Best Car Scratch Removers

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

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

14 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
203 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Why trust BestReviews?
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best car scratch removers

Last Updated June 2019

Has this happened to you? You’re out and about, grabbing a bite or milling about at a friend’s place, and when you return to your car, your heart drops as you find an unsightly scratch. Crowded parking lots are breeding grounds for blemishes like this, but unless you park in an open field, the risk is always there. 

Discovering a scratch is a disheartening experience, but thankfully, there are several car scratch removers on the market to help you turn that frown upside down. What’s more, these products are generally much less expensive than a trip to the auto shop.

Scratch removers repair light scratches, water spots, and swirls that don’t go all the way through to the metal i.e., you can’t feel them with your hand or fingernail. Some are designed to be used by hand with a pad or cloth; others provide the best results when used with a dual-action orbital polisher. Most products use abrasion to buff out scratches, though some may include wax, which can fill the scratches in. Car scratch removers may also be used to remove light oxidation. Which product is right for you? Read our guide to find out.

Some scratch removers are more aggressive than others. These products are designed to repair serious defects and are recommended as a first step to rejuvenate your car’s finish. Think of them like rough sandpaper — you’ll eventually want to move to a less aggressive formula for maintenance and light polishing.

Key considerations

Every detailing product has a different composition and recommended application process. Here are some key considerations to make before buying.

Size

Scratch removers come in various quantities, from four ounces to 16 ounces or more. Consider your expected usage when buying. Is your car covered in scratches? Just a single blemish? Going for the bulk buy is usually a smart play, but keep in mind that these products can dry out if left sitting for long periods of time, especially if not sealed correctly.

Wax and silicone content

“Pure” scratch removers are devoid of wax and silicone, using abrasion and polishing to buff out a very thin layer of your car’s top coat. This makes your car’s paint appear flush with the original scratch, rendering it harder to see. These products are generally thinner and more liquid than their waxy counterparts, and they are best for moderate to heavy surface imperfections. Integrated wax isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it hides and fills in scratches well — but it will fade over time and require reapplication.

Machine requirements

Heavy-duty solutions require heavy-duty tools, and that’s why certain car scratch removers require orbital polishers or buffers to be most effective. These solutions are commonly found in body shops in the hands of professionals, but consumers often use them for severe repairs. If you only have light blemishes to deal with, all you’ll need is normal scratch remover and a bit of elbow grease.

CAUTION

Launder your cloths, rags, and other cleaning materials before using. Old, dried up wax can leave ugly residue on your paint, and rags with leftover cleaning product could harm your clear coat. Prevent these headaches with a little organization upfront.

Car scratch remover features

Car scratch removers are relatively simple compounds, but there’s a fair amount of variance in how they’re packaged. Here are two key features to look for.

Included applicators

Scratch removers, polishes, and waxes need applicators, and while you may have a spare at home, certain products include their own proprietary options. These include sponges, microfiber cloths, and donut-shaped hand buffers of different sizes. If you’re looking for an all-in-one remedy, consider one of these.

Scent

The scent of your cleaning products may seem like an afterthought, but if you detail your ride often, the scent or the lack of one, in some cases can improve the experience drastically. 

EXPERT TIP

Not all solutions are safe to use with all paints and colors. Read the instructions on your product carefully and always do a spot test on a low-visibility painted area — an interior door jamb, under the hood, or inside the trunk lid.


Staff  | BestReviews

Car scratch remover prices

The price range of car scratch removers is relatively narrow, with budget options starting around $10 and high-end products costing $25 to $30. Good value doesn’t necessarily mean low quality, as a $10 bottle of scratch remover can effectively treat minor defects such as shallow scores and water spots. 

Moving into the $20 range, car scratch removers offer dual-action designs and can be used with orbital polishers or simply by hand. They’re generally more effective at repairing deeper scratches and swirls, as well. 

At the top of the range, expect to find products with included applicators and polishing cloths, as well as faster imperfection removal and increased hardiness.

Scratch and swirl removers are not the same as clay bars. A clay bar removes physical impurities such as sand or brake dust from paint, fiberglass, and metal; it’s a great way to prime your ride for waxing and scratch removal.

Tips

     Before you attempt to remove a scratch, wash your vehicle to remove dirt, dust, and grime. Attempting to buff out an imperfection while the finish is still dirty could make the scratch worse or cause swirls.

     Not all scratch removers are designed to be used in the same way. Some products work best with a hand cloth or microfiber, while others require a buffer to be most effective. Read the directions carefully, and if they aren’t included already, purchase accessories as needed.

     If a scratch goes all the way to the metal and you can feel it with your hand, swirl removers and wax won’t cut it. Consider using touch-up paint or visiting a body shop for deeper issues.

Other products we considered

As long as there have been cars, there have been tools to improve the look of car paint. That made it incredibly difficult to choose our favorite car scratch remover, and several quality products just missed the mark. One we’d like to highlight is the Scratch Remover Cloth from ShineForce. It offers superb convenience, as each microfiber cloth is pre-loaded with defect-removing solution. However, it’s not effective enough to manage severe issues. 3M’s One Step Cleaner Wax has similar advantages, but overall, we recommend using a separate scratch remover and wax for maximum effectiveness and durability.

Washing your car, driving it in the rain, and exposing it to sun can cause wax to dissipate over time. The same applies to scratch and swirl removers, as some have wax and silicone in them. Scratches reappear weeks or months down the road, and reapplication may be needed.

FAQ

Q. Can I prevent scratches and swirls from forming in the first place?
A. Yes! Wash and wax your car regularly. The protective finish of the wax provides can act as a shield for light blemishes. In addition, be mindful of where you park. This may require walking a bit more, but parking in a less-crowded area significantly reduces your risk of getting dinged.

Q. What is oxidation, and how can I remedy it?
A. Oxidation occurs when your car’s finish is exposed to intense heat and light. This breaks down the molecular structure of the paint itself, resulting in faded areas, white spots, cloudy areas, and swirls. The best way to prevent oxidation is to regularly wax your paint and park in a shaded area. For added peace of mind, use a car cover.

Q. Are scratch removers safe to use on black paint?
A. Black paint looks amazing when it’s clean, but it also shows dirt, scratches, and swirl marks more than other colors. When fixing these impurities, remember that cars have multiple layers of paint, and not every layer will be the exact same color. This is important when using abrasive scratch removers, as buffing down the finish could potentially reveal an underlying coat and make the problem worse. If you have a black car, look for a restorative scratch remover designed for black cars with wax.

Q. There’s residue on my paint and trim after using a scratch remover. How do I get rid of it?
A. Scratch removers and wax can sometimes leave unsightly residue on your paint or trim pieces. To mitigate this, use a microfiber cloth for a final polish after the scratch has been removed from the paint. To protect your trim, mask it ahead of time with a suitable low-adhesive tape such as blue painter’s tape. If residue still appears on your trim, apply all-purpose cleaner to a rag or soft-bristled brush and gently buff it away.

The team that worked on this review
  • Andrew
    Andrew
    Writer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer

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