How to Remove Wax From a Car

Car wax is useful, but sometimes it needs to be removed. Learn how to remove car wax before polishing, coating or applying fresh wax.

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Car wax is great for improving the shine and resilience of vehicle paint, but there are some situations where removing it makes sense. Vehicle polishing, ceramic coating or even switching to a different type of wax all require a clean, bare paint surface. That's why, if you've waxed your vehicle, knowing how to properly remove that wax is important. Car wax can be tricky to remove, because it's hard to see and doesn't look hugely different than new, untreated paint. If you know there's wax on your car and you know you need to get rid of it, here's what to do.

Tools Required

  • Bucket
  • Car sponge
  • Car washing brush with hose connection
  • Garden hose

Materials Required

  • Dish soap
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Water
  • Wax remover (optional)

Project step-by-step (3)

Step 1

Test Your Vehicle for Wax

  • Wet your vehicle’s surface thoroughly before beginning wax removal.
  • Look closely at the water as it flows over your car’s paint. If there’s a substantial wax coating, the water will flow quickly off the paint, or bead up rather than flatly coat the surface.
    • If you don’t notice these things, there could still be some residual wax, but you’ll need less elbow grease to clean it off.

Water beads on waxed carRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 2

Wash Vehicle Thoroughly

  • While the car is still wet, add a dollop of plain dish soap to your bucket.
  • Add some water to form a nice bed of foamy suds.
  • Dip your car sponge in the bucket, then scrub the vehicle vigorously in two- or three-foot sections.
  • Let the soap sit on each section for a couple of minutes, then rinse and scrub it off with your hose-attached car washing brush.
  • Continue over the entire vehicle this way, washing and rinsing one section at a time.

Wiping carRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman

Step 3

Do a Final Wax Test and Clean More if Needed

  • Spray each section of your car with water when you think everything’s clean.
  • Look closely at the water as it flows over the paint. It should behave differently than during the pre-washing test. If all the wax is gone, the water won’t bead up or flow off the paint as easily.
  • If you notice water beading and think there might still be wax on the paint, wash that spot again, or rub it down with some isopropyl alcohol diluted down to 70 percent concentration. Then give it a final rinse.
  • If you’ve followed all the steps, your car should now be clean and completely free of wax.

Water flowing on carRobert Maxwell for Family Handyman