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Car Wax Won’t Come Off – What To Do?

In our haste to finish chores, we end up making mistakes. Maybe you wanted to save some time waxing the car. So, you applied it quickly but didn't get enough time to buff it. Now there's hardened wax that's not coming off. If you need help removing it, we have some solutions for you.

Wax removal can be easy or difficult. It depends on the wax you use. Some recommend Dawn Ultra to remove it. However, Dawn Ultra won't work with quality waxes. Thus, you might need the help of a strong shampoo or a car polish/compound. 

The best way to tell if the wax remover works is to test the reaction of water. When the wax is still there, it will bead up. Water will slowly fall off the panel if you've removed the wax. For more information on this topic, keep reading.

Waxing car with a sponge, Car Wax Won't Come Off - What To Do?

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What Can You Use To Remove Car Wax?

There are rules to follow when you apply car wax to a vehicle. If you fail to follow them, it becomes a pain to handle. Regardless of the situation, now you have hardened wax that isn't coming off. 

As a result, maybe you're looking towards degreasers that most don't recommend for car use. More specifically, Dawn Ultra is one of those powerful degreasers. Many car enthusiasts don't recommend using it as a car cleaner.

They claim it has the potential to strip off wax. Does it work? Evidence would suggest otherwise. If you use a quality wax, Dawn Ultra won't remove much of it. 

Does that mean it's not an effective wax remover? In terms of effectiveness, Dawn will not remove it quickly. It will take several applications until it extracts the wax. 

It works better if you use hot water. In any case, use Dawn if it's the only thing you have at hand. Otherwise, we'll need to use a better product. 

Here's a YouTube video explaining it in detail:

Using Car Cleaners

If a powerful degreaser like Dawn Ultra doesn't work on car wax, what does? You'll have to look for dedicated car cleaning products. More specifically, it needs to be focused on stripping a car's surface of old sealants. 

In our case, it's the hardened wax you're trying to remove. The problem with this is the variety in the market. Many cleaners claim they will remove sealants. 

Though, who has the money to test all of them? Additionally, it requires some effort to wash a car. And, if it doesn't work, you'll need to return to your car to try another wax removal product. 

It's not controversial to say that some work better than others. Some will remove a bit of wax, while others will remove it entirely. Therefore, you start with a clean slate. 

Garage Therapy's Decontamination shampoo is a product that most car owners would recommend. If you can't find this product in stores, there is another one that could work for your situation. Adams Strip Wash seems to be a close contender.

Click here to see Adams Strip Wash on Amazon.

If you need evidence they will work, here's a YouTube video demonstrating the effectiveness of each product:

Using Polish or Compound

The problem with cleaners is that you're relying on the strength of the chemicals. As you might already know, some waxes are resistant to most detergents. It almost seems impossible to remove them with a simple car cleaner. 

Unfortunately, that might be the case for your situation. For that reason, we need to have a backup plan. If cleaners don't work, we'll need the help of abrasives. 

No, you don't have to use sandpaper or magic erasers. You might already have it lying around. Of course, we're talking about car polish. Though, the same rules apply here.

More specifically, some products are better than others. Therefore, if the current car polish you use isn't enough to remove the wax, you can try Meguairs M205. 

Click here to see Meguairs M205 on Amazon.

If you need something more abrasive, car compound is the better product. However, car polish should be enough for most situations. You don't need that much strength to remove car wax.

How Do You Know A Cleaner Has Removed Wax?

Water drops collect on top of metallic car surface

If it's your first time removing car wax, you might not know the signs of wax removal. Car wax is a sealant that keeps contaminants from reaching the paint. It sits on top of the clear coat of the car. 

Wax protects the car from the elements like snow, rain, street salt, bird droppings, etc. We can use water to test for wax removal. Water reacts differently to wax. 

It typically beads up and falls off the car surface quickly. When you don't have wax, it slowly flows down the car panel. You can see how differently water reacts in the two videos mentioned above. 

More Details To Keep In Mind

Before you head out to purchase a cleaner, polish, or compound, let's get a better understanding of your situation. What wax are you trying to remove? 

Old car wax is easy to remove. It's likely on its way out itself. But, if you need to remove it quicker, an aggressive car shampoo will take care of the rest. 

It won't put up much of a fight against cleaning detergents. However, freshly applied car wax is a different beast. They're highly resistant to detergents because there's a solid layer actively protecting against them.

In this situation, car shampoos and wax removers will have trouble removing them. It's the reason why you'd need the help of abrasives. They're more reliable because they don't break down the wax chemically.

It removes them physically. Using polish and compound is a more aggressive approach. But, if you're careful enough, you won't do anything to the clear coat. 

The Wax Removal Process

Car detailer hand applying small amount of polish to foam pad

We won't go over the cleaner method. It's a straightforward approach that the product's instructions will likely handle. However, you may need to apply it more than once to remove the car wax entirely. 

If you go with a car polish or compound, there are a couple of options. You can approach the situation by hand. Otherwise, you can use a machine pad to help. 

Polishing or Compounding By Hand

Before you begin removing the wax, you want to wash the car. You can use one of the cleaners mentioned above. Sure, it won't remove the wax. But, it can soften it up to help polish/compound it off easier. 

It's also an excellent way to ensure your pad doesn't pick up contaminants. Once the surface is dry, apply your compound or polish to the applicator you will use. You can use a foam pad or a microfiber towel. 

Then, work in any motion you'd like. You can do circular or up and down. It doesn't matter because you're not smoothing imperfections. Instead, we're focusing on removing the wax.

Though, it's worth noting that you don't need to apply too much pressure. Once you finish covering all the problematic areas, let it haze up. Then, wipe the residue off with a microfiber towel.

Polishing or Compounding By Buffing Machine

Polishing or compounding with a buffing machine follows the same procedure. However, it requires less effort. Use a medium-hard pad. 

Apply the compound and work it on the surface. You don't need to work around the area as slowly as you normally would. We're not correcting anything on the surface.

We're removing the wax entirely. For this reason, we want to work the buffer machine quickly without applying much pressure. Of course, wipe off the residue with a microfiber towel.

Apply An IPA Cleaner

After compounding/polishing, you could also use an IPA cleaner to ensure the compounding/polishing residue is no longer there. However, this topic is a controversial one. Some people like using IPA cleaners for this purpose.

Others think it's something you should avoid using on a car. It's a purely optional step. Only use one if you know what you're doing. 

Here's a YouTube video for guidance:

Will Isopropyl Alcohol Remove Wax?

Of course, we can't make a claim without providing some evidence supporting it. As mentioned, IPA cleaners are a purely optional step. Some car owners will be curious to know why. 

You might see some people online recommending it to remove wax, polish, or compounding oils. In the past, that might have worked. However, as time passes, things tend to improve. 

In our situation, it's the car products that have improved. So, old solutions that have worked might be outdated. That's the case with IPA cleaners. There's no guarantee it will remove anything you want it to take away.

Here's an auto detailer explaining it in more detail:

In Closing

In most cases, there are many ways to approach a situation. You can use a cleaner, polish, or compound to remove car wax. Which one will you choose? Regardless, we hope you found this informative. Good luck with the wax removal!

Before you go, do you need help removing other things? What about scuff marks? To learn more, check out:

How To Remove Scuff Marks From Car

Did your car pick up tree sap? If you need help removing it, check out:

How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car [Without Ruining The Paint]