Both rubbing and polishing remove flaws in a vehicle’s paint. They are a part of the paint correction process that makes use of specialized polishing agents and machines to help remove layers of intact clearcoat.

Rubbing compound agents are materials that work like coarse sandpaper to scrape away surface imperfections. Polishing compound is then used to remove the remaining defects. Polishing compound agents act like fine grit sandpaper to fill in minor scratches and add smoothness.

Comparing car Rubbing compounds and polishing compounds

Car compounding or leveling agents

Rubbing and polishing are the two steps involved in car compounding to repair the damaged paintwork. Restoring a clear coated surface is usually done by using compounds of varying grits.

The purpose of using a polishing compound is to intensify the shine of the paint. Though it is good for light blemishes, it is not powerful enough to significantly remove deeper imperfections.

A rubbing compound is usually made of larger particle abrasives than car polish. It has a very aggressive formula, and can restore severe car scratches as well.

When to use a rubbing compound?

If there is some severe scratch on the car paint, use rubbing compound for more effective scratch removal that may not be restored by milder products. Do not use a rubbing compound when you need to restore your new car paintwork. Use only when you want to remove severe oxidation, stubborn stains, deep scratches and scuffs, etc.

Using the rubbing compound and an applicator, you can shave off some paint and smooth out the scratch edges. Rubbing compound is available in a wide range of grits usually between 1000 and 5000. Choose the grit type depending on the depth of the paint scratches or scuffs.

When to use a polishing compound?

The polishing compounds are used to smooth the paint and are mildly abrasive. Polishing compounds help in removal of minor scratches and leave a shining and smoothing effect on the paint. Polishing removes paint dullness and helps in making the beautiful color pop out and shine. Thus, the use of polishing compound must follow the application of the rubbing compound on the paint.

A polishing compound could be used to clean the vehicle surface and remove light scratches, mild oxidation, watermarks, stains, etc. The paint cannot be protected by polishing compound alone for a very long time. Thus, it should be followed by application of car wax, polish or protection film to further protect the paint color and gloss.


Before applying the chosen compound to your vehicle, we recommend that you test it on a small area first. Some products are often more abrasive than others, therefore you should perform testing beforehand.