Does Polish Remove Swirl Marks
Yes, no, and sometimes...

Is it really possible to have three answers for a single question?!

How can that be? Does polish remove swirl marks or not! Or maybe a polish if used correctly will remove swirl marks, but if used incorrectly will actually create swirl marks?

But do you even know what swirl marks are in the first place before you learn how to remove swirl marks with polish...assuming of course that polish can actually remove swirl marks.

can polish remove swirl marks on car paint

Any discussion on swirl marks on your car will start a ripple effect due to a lack of any standardization within the car world:

  • What are swirl marks?
  • What causes swirl marks?
  • Are swirl marks in car paint different than swirl marks on clear coat?
  • Is there a difference between car paint and clear coat?
  • And if there is a difference, does this mean there are different ways to fix swirl marks on car paint versus clear coat?
  • Does polish remove swirl marks or simply cover swirl marks up?

Does Polish Remove Swirl Marks on Your Car

Based on the picture below, you can see that polish -and more precisely- polishing your car paint with a polish, does in fact remove what most people call swirl marks.

does polish remove swirl marksIn this picture you can see the clear line of demarcation between the polished area and the unpolished area. I taped off (with blue painters tape) so you can see a precise line between swirl marks and the polishes are of the paint. There is still blue painters tape I used to section off the horizontal lines of the car panel also.

Regardless of how you found this page, I will operate with the understanding that you want to know if polish removes swirl marks because you have some type of unwanted imperfections on your car paint...or car clear coat.

Confusing, right?!

But the simple answer is yes, polish will remove swirl marks from your car if you understand the polishing process in general.

The problem immediately begins with the fact that once again there is no standardization within this industry. In order to remove swirl marks permanently -rather than cover them up temporarily- you will need to use some kind of product that contains abrasives.

An abrasive product -rubbing compound/polishing compound- that has actual abrasive particles that allow you to scratch your way to success.

What are Swirl Marks

Swirl marks is an "effect" that shows up in the form of what appears like endless spider-webs on the surface of your car paint when viewed in direct sunlight.

can polish remove these swirl marks

People usually refer to this effect as swirl marks since the circular shape of the sun causes a circular pattern to form as a byproduct of the endless scratches on your cars' paint surface.

If there were zero scratches, there would be no swirl marks. When sunlight meets up with the scratches on your car paint, you have this "swirl mark effect" that appears.

Can you Remove Swirl Marks Polishing by Hand

As a beginner, one of the next commonly asked questions will be as to whether you have to use a machine polisher in order to remove swirl marks.

The simple answer would be no. The better answer is a bit more complicated than that. Everything in life has trade-offs.... which is generally referred to as a cost/benefit analysis.

Using a machine polisher will certainly prove far more effective and efficient at removing swirl marks with a polish, but it is not a requirement. The benefit of using a polish by hand to remove swirl marks is less "moving parts" -no buffer to buy, no polishing pads to buy, etc.

But the trade-off for this simplified approach is that you can expect to get marginal results when compared to using a machine polisher to remove swirl marks. (car polishers and car buffers are different names for the same tool)

Your hand will never replicate the results of a machine polisher. A machine polisher will produce superior results when polishing your car regardless of the reason you want to polish your car. 

I accept that many people want to improve the appearance of their car by removing swirl marks without the need to chase "perfection". A little polishing by hand to remove swirl marks to a degree that you find acceptable knowing that your car is not a show car, but your daily driver.

If you decide to remove swirl marks using a polish and polishing by hand, here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • You definitely want a compound or polish that has some abrasives
  • Your hand will never produce the same level of results that using a machine polisher will produce
  • It is completely possible and realistic for a complete beginner to use a machine polisher to remove swirl marks, restore lost shine, and create additional depth to your car paint

I will include the following links based on what stage of the process you are at when dealing with this unwanted effect of swirl marks on your car:

The best car polish for removing swirl marks

Car polishing for beginners

Best orbital car polisher

Understanding Clear Coat versus Car Paint

The question comes up as to the difference between swirl marks in clear coat and swirl marks in car paint -they are the same thing.

The problem is that people use both the terms car paint and clear coat to describe the same thing: the top layer of the paint system of their car.

Your car will have clear coat as the top layer, so any swirl marks would officially be in the clear coat. But most people when talking about their car or swirl marks, generally call it car paint even though clear coat will be part of any factory, original paint system as the top coat.

Understanding the Polishing Process

When it comes to finding the best car polish, you have two options:

  1. Temporary
  2. Permanent

Temporary is using a product like a rubbing compound or a polish that contains no actual abrasives.

Since a manufacturer's can label their product any way they choose, there are plenty of rubbing compounds and polishing compounds that don't have any actual abrasives.

These non-abrasive products will only produce marginal results when compared to abrasive type products. And the results of non-abrasive products will only be temporary when compared to abrasive products.

Abrasive products -as scary as this may sound- allows you to literally scratch your way to success. The abrasive particles found within certain compounds and polishes use the abrasive particles to "refine" the car paint/clear coat surface to a more refined level by "scratching" away imperfections.

Any imperfection in your car paint will cause distortion in reflected light. The more distortion along with less gloss, the worse your car paint will appear.

Polishing your car with an abrasive type of compound or polish is the only way to produce both significant and permanent results.

Does Polish Remove Swirl Marks:
Article recap

  • Swirl marks are only possible when light meets up with scratches in your car paint
  • When light meets up with car paint scratches, it produces an effect called swirl marks
  • To remove swirl marks permanently, you must "refine" the surface to remove the scratches that cause the swirl mark effect
  • The only way to physically refine the surface and remove the scratches is by using a polish or compound that has abrasives
  • Not all products are created equal with regards to if they have abrasives, how aggressive the abrasives are and what the product is labeled as
  • Swirl marks will reappear if you do remove them with a polish as you put additional scratches in your car moving forward as a natural byproduct of touching your car -washing it, drying it, waxing it, etc.

If you have made it this far, then you should know the answer to this frequent question by car owners: does polish remove swirl marks.

I also hope that I have not only answered this basic question, but applied a much greater understanding to the many other questions that automatically arise when asking about swirl marks and how to remove them.


Darren Priest

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