Best Buffing Pads

Updated October 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

34 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
448 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best buffing pads

Last Updated October 2020

If you want to keep your car or truck looking showroom beautiful, you need to spend time buffing it. That luster can be maintained with the right tools, starting with a rotary or dual-action orbital polisher. You need to get buffing pads to go on your polisher, though.

Using the wrong type of buffing pad can destroy or mar the finish of your vehicle instead of improving it. Or it can simply be a waste of time and money if the pads you get aren’t up to the job. Along with the right material, you’ll need to consider the cut and flexibility of the pads. You’ll also need to get the correct size buffing pads for the area you’re polishing or repairing and know how to clean your pads to ensure they last for more than one use.

Our buying guide covers everything you need to take into account when shopping for buffing pads. If you’re ready to put the shine back on your vehicle, you’ll find our five favorite buffing pads in the matrix above.

Never let your buffing pad touch the ground. It will pick up dirt and debris like a magnet, rendering it useless. Even a thorough cleaning may not remove all the impurities it picks up.

Key considerations

There are three different types of buffing pads, each of which is used for a different purpose. The type of pad you need is determined by what you’re trying to do. If you’re repairing or restoring your vehicle, you’ll need rougher, stiffer buffing pads that can handle buffing the patching compounds you’ve used to fill in dents and scratches. For maintaining that showroom appearance, you’ll need softer, more flexible buffing pads to put the shine back on your car’s paint job with car polish and car wax.

Compounding buffing pads

Compounding or cutting buffing pads are the first pads you should use on the roughest surface of your vehicle that needs the greatest amount of work. These pads will cut through the compounding materials on your car when you’re repairing dents and scratches.

Polishing buffing pads

Use these buffing pads as the second step in repairing or restoring your car’s appearance. They are used for polishing with car polish and bringing back shine.

Finishing buffing pads

These soft pads are for use with car wax or sealant as the last step in restoring your car’s appearance.

CAUTION

Buffing pads create friction and heat when they move over your car’s surface. Keeping a buffing pad in one place for too long can heat the paint and melt it.

Features

Material

There are three principal materials used for buffing pads. Each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

  • Foam: Foam is the most common material used for buffing pads. It can be adjusted during the manufacturing process to fit any need, from compounding to polishing to finishing. Foam pads can be textured with waffle patterns, hex-logic, and CCS to hold car polish in place during use. Foam pads either have open-cell or closed-cell construction. Open-cell types hold polish better than closed-cell pads but are harder to clean.
  • Microfiber: Buffing pads made from microfiber can be used for cutting and compounding as well as polishing and finishing. They are flat pads that tend to have a longer lifespan than foam pads.
  • Wool: Buffing pads were all originally made from wool. Wool is inherently scratchy, though, making it difficult to use without scratching or marring the paint. Foam and microfiber pads have replaced wool pads in most instances, although wool still has its uses in compounding pads.

Flexibility

It’s important to get a buffing pad that is flexible. Otherwise, it won’t apply polish or buff evenly. A stiff pad could mar the paint very quickly. That said, a more rigid pad should be used for large flat surfaces on your car, and you should maintain constant motion when using it.

Cut

The cut of a buffing pad refers to how aggressive it is. The more aggressive the pad, the faster it will remove scratches and imperfections. However, aggressive pads won’t leave a smooth finish. A less aggressive pad will take longer to remove imperfections, but the finish it leaves will be much smoother.

Diameter

The diameter of a buffing pad needs to be the same size as, or slightly larger than, the backing plate on your polisher. Smaller pads are preferable for tight areas, while larger pads are better for flat, unobstructed surfaces, such as hoods, doors, and the vehicle’s roof.

DID YOU KNOW?

Although manufacturers claim textured pads hold car polish better than untextured pads, experience in the field doesn’t support that claim. There is no readily discernible difference between the two types of buffing pads.

Accessories

Pad washers: Grit Guard Universal Pad Washer
When it’s time to wash and clean your buffing pads, this covered bucket from Grit Guard is just the thing. Lower the buffing pad into the bucket of water and turn on the buffer to spin the pad clean.

Conditioning brushes: Griot’s Garage Pad Conditioning Brush
You can use this conditioning brush from Griot’s Garage to keep your buffing pads free from contaminants. Use the brush on the buffing pad while slowly spinning it on your polisher.

Cleaning spur tools: TCP Global Polishing and Buffing Pad Cleaning Spur Tool
When there are hardened polishes, glazes, and other compounds on your buffing pad, use this cleaning tool from TCP Global to break them up. Simply run the rotating metal head over the pad as it spins. The gunk will be gone in no time.

Buffing pad cleaners: McKee’s 37 Polishing Pad Rejuvenator
Sometimes water isn’t enough to clean your buffing pads. This citrus-based degreasing fluid from McKee’s 37 can break through any polish or wax, cleaning your buffing pad without leaving residue behind.

EXPERT TIP

A buffing pad uses significantly less car polish than using a towel. The more you take care of your car, the more cost-effective buffing pads will be.


Staff  | BestReviews

Buffing pad prices

Under $10 is the low price range for buffing pads. Microfiber pads and small buffing pads can be found in this range.

From $10 to $30 you’ll find full kits of multiple types of buffing pads, hex-logic buffing pads, and pads that are larger in diameter.

Over $30, you’ll find larger kits with more pads. The greater the number of buffing pads, the finer the gradation you’ll find between each pad, giving you more control over the finished appearance of your vehicle.

Tips

  • Although buffing pads can be used by hand, especially microfiber pads, you’ll get the best (and safest) results by using them with a dual-action orbital polisher.
  • Wool is an extremely aggressive material. Wool buffing pads should only be used by car professionals.
  • Wool buffing pads are normally used on rotary polishers, instead of dual-action orbital polishers.
Buffing pads apply car polish to your car more evenly and consistently than a towel. This results in a better shine when you’re done.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to wash my car before using a buffing pad?
A.
Yes. Polishing your car should be the last step in cleaning it or repairing dents and scratches. Otherwise, the buffing pad will just pick up the dirt and use it as sandpaper on your car’s paint.
 

Q. What is the best way to dry a buffing pad after cleaning it?
A.
Lay it face down on a clean cooling rack with the Velcro on top. This helps the moisture run out of the buffing pad instead of collecting in the Velcro backing.
 

Q. What is the best long-term storage for buffing pads?
A.
Once they are dry, store buffing pads in an unzipped baggie. There could still be moisture from humidity in the pads. Zipping the baggie would trap the moisture and could lead to mildew or rot. Leaving the bag unzipped lets the buffing pads breathe.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera Pasturel
    Ciera Pasturel
    Digital Content Producer
  • Katherine Morris
    Katherine Morris
    Editor
  • Melinda Snowden
    Melinda Snowden
    Web Producer

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