Tips for Polishing Pad Cleaning & Care

Tips for Polishing Pad Cleaning & Care

Behind skill, polishing pad and the compound choice is at the forefront of getting the best result safely when polishing your car. When you are kind to your pads you should get somewhat decent durability out of them.

I often get asked, “Can you Reuse Polishing Pads?”.

Of course, you can, once you maintain them properly.

When I first started learning how to polish my own car, I took very little care of the pads ( I did not know any better to be honest ) and I found myself having to replace pads each time I wanted to polish a car.

Not only this, I found I wasn’t always getting the results I wanted or expected when trying to correct the paintwork.

Quite often on various detailing group posts or on forums you see people complaining about “pad failure”, and quite often it has not been caused by a pad defect, but as a result of user error, or not caring for the pads correctly.

Let’s look at some tips to help you get the best results when polishing your car.

Polishing Pad Cleaning

Keeping your pads clean throughout the whole process of polishing a car is a biggie. The cleaner your pads, the better your result will be. As you work your way around the car with the polisher, you are abrading the surface of the paint and with this, you have two things happening.

  1. You are picking up the paint you are removing (You may notice your pad turning a different color )
  2. Build up of spent product on the surface of the pad

I always recommend that you have a few spare pads of the same size and cutting ability before you start working on a car. This way, once the original pad starts to become ineffective, you simply replace it with a fresh pad and keep polishing.

This ensures that you’re getting the most out of all your pads and the best results possible out of the paint.

Even with the spare pads, however, you should be cleaning the pad after each section or two in order to remove all the residue and dust that has formed on the pad surface.

Another point to note is that foam does not like heat. With heat glue weakens, pad structure weakens and foam softens. If foam softens then the cutting ability of the polishing pad diminishes.

By rotating between a few different pads when polishing a car, you are giving the pads a chance to cool down and rest.

Most people are aware of pad cleaning but many just clean the surface of the pad by running it under the tap with some warm water.  While this gives the impression that you are giving them a good clean, this may not be the case.

Let’s Look at some of the best methods for cleaning your pads.

Cleaning Buffing Pads During Use

There are two methods I use most frequently for cleaning pads while polishing my car.

1.Using a Stiff Bristled Brush

As I mentioned earlier in the post, cleaning pads during polishing is important to keep up the pad’s cutting ability and keep getting good results while correcting the paint.  To do this, you’ll simply need to purchase a small plastic brush with fairly stiff bristles. 

Just be careful you don’t buy anything with bristles too harsh, as these could end up damaging your pads too!.

Something like this should work just fine.

Chemical Guys Pad Conditioning Brush

Griot’s Garage 15548 Pad Conditioning Brush

Cleaning a pad with one of these brushes is actually very simple. All you need to do is grab the polisher, flip it over, and turn it on while pressing the brush lightly against the pad surface.

Now the polishing pad will be much cleaner for the next section of the car and will still provide great results until it gets too saturated and needs replacing with a fresh, clean pad. Now you’re ready to apply some more polish to your clean pad and keep working your way around the vehicle.

2.Using a Small Microfiber Towel

The second method of cleaning your polishing pads job can be used in place or after the above brush method. All you need here is a general-purpose microfiber towel and one or two sprays of water (not too much, just enough to soften some of the polish residues on the pad ).

After finishing a section during polishing and/or after performing the cleaning method mentioned above, you will lightly spray the pad once or twice with some water.

Then press the microfiber towel with moderate pressure against the pad as you turn on the polisher. The microfiber towel will absorb a lot of the residue within the pad and the water will help to soften it up and clean it off the pad’s surface.


Cleaning Pads After Polishing

It’s extremely important to clean the polishing pads out immediately after use because you don’t want that residue to settle in the pad and get hard. This makes them even harder to clean and will increase the risk of damaging the pad.

The first thing I do is usually fill up a sink with warm water. ( Not too hot ). While this is filling up, I Spray each pad generously with some pad cleaner 

After the 3-5 minutes have passed, turn on the faucet and grab one of the pads. Hold the pad with both hands and, while supporting it from the bottom, massage the entire pad surface using your thumbs.

This should take 10-15 seconds. Once done, keep doing the same massaging on the pad surface, but place the pad under the faucet so the water starts to rinse off the residue coming out of the pad. I usually submerge the pad in the water in the sink every so often while doing this.

Once the pad starts to look clean I then do a final rinse and squeeze to get as much water out as possible.

How to Dry Your Buffing Pads After Cleaning

You have a few options here – you can ;

Let the Pads Dry Naturally ( Air Dry )

If you decide to air dry, make sure to place the pads with the backing facing up.  This will ensure the water doesn’t settle by the backing and disturb the glue holding the backing and the foam together.

To help speed up this method of drying, I usually my polisher to sling water out of the pad.  Simply place the machine head inside the sink, or outside where you won’t sling water, then attach the pad and let it run for about 20  seconds at a pretty fast speed.

This will get most of the water out of the pad.

Put them in the Drier

You can dry your pads in a conventional drier, but you must ensure you don’t set the machine too high as this would damage the pads. I usually set it to the lowest possible heat setting on the drier to be safe.

Once your pads are dry, they will be ready to be used again!

Hopefully, the tips above will ensure you get the best out of your polishing pads and help you get the best results possible when polishing a car.

In Summary – avoid pressure, clean/rest often and dry them properly afterwards.

If you have any of your own tips, please let me know in the comments below I would love to hear them.

Until Next time,

Happy Detailing!

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About the Author – Darren O Hara

Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out out new products.

Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.

You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork

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