Difference Between Compound and Polish - Quick Answer 1

Difference Between Compound and Polish – Quick Answer

Quick Answer – Compound is more abrasive than polish.  Compound will correct deeper scratches and polish can be used to restore deep gloss after using compound.  This is known as the level of cut or correction and is the main difference between Compound and Polish.

Long Answer

Many manufacturers of car detailing supplies sell products with a different range of cutting power.  From heavy-cut compound to ultra-fine finishing polish.  

But compound and polish are not the only things that effect the level of cut.  It also depends on these things…

  • Type of pad used.
  • Hand Vs Machine polishing.
  • Type of Polishing Machine you use.
  • Amount of pressure applied.
  • Type of machine used.
  • Length of time spent polishing/compounding.
  • Type of paint/clear coat.

Too much correction can be bad.

It’s possible that you can cut too much when you are doing paint correction using a machine.  Your clear coat layer is the layer that gets scratches and is only about a millimeter thick.  

This isn’t an issue if you’re polishing by hand.

If you remove it completely you can end up damaging your paint.  So the key is to do as little correction as possible.

A paint depth gauge is a very useful tool to help you avoid cutting too much.  

Here is a depth gauge on Amazon that has good reviews. ( I haven’t tried this particular one ).

Paint Coating Thickness Gauge Meter, Car Painting Depth Gauge for Used Car Buyer, Paint Mil Thickness Meter Gauge Magnetic Check The Car’s Original Coating 0-1500um Auto Off SoftCase Carry

Hard vs Soft Paint

Paint is often described as being either hard or soft.  Some people might say BMWs have soft paint for example.  This would mean that you need to be extra careful which correcting the paint because you could easily remove too much clear coat.

On the other hand, if you have hard paint it can be difficult to correct so a heavy cutting compound combined with a hard cutting pad would be needed to make any progress.

But it’s not that simple in reality because some BMWs have hard paint and some have soft.  You just don’t know what you are working with until you start experimenting. 

So you should always assume you have soft paint and if you are not making progress in removing swirls then you should progressively get more aggressive in your compound and pads.


Should you use Compound or Polish First?

You should always use Compound first and Polish second.  Compound will remove oxidization and do a much better job of cleaning your paint.  Polish will add more shine and gloss.  Finally, apply wax or sealant to protect your work.

Which is Better, Compound or Polish?

For older scratched cars compound will give your paint more of a boost in class.  Especially if it has a cloudy appearance.  This is oxidization and compound is great for cleaning that up. 

For newer cars with good paint, Polish is better.  If you already have a relatively good shine you will enhance that shine even further will polish.   

Polish will reduce the appearance of light swirls and compound is better for heavier swirls.

You can also apply Polish after you Compound to give the best possible results.  Most of us black car lovers have both compound and polish in our detailing kit.

Whats the difference between Meguiars Ultimate Compound and Meguiars Ultimate Polish?

Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound has more cutting power than Meguiars Ultimate Polish.  Ultimate Compound is great for hand application.  It does a great job of cleaning paint and boosting its natural color.  

Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish is a polish combined with a pre-wax glaze.  So its not a pure polish.  It will add further gloss while also adding glaze which will fill in minor imperfections and boost gloss even further.

Compound and polish should be buffed off before they dry out.  This is different to wax which should be allowed to dry out before you buff it off.

Lastly, apply wax to seal in the glaze and protect the paint from the weather and road grime.

All in one products

To save time and money you can get a middle of the road product that first delivers a heave cut but at you use it it brakes down and becomes a finer polish.  A great example is Sonax Perfect Finish.


Understanding the difference between compound and polish is key to getting the best possible results when detailing your car.  Just remember that compound corrects more than polish.  And polish adds more gloss than compound.  

It’s worth using both in most cases but always use compound first.  And wax your car with done.

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