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How To Properly Use a Rubbing Compound

For many drivers, your car is one of the most precious items, if not the most important. Car scratches ,without a doubt, are hurtful and uneasy that make you want to rush to the automobile shop for repainting. It is ok if you are rich, but there is a better and cheaper solution for you: Rubbing compound

And before we show you the proper way of using a rubbing compound, it is crucial to know its definition and what does rubbing compound do.

What is Rubbing Compound?

Rubbing compound is a product that is used to restore the appearance of the automobile’s paintwork. In other words, it has the same function of a super fine sandpaper in the form of paste or thick liquid. This can not only cover from a tiny scratch to mild abrasions but also renew the dull outlook of car paint. 

It is undoubtedly a useful tool for restoring the vehicle’s appearance. However, car owners might not be able to get the results they want if they don’t know how to properly use a rubbing compound.

How To Properly Use a Rubbing Compound

Clean the Car

Before applying the rubbing compound, one trick from our car maintenance tips for car owners is to wash their cars carefully. You do not want to leave any dirt on the surface since it might ruin the repainting process and result in a dirty, worthless effort. So make sure your car is nice and shiny, especially around the scratch because we want to focus there. We will also provide the steps of cleaning just in case you want to do it at home:

1.1. Washing soap or conditioner are the most used common mixture when washing the car since they will not damage the paint. You can use the clean rag to dunk into the bucket of soapy mixture, then clean in circular motion. A completely soapy car is the sight of a clean car. Just notice if the water in the bucket gets dark, replace it with the new batch of water and soap. 

clean car
Clean the car beforehand is the must (Source: Unsplash)

1.2. Rinse the car by hose to clean all the bubbles and soap. A trick is to park the car in the sunny spot to help it dry much faster. 

Repair Paint Scratches

To be able to hide car scratches by rubbing compounds, drivers need to make the scratch clean. It is not possible to completely remove the scratch, but sanding down the paint around will make it hard to notice. You can spot scratches on the automobile by using shoe polish. It also helps you to avoid sanding too far beneath the spot, which might damage the car.

The following step is adding a bit of water and soap in order to lubricate the paint from the area. This will help the sanding process much more smoothly and efficiently.

How to use rubbing compound
A little water will do the trick (Source: Pixibay)

The last step is to use the sandpaper. Car owners should place the ultra-fine sandpaper at 60-degree, and stroke it forth and back lightly. It is recommended to aim for the spot of shoe polish and sand right next to it, not into the scratch. After sanding, clean by water by cloth again, and you are ready for applying a rubbing compound.

Choose the Right Tool

In order to have the best result, it is recommended to use an orbital polisher. It is a useful and professional tool which makes the applying progress much smoother than normal. You can buy or rent it from automobile supply stores, but if you don’t want to waste more money, a towel is perfectly fine.

In order to spread the automobile rubbing compound effectively, a dry, clean microfiber towel can also do the job. Just make sure your towel must be clean. 

Apply the Compound Over the Scratch

The correct way to use the automobile rubbing compound is to apply directly over the scratches. Car owners might pour it out using a towel, or squeeze onto the scratch if it is a tube rubbing compound. If you have an orbital polisher, use a wool pad and place polisher right onto the scratch. This tool will automatically spin and spread the rubbing compound around. It is recommended to cover the whole damaged areas by a thin line, which helps your scratches look invisible by smoothen the car paint around. 


Apply the Compound Over Your Car

After finishing the process of covering the scratch, you can apply car rubbing compound all over your car since it helps your car shiny and sparkling like new. Beginning from the top of your vehicle, car owners should apply around 5 mL (1 teaspoon) of rubbing compound to your towel or orbital polisher. Circle movement is highly recommended.

Also, drivers have to rub the compound until it is invisible. The rubbing compound will bring the best result when you cannot see any streaks on the surface, so make sure you don’t miss any spot. The rubbing process should last around 1 to 2 minutes.  

Rinse the Car Again

How To Properly Use a Rubbing Compound
Cleaning is always the last step (Source: Unsplash)

Last but not least, you should clean off any remaining rubbing compound in order to wash away any dust stuck onto the surface. Make sure to dry your vehicle thoroughly in the sun to do the last check. 

 FAQs About Rubbing Compound

Since rubbing compound is quite unfamiliar with many new drivers, this article will cover some of the most common questions around this incredible item:  

Should I use a rubbing compound or polishing compound?

It totally depends on the purpose of car owners since both of the compounds serve different purposes. While rubbing compound restores the paintwork and hides the scratches, polishing compound focuses on recovering the shine and smoothness of the paint. Long story short, they are both helpful to your automobile, but they are quite different in the way of using.

Do you need to polish after compounding?

The polishing step depends on the work after the compounding stage. With the proper lighting, you can do the final checking to decide whether to polish or not. If there is any hazing or micro-marring, car owners are recommended to polish again. 

Can rubbing compounds be used on headlights?

Yes. Both rubbing compound and polishing compound can be used on headlights. The proper way of using it is the same as covering the scratch on the car body: Apply on a clean microfiber cloth, then spread in a circular motion to the headlights. 

What goes first compound or polish?

Drivers should definitely compound before polish. The purpose of adding compound is to remove stubborn stains, bird droppings, oxidation,… And then we polish the surface in order to provide shiny and reflectivity for the automobile.


Rubbing compound is one of the most useful tools to protect and restore the automobile’s appearance. With the proper way of using it, it can restore the paintwork to showroom condition.

For that reason, it is necessary for drivers to acknowledge and understand the right way to use it. 

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