how to remove car wax

How to Remove Car Wax Properly and Safely

If you wash your car regularly with soap and water, you may not have paid attention to car wax before.

Among the several car detailing products available, car wax is definitely one of the most important ones.

It works to protect the paint, enhances the overall exterior look, and keeps the car fairly clean for a long time.

However, to reap all these benefits, the car wax shouldn’t be too aged or degraded beyond usefulness, and that’s when you’ll need to apply the new wax.

To do so, you need to know how to remove car wax or the old car wax so that the new one sticks well and does its job correctly.

Today, we will discuss the different ways you can use to remove the car wax and whether or not it is a good idea to use the commonly used techniques.

Why Should You Use Car Wax?

Before we even get to the methods to remove your car wax, we believe that we should talk about why car wax is important in the first place.

Let us give you three basic yet important reasons for this.

1. Protection From the Sun

Don’t you apply a generous amount of sunscreen before you step out of home? The same logic applies to your car. 

Think of the car wax as a sunscreen for your vehicle. The thin layer of car wax acts as a protective layer for your vehicle’s exterior to prevent it from discoloring, oxidizing, and fading, which are all the common effects of sun damage.

2. Gives a High Gloss Finish

Want to make your car shine like the day you bought it? Using a coat of car wax will make the exterior shine and give it a mirror-like finish.

Wax on the molecular level will polish the car’s clear coat and will bring out its shine and color.

3. Prevents Water Spots

If you wash your car with soap and water or leave it to air dry after driving it around in the rain, you may have often noticed that the car has water spots once it is fully dried.

That is because the water collected on the car paint begins to evaporate, but it leaves behind all the contaminants and dirt, and this is what those water spots are.

A coat of car wax on the car will ensure all these water droplets bead up and simply roll-off.

That will ultimately leave the car with fewer water droplets all over, and once it dries up, there are lesser water spots too.

For those who own a black car, we recommend buying the best wax for black cars to avoid water spots.

How to Remove Car Wax: Two Methods

It is essential that you are periodically removing the old car wax and applying the new one to ensure that the car looks its best.

A good way to know when it’s time to do so is when the car paint no longer feels smooth or starts to look dull.  

We would recommend removing your old car wax at least every three to four months.

This could be lesser if your car is exposed constantly to harsh weather conditions.

There are different ways you can use to remove the car wax. Let us discuss each of them in detail below.  

Using a Pre-Wax Cleaner

Pre-wax cleaners are a great way to remove car wax from the car.

You use this product to prepare the car’s surface for a new layer of car wax.

Using a pre-wax cleaner can have several effects on the car that range from simply prepping the surface by keeping it clean, filling swirls, to leaving behind an oily residue.

Even if you have washed your car thoroughly, it is quite unlikely that it’s ready for a new layer of car wax.

That is because for the new wax to bond properly with the car’s paint, it will require a surface that is immaculately clean, and this is where using the pre-wax cleaner comes in.

Materials Needed:

  • Non-drying soap
  • Soft terry cloths
  • Cotton towels
  • Water supply
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Pre-wax cleaner

The Procedure

Here are the steps you need to follow:

1. Wash Your Car

As obvious as it is, you will need to start the process by washing your car thoroughly with water and a non-drying soap. Ensure that the surface is dirt-free.

That is essential because the chemicals in the pre-wax cleaner will be able to jump right to the car’s wax layer.

Otherwise, it will have to go through all the layers of grime and dirt first.

2. Dry Your Car

Once you’re satisfied with how clean the car is, take the soft cotton towel and dry it thoroughly.

3. Choose the Cleaner

When choosing a pre-wax cleaner, you are likely to get two options. One will be a spray-on, and the other will be an abrasive polish.

  • Spray-On Cleaner

With a spray-on pre-wax cleaner, you will only be able to get rid of the wax layer and not get a good deep clean, which is important since there are way too many pollutants under the surface and will continue to be there.

That said, this isn’t a bad option if you are doing the whole process of removing car wax and reapplying a new one often.

  • Non-Abrasive Polish

With a non-abrasive polish, you can get a more thorough cleaning.

It is an ideal option when you remove and reapply your car wax once in a while.

This method will clean the car and remove the contaminants and dirt that have settled under the top paint surface.

The secondary effect of this is wax removal.

4. Apply the Chosen Cleaner

Now, you have to apply your chosen cleaner directly on the car’s surface. Make sure you use the product liberally.

You also have to ensure that the cleaner only gets on the car paint and not on the rubber trim.

If that happens, the rubber surface will most likely get discolored.

5. Wipe Down Everything

Take the soft terry cloth and wipe down the whole car where you have applied the cleaner.

The main goal here is to wipe away all the wax remover.

Keep in mind that you have to do this process from one side to the other.

Going from top to the bottom of the car is also important to cover every part of the car.

Using long and even strokes will also offer you maximum effect.

6. Repeat the Process

There could be a possibility that when you first apply the wax remover, it did not remove all the old car wax. In that case, you have to do it again.

That said, you have to be more cautious now and not do it a third time because you may end up damaging the car’s paint since it is pretty much unprotected.

7. Clean Up

Take a soft terry cloth and apply some all-purpose cleaner on it to clean the trim.

This is a safety precaution so that there isn’t any chance of the plastic and rubber surfaces getting discolored in the wax removal process.

how to remove car wax

Using a Clay Bar

A detailing clay bar such as plasticine that tends to have a putty-like consistency is another excellent option to remove old car wax.

This bar will pick up the contaminants on the car’s surface without damaging the paint.

Do note that this is an advanced detailing treatment, and you will not need to do it very often.

The clay bar will work by getting rid of any pollutants on the surface by simply shaving it off.

Materials Needed:

  • A bucket and water supply
  • A couple of sponges
  • Car wash
  • Microfiber towels
  • Clay lubricant
  • Clay bar

The Process

To go about this method, follow these steps:

1. Wash the Car

As always, you have to begin this process by washing the car down thoroughly to remove any dirt and grime on the surface.

By doing so, you cut down the amount of dirt the clay bar will pick up and increases the amount of wax the bar will remove.

2. Let It Dry

Once done cleaning your car, let it dry completely before using the clay bar over the surface.

To ensure it is indeed completely dry, you can run a towel on the surface.

3. Apply the Lubricant

Grab your clay lubricant and spray a small amount on the part of the car you are going to work on first.

Preferably buy a clay bar and lubricant combo; otherwise, you have to buy it separately.

The clay lubricant creates a smooth surface for the clay bar so that it can easily pass over it.

It also makes the surface very smooth so that when you use the clay bar, no pieces of it are left behind.

Keep in mind that you can use the clay bar only on the lubricated part.

Another thing to keep in mind when you apply the lubricant and clay is that you should be working in small areas at a time.

It will ensure that the lubricant doesn’t dry out, and your focus is only on that area so that you can remove the wax correctly.

4. Use the Clay Bar

When you use the clay bar, make sure that you start wiping the car from top to bottom or from side to side using gentle pressure.

The clay bar will likely oppose at first, but that's completely normal as long as no pieces of clay are left behind.

When the bar slides with ease along the car’s surface, that indicates complete removal of the wax.

You can continue using the same bar by constantly folding it and using the parts to reveal the cleaner sections of it.

Use the bar until you feel it isn’t effective enough. 

5. Clean Up

Take a closer look at the car to see if any clay pieces are stuck on the surface. If there are some, just use lubricant to get rid of it.

You can then use a microfiber towel to clean the lubricant and bar pieces.

6. Do a Final Check

Rub the paint lightly with your fingers. If it feels smooth, the job is done. If it doesn’t, repeat the process on the parts that need it.


Below are answers to some of the most common questions related to car wax removal products to help ensure you don't make mistakes along the way.

1. Will Rubbing Alcohol Remove Car Wax?

While you can use rubbing alcohol to remove car wax, we do not recommend it as much because it doesn’t fully do the job.

Car wax is oily and slick and rubbing alcohol cannot fully get rid of it. In this case, a degreaser is a better option.

That said, rubbing alcohol does have a certain amount of cleaning and degreasing properties and can be used to an extent in the car detailing process.

2. Does Dawn Dish Soap Ruin Car Paint?

While Dawn dish soap is a great product to clean most things, we absolutely do not recommend using it on your car's surface.

Dishwashing liquids such as Dawn contain sodium lauryl sulfate, which is terrible for any painted surface.

This abrasive soap will accelerate the oxidation process and dull your car's paint.

3. Can I Wash My Car With Vinegar?

Vinegar is a great household item to wash your car with, but since it is a mild acid, we would recommend diluting it with water.

You can use three parts of water with one part of vinegar. Clean the car thoroughly with it, and rinse it off promptly.

You must not let it sit on the paint of the car for too long.  


Now you have an idea of how to remove car wax. Whether you use a clay bar or a pre-wax cleaner is entirely up to you.

Just always ensure you clean your car thoroughly before you start the process to ensure the wax removal process goes smoothly.

If you are interested in learning more interesting things like this or want to read reviews on the best car wax products, we recommend that you bookmark us.

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