The Acidic Truth About Carnauba Wax

If you wax your car, I’d be willing to bet that 80% of the time you’re using either a liquid or paste carnauba wax. What if I were to tell you that the positives of carnauba wax might not outweigh the negatives? You see, wax is used to protect your car’s paint, but what happens to carnauba overtime might actually be hurting your finish. How can this be!? I know it’s scary, but don’t freak out. It has to do with acidity and I’ll show you a pretty easy way to counteract it…

Carnauba wax typically contains acid esters (80-85%), fatty alcohols (10-16%), acids (3-6%) and hydrocarbons (1-3%). When all is said and done, carnauba is around 20% esterified fatty diols, 10% methoxylated or hydroxylated cinnamic acid, and 6% hydroxylated fatty acids. To you this probably means nothing, and unless you’re really into science I don’t expect you to understand that at all. What is important, however, is that the acid levels in carnauba aren’t so great for your car’s paint. The majority of your car wax is filled with emulsifiers and stabilizers to control the carnauba’s pH to be as close to 7 (neutral) as possible. What this means is that while the wax is in the jar, all is well. Take the wax out of the jar, apply it to your paint, remove excess, and watch it shine… then there’s a slight problem. The longer the wax stays on your car, the more acidic it gets – the stabilizers diminish from being exposed to the environment (sun, water, etc.) and you’re left with a somewhat acidic substance “protecting” your paint.

What can you do?

carwax_carcareproducts,detailingproducts,carcleaningproductsSwitch to a polymer-based paint sealant. Poly-sealants are carnauba waxes much younger, much hipper, much more durable (and delightful) brother. To that same extent, polymer-based paint sealants provide better all around protection for your vehicle’s finish. The longer durability helps to stabilize its pH at 7 – where it remains non-acidic (depending on manufacturer of course). The best part is, because polymer sealants are synthetic and non-organic, they do not diminish as a carnauba would due to its acidic qualities. Even on that bit alone, paint sealants are better for your paint right from the start. Their benefits (better UV protection, longer lasting shine, etc.) far outweigh those of carnauba, and to top it of… why would you ever want a wax that lasts less than 2 months when you could have better protection that lasts 6? Seems crazy to me, but tradition and legacy still seem to hold a firm grip on the waxing community – that’s for sure.

It’s time to change. Give a poly-sealant a try and see what you (and your car) have been missing. The shine’s still there, the depth is still there, the protection is remarkably better, and in most cases it costs about the same. You can even layer “fluffier” carnaubas on top of a paint sealant layer for added shine and depth. So what are you waiting for?

Got an opinion? Let it be heard in the comments below. Why do you like carnaubas? Why are you a poly-sealant person? Let us know!

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  • Louie

    I read the article above on how to counter act the acidity of carnauba, I am not clear on what you are saying. Do you mean use sealant instead of nuba or nuba should go on top of a sealant to counter act acidity of nuba? You also say to use a fluffier nuba on top of sealant, what is meant by fluffier? Thank you.

    • http://www.drbeasleys.com/ Dr. Beasley’s

      Hi Louie,
      I apologize for the confusion. What we meant is to layer the carnauba on top of a poly sealant. The carnauba does have a level of acidity that would be best if it were to be in contact with the sealant and not the paint directly.
      And by “fluffier”, it is meant by a very deep rich shine that may not be as durable.
      I hope that answers your questions.