET

    Reply

  12. RadDad Says:

    I have a 2011 Buick Regal that is dark gray. To the touch, the finish has some tiny grainy bumps. It’s a garaged, daily driver. I’m leaning toward sealers for the longevity, but what should I do in what order to get a good start? Also, someone “keyed” me a swirl of light, shallow scratches in a small (3″sq in) area on a door panel. Got something for that?
    RadDad

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      First, I would recommend claying the car to remove the bumps. Try One-Step Sealant on the “keyed” area and if it works, just do the whole car with it (it has mild polishing characteristics). If the One-Step isn’t aggressive enough, try Machine Polish 3 or 2 first, then follow-up with One-Step Sealant. The work with Machine Polishes and One-Step will be easier and more effective with a Random Orbital.

      Reply

  13. Russell Says:

    Do the sealants stain exterior black plastic trim if there is overrun? Thanks.

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      The sealants will not stain. But if the surface is textured, the product can work its way into crevices, requiring removal with a brush (or other tool).

      Reply

  14. Stan Says:

    I have a new (8 mo. old) Porsche whose paint is in pretty good condition. What do I use on it to keep it that way…and…do you recommend the orbital polisher for it. Thanks

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Hi Stan. Whether you use the orbital or not depends on your paint condition and goals for the car. The orbital is great for polishing (removing swirls and light scratches), and can also be used to speed up and improve your results with waxing. You’ll want, of course, to start with a thorough washing. Then clay the car to remove embedded contaminants from the paint before polishing. Check out our Detailer’s Handbook for a full run-down of the detailing process. We’ve also got a huge library of product and how-to videos to help you along the way.

      Reply

  15. Doug Says:

    Has anyone try’d out the paste wax on black or red paint? If so hows the shine?? Do’s the paint look wet. I have best in show wax but i’m wanting to try the paste wax

    Reply

  16. Tony Says:

    My question is in regards to shelf life of the paint sealant. Is there one

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Under normal conditions (out of direct sunlight, no extreme temperature swings), the shelf life of Paint Sealant should be 3-4 years.

      Reply

  17. David Says:

    I have a 1994 dark green Alfa (PPG paint with clear coat). Washed and clayed it, then sealed, polished and waxed it with random orbital, while cool in the shade. I left on the Best of Show Wax long enough for it to haze (~10-15 minutes). Was then VERY hard to remove, needed strong, tiring elbow grease. Finish was good, but not “best of show.” Very frustrating after all that work. Why so hard? Will letting it cure longer make it easier or harder to remove?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Usually when people have a hard time removing Best Of Show, it has been over-applied. The wax is meant to work best in a VERY thin coat. Here’s a great article on proper application. As the article states, you can also re-wet the surface lightly with Spray-On Wax to aid in removal. Hope this helps!

      Reply

  18. Eric Says:

    Recently bought my wife a Volvo C30 and she has less then 2K miles on it. During a recent road trip we caught some love bugs in S. GA. She washed the car within a day or so of our return but there seems to be a slight “shadow” in the clear coat. We hit the spots w/ the clay and some speed shine but they are still there. Do you any recommendations? I normally use your wash, clay, and Best of Show wax on my ’03 Mini, by hand, but we haven’t gotten around to putting anything down on the C-30 yet other then washing it.

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      It sounds like it might be time to do some polishing. Just a theory, but it’s possible the tough exoskeletons of the bugs scratched the clearcoat during washing, which could cause some of the shadow effects you’re seeing.

      Reply

  19. duffy Says:

    what to do about crows feet?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      As this is a symptom of poor adhesion and/or a generally faulty paint job, the only real remedy is (unfortunately) a re-paint.

      Reply

  20. Paul Says:

    We’ve got a 1963 Chevy Nova with original paint (Forest green). Paint is starting to get thin is areas. Anything that might work to make it look better? I’ve used Meguiar’s products in the past (clay bar, then cleaner, polish & wax). They told us to use their show car glaze, but wife didn’t care for it. Basically now just dust it off and use a instant detailer. Everything is by hand, no DA yet.

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      If the paint is that thin, you’re going to want to be VERY careful with polishing. If anything, your method of working by hand is probably the right way to go. Something like our Fine Hand Polish is an option. Personally, I would avoid polishing and apply our Paint Glaze, followed by top coat/s of wax or sealant.

      Reply

  21. Gary Says:

    Just picked up a 2005 MB SL 500 …..Silver.
    Paint looks like the day the car was made!! (only 28k mileage helps!)

    Planning on clay then direct to hand wax..

    Is best of show wax NOT recommended for light colors,
    Or should I go for wax stick?

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

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Sounds like a great find! You can absolutely use Best of Show on light colors, it’s just especially good at improving the depth of darker paint. The advantage of the wax stick is convenience, and ease of application and removal. In the end, it will come down to your personal preference.

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

      Reply

  22. Mike Says:

    I’ve been using your products for years and I love them. I have a 2004 yukon hunter green and I have used #3 polish then #4 polish and have most of the swirl mark’s out but I like to put wax on first then sealant thinking that will keep the wax on longer then put a coat of wax on after that. Is this OK to do?

    Reply

    • Mike Says:

      Thanks for the question! I asked around, and the consensus is that putting down sealant first, with a wax topcoat will give you the best combination of appearance and longevity. You can continue to wax over the top of your sealant as the wax “lets go”, since the sealant will have bonded to the paint surface and should be very durable. Hopefully this makes sense… Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Reply

  23. Mpower Says:

    Question about care for my new car (BMW Black metallic). Should I get Paint Sealant or One-Step Sealant to protect the new paint? Other than Sealant, is it necessary to use Clay to prep the paint before I put Sealant on the new paint? Will Clay or Best Show Wax remove the new paint clear coat?

    Thanks.

    Reply

    • Mpower Says:

      Hi, I should correct that I have put 1200 miles since new.

      What would be the good procedure to give the new paint protection with shine in long lasting without removing the new paint clear coat etc? But I am only willing to do wax/polish once or twice a year at most if all possible.

      Thanks.

      Reply

      • Mike Says:

        Thanks for the question! All our products are 100% safe for your paint. If your goal is to wax/polish just once or twice a year, our One-Step Sealant is going to be your product of choice. Give the vehicle a thorough wash. If you have old wax build-up or have been using any competitors’ waxes, use Paint Prep before rinsing and drying. Next, use Paint Cleaning Clay (with Speed Shine as a lubricant) to remove embedded contaminants. Finally, finish with One-Step Sealant (which is a gentle polish and synthetic wax in one). This combination should get you the appearance and longevity results you’re looking for. Let us know if you have any questions. Check out our website for a full range of how-to videos… http://www.griotsgarage.com/videos

        Reply

  24. Bob Reiter Says:

    I have a 2012 header orange dodge challenger, I was talked into the optional sealant. I have noticed spots and what looks like small dust and debris under the sealant. How is the best way to remove sealant to get to base paint, clay it and start this process over. Thanks.

    Reply


Join the Conversation