Cars and Coffee. Cruise Night. Hot August Nights. They all have, well, a lot in common actually. A lot of noise, people kicking tires, and chocolate-covered hands way too close to freshly polished chrome. They also have cars that shine and sparkle better than when they were brand new.
Whether you are in the show, in the parking lot, or just want your car to stand out while running errands, achieving that shine on your ride is always a worthy endeavor. The good news is that there are a ton of products, collectively called spray waxes, that can condense the hours it takes to get that sparkle down to minutes.
- An Introduction to Spray Wax
- Top 10 Best Spray Waxes 2020
- 1. Best Overall Pick: Car Guys Hybrid
- 2. Best Budget Pick: Lucas Slick Mist
- 3. Best Basic Protective Wax: Turtle Wax Ice
- 4. Best Premium Pick: Shine Armor Quick Coat
- 5. Best for Car Shows: Chemical Guys Banana Spray
- 6. Fastest Spray Wax: Meguiar's Quick Wax
- 7. Best Spray Wax and Wash Combo: Meguiar's Premium Wash and Wax
- 8. Best High-Quality Shine: Shine Armor Polish
- 9. Longest Lasting Spray Wax: Torque Mirror Shine
- 10. Easiest to Use: Mother's California Spray
- All About Spray Wax
- Ready, Set, Spray
An Introduction to Spray Wax
We get it. You are busy. Way too busy to spend an entire afternoon with a clay bar, a tub of paste, and a pile of clean rags. That’s why we wrote this guide. Keep going to read about the main features of spray wax, and browse through our top ten picks. If you have a few spare minutes, get some tips and in-depth knowledge in our complete guide below.
Benefits of Spray Wax
If you want a full breakdown, check the bottom of the page here. The short of it is that spray wax is faster than traditional wax, but still offers great short term protection from the elements. Using spray wax is easy, good for your paint, and is a great way to get things shiny in a now sort of way.
What Spray Wax Isn’t
Spray wax shines your car, protects the paint, and makes it easier to keep clean, but it’s not a replacement for a good wax job. It’s also not a cleaner. You use a spray wax to keep your clear coat awesome between detailings and after washing. If you spend any time online reading reviews, you’re going to read reviews hating on spray wax because people didn’t understand that it’s not a deep cleaner.
Apply spray wax to a clean car with good paint. Yes, even the ones that say they are also cleaners. Stuff like Shine Armor claims to be a cleaner and a wax, but they are only talking about a bit of dust or spotting. Rubbing dirt and grime into your paint will scratch and destroy the finish. Best case scenario: if you wax a dirty car, you apply a nice protective layer to the dirt. Don’t be like the people who can’t read directions and yell about it online.
Key Features of Spray Wax
Spray waxes have a handful of features that make them great. Let’s break them down real quick so you know what to expect. We’ll touch on how spray waxes do these things down below if you really want to know the science stuff.
Protection from Water
Waxes repel water, which is great for protecting your ride from mud and other liquid stains. Water protection helps eliminate water spots after a wash too. That makes it easier to keep a car clean with a quick rinse.
Protection from UV
UV damages a car’s finish, so the more you can do to protect your paint from the sun, the better. Some sprays are specially formulated to offer better protection against UV, like the Car Guys product we recommend.
Protection from Dust and Debris
When the wax is applied, no matter the form, it hardens over time to form another layer of protection from scratches and chips. Products with ceramic, like the Meguiar’s spray wax here, offer better debris protections than pure carnauba like the Mother’s.
Make Your Car Shiny
Like a treasure from a sunken pirate ship, or something like that, Wax makes your paint pop. Spray wax is a great, quick way to get the most out of the clearcoat. Unfortunately, there is usually an inverse correlation to the amount of shine you will get and the amount of work you’ll have to do. Torque makes a product that takes longer to use, but looks fantastic.
How to Choose the Best Spray Wax
There are hundreds of spray waxes on the market, and most of them are really similar. That makes it super irritating to pick the best, so we broke it down into three main categories. How good the protection is, how easy it is to use, and how good your car will look.
Durability is the combination of how good the wax protects against different elements and how long it lasts. Good UV protection becomes useless if it washes off after the first rain.
Ease of Use
The number one reason to use a spray wax over a paste wax is the speed and convenience it offers over the more traditional method. If it takes a ton of work and time to use a spray wax, it will need to do something else outstanding to justify buying.
Spray wax has to make your car look good. That’s the bare minimum, but there’s some nuance to it. Some waxes offer a higher level of shine, some work better on dark colors, and some are better for certain surfaces like plastic or rubber.
As a note, when it comes to looks, we’re going to use subjective terms like deep. In general, there are two desirable finishes. A deep, glass-like shine tends to result from a thick, even coating of material. A shallower, glossier “wet look” shine is still really good looking. It just will lack the mirror finish that a more expensive process will get you.
As we mentioned before, hundreds of these things are on the market, and they all claim to be the best. The truth is they might have things that make them better in certain areas, but nothing is the greatest at everything. We reviewed and ranked 10 of the best, so it’s easy for you to choose one and shine.
1. Best Overall Pick: Car Guys Hybrid
Few products on our list offer great water resistance, great UV protection, and extra scratch resistance. The Car Guys spray does. It’s not the longest-lasting, that would be the Torque further down, but it will get you through a few months without reapplying.
Ease of Use
It’s safe for all surfaces, so you don’t have to be careful spraying. The sprayer is excellent, so you don’t have to fight with it. You can finish an average-sized car in 15 minutes. You can even use it to help dry your car, so you don’t have to worry about completely drying off after a wash.
The only thing to watch out for is heat. Most spray waxes don’t do well in the heat, so it’s not something that you can really avoid. The Car Guys spray is just extra unfriendly if it’s too hot.
Your car will look fantastic. This hybrid spray has carnauba for that deep shine and builds up enough of a layer to hold that mirror finish for a long time. The Shine Armor Polish might look better at first, but the Car Guys will still have kept your car looking good after a month.
It’s really simple. If you just want to get a great spray and not think too hard about it, Car Guys is perfect. The only thing we don’t love is the price; there are cheaper sprays that work almost as well—namely, the Turtle Wax Ice. The sprayer on this unit is nicer, though, and honestly, that makes the price difference worth it. It’s amazing how frustrating a gunked up sprayer can be.
- Looks great
- Easy to apply
- Offers good protection
- Could cost less
- Sensitive to heat
2. Best Budget Pick: Lucas Slick Mist
The Slick Mist doesn’t have any advanced UV protection and it’s not formulated for scratch resistance. It does offer really great water resistance, however, allowing it to hold up even after multiple washes. The instructions suggest reapplying it every month, but you’ll be able to get away with a lot longer.
Ease of Use
Good sprayer? Check. Applies evenly in a single coat? Check. Doesn’t need an excessive amount of buffing to look great? Check. Ok for use on most exterior materials? Check. Just make sure your car is dry before applying it.
One of the best things about the Slick Mist is that it still makes your car look awesome despite being cheap. Usually, the shine is the first thing to go when we talk about inexpensive sprays, but Lucas seems to have worked that kink out. You can even use it to shine stainless and chrome, and nothing beats the look of polished chrome against mirror-finished paint.
Every so often, a product comes along to remind us that we’re in the future now. Go back twenty years and try to tell someone there’s a really cheap, easy to use spray that will make your car look just as good as it did in the showroom. You’d be laughed out of the building.
The only way it could be better and the only thing keeping this spray wax from the top spot is the lack of advanced protection. Both the Car Guys and the Turtle Wax have that extra bit of durability for protecting your paint. If they somehow added the same coating to this product, we don’t think you’d see anything else being used at car shows.
- Very inexpensive
- Easy to use
- Gives a very decent shine
- Low UV protection
- Car should be completely dry before applying
3. Best Basic Protective Wax: Turtle Wax Ice
The UV and scratch protection are great, but where this spray wax shines is in water protection. Few products will make water bead and roll like Turtle Ice will. It doesn’t seem to last as long as other sprays, but as long as you reapply it monthly, you should enjoy some really top-notch protection.
Ease of Use
It’s in the time it takes to get a good finish with the Turtle Ice that the flaws start to show. If you don’t buff it long enough, you get streaks. Don’t get us wrong; it’s still a lot faster and easier than a traditional paste job, but compared to the options from Lucas or Meguiar’s, it can feel like forever. Also, the spray drips. You’ll notice we talk about the sprayer a lot. Use the Turtle Wax to learn why we emphasize the value of a good sprayer.
Assuming you get the streaks out, see above, the Ice looks great. However, just because of the risk of haze or streaks, people with lighter colored cars will probably be happier than people with dark colors. The extra water protection will help keep your car cleaner though, and means won’t have to work as hard to keep your car looking great.
When it comes to value, you have two options. The Lucas spray wax looks great and is easier to apply. If you are all about detailing your ride before a show, get that one. The Turtle Wax offers really great protection for the cost, though.
If you want to better protect your paint and don’t care as much about the shine, get this one. The other choice you have is to pay a lot more and not have to compromise, but who wants to pay more?
- Good UV protection
- Great water protection
- Takes a while to buff
- Sprayer could be improved
The strength and protection that Shine Amor offers are best in class. It lasts a long time, it’s probably the best UV protection you can get in a spray bottle, and it will stand up to a hard wash. The only thing that it’s not great at is water-repelling. The Turtle Wax is better at that.
Ease of Use
Shine Armor gets points off for being temperamental. You can’t use it on a wet car, or a hot day, or directly in sunlight where different areas can dry at different rates, or with a standard terry cloth. It’s just really important that you do it their way. The good news is that if you follow the directions, it’s a fast, painless process. It’s part cleaner, though you shouldn’t rely on it. Treat it more like a detailing spray, you wouldn’t use it to clean your car, but you would use it to touch up your car.
The shine is deep, lasts forever, and unlike the rest of the sprays, you can even rejuvenate an older finish. It’s not the best tool for rejuvenation, but it will improve an old paint job. The only thing better is also made by Shine Armor, and it’s down here on our list. Largely the difference is in the carnauba content. The more pure wax offers a better shine but doesn’t offer the protection this does.
Oh man, this is a great product. It’s a dream to use, as long as you follow the directions. It lasts for months, and you definitely won’t be using it as often as other products. And it looks really good, can it do no wrong?
Well, it turns out that if you spend a whole bunch of money, you get a pretty good product. It’s the most expensive spray per ounce on our list, and it’s even on the higher end of detail products in general, save the F11 types, but we won’t go there. That makes it really hard to justify.
It’s so expensive because it comes in a tiny bottle. Not only do you have to pay a lot per coating, but you also have to buy it more often. It’s hard to justify the cost when stuff like the Lucas Slick Mist is so much cheaper and still works fine.
- Beautiful shine
- Is a mild cleaner in addition to being a finish
- Great UV protection
- The bottle is tiny compared to everything else
5. Best for Car Shows: Chemical Guys Banana Spray
The durability is fine. It’s on par with other wax heavy sprays like the Mother’s California Spray. Beading will be good, but not as good as ceramic or hybrid sprays. UV protection is ok but not as good as formulated sprays. It will last six weeks or less. That’s just a downside to the high wax content sprays; without additives to make it harder, it will wear off a lot faster.
Ease of Use
We are going to compare it to the Mother’s product again since they are both high wax content sprays. In this category, that’s a good thing, because these are some of the easiest to use sprays out there. Spray on, wipe off. It takes minutes, and your car will shine.
Do you like shiny? Because the Bana Spray brings the gloss. It’s not a deep shine like the Shine Armor Polish, and it won’t make any attempt to restore your clear coat like the Shine Armor Quick Coat will. But it will make good paint pop. It nails the “wet look” on plastics and vinyl too, so go wild with it.
The Car Guys wax is still easy to use and offers better protection. Lucas Slick Mist is just as fast and versatile but costs less. Neither of them smells like banana, and neither of them will spark conversation like the Banana spray. That makes this the perfect thing to take with you when you go to Cars and Coffee. You can shine your car while people ask you dumb questions, and you can lure in that barista you like with the smell.
- Smells like taffy
- Really nice shine
- Easy and fast to apply
- Doesn't offer great protection
- More expensive than Mother's, which is pretty much the same but doesn't smell like taffy
6. Fastest Spray Wax: Meguiar's Quick Wax
It’s about the same as the Lucas Slick Mist. You’re not going to get the best protection from a product that’s meant to be a fast shine. Turtle Wax Ice and Car Guys have better water protection, and formulated products like Shine Armor are better for UV. It will also only last about a month. All in all, it’s not terrible, but you will want more if your goal is durability.
Ease of Use
It’s not the easiest thing on the list, but it is the fastest. You can do two coats and get a really nice shine in the time it takes you to prep for other sprays. There’s nothing really special about the process; it works the same way as the Lucas Slick Mist. It’s just that the combination of slow dry time, fine spray, and low streaking make it a bit faster to use.
If you have a new car, it will keep it looking new. If you have great pain already, it will keep it looking great. If you have an oxidized clear coat and tons of scratches, it will make it look like you poured some water on an old paint job. The Quick Wax will never build as thick as other waxes, so it won’t ever look as good. It’s ok, but like the Turtle Wax, it’s not great.
The Meguair’s Quick Wax is a purely middle of the road product. It’s something you buy if you don’t really care to have the best, but still want to keep your car waxed between detailings. Avoid Concours events, and you’ll be thrilled.
- Very fast to apply
- The bottle is large and easy to use
- Durability could be improved
- The Car Guys spray is only a few dollars more, is very similar in application, and is a better product
The wax this kit comes with is one of the most protective on the market. It’s right there with the Shine Armor or the Turtle Wax. Meguiar’s calls it a unique special ceramic hybrid, but it’s pretty much the same as any hybrid wax. That’s a good thing because those types of waxes offer the best durability out there.
Ease of Use
I mean, the kit comes with everything you need, which is awesome. But the wax isn’t friendly to plastics, so you have to make sure to keep it controlled. It also takes a long time. The product can dry almost immediately, meaning you can only work in small areas at a time.
Looks great. It’s not the deep, beautiful shine of something like the Shine Armor Polish, but you get that satisfying glossy wet look that lasts for a long time.
If you are just getting into detailing your car, or just need a really handy kit, Meguiar’s has your back. This kit includes buckets, rags, wash, and wax. The wax is one of their better ones, the wash works well, and the wash mitts make something fun to use once before throwing away and replacing with some high-quality sponges.
The price is a bit of a gut punch. This is the most expensive entry on our list, but that’s because of the amount of stuff you get. Per ounce, the wax is average in price, and you are basically getting the buckets and towels for free. We think it might be expensive to just buy for yourself, but it would make the absolute perfect gift for someone who just got a new car.
- Comes with everything you need to wash and wax
- The wax offers great protection
- The wash is good too
- It takes a long time to do it right
- The initial price is high
8. Best High-Quality Shine: Shine Armor Polish
Shine Armor Polish has no additives for UV protection, and it doesn’t get as hard as ceramic or hybrid sprays, but the water beading is fine. This product really is very close to a traditional paste wax. You get a fantastic shine, really good water control, and ok dust protection. That comes at the cost of the sciency stuff other sprays like the Meguair’ s Premium Wash and Wax or the Car Guys sprays have.
Ease of Use
Usually, high-end sprays like this are harder to use, but the Shine Armor Polish’s simplicity saves it from that fate. It’s just as easy as the Banana Spray or Lucas Slick Mist. It does take longer if you want to really buff out any hint of streaking. Most of the cheaper sprays it’s just not worth doing, but this is one of the best looking products on our list. It’s worth the extra five minutes.
Oh man, we’re just going to say it. The Shine Armor Polish is the best looking spray on this list. It’s hard to make that claim because there are many great looking products in today’s world. Car Guys makes a great product that will give you a beautiful shine. So will the Torque Mirror Shine, and per ounce, both are cheaper. But if you need the absolute best of the best in the looks department, here it is.
It’s another expensive product in a tiny bottle from Shine Armor, and if you read our thoughts on the Quick Coat, then you can probably guess our thoughts on the Polish. It’s great, but probably not worth it unless you really, really want that super shine. That’s it, enough said.
- Easy to apply
- Mildly restorative
- Not very good protection
9. Longest Lasting Spray Wax: Torque Mirror Shine
It says six months on the bottle, and the Torque is probably the only spray wax that can get close to that claim. That’s fantastic. You can’t get better longevity out of a spray bottle, not even the Shine Armor.
The protection layer is not as hard as other sprays. You might get some dust and water sticking, but at the same time, no spray will protect your car past a month or so. The time between coats might make the average protection over the course of a year way better with the Torque unless you religiously apply wax.
Ease of Use
Like the other higher-end products, the Torque is temperamental and needs a perfect vehicle to work. They recommend multiple coats, multiple buffing sessions, and only apply the product after a complete clay bar session. Frankly, it’s a pain in the butt to get the Torque spray’s full benefits, and that’s only marginally acceptable because you don’t have to do it nearly as often as other sprays.
People will argue all day whether a polymer shine, like this product, or a heavy wax shine like the Shine Armor Polish, is better looking. Either way, you are going to get that mirror shine if you use the product correctly.
The Torque spray is meant to compete with the “professional” sprays like the F11. It totally does, in the sense that it’s a bit overpriced, and there are much cheaper sprays that look just as good.
That being said, the Torque Spray is an excellent product. If your car is new and you want to keep it looking new as long as possible, you won’t be disappointed.
- Great shine
- Lasts a long time
- A little bit of product goes a long way
- Takes a long time to apply correctly
10. Easiest to Use: Mother's California Spray
It will last a month, offer adequate water protection, mild UV protection, and dust will be marginally easier to wipe off. In other words, it’s fine but doesn’t stand out in any way. The only thing that makes it worthy of our list is that it’s cheap and comes in a big bottle. You can overcome the durability limitations by applying it frequently without feeling bad.
Ease of Use
We call a lot of things easy to use. That’s largely because that’s the whole point of spray waxes, and the truth is the Mother’s isn’t the best. It’s more or less tied with any of the other spray-on, wipe off waxes. The Lucas product on our list is just as easy, and the Banana Spray is just as easy and smells like banana.
This spray wax gets to be called the easiest to use because it is the stand out feature of the California Spray wax. It cleans, it polishes, and it takes minimal buffing to avoid swirls.
Your car will look great after using the Mother’s California Spray. It’s a high wax content spray, and it’s going to make your clear coat shine. The issue is that it’s not going to last as long as others. Again, though, you get a ton of it for cheap, so just reapply when necessary.
The Mother’s Spray Wax is the definition of perfectly adequate. It does what the label says, and nothing more. It won’t surprise you, it won’t let you down, and it costs exactly what you think it should cost.
What that makes it really good for is a baseline for everything else. If you are just getting into detailing, or want to learn about how different products work, then get the Mother’s and have at it. That way, when we say things like “the Shine Armor might not be worth the extra price,” you can be like, yeah, because the one from Mother’s isn’t that much worse. Conversely, when we praise the Lucas Spray for their sprayer, you can be like, yeah, because most sprayers are garbage, and I hate them.
- Meets expectations
- Easy to apply
- Sprayer is garbage
- Doesn't offer great protection or great anything, really
All About Spray Wax
Wax is one of those things that’s easy to understand on the surface, but gets super deep the more you look at it. We aren’t going to get into the chemistry of it, but we do want to set you up with all the knowledge you need to argue about it with your friends.
What Does Wax Do Anyway?
A car’s finish has a bunch of layers, and all of them have different attributes. The primer creates a surface that paint can bond too and sticks to the metal. The paint gives it color. The clear coat makes it shiny and protects the paint.
Each layer has defects because nothing in life is ever perfect. Wax fills in those defects so that dirt and water can’t get trapped in them. If you are a visual learner, let Bart from Donut Media explain it. He’s talking about ceramic finishes specifically, but the underlying principles are the same.
Spray Wax vs. Paste Wax vs. Liquid Wax
Wax comes in three main flavors. (Note: please don’t eat the wax!) Wax comes either in spray form, paste form, or a liquid. Sometimes it’s not really a liquid, it’s more like a gel, but for this article’s purposes, a gel is a liquid. If you want to venture into the world of other waxes, we here at AutoQuarterly already have a guide to set you up right here.
Paste wax is a lump of goop that sometimes has the consistency of a crayon, and sometimes has the consistency of a good flan. Ideally, it’s in-between the two. It all depends on the brand and temperature.
To use paste wax, you have to spend a ton of time spreading an even layer over your car’s entire surface, then wiping off the excess. Remember Karate Kid? Wax on, wax off. That’s how traditional wax, an ancient martial art, works.
The hard work translates to the most durable, shiniest finish you can get. Nothing compares to a good old fashion shine and wax.
This entire article is all about spray wax, so hopefully, you have a pretty good idea what it is by now. It’s like paste wax, but you can just spray it on and wipe it off. No super long wax on, wax off martial art practice session.
The downside is that it’s never going to be as durable or as long-lasting as a paste job. You won’t build up the layers needed to get that miracle shine, and it won’t get hard enough to save you from the elements. It’s absolutely perfect if your car just needs some shine maintenance, though.
Wax as a liquid is the balance between spray and paste. It’s a little easier to use than the paste, but it still takes longer than the spray. You get a good layer of protection, but it’s not as good as the paste layers.
The Compounds in Spray Waxes
Modern spray waxes vary significantly in composition. In ye olden days, carnauba was king. It’s wax made from palm trees. Nowadays, you got ceramics, polymers, and whatever weird stuff is in Meguair’s green bottle wax. So what do they do?
It turns out that wax occurs all over nature and is used by plants and stuff for the same reason we use it for our cars. It repels water and keeps things clean. Like we said before, carnauba comes from palm trees. Natural waxes don’t last as long, which we point out a lot during the review section. They do look great. That’s why waxes like Shine Armor Polish rate higher in the looks department.
Better living through chemistry is a saying made famous by DuPont. They make finishing supplies, so they know. Polymer waxes have come a long way since they made that slogan in 1935, and some people prefer the look and advanced protection that synthetic waxes offer. Torque makes a great synthetic spray, but most waxes we reviewed are hybrids between synthetic and natural. That gives you the natural shine and synthetic protection.
Ceramic is the newest player in the finish scene. It’s harder than even the hardest waxes and is a super cool word to have on a wax bottle. The truth is that unless you are getting a hardcore ceramic coating, the amount of ceramic in a spray wax isn’t enough to make a huge difference.
Products like the Shine Armor Quick Coat have ceramic in them and do offer some of the best protection, but one of the biggest benefits of a ceramic finish is the amount of time they last. Spray waxes don’t last.
How to Use Spray Wax
Spray wax is easy to use. So easy, we can run you through the entire process here and feel confident you can get great results no matter what product you choose.
Gather the Materials
First, make sure you have a bunch of clean microfiber towels. The Car Guys spray comes with some if that makes your life easier. Other useful things include a handful of old rags, just for cleanup, and a drying cloth just in case there’s water hidden somewhere.
Wash Your Car
This can be as complicated or as easy as you want. There’s plenty of waterless washes out there that work fine or products like the Meguair’s kit we recommend come with a whole car wash kit. Popular Mechanics has a pretty good rundown of how to get great results.
Read the Directions
We all know you will wait until the last minute to read the directions. That’s fine. Though do your best to read them before actually applying the wax. It’s just that every product is a little different, so you want to make sure there isn’t some secret to it that can make your life way better.
Dry Your Car
Air dry, chemical dry, sunlight, shammy, use whatever works best for you. Even if the spray wax you grab says it works on wet surfaces, we guarantee it will work better on a dry surface.
Apply the Wax
Some waxes you apply by spraying onto a rag and then messaging into the paint. Other’s you just spray onto the paint directly. Either way, work in small areas to avoid streaks due to the wax drying out.
Wipe Off the Wax
This is where the directions will help. Some waxes need to dry partially before being wiped off. Others, like the Lucas spray, can be wiped off immediately.
Buff if Necessary
Waxes like the Banana spray can be buffed to a mirror polish after spraying. Again, read the directions. Buffing will make sure you get the most shine you can get.
Apply Another Layer of Wax to Any Bald Spots
Some products, like the Torque, simply suggest applying another layer to the entire car. Most of the time, you just look for a dull spot and touch it up. That’s it, enjoy the sparkle.
Ready, Set, Spray
Spray wax is the best way to keep your car looking great between hardcore detailings. That means you have no excuse. Go blind people during cruise night; it’s the right thing to do.