Car Detailing 101: Spray Wax Versus Paste Wax

Most car owners don’t do proper maintenance on their car’s exterior. From washing to detailing, cars require a surprising amount of attention — and, let’s be honest, it’s not always realistic for every car owner to dedicate as much time to their car every month as it needs. Besides the mechanical needs of the car, it’s easy to skip over things like washing and waxing, but if you do make the time, even if it isn’t as frequent, is there really a big difference between the two popular types of waxes when it comes to maintenance?

Don’t skip the wax

Waxing your car might seem like a total chore, but it’s actually an incredibly part of maintenance. If you don’t opt to have protective coatings like ceramic coatings or clear vinyl put on your car, the wax is the only thing protecting your car’s clear coat from the harmful UV rays of the sun. These UV rays are what cause eventual failure of the clear coat, causing spotting and problems that can ruin your car’s appearance.

A scary clown pressed its face against a soapy car window in a haunted house
A haunted car wash character pushes up against the soap covered driver-side window during the “Tunnel of Terror” | Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register, Getty Images

Spray wax

Spray wax, according to Capitol Shine, is the easier of the two options. Which, when you think about it, makes sense. Just because it’s easier to apply doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t as good of a product as paste wax. For spray wax, you can simply apply it to the microfiber towel you are using to dry the car and wipe the car down like you usually do. It doesn’t have to be worked in and buffed off like paste wax, making it the quicker option.

A yellow microfiber towel rests on the sideview mirror of a wet car
A rag lies on the rear-view mirror of a car during a car wash | Frank Rumpenhorst/picture alliance, Getty Images

RELATED: You Shouldn’t Take Your Tesla Through a Soft-Touch Car Wash

The secret behind paste wax

Most people think that paste wax is the superior product simply because it requires more work, which, just like assumptions about spray wax, also isn’t necessarily true. Paste wax does, on average, last longer than spray wax but is much more of a time commitment upfront. So, the real answer behind which product is better, spray wax or paste wax, is really up to each individual detailer.

A man washes the front windshield of a car
Three-Wheeled Dale Makes Appearance At HBO’s “The Lady And The Dale” Car Wash Activation at Magnolia Car Wash and Detail Center | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

RELATED: You’ve Been Washing Your Car Wrong This Whole Time

Capitol Shine recommends that each owner tries both products before deciding which option they prefer. Really, the theory here is that any wax is better than not waxing at all. Spray wax a great low-maintenance option that may need to be applied more often, while paste wax requires more time and effort upfront for longer-lasting results.