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Waxes and Polishes


Wayne Arndt asked:

What is the difference between a wax and a polish and when would a wax be used verses a polish?

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There is a lot of confusion about the two and their differences because in common language, they are used interchangeably to mean the same thing

Boat waxes are usually made from natural and synthetic waxes such as Bees Wax, Paraffin and Carnauba. Carnauba waxes are the most popular because they can be buffed to a high shine. The friction from buffing these heat-sensitive waxes melts them and causes them to flow and layer so that they reflect light, which produces the shine. That’s why buffing machines are so popular with people that apply wax. Other products made from these waxes are Shoe Polish and Floor Wax.

Advantages of Wax: Known technology. No investment in new technology required. Wax coatings have been around for centuries. Good hiding power. Fills in minor scratches and abrasions. Economical to manufacture. Method of application is well understood.

Disadvantages of Wax: Heat sensitive. Sun melts it and makes it greasy, which attracts and holds dirt and black streaks. Stains. Heat releases the natural yellow / brown stain, which can stain your gelcoat. Difficult to apply. Requires aggressive buffing for best results. Limited life. Breaks down rapidly, limiting the protection of your boat.


Boat Polishes are usually made from synthetic products. There are many variations and they all have different properties. It’s important to understand the differences so that you can select the best for your application.

Synthetic polishes like Aurora Premium Boat Shine are made from polymers, synthetic waxes, UV inhibitors, antioxidants, and other ingredients. They resemble liquid waxes in application, but they are easy to apply and self polishing (wipe on – wipe off haze) and do not require buffing to get a brilliant shine. They are not heat sensitive so they don’t become greasy. They will not yellow and stain. They have good resistance to UV and oxidation. They have longer life than waxes and because they are hard and not greasy, they repel dust and dirt, making it easier to keep your boat clean. These polishes are recommended for protecting new boats and boats that have a reasonably good substrate. Numerous boat manufacturers now recommended this polish because of its superior performance.

Acrylic polishes are acrylic clear coats. They are recommended for older boats where the substrate has deteriorated to the point where it needs re-finishing. These clear coat products can add several years to the boat before refinishing. They work best on dark colors. Preparation and application is critical and the manufacturers instructions must be carefully followed. Failure to follow instructions can result in streaking, yellowing, cracking and pealing. Re-application is required annually. They are usually applied by brush or applicator, like a paint.

Some polishes and even some waxes, contain Silicones or Teflon. These products are best avoided. Although they are easy to apply and give an instant shine, they can cause irreparable damage to your boat. If ever you get a scratch or minor ding in your boat, it is impossible to touch up or repair since the gelcoat or paint will not stick to the Silicone or Teflon, lodged in you boats finish. To do the job requires complete removal by sanding or pealing and repair or replacement of the finish. Many boat repair shops will not guarantee their work if you used Silicone or Teflon polish on your boat.

The subject of protecting the beautiful finish of you boat is quite involved and beyond the scope of this forum, but I hope the above brief helps you chose the right product for your boat.

Thanks for your question.

Captain Aurora

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