When your paint has some imperfections, and polishing compound isn't quite enough to do the trick, then rubbing compound is the right choice. Rubbing compound is more abrasive, and will work to correct deeper imperfections faster.
We've been there too, and corrected our own paint after some improper washing. Luckily, auto detailing is easy to pick up and start learning. You can have some great results as a beginner if you find the right products and learn how to use them. We recommend using a dual action polisher with all of these compounds, since that is the fastest and safest way to work. We've compiled a list of our favorite rubbing compounds below.
Our Top Choice: Chemical Guys Scratch and Swirl Remover
Chemical Guys makes a many great detailing products to cover every category, and their rubbing compounds are great too. This rubbing compound works to remove heavier surface defects in your car's paint. It's wax and silicone free, making it 100% body shop safe.
Chemical Guys Scratch and Swirl Remover's diminishing technology means the particles in the compound break down and become smaller as you use it. It starts as a compound and becomes a polish. You can get excellent results, removing heavier defects, and finishing it with a mirror shine all in one step, making the whole process a lot quicker.
Meguiar's Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound
Meguiar's is well known for their consumer line that you'll find in any auto parts store. While these products are great, Meguiar's also has a professional line of products. Their Mirror Glaze Ultra-Cut Compound, also known as Meguiar's M105, is great for removing heavier defects and scratches. It can be used by hand, or with a dual-action or rotary polisher for best results.
This compound will easily remove deeper imperfections. We recommend using a polishing compound afterwards. Meguiar's polishing compounds are also excellent. We highly recommend both their polishing compounds and rubbing compounds.
Adam's New Paint Correcting Compound
Adam's New Paint Correcting Compound is an excellent choice for quicker results if you deeper defects in your paint. Its diminishing abrasive technology means that the rubbing compound turns into a polish as you use it. The abrasive particles break down into smaller ones, cleaning up the marks you'd normally see left from compounding.
This compound can clean up deep swirl marks and 1500 grit sanding marks, and work its way down to a polish, leaving you with a shiny mirror finish, all in one step.
3M Rubbing Compound
The 3M rubbing compound has been a favorite of body shops and professional detailers for a long time, and it's also a good choice for hobbyist detailers as well. This rubbing compound removes heavy defects like oxidation, deeper scratches and swirl marks, and deep water spots. It leaves minimal swirl marks, but we recommend finishing the car with a polishing compound.
Griot's Garage Complete Compound
Griot's Garage Complete Compound is designed to remove moderate to heavy defects in your car's paint. It can be applied by hand, but like all compounds and polishes, it's much easier to apply with a polishing machine. It's formulated to be very user friendly, and can be wiped away with a single pass of a microfiber towel.
Mothers Professional Rubbing Compound
Mothers is well known for their excellent California Gold series of auto detailing products, but they also have a professional line. Mothers Rubbing Compound is an excellent choice if you need to remove heavier defects from your paint, like oxidation, deep swirls from improper washing, or wet sanding marks. While it's designed for professional auto detailers, it's a great choice for anyone that's been tested in many shops for years.
Turtle Wax Premium Grade Rubbing Compound
Turtle Wax's Premium Grade Rubbing Compound is designed to remove heavy blemishes from your car's paint, bringing back the depth and shine. It can remove 1500 grit sanding marks, heavy swirl marks, and other surface blemishes. Its silicone free formula makes it safe for use in body shops and paint shops, and it's a great choice for hobbyists working at home too.
Should I use a rubbing compound or a polishing compound?
We always recommend starting with a polishing compound, and moving up to a rubbing compound if that's not enough to remove the imperfections to a satisfactory level. While it's perfectly safe to polish and compound your car with a dual action polisher, you are slowly removing clear coat, and you still want to do your best to preserve as much as possible.
If you've tried polishing compound and want better results, you should give rubbing compound a try. Make sure you're also using heavier pads on your polisher.
Is rubbing compound bad for car paint?
Rubbing compound is safe for your paint and does not damage it. However, you are removing a very fine layer of your paint. On most modern vehicles, this will be the clear coat. There's only so much clear coat on the car, and while you aren't at danger of burning through it with a dual action polisher, you should keep that in mind. Ideally, you would use rubbing compound once and never have to again. It's okay if you do, but you should try to protect your paint once it's corrected.