We talked about compounding a little bit in our post on removing scratches, cloudy boat paint, and high-speed buffing. Compounding gets quite a few mentions because it is one of the main activities of a detailer.

Compounding Removes Imperfections

Compounding is the application of a compound on the vehicle’s paint in order to remove imperfections. A compound is an abrasive cleaner applied to the paint using a high-speed buffer (in most cases). Compounds range from very aggressive to light, depending on the desired affect on the paint. Aggressive compounds remove more of the surface of the paint and are used to remove significant defects and blemishes such as extensive oxidation or deep scratches. Lighter compounds can be used for minor scratches,light oxidation and other minor flaws.


The abrasive elements of the compound remove a tiny layer of paint, taking with it the imperfections, such as oxidation, pollution, and the cast of characters that damage the paint. The level of abrasiveness that you use on the paint depends on the extent of the damage.

Compounding Is A Primary Detailing Task

Compounding is one of the main tasks that sets detailing apart from a wash and wax. A skilled detailer will be able to identify the areas of the vehicle that needs compounding and determine which level of abrasiveness to use. If you are doing this yourself, always err on the light side. If you go too heavy, you most likely will damage the paint.

Once you have applied the compound to the paint, you will want to apply a wax or glaze to protect the paint. Compounding cuts away the top layer of the paint to reveal the undamaged layers, but it does not apply a protective coat. You will want to do that after compounding.

Recommended Product Suppliers

There are a lot of good quality compound manufacturers around. We recommend either Meguiars or 3M. Both are good quality and offer a line of products to meet your needs.

Almost all of the vehicles we detail need some compounding.

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