Car Cleaning

Removing Scratches or Swirl Marks

If you've acquired a few swirl marks or scratches there is an easy fix.

If your car has acquired a few swirl marks or light scratches, don’t worry! With just a little effort the scratches can be fixed and your paint restored like new - using either a machine or good old-fashioned elbow grease.

Looking to repair deep scratches? Learn how to repair paint and bring back that showroom shine Click Here.

What causes swirl marks?

Swirl marks are tiny scratches on the surface of your car’s paint. While they are usually caused by wiping your car with a dry towel or cloth - particularly when it is dusty, they can also be caused by general improper washing and drying techniques, such as:

  • Using a polisher or buffer with the wrong pad or the wrong (or not enough)compound.
  • Using a cloth or a towel to wipe dust or dirt off a dry car.
  • Taking your car through automated car washes that haven’t been properly maintained, or use outdated techniques.
  • Drying or wiping your car down with towels and applicators that have abrasive polyester thread.
  • Using a dirty, dry or otherwise damaged chamois to dry your car after washing it.
  • Not properly rinsing your wash mitt or sponge when you are washing your car.
  • Applying overly harsh polishing or cleaning compounds.
  • Not thoroughly rinsing off your car before you clean it or;
  • Not thoroughly cleaning your car before you dry it.
Removing Scratches

How can I prevent swirl marks?

Simply put, take more care when you wash your car, and be sure to use the correct products in the correct way. If you don’t do all of the things on the above list, then you should be okay.

Can you remove swirl marks by hand?

Removing scratches and swirl marks can either be done with a machine buffer (though you need to be really careful not to cause more swirls!) or by hand. It might be quicker to use a machine, but buffing your car by hand offers more control, and an ability to get into tighter spaces and more intricate and delicate areas of your car’s bodywork.

Can swirl marks be permanently removed?

Swirl marks and small scratches can be removed in two ways - by removing the top layer of paint, or by filling in the microscopic scratches with a special swirl remover. To remove them permanently however, you will generally need to opt for the former solution. Provided that you protect your paint after you have buffed out the scratches, the reduced thickness of your clear coat shouldn’t have any adverse effects - although continuous and repeated buffing and polishing can eventually wear through to underlying layers.

Can toothpaste really remove scratches?

Perhaps unsurprisingly you may see toothpaste recommended as a scratch-removal solution - after all, it is essentially an abrasive polish right? Problem is, toothpaste is manufactured to work on your teeth and not car paint. The level of abrasion offered by toothpaste isn’t equal to car polish, and it lacks the additional chemicals that protect and preserve your car’s paint. Sure, it may work in a pinch - and it makes for a neat life-hack, but polishing your car with toothpaste probably isn’t the best idea - even if it would smell amazing!

Removing Scratches In Use

How to remove swirl marks and scratches by hand

Removing swirl marks by hand isn’t a particularly involved process, but it does require some care and patience - not to mention, elbow grease.

What you'll need:

Tips and Warnings

Never leave a product on the paintwork for an extended period of time unless the packaging specifically states to do so. If you’re looking to remove a couple of scratches or swirls, then a dedicated scratch or swirl removal product is the superior choice whereas for weathered or dull paint, or for an all over treatment, use a buffing compound – it will cut fast without scratching. As mentioned above, swirl marks are usually caused by poor washing and drying techniques and products. Any dirt or grit will cause micro scratches during cleaning, so make sure you do it thoroughly to prevent undoing all your hard work!

Step 1 - Apply product

Clean car

Before you start make sure the car is clean by giving it a good wash and dry. Ensure that the surface is cool and, preferably, parked in the shade - it will be easier on you as well as the car.

Apply polish to applicator

Put a small amount of product onto a foam applicator pad or clean microfibre cloth.

Apply polish to car

Apply to one section (buffing compound) or scratch (scratch or swirl removal product) at a time, using moderate pressure and overlapping circular motions.

Step 2 – Wipe Product Off

Wipe off polish

Allow it to dry to a haze and then buff off any excess with a super soft microfibre cloth. Simply repeat the process where required.

Polisher and accessories

How to remove swirl marks and scratches with a machine

If you really don’t have time to polish your car by hand, using a machine buffer can make things a lot easier for you.

What you'll need:

Tips and Warnings

A rotary buffer is designed to heavily cut the surface paint and will easily deal with more severe scratches and swirls, whereas a random orbital buffer is easier to use, but better suited to light swirls and paint blemishes.

Step 1 - Apply polish to the machine

Washing Mustang

Before you start Wash your car thoroughly and carefully. Ensure you are working in a well-lit area. Good lighting will allow you to see swirling, scratches and defects clearly.

Now mount the camera as you desire; the recommended location is dead centre and above the number plate. Be doubly sure that nothing obscures a clear view from the camera backwards - and avoid mounting the camera too low, or anywhere that it may be bumped or moved when you access the rear of your vehicle.

Applying polish to buffer

Once the panel is dry apply a small dab of polish to the applicator pad - A light spray of quick detailer onto the pad can make application easier.

Step 2 - Spread the polish

Spreading polish using polisher

Place the buffer onto the panel and spread the polish before switching it on. Move the buffer constantly in an overlapping motion left to right and up and down

Step 3 - Start polishing with the machine

Polisher in use

Start with a low speed of rotation and slowly increase the speed but stay within the lower speed ranges to prevent damage. Buffers only require a light pressure to work so keep your touch light. Work in small sections completing one before moving on to the next.

Step 4 - Wipe the product off

Clean Bonnet with Cloth

When the polish beings to dry or turn clear use a microfibre cloth to remove the residue. Inspect the results and if you are satisfied, move onto the next section.