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Ask-A-Pro: How To Remove Excess Polish From Crevices?


I recently started polishing my family and friends’ cars, as well as mine, but I always manage to get polish in the crevices? How would I go about removing it?

Thanks for submitting your question Christopher.

This is a very common issue that we detailers need to address on every single polishing job. How we choose to deal with it will vary from one person to the next, but taking the time to do it properly is a sign of a quality detail job.

I see a lot of cars out there that have been “detailed” in the past, and unfortunately the person working on the car cut corners and didn’t clean up the mess afterwards. This is an un-finished job, and looks very unprofessional. Depending on the polish or compound that is used, it can also turn very hard over time and then it becomes quite difficult to remove.

The first option that you have is to prevent the polish from getting into the cracks and crevices in the first place. You can tape up body seams, around lights, trim, emblems, and any other places that polish or compound can get into. Not only does taping prevent polish build-up in these areas, but it’s also protecting delicate edges and trim.

As you can see in this photo, I have applied a 1/4″ strip of tape over this seam just to prevent polish from getting down into the seal.

We’ve addressed how to prevent polish build up in crevices, so now let’s take a quick look at how to remove it. At the end of the polishing session, we’re always going to have residue and build-up at the edges where the tape was, and we’ll also have some in areas that couldn’t be taped. This can become a time-intensive task, but it has to be done properly. You need to be very careful during this stage, otherwise you risk scratching up the areas that you just spent a good part of a day (or more) polishing.

First make sure that you have several high quality (clean) microfiber towels just for this task. You want to be sure that you’re regularly switching to a clean area of the towel because the polish or compound can quickly build up on the towel, and depending on the product you’re working with it could mar the finish.

Now for cleaning solutions, you have several different options. I have a few favorites that I work with for this task. Since I’m cleaning polishing dust out of door jambs, under the hood, and in the trunk area at the same time, I’ll usually reach for a pre-mixed bottle of Optimum No Rinse at Quick Detailer ratio. I can clean those areas and remove polish at the edges at the same time. Just spray some directly onto your microfiber towel, and very gently remove the polish residue. Once again, if you’re close to a visible painted surface when doing this, be very careful so you don’t mar the finish. Another couple of products that I use are Meguiar’s M34 Final Inspection, and Meguiar’s Ultimate Quick Detailer. If I am dealing with compound or a polish from a previous detailer, and it is caked in an area around marker lights or tail lights, I will spray it down with Isopropyl Alcohol to help break down the residue. If you have very hard compound built up from somebody else’s work, and it’s turned into concrete, then you could use some fresh compound or polish on a microfiber towel and clean those areas up before you start your own polishing.

This can take quite a bit of time to do it right, but it makes all the difference in the world after the job is done.

I hope this helps! If you have any additional questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Todd Cooperider Esoteric Auto Detail
Todd Cooperider
Esoteric Auto Detail
Columbus, Ohio

5 comments on Ask-A-Pro: How To Remove Excess Polish From Crevices?

  1. Mike says:

    How do you go about restoring black trim that has been discolored by polish or compound? I’ve found that products like 303 simply mask it until it starts to wear off. Is there any way to actually remove the material causing the discoloration?

  2. Alex says:

    I wonder the same that Mike is asking. I’ve used the Poorboy’s World Trim Restorer and topped it off with 303 Aerospace, but the fading still comes back a bit. From what I understand, the Trim Restorer contains petroleum disolates (sp?) that supposedly removes the top layer of the trim. :-\

    Either way, I have another question similar to this. lol Wax: how do you remove wax that has been caught in oddball crevices like say where the front clear bra cuts off. I usually wrap a MF towel around my finger and try to gently get at it, but sometimes, it doesn’t catch the excess wax and a bit of it remains; taunting me. Would a cotton swab work?

    • Alex (and Mike),

      The first thing I would try to remove the white residue from wax or polish on black plastic trim is Isopropyl Alcohol. Spray it onto a microfiber towel and rub the affected area. This usually gets all but the really old stuff. If you need to try something else, then I have a few home remedies for you. One of them is peanut butter! The peanut oil actually breaks down old wax in particular. Just apply a thin layer (creamy, not crunchy), let it dwell, agitate with a soft brush, and then clean it off. The other is to use a Pink Pearl eraser. These have been around for a long time, are available in most stores that carry a lot of school / art supplies, and work very well for such an application.

      As for the cleaning of clear bra edges, please refer to David Bibiloni’s article on this subject: How To Clean Clear Bra Edges

      Thanks guys,

  3. John says:

    Dear Todd,

    I used too much rubbing compound and now cannot remove excess. Whats the solution ?

    Thank you,

  4. Tom Berry says:

    I have a black Ferrari and the painted area immediately next to the “FERRARI” script looks terrible to me, especially in contrast to the beautifully polished paint on the rest of the car. What is the best way to remove old wax build-up and polish the paint between or around letters or logos? It looks like taking the logo off would be difficult at best.

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