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Ask DI: How to Clean Polishing Pads

Ask DI: How to Clean Polishing PadsSome people find washing their polishing pads therapeutic while others see it as just another tedious thing to do, but one thing is certain, everyone knows how important of a task it is. Unless you are made of money, you are going to want to wash your polishing pads after every detail to maximize their life and your use of them.How to clean polishing pads?This article is going to go over the different methods you can use to clean your polishing pads and get them ready for your next detail!

Cleaning Pads While Polishing

Cleaning your pads while you are polishing isn’t WASHING your pad but I just wanted to add this section because it is still some very useful information. In Ivan Rajic’s article “Pad Cleaning During and After Polishing“, he explained that it is important to not only clean your pad after use but also while you are polishing. This will help to maintain the pad’s cutting ability leading to consistent results throughout your paint correction process. All you need is a DI Brushes Foam Pad Cleaning Brush or a Rupes BigFoot Claw Pad Tool, press firmly on your pad while it’s still on the polisher and let it spin, clearing any dried up polish on the surface of your pad. Below is a quote from Ivan himself on why this process is so important.

Due to their nature, polishing pads will absorb oils and abrasives from the polishes used with those pads. Over a certain period of time and after a certain number of polished panels on the vehicle, the pads will get saturated with both the contents of the polish as well as paint removed from the vehicle during polishing. Due to this saturation, the pads will not only lose their corrective ability, but we’ll also see splatter coming out of pads due to all the polish and paint residue sitting within the pads’ pores. Dusting at this point is almost a sure thing with most machines.

This step is something that I never did when I first started detailing but after reading Ivan Rajic’s article and applying this technique, I noticed a considerable change in performance.

Washing Your Pads After A Detail

Pads After Headlight Restoration

The pads in the picture above are the ones that were used in our Ask DI: How to Restore Your Headlights article. They are in desperate need of cleaning and my go-to product for this process is the Lake Country Snappy Clean Boost Pad Cleaner. To start, you want to grab a bucket of water, pour in about half the packet for 2.5 gallons of water, throw your pads into the bucket facedown and just let them soak for about 15 minutes.

Pads laying face down in a bucket of pad cleaner

After letting the pads soak you want to start to agitate the pads with your hands to get all of the built up polish. A pad cleaning brush could also be used on this step. After making sure that you have gotten all of the polish off of your pad, you are going to want to rinse the pad off with some water while still agitating it. If you weren’t able to get everything loose, there is no shame in rinsing and repeating these steps.

Agitating polishing pad

After giving those bad boys a nice rinse either under your sink or with a pressure washer (pressure washer really isn’t needed it just makes things a lot faster), you are going to want to squeeze out as much excess water as possible and let them air dry. Now you are ready to use them on your next polishing endeavor!

Clean polsing pads

Other Methods

There are a few other great methods for cleaning your polishing pads spanning from using a power washer to using a pad washer system like Lake Country’s Pad Washer System or Detail Guardz’s Dirt Lock Pad Washer. In my opinion, it’s best to find out exactly what works for you!

10 comments on Ask DI: How to Clean Polishing Pads

  1. Victor Tran says:

    Can we clean pads in the washer using a gentle cycle wash?

    • Donald Porter says:

      I usually wash the pads by hand first then throw them in the washing machine for the final cleaning!

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Victor – I generally recommend using a pad washer or washing by hand to remove most of the dirt, grime, sealant, polish, etc., but a washing machine will work great as well.

  2. Brian R. says:

    To step up the drying process, I throw the pads back on the polisher and turn it up while still inside the bucket. Works pretty good for me.

  3. James Showalter says:

    Any tips on getting sealants and waxes cleaned from pad? After cleaning and rinsing, when I squeeze the excess water from the pad, I get a slimy milky residue. Even if I re-clean pad again, I get more. I usually end up wiping the residue off with a paper towel. I never have a problem with polishes or compounds, just waxes and sealants.

    • Reece @ DI says:

      James – Sealants and waxes can be harder to remove from polishing pads for sure. When I am using them to protect the surface I generally toss them in a bucket with water and shampoo as I am detailing. This way the polish or wax does not dry onto the pad. After the detail I use a pad cleaner and massage the protection from the pads. If you need more power, some diluted all purpose cleaner can help as well. Once you clean the pads, just let them air dry.

    • Dabbler Details says:

      Using P&S Rags to Riches will get those sealants and waxes out with ease.

      I use about an ounce, maybe 2 if the pads are really caked, in a bucket of water and let the pads soak for a bit. They come out virtually spotless.

  4. Brendan says:

    Here it is folks:

    I’ve been there, done that, tried it, bought it. Forget it all and just buy yourself the lake country 4000 pad washer.

    One pad per car. Always start with a clean damp pad. Clean after every section pass. Never put polish on a dirty pad. A pad is dirty after you polish with it.

    Your welcome.

  5. David W. Johnson says:

    Wolfgang Pad Werks Pad Cleaner & Extender is a powerful cleaner that helps dissolve polish and sealant residue. After working this product into the pad with my thumbs, I toss the pads in the washing machine when I wash my microfiber towels.

    • Vinnie Sgroi says:

      Great idea! I spray some Chemical Guys polishing pad cleaner, work it into the pads with my hands, and then run them through the washer using a “Clear” detergent that has no scent. Run the machine on heavy duty, warm water a 2x rinse. Let them air dry. It works for this DIYer

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