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Today we are going to dig into the specifics of what swirl marks are, how they are caused, and the exact steps to prevent, and remove them. There are various circumstances, environmental conditions, and product application processes that can leave marks on the surface of a car. These often lead to frustration as when it comes to removal sometimes it’s just not that easy.  

Defining a swirl mark

Swirl marks are defined as micro-scratches that are revealed when the surface is exposed to direct sunlight. They were given this label and defined this way due to their circular pattern.

Fun fact, it’s specifically black/dark vehicles that show the most swirl marks as bright-coloured vehicles do not show swirl marks as much as they reflect more light. 

So, what causes them?

These marks are simply super fine scratches inflicted on a painted surface by the use of incorrect tools being used to clean the exterior, or by wiping the exterior with a dry towel (and therefore rubbing contaminants into the surface i.e dust), improper washing and drying techniques. 

Swirl marks are usually caused by:

  • Incorrect usage of tools
  • Improper cleaning, washing, and drying techniques
  • Harsh polishing compounds and paint cleaners
  • Using contaminated wash mitts or sponges 
  • Automated car washes that use abrasive brushes
  • Polishers/buffers with the incorrect pad or an untrained operator

How to prevent swirl marks:

That being said, that’s exactly how to avoid swirl marks as well. Simply making sure you use the correct tools, in an efficient and proper manner to clean and dry the exterior is exactly how to prevent micro-scratches. 

How to remove swirl marks:

First of all, there is some confusion about how to remove swirl marks. At no point in time can you use wax to remove them or cause them (unless improper use of tools). Although waxes are used for protection and visual enhancement by “filling in” micro-imperfections, they do not remove swirl marks. They do, however, assist in concealing or covering up these micro-scratches temporarily. 

So, if not wax then what is the solution to removing swirl marks?

Here’s where machine cutting and polishing(also known as paint correction) come in handy. Keep in mind that you’re not technically physically removing the swirl marks but actually removing the surface of the paintwork around them. This evens out the surface making sure that the light reflects in a more uniform fashion rather than in a circular pattern. 


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