How to Polish Correctly and Prevent Swirl Marks


With so many polishing methods out there I thought it would be beneficial to illustrate the difference between a good and bad polishing method. Using a scrap door I have isolated each area in the picture below to show how each step progresses.


This is done using the 3M (foam) polishing system. Even though your finish may look alright in a certain light, it will change in the sun or in a showroom if not done completely. Another poor tactic is to bury the swirls with wax as the wax will eventually wear off and you’re left with the swirl marks again.

1. Perfect it Rubbing Compound on White (hard) Pad

This is intended as an initial cut and would make a poor choice for a final finish. I am pretty sure that this compound has recently been reformulated. My 3M rep tells me it incorporates a star-shaped mineral that makes cutting much quicker. I like this compound, it also works well on a wool pad.

2. Perfect it Rubbing Compound on Black (soft) Pad

Now, this in no way should be used to finish in either but has somehow become a very common step in bodyshops. I am not sure how polishers in bodyshops became this way, I would imagine its the quickest way to get it out the door (just bury it in wax). It is a lazy way to finish and should always be refined further. You can see it still swirls like crazy in the sun and does not carry the kind of gloss our finer finish does.

3. Swirl Mark Remover on a Black (soft) Pad

This is starting to look a bit better. It eliminates most of the holograms caused by the coarser compounds but still leaves a bit of a visible trace on a dark finish. Many people use a glaze in this case but that will just fill the problem like a wax. We can go a bit finer and get that desired high gloss finish.

4. Ultrafina on a Blue Ultrafine Pad

Many people neglect this step, especially on light finishes. Someone once put in perspective for me by saying regardless if its a black or white finish your still getting the same result, black just really tells on you. So if you’re doing a high-end polish job regardless of the color you should consider running some ultrafina over it to complete your polish job.