Cleaner Waxes: Pros & Cons

2013 Yellow Corvette C7

Cleaner waxes have become quite popular in the car care world, but there’s still much debate over whether or not it’s the best option for your car. As is with most things in life, there are positives and negatives that should be considered before determining if a cleaner wax is the right choice. Products are formulated to do very specific things, and cleaner waxes are no exception. They provide a very distinct list of benefits and, as you’ll see, an interesting list of shortcomings. Without further ado, the pros and cons of using a cleaner wax to protect your car…


  • Clarity | Cleaner waxes are designed to lightly polish and decontaminate the surface of your car. By doing so, the edges of minor surface imperfections are lightly smoothed out, increasing visibility and clarity.
  • 2 in 1 | We always recommend “prepping” before you protect you car, and with a cleaner wax, you’ve got both steps in one product. This adds to the ease and quickness of using this type of wax, but as you’ll soon read that doesn’t always mean better.
  • Removes Old Wax | Traditionally, if you’re going to clean the paint with a paint cleaner, you have to remove old wax, apply and remove the cleaner, and then apply and remove the wax. With a cleaner wax, that’s all taken care of in one application and removal process.


  • Strong | A big problem with a lot of cleaner waxes is that they use strong chemicals and abrasive grit to polish the surface. A paint cleaner would offer a much safer method of decontaminating the paint.
  • Stains | If you’ve ever used a liquid-like cleaner wax, you know how terribly hideous it can be if you get a bit on some plastic trim. Due to the strong chemicals and wax, it’s not that easy to remove either.
  • Durability | Because of their strong chemical makeup, cleaner waxes simply don’t provide the same level of protection as other methods would. The cleaners weaken the bond of the wax and lead to less durable protection.
  • 2 in 1 | Not everything that comes “combined” is good. In this case, cleaner waxes may have the benefit of less time spent detailing, but combining the ‘prep’ and ‘protect’ steps yields noticeably lackluster results (comparatively speaking). It’s a matter of quality over speed.

A Better Alternative

The single most effective alternative to using a cleaner wax is grabbing a quality paint cleanser, apply and remove it from the surface, and follow with a premium carnauba wax that’s been formulated for both shine and durability. By separating the prep and protect steps, it allows each product to be more effective at what it does best. Combine the two into a cleaner wax weakens both the products ability to clean and its ability to provide quality protection. To me the choice is simple, but every situation warrants a unique solution.

If you’re wondering what the right “prescription” might be for your current predicament, we’d be happy to help. Just drop a line in the comments or email and we’ll make sure your car/truck/bike/boat/statue/airplane is as cosmetically healthy as possible.