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If you want your car’s paint to gleam and sparkle like it did when it was brand new (attracting envious glances from everyone you passed), you need to invest in high-quality buffing pads. These applicators can be used in conjunction with a rotary or orbital polisher/sander or just with some good old-fashioned elbow grease to remove scratches and imperfections and get the most out of your polish or wax.
There are numerous buffing pads on the market that are made of various materials and are designed to buff and polish different surfaces. So, which one should you invest in to get your much-loved automobile looking its best? We’ve put together the following buying guide of the best buffing pads available, so you can make an informed decision about what to put your polish on.
The Best Buffing Pad
Meguiar’s DA Polishing Power Pads are a less aggressive polishing pad designed to remove light swirls from your cars paintwork and leave a rich, glossy finish. The set consists of two 4-inch diameter foam pads that have a smooth surface for even application. The pads can be machine washed and re-used.
If you don’t fancy putting in the elbow grease, these pads are intended for use with Meguiar’s DA Power System Tool G3500. We like the quality of the pads, the smaller diameter that makes it easier to reach awkward places, and the high shine finish that can be achieved when using these to apply wax to your car.
Pack of 2 foam polishing pads
Designed to remove light swirls
- Weight2.24 ounces
This pack of six Viking Car Care Microfiber Applicator Pads is made from a super-soft microfiber material, which is great for evenly distributing wax, polish and protectant on both the interior and exterior of your car.
At five inches in diameter, they’re easy to hold and not too bulky to reach the smaller details in your vehicle. The light padding means you can buff fairly vigorously without worrying about causing damage. You’ll receive six pads in a pack, and each one is machine washable and reusable, so they should stand the test of time. Overall, these buffing pads are good quality at a very affordable price.
Pack of 6 microfiber pads
Machine washable and reusable
- BrandViking Car Care
- Weight2.4 ounces
If you’re looking to get every buffing pad you might need in a single purchase, you can’t go wrong with the TCP Global Ultimate 6 Pad Buffing and Polishing Kit. This variety pack of buffing pads includes five waffle foam pads and one wool pad. Each of the brightly colored waffle foam pads has a different coarseness or aggressiveness, designed to target every surface on your car – from enamels and acrylics, to clear coats and final finishes. The coarse wool compounding pad is perfect for buffing oxidized paint, orange peel and deep scratches, as well as polishing hard top coats.
This comprehensive set also includes a seven-inch diameter threaded polisher backing plate, designed to fit a 5/8-inch polisher, which provides a no-slip grip and makes it easier to change the pads on your polisher. We love the range of grits provided, their quality, and how much easier it is to buff a car using these pads. This is definitely one to consider if you want to cut, polish and finish the surface of your automobile, with specially designed pads for each function.
Set of 6 buffing pads: 5 x waffle foam and 1 x wool pad
8-inch diameter pads
Includes a 5/8-inch threaded polisher backing plate
- BrandTCP Global
- Weight1.25 pounds
For a more heavy-duty buffing pad designed to remove scratches and defects, you may want to consider the Chemical Guys Hex-Logic Medium-Heavy Cutting Pad. This high-density foam pad works on most moderate scratches and imperfections, to get your pride and joy back to near perfect condition in no time.
The Hex-Logic technology means that the pad conforms to the shape of the surface you are polishing, offering maximum contact and 100 percent coverage, even on angled surfaces. The honeycomb-like structure of the foam ensures even distribution of the product as it travels through the hex-groves into the pad evenly. It reduces friction and marring and keeps the surface cooler during operation, reducing the risk of damage to your paintwork. This is a buffing pad for the serious compounder/ cutter!
Single high-density 5.5-inch foam pad
Hex-logic laser cut surface
Durable and washable PUR+ backing plate
- BrandChemical Guys
- Weight0.8 ounces
If you already have a sander or polisher and you’re looking for a high quality pad to use with it, try this Porter Cable 6-inch Lambs Wool Hook and Loop Polishing Pad. Designed to work with a variety of standard random orbit sanders (with accommodation for hook and loop backing pads), this single polishing pad is made from fine lambs’ wool and can be used to polish a range of surfaces.
A pack contains one pad that’s 6-inches in diameter, so it might not be the most economical option, but it’s effective at polishing out fine scratches and buffing discolored headlights. This is a professional level polishing pad, make no mistake. On the flip side, the pads may not stick to the buffer without tape.
Polishing pad made from fine wool
Fits a variety of random orbit sanders
- Weight0.8 ounces
These Lake Country CCS Orange Hook and Loop Foam Pads are high-tech polishing pads that feature CCS technology (Collapsed Cell Structure) in their foam construction. This gives them better traction and reduced heat since the whole pad isn’t touching your car’s surface at the same time. The CCS pockets also serve as reservoirs for polish so it can be gradually released as needed, ensuring a more even application, longer working time and reduced product waste. The manufacturer states that CCS technology has proven to out perform convoluted pad designs by the OEM.
These Lake Country Pads are ideal for light cutting and removing light to moderate imperfections and scratches in your car’s body. The pads can be used with dual action polishers and air sanders and are safe to use on all types of paint. They come as a pack of three, each of 6.5-inches in diameter.
Pack of 3 foam pads
For light to moderate imperfections
CCS technology for even application
- BrandLake Country
- Weight3.2 ounces
If you’re not sold on foam, you could try this Wool Buffing Pad and Backing Pad Kit by Dewalt (another giant in the world of polishing tools.) This kit includes a single buffing pad that’s 7-inches in diameter and a rubber backing pad, so you can use it with a polisher (it will fit the DWP849X buffer by Dewalt). The backing pad has a hook and loop fastening to hold it securely in place.
The wool construction of this pad makes it quite durable. Some have used this buffing pad for polishing fiberglass – although others say it deposits a large amount of wool fiber upon first use, so beware that you may need to follow it with a foam finishing pad to achieve a perfect finish. It’s also worth noting that this is a one-sided pad, and a double-sided pad may be more effective.
Single wool buffing pad
Includes 1 x rubber backing pad
- Weight11.2 ounces
And last but not least, this 3M Superbuff 9-inch Buffing Pad is a great choice if you’re looking to remove abrasive sand scratches and other defects. Double-sided screw-on pads reduce the risk of surface burn, while the untwisted wool yarn construction offers improved handling over large surface areas and fast-cutting efficiency. At 9-inches in diameter, it’s also one of the largest buffing pads on our list – great if you have a monster truck!
You can use this fluffy buffer with 3M compounds and adapters for fast and high-quality results. It’s suitable for use on paint, clear and composite surfaces and will remove compound swirl marks and fine paint surface defects quickly and with minimal effort.
Double sided pad
Made from untwisted wool yarn
- Weight4.25 pounds
Best Buffing Pad Buying Guide & FAQ
Still feeling overwhelmed by the amount of buffing pads padding out the market? Let our buying guide and FAQ help you decide which polishing pad is right for you, and we’ll get your car looking factory fresh in no time!
What to Look for When Buying Buffing Pads
When choosing which buffing pads to buy, you should consider the material construction of the pad. Pads will generally be made from either wool, microfiber or foam, and there are advantages to each – for example, a foam pad with a hex-logic construction allows for airflow and can allow polish to be stored and dispensed more evenly. Different materials may also be more suited to compounding, polishing or finishing – for example, wool pads are generally more suited to compounding, whilst a foam pad with no aggressiveness is great for finishing.
Following on from the above, make sure your material is flexible enough to hug the curves and lines of your car. A buffing pad that is too rigid won’t buff or apply polish evenly, and can even damage the finish of your paintwork by removing too much in some places, and not enough in others.
The cut of a pad refers to its aggressiveness/abrasiveness in terms of removing defects. A more aggressive pad will be able to remove deeper scratches and imperfections in paint more quickly, whilst a less aggressive pad will take longer, but will leave a smoother finish. Depending on the defects in your paintwork, you might need a combination of cuts, to compound, then polish and, finally, finish the surface. If you don’t have any imperfections (lucky you!) you might just want to get a pad with little to no cut, that is suitable for finishing and waxing only. Bear in mind that for best results, you should try to use a polish compound which matches the aggressiveness of the pad.
- Type of paint
As well as the cut of the pad, consider what type of paint or surface you’re going to be using the buffing pad on. Some constructions are specially designed for fiberglass, clear coats, darker paints etc. Check the description from the manufacturer to see which materials are recommended for your pad.
The diameter of the buffing pad is also important. Not only do you want to choose a size suitable for the surface you are polishing, but if you are using the buffing pad with a polisher, you’ll need to make sure that the diameter is the same size (or slightly larger) as the backing plate on your polisher, in order for it to function properly.
- Backing pad
If you’re looking to use your buffing pads with a polishing machine, as well as making sure they are the same size, you’ll need to make sure they either come with a backing pad set-up, or that they have a suitable method of attaching them to your polisher/sander, such as a secure hook-and-loop fastening. This also makes it easier to change buffing pads during the polishing process, as you move from cutting to finishing.
Ideally, you should try to choose a buffing pad which comes with a warranty from the manufacturer, in case they prove to be faulty - or you get a little overexcited when buffing for the first time and wear them down prematurely!
Why You Should Use Buffing Pads
- Remove imperfections
Buffing pads are the best way to remove scratches and imperfections in your paintwork. They are much more efficient than using a towel or other non-specialist applicator.
- Even application
Buffing pads ensure your polish, wax or sealant is applied evenly, especially when attached to a machine. This also makes the compound more effective – they work as a team!
- Use less polish
Due to the above, and the fact that pads are better at holding abrasives in polish, you are likely to use significantly less polish than if you were using a towel – which in turn makes using buffing pads the more cost-effective option.
- Reduced heat
Importantly, using a good quality buffing pad can reduce the amount of heat generated when polishing your car, thus reducing the risk of damage to your paintwork (and the buffing pad itself).
Buffing pads are the much quicker way to apply polish and remove defects, especially when used with a polishing or buffing machine – which incidentally also makes it much easier for you. Your arm, back and shoulder will thank you for it!
- Shine, shine, shine!
And last but by no means least, the most important reason to use a buffing pad is that it will give you the best results. Want that sparkling, fresh-from-the-factory finish? You need a buffing pad.
Types of Car Detailing Pads
In terms of material constructions, there are three main types of car detailing pads:
Foam detailing pads vary in firmness and can be flat or textured. Generally speaking, the larger the cells of the foam pad, the more coarse the surface and the higher the cutting level. There are also fancy constructions such as ‘hex-logic’, which is essentially a honeycomb structure, and is designed to reduce heat and friction, and store polish ready for a more even application. Foam pads are also often colored, with different colors representing different levels of aggressiveness. This can make the process easier, especially for someone new to machine polishing.
Wool buffing pads are the most common pad for use on rotary polishers. They can be made of various yarns, twisted or fine etc., which have different levels of aggressiveness. Wool is naturally abrasive and so generally has a high cutting level and is good for removing imperfections. It is faster at cutting compared to foam. However, due to the natural fibers involved, they are prone to minor molting, and will not leave a perfectly flawless finish, so are usually used in combination foam finishing pads, or mixed with synthetic fibers for a surface more suitable for finishing.
Microfiber buffing pads are the newest type of car detailing pad available. They are similar to wool in that they have abrasive fibers, which can leave faint marks in paintwork that you may need a foam finishing pad to remove.
Within each of these three types of buffing pad there are also sub-categories for usage:
- Cutting/ Compounding
Compounding buffing pads have the most aggressive cut, and should be used with a cutting compound as the first stage for removing scratches and imperfections in your paintwork. These should be used before polishing or finishing pads.
Polishing pads have a moderate to low cut and should be used with a polishing compound as the next step in removing defects and improving the surface finish.
Finishing pads have little to no cut, and should be used with a finishing compound, wax or sealant as the final step to protect your surface. This is the one to use to make sure your car sparkles like a diamond in the sun!
How to Clean Polishing Pads
- During use
Whilst using your polishing pads, especially if you’re polishing a large surface area, you will most probably need to clean them to remove used polish and removed paint, to make sure they continue to work effectively. To clean your foam pads during use, hold a microfiber towel against the pad, and turn your polishing machine on low to transfer used polish onto the towel. For a wool pad, use the same technique, but replace the microfiber towel with a pad spur. There are also specialist pad washing buckets available, which require you to submerge the pad in a solution within the bucket, before turning on the pad against a grate to wash away any contaminants – but if you don’t want to invest in one of these yet, the towel method will work just fine.
- After use
Once you’ve finished buffing and your car is squeaky clean, you’ll want to clean your pads properly in warm water and car soap, or specialist pad cleaning solution. Make sure to clean your pads whilst they are still wet with your polish or sealant, as it will be easier to wash out compared to once it’s dry. Massage the pad gently in the cleaning solution until it returns to its original texture, then rinse with warm water, lay flat with the hook-and-loop side up and allow to dry completely. Store in a cool, dry place to prevent mildew.
Best Buffing Pads FAQ:
Q: What is a buffing pad?
A: A buffing pad is a pad, usually circular in shape, that is used to apply polish, wax or sealant to a surface, such as the paintwork of a car. They are most often made from foam, wool or microfiber, and are designed to hold abrasives, which then allows them to ‘buff’ out minor scratches and imperfections in a surface. Buffing pads are flexible, to fit to the surface they are polishing, and they also reduce the amount of heat generated by polishing.
Q: How do buffing pads work?
A: Buffing pads work to remove scratches and defects in paintwork through the process of abrasion - they have a rough surface of varying coarseness that can be used to ‘buff’ out the imperfection, especially when combined with the abrasives in polish, which they hold on their surface. Buffing pads also work by providing a surface for even application, and in the case of some foam ‘pocket’ constructions, a place for excess polish to be stored and dispensed as needed. You can use a buffing pad by hand, or if it’s suitable, you can attach it to a drill, sander or polishing machine for a faster and easier application.
Q: What do I need to attach my buffing pad to my polisher?
A: In order to attach a buffing pad to a polisher, you will need a backing pad. This is a circular rubber or plastic pad with a hole in the center that screws onto your polisher’s spindle. The backing pad usually has a hook and loop (Velcro) surface, to which your buffing pad can then be attached. Many buffing pads that are intended for use with a polisher will come with a backing pad included – otherwise, make sure it at least has a hook-and-loop fastening.
Q: How do I care for and store my buffing pads?
A: You should try to clean used polish off of your buffing pads during use, as clean pads will work more efficiently than dirty ones. To clean foam and microfiber pads, you can hold a microfiber towel against your pad, turn your polishing machine on, and allow the towel to absorb the used polish. To clean a wool pad on the go, use the same technique, but replace the microfiber towel with a pad spur. After use, you should always make sure to clean your buffing pads thoroughly, ideally using a specialist cleaning solution, but failing that, submerge them in a mix of warm water and car soap, and hand wash them gently. Try to clean your pads while they are still wet with polish/wax/sealant, as it will be easier to remove. Rinse your pads in clean water and allow to dry completely before storing them in a clean and moisture-free environment, to prevent mold. Cleaning and taking care of your buffing pads in this way will ensure they function to their best level and last as long as possible.
Our Top Pick
There are some great buffing pads on this list, but our top pick of the best all-rounder has to be the Meguiar’s DA Polishing Power Pads. They are ideal for removing light swirls and produce a glossy finish. two four-inch pads are included, and you can throw them in the washing machine in reuse them, which makes them very convenient. When it comes to removing minor imperfections from your paintwork, and being left with an oh-so-shiny ‘as new’ automobile, we’re sure you’ll find these polishing pads ‘up to scratch!’