Skip to content


How To Remove Swirl Marks on a Car in 5 Easy Steps

Swirl marks are a mass of tiny scratches on the surface of the clear coat or top layer of your paintwork. Due to the way light bounces off these scratches, they often appear as a messy spider web pattern, and they can be particularly noticeable on darker colors.

Swirl marks are probably the most common paint defect. While they may not be very deep, or even immediately visible, they really bring down the shine that your car had when it was new.

Here’s how you can remove swirl marks from your vehicle in 5 easy steps. 

Step 1: Wash the Vehicle 

Washing a car to help remove swirl marks

The first step in removing swirl marks is to wash your vehicle thoroughly. If dirt and other contaminants get stuck in the outer layer of the paint, you will just end up with more swirl marks. So, be sure to thoroughly wash and dry the vehicle using quality car soap and the two-bucket wash method.

Step 2: Use a Clay Bar or Clay Mitt

Using a clay mitt for swirl marks

The next step is claying your vehicle. A thorough wash just isn’t enough to get rid of all contaminants from the paint. Contaminants like iron fallout from brake dust and construction sites get stuck in your paint surface. Leaving them around will–you guessed it–result in more swirl marks down the line. 

When claying your car, remember to: 

  • Work in small sections
  • Spray clay lubricant carefully 
  • Avoid heavy pressure as it can damage the paint 
  • Rinse the vehicle after claying 
  • Dry it off with a microfiber towel

You can use either a clay bar or synthetic clay mitt and a lubricant. Note: If you have never clayed before, it can be easy to damage your paint, so consider getting professional help. If you really want to try it yourself, start with a synthetic clay mitt. 

Step 3: Determine Swirl Depth

Now that the car is clean, the next step is to determine the severity of the swirls. An easy way to do this is to spray some water on a panel, if you can see the swirls while wet, the swirls run pretty deep. The deepest defects will need more "cut' and a coarser compound or polish to take away more of the top layer of the surface.

Step 4: Polish the Vehicle

Polishing a vehicle

Your vehicle is now ready to be polished. Polishing will help remove any remaining swirl marks and make your paint shine. If you are using a power polisher, start with a low speed and gradually increase the speed as you go. It’s good practice to work in the shade but be sure to inspect your progress in the sun or premium lighting.

  • Start by adding three or five dots of polish to the pad
  • Always use a clean applicator pad
  • Move the polisher in small circles to avoid damage
  • Polish from the top-down
  • Increase the pressure when applying over swirl marks

Step 5: Finish with a Protective Coating 

Now that you have a  glossy and swirl-free finish, protect it with a quality sealant or coating like Shine and Shield or Apex Nano Coat. A protective coating will add more gloss and shine to your paint while keeping it safe from the environment. It's very easy to use. Work in small sections. Using an application pad or microfiber cloth, apply a thin layer of the product onto a clean dry surface using a circular motion. Let the polish dry for 10-20 seconds, then wipe off the light haze with a clean microfiber cloth. Continue the process around the whole car and enjoy your swirl-free paint!

Now that your paint looks great how can you prevent future swirl marks from forming? 

There are dozens of reasons why a vehicle might have swirl marks, but it typically all comes down to poor washing techniques. Here are some of the most common issues: 

  • Wiping dirty or dusty paint with a dry towel
  • Cleaning the vehicle with a dirty wash mitt
  • Automated car washes
  • Towels and applicators containing polyester threads
  • Harsh polishing compounds and paint cleaners

Over time, each of these actions causes friction, leaving behind micro-scratches. As time goes by, these micro-scratches multiply and accumulate in different directions, causing the swirl-mark effect.

Improving your washing technique can go a long way toward reducing swirl marks.  After all, prevention is better than cure. Still, there will likely be times when you will need to deal with pre-existing swirl marks. 

In Conclusion

Swirl marks are one of the most common defects you’ll deal with as a car owner. Although removing marks isn’t easy, it is a straightforward, step-by-step process, and the right products can make all the difference. Try out our Shine and Shield or Apex Nano Coat product and our Clay Mitt

Older Post
Newer Post
Close (esc)


Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Shopping Cart