How To Remove Swirl Marks – Keeping Your Paint Job On Point

Swirl Marks

Everyone loves their car and works to keep it running well and looking good. Unfortunately in a bid to keep your car clean you may be gradually damaging the surface.

We are creatures of habit and we wash the car one way – and with the wrong tools this could adversely affect the outcome. This is why you should know how to remove swirl marks.

Here is black car with swirl marks on the rear. Black is the most prone color to swirl marks and scratches. These fine scratches on paintwork are often self imposed – polishing using a dirty rag in the same fashion. Gradually these scratches wear into the paintwork and begin to take away that even finish you were looking for when polishing.

Swirl marks are not all about washing. Drive through brushes may be the culprit but not because of the grit. You car with polish and all picks up grit as you drive around – like lint on a jacket or sweater. It is more about the material than the brushing.

This cobweb like effect can be easily removed with polish and few simple steps.

What You Will Need

1. Paint Cleaners


Paint cleaning formula sold in various retail outlets. Depending on the size of vehicle, the quantity required may vary. Carefully read through usage and storage instructions.

2. Soft Dry Clean Cloth – Preferably Microfiber

Soft Dry Clean Cloth

Microfiber is ideal for various reasons. It is easily/readily available, is a good absorbent, does not leave scratches, dries quick and it is affordable.

3. Wax


Just like the cleaning formula, select what works best for your vehicle. You want to ask around as products keep coming up with improved performance. Feel free to experiment with good/new alternatives given wax has little impact on removing swirl marks.

The main causes of swirl marks include buffers/polishers with incorrect pads, harsh polishing compounds, dirty towels, poor rinsing after wash, and many other everyday oversights.

How To Remove Swirl Marks Using Paint Cleaner

Step 1 – Plaint Clean The Car For Better Surface

Clean The Car

Paint cleaners can be classified as abrasive and chemical cleaners. The chemical cleaners work subtly without affecting the finish while abrasive cleaner tends to corrode.

Abrasive paint cleaner will work like sand paper. You should not rub too hard and always work in one direction. If you prefer to use abrasive cleaner select and work with the least abrasive.

If you are unsure begin with the less complex chemical cleaners that will not leave any scratches.

When using paint cleaner work in shaded area, away from direct sunlight. Using microfiber cloth, pour an inch of the cleaner on the cloth and rub gently back and forth in one direction. Repeat this process till the paint job becomes smooth and has an even finish.

Step 2 – Polish Away The Scratches

swirl marks

Polishing is good for your vehicle. It adds sheen to your paint-job and protects the underlying paint. This is why swirl marks are less common on cars polished often.

When polishing the car use a less abrasive polisher to avoid leaving a hazy look on the vehicle. Polishing should break down the abrasives and the softer the brush the better the job.

While manufacturers have varying instructions, keep in mind it is best to polish your car soon as it dries just after cleaning.

Once done applying the polish use a soft cloth to clean any excess.

Step 3 – Waxing


You can skip waxing once polish is applied – there are varying opinions. The paint cleaner and polish often remove swirl marks quite effectively. Waxing ads the sheen and confirms the removal is complete.

Apply the wax on a dry surface and allow it to air. Once you have finished applying the polish, wipe/polish with a dry soft clean cloth.

How To Remove Swirl Marks Using Machines

Step 1 – Cutting Polish

Cutting Polish is a simple compound that contains suspended abrasives – sort of like advanced dish washing paste. It works to polish oxidized paint and remove scratches gently.

The cutting polish is easily applied on the surface using cloth and works well with the normal polishing pad. Apply just a little at first on the machine pad when the machine is OFF.

Step 2 – Use The Polishing Pad

Polishing Pad

With enough cutting polish applied switch on the machine and set it to run at low speed. You can shift to high for a bit then turn it to low once again. Repeat this in multiple passes and stop when the surface begins to dust – wipe off the dust with a soft cloth or towel.

Step 3 - Waxing


Apply some polish and once dry use the machine polisher to give your car that nice sheen.

NOTE: Not all swirl marks can be removed by the above techniques. Run your fingernail over the swirls and check to see if they are deep enough to catch the fingernail. Ordinary swirl marks should be detected using nails but not deep enough to catch the nail.

Any swirl marks deep enough to catch your fingernail may have reached/penetrated the under coat. This is risky as the metal is unprotected and can cause the body to begin rusting – especially in humid oceanfront regions.

If your swirl marks are dangerously deep it is time to take the car into the specialists – vehicle detailing. If you are buying used vehicles, this is one of those things you want to confirm given it should affect the price.

You can watch videos for easier practice:


Clean The Car

Swirl marks are those cyclic scratch marks that could appear on your vehicle in time. Swirl marks are one of those things that creep on you even if you polish often and take good care of your vehicle.

While a harsh/coarse brush may be the reason for these markings, it is not entirely about the brush or drive thru car wash. Dirt and grit will bond with the paint or vehicle naturally as you drive/cruise the streets – like lint.

With some solution and polish you can remove these marks and quickly restore your paint job to its original lustrous condition. Give it a try and share your experience in the comments.

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