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Waxing your vehicle not only gives it a great shine, but adds extra protection against the sun and other elements.
If you’re new to waxing your vehicle, there are many confusing terms, not least the two main types of wax: Carnauba Wax and Synthetic Wax.
In this guide, I’ll explain the main difference between the two and best use cases for each.
- What is Carnauba Wax?
- What is Synthetic Wax?
- Is Carnauba Wax or Synthetic Wax Best for your Car?
- What is the Best Carnauba Wax?
- What is the Best Synthetic Wax?
- Can You Put Synthetic Wax Over Carnauba Wax? And Vice Versa?
- Is it Better to Hand Wax or Use a Machine Buffer?
- Is There a Better Alternative to Synthetic or Carnauba Wax?
What is Carnauba Wax?
Carnauba Wax comes from the leaves of the Carnauba palm tree which is a plant native to Brazil. This is considered the best wax for cars and is widely used in detailing products.
It’s a natural wax that is considered the hardest wax on Earth, the substance is produced by the leaves to protect them from the sun.
The main properties of Carnauba Wax that make it great for use on cars are:
- Protects against the suns UV rays which can cause oxidation and fading of your vehicle
- Adds a warm shine to the paint work
- Provides some protection against light scratches
Carnauba Wax has a yellow colour in its pure form, this is generally far more expensive but is preferred by detailing enthusiasts.
Most products aimed at the mass market will use Carnauba Wax along with other ingredients to create a blend. This tends to be whiter in colour and more similar to Synthetic Wax.
How long does Carnauba Wax last?
Carnauba Wax only lasts a few washes before it needs reapplying. The wax will typically last 1-2 months which is far shorter than Synthetic Wax equivalents.
You can test if the wax needs reapplying by spraying some water droplets on to a dry vehicle. If the droplets bead, then the wax is still in good shape.
What is Synthetic Wax?
Whilst Carnauba Wax is found naturally, Synthetic Wax is mad made using a variety of polymers.
Synthetic Wax is also known as paint sealant, but many people do not realise that these are the same thing.
The biggest benefit of Synthetic car wax is that it lasts far longer than Carnauba Wax. You can apply it a few times per year, whereas Carnauba Wax tends to wear off after just a few washes.
The main benefits of Synthetic Wax are:
- Longer lasting protection than Carnauba Wax
- Requires less wax per use so the product will last longer
- Better water repelling properties
- More effective against dirt as the surface becomes very shiny, making it hard for particles to stick
The other point to bear in mind is that Synthetic Waxes take longer to cure than Carnauba Wax. Allow 12-24 hours for Synthetic, whereas Carnauba will cure within a few hours. This is important if you plan to add a second layer.
How long does Synthetic Wax last?
As we’ve already established, Synthetic Wax will last longer than Carnauba Wax.
On average, Synthetic Wax lasts 4-6 months with some brands even claiming up to 12 months protection. You will only need to apply Synthetic Wax a few times per year.
You also need to apply less wax each time as well, so the product will last a lot longer than the same sized Carnauba Wax.
Is Carnauba Wax or Synthetic Wax Best for your Car?
Both Carnauba and Synthetic Wax have different properties, so it depends what you are looking for. Synthetic Wax is long lasting with up to 6 months between each wax. Whereas Carnauba Wax gives a better, warmer shine but requires more wax and needs re-applying more frequently.
You will find that both waxes offer a similar level of protection against water, although Carnauba has the edge when it comes to UV protection.
Whilst Carnauba Wax is usually in paste form, Synthetic Wax is widely available as both a liquid and paste form. The liquid form is much better for waxing with a machine buffer.
You will likely find that most waxes made for detailers these days have a formula that contains both Carnauba Wax and Synthetic polymers that offer the best of both worlds. If using such a product, refer to instructions carefully as each will vary.
What is the Best Carnauba Wax?
One of the best Carnauba Waxes currently available in the UK is Bilt Hamber Double-Speed Wax.
The product has won many awards for its formula which provides a deep rich gloss and is highly water repellent.
It’s suitable for all types of finishes including metallic paintwork. The set also comes with an applicator pad and microfibre cloth, so you’ll just need to add elbow grease and be ready to wax.
What is the Best Synthetic Wax?
Synthetic Wax (also known as paint sealant) is my go-to choice of wax as I like a product that is long lasting.
I highly recommend the Meguiars Pure Synthetic Polymer Car Wax which is available as both a liquid and paste.
The product has been perfected over many years and provides a great protective barrier that instantly beads water when applied well.
It provides a glossy wet look that is best in class for a Synthetic Wax.
It is also the best choice if you plan to use a machine buffer.
Can You Put Synthetic Wax Over Carnauba Wax? And Vice Versa?
Yes, you can layer Synthetic and Carnauba Wax together. The best approach is to use the Synthetic Wax underneath to provide the long-lasting protection, with a layer of Carnauba on top to benefit from the warmer shine it offers.
You should allow the first layer to cure before applying another layer. Remember that Synthetic Waxes take far longer to cure, so allow 12-24 hours before applying the second layer.
It’s not advisable to put more than two layers of wax on the vehicle as you will not benefit from additional protection.
Is it Better to Hand Wax or Use a Machine Buffer?
When it comes to waxing your vehicle, you have the choice whether to use a machine buffer or take the old-fashioned route of elbow grease:
Waxing by hand
The benefit of waxing by hand us that you don’t need any special tools, a simple microfibre towel and an applicator pad (usually included with the wax) will be more than enough.
People have been waxing their car by hand for many years and the results are just as good, however it takes a lot longer and requires a lot more effort.
You can use both liquid wax and paste wax when applying by hand so both Carnauba and Synthetic are suitable.
Using a machine buffer
Machine buffers (also called polishers) are more affordable and accessible than ever before.
As a beginner, a dual action buffer will work fine and poses little risk to the car if you get it wrong.
For professional detailers, rotary polishers provide even more flexibility and speed, although these can damage the car if used incorrectly.
A buffer is generally quicker and easier, but it’s also more expensive to begin with and there may be other limitations such as access to a power socket.
If you are using a buffer, you’ll need to use liquid wax so you will likely need to purchase Synthetic Wax.
Is There a Better Alternative to Synthetic or Carnauba Wax?
Waxes are good at providing short term protection, but need to be regularly applied anywhere from 2 to 12 times per year depending upon the type of wax.
If you’re looking for a semi-permanent solution, a ceramic coating provides many of the same benefits but doesn’t need to be applied as often. A coating will last between 2 and 5 years.
Ceramic coating bonds with the paint of the car to provide a protective layer that protects against UV rays and oxidation, as well as providing a shiny gloss.
However, ceramic coating should be professionally applied and is more expensive than Synthetic or Carnauba Waxes.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Auto Adviser. Kieren created the site to share his passion of cars that began long before he passed his driving test and is now a recognised contributor in the industry. Outside of cars, Kieren loves drinking coffee and travelling to far-off lands.