Q: What is the difference between compound, wax and polish?
A: When waxing your boat, there are three main types of products you might use depending on the condition of and finish used on your boat. If you boat is oxidized, whether the finish is gel coat or paint, you’ll need to use a compound (preferably with a power buffer) to cut through that oxidation and bring back the gloss. Most compounds do not contain wax, so compound is something you would use as the first step in a two-step process or mixed with wax (such as a cleaner wax) to achieve the same effect in one step.
There are two types of waxes, pure wax and cleaner wax, both of which should only be used on gel coated boats. Pure wax has no compound added to it and is excellent for brand new boats or boats that have no oxidation. Cleaner wax is a mixture of compound and wax and is great for boats with light to medium oxidation. If your gel coat has light oxidation, you can get away with waxing your boat by hand, but be careful to use very even pressure with your hand as you apply the wax or you’ll get splotchy results. It’s best to use a power buffer if you can so as to remove the oxidation and apply the wax in an even manner. Keep the buffer flat to avoid swirl marks.
Polish does the job of wax but doesn’t actually contain wax. Rather, it contains polymers and other synthetic agents that do the job of wax, such as protecting the finish from UV rays and bringing back a shine to painted and metal surfaces. If your boat is covered in AwlGrip or other painted finish, your best option is to polish it on a regular basis with a product such as Starbrite Premium Marine Polish with PTEF or Awlcare.