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Article: How to Strip Wash: Paint Preparation

remove wax

How to Strip Wash: Paint Preparation

How to Strip Wash: Paint Preparation

A common question asked by car care enthusiasts and an area of confusion for many people is the process of “stripping” their car’s paint as part of the detailing process.

Now there is no need to be concerned as the idea of “stripping” doesn’t entail the removal of garments or the removal of paint to reveal bare metal. For the sake of this article, a strip wash, or stripping the finish, is a method to remove all the waxes, sealants etc that have been previously applied. Removing or even weakening the bonds these coatings have on your paint will make the process of claying and polishing easier. Also it will have the added benefit of residue control, more on that later.

As a side note if your car or the car you’re working on has had a nano or ceramic coating applied chances are a strip wash may not remove it. Most coatings that form a hard or ‘glass-like’ bond to the paint are chemical resistant and may need to be abraded to be removed effectively. Always be sure to know what type of coating was applied and contact the manufacturer on the best method in removing it.

Okay so you want to polish your car and you’re ready to go. We’ve covered a lot below and we’ve broken it into:



Final Thoughts

A strip wash, or stripping the finish, is a method to remove all the waxes, sealants etc that have been previously applied.


Why should I strip wash?

When it comes to completing a full detail on your car there will be a layer of contamination on all the exterior surfaces. If your car has been maintained and had layers of protection, the extent of paint contamination may be less compared to a car with little to no car care and paint protection. The purpose of having waxes, glazes, sealants and coatings on your car is to build a sacrificial layer of protection so all the brake dust, tree sap, bird bombs and environmental fallout is accumulated in the paint protection.

If you were to skip the paint stripping step, all is not lost, however you will find that these layers of contaminated waxes, sealants etc are then pulled into your clay bar and/or your polishing pads. You may find yourself working extra hard claying the car and using extra clay lubricant, in regards to the polishing pads, this can lead to reduced performance and cause cases of micro marring on the paint surface.

Do I have to strip wash my car?

No, not necessarily.  With everything in the detailing world it will be a case by case basis, however, as mentioned above it will make detailing easier. If you choose not to strip wash be prepared to adjust your technique and have spare gear available if needed.

Will strip washing damage my car?

With everything in life, if it is done in moderation and with care there isn’t a great concern. Using the appropriate chemicals and techniques will yield great results. Whenever you proceed to use any chemical on your paint be sure to check that it is clear coat and/or enamel safe. Most modern day cars are painted in a 2pac clear coat, which is more durable than enamel paint. If you find yourself working on an older vehicle or a car that has had a respray repair with enamel paint, use caution. As an overview the chemicals used below are less harsh than those used in your average drive through car wash.


There are a number of methods to perform a strip wash and each method has their own pros and cons.

Strip Wash


All Purpose Cleaner + Car Wash Mixture

This method is recommended by us as it is the safest and easiest method which yields great results. By adding 100-120 mL of All Purpose Cleaner (acidic) to your wash bucket along with the regular amount of Car Wash Shampoo (neutral) results in a mix that is slightly acidic pH. This mixture safe for washing but acidic enough to remove waxes and sealants while washing.

The products combined foam well so the mixture can be added to your foam lance and pressure washer or Adam’s Car Wash Foam Gun to sheet the entire vehicle with a thick lather which will hang onto the paint and break down the wax and sealant bonds.

When you go to wash your car with an APC and Car Shampoo mix try to avoid washing in the sun and avoid the mixture drying on the finish. As the mixture is no longer pH neutral severe water spots can occur.

Dish Soap – Yes we’re serious!

Have you ever been told not to use dish soap on your car? That is correct! Dish soap contains surfactants which are chemicals that help suspend the oils and residue on dishes, making them much easier to rinse clean. This happens as the result of a chemical process that breaks the surface tension that holds food particles and grease on the surface of a dish.

Okay back to cars…

Dish soap is never ideal for washing your car IF you want to keep your wax intact on your car. For stripping waxes and sealants from the paint it is great! If you decide to go the dish soap route, there is no need to add further cleaners or degreasers to the mix in the wash bucket.

The disadvantages of using dish soap is the mixture will not foam as well and doesn’t perform great in a foam cannon or foam gun to produce a thick lather. The lack of foam reduces the effectiveness of the dish soap and accelerates its drying time.

Also consider that heavy-duty dish soaps generally have a higher level of surfactants than low-cost products and most dish soaps contain fragrances and moisterisers which you want to avoid, so use caution.

Compared to the APC and Car Shampoo method you have less control over concentration and ingredients when formulating your mixture.

Panel by Panel Wipedown

This method is great when it is not needed to strip the entire car. For example someone leaned up against the door and scratched the paint with their belt. You can use Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) to strip a small section for polishing.

IPA is available through most hardware stores in small pre-diluted bottles up to 70%. You would want to dilute the mixture again by 50% with water, preferably with distilled or deionised water to keep out impurities. This will give you a pure panel by panel stripping mixture.

Before wiping the panel with IPA be sure to clean the area with Waterless Wash and then spray the diluted IPA mixture on to the panel with a soft microfibre towel.


Whenever you proceed to use a chemical on your car always try to wash out of direct sunlight. Washing in the shade or undercover is ideal or even early in the day when the sunlight isn’t too harsh. Consider that the strip wash mixture is slightly acidic it will be easier for the dried mixture to cause spotting.

If your car has severely damage or oxidised trim, avoid strip washing as it can accelerate the damage.

Ensure that you rinse the car thoroughly and flood the crevices and door jambs to prevent any pooled strip wash mixture from drying.

For maintenance washing you can use Adam’s Car Wash Shampoo alone.

*article shared with permission via

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