Best Metal Polishes: Make Your Car Shine
Lacklustre metal details got you down? Check out our picks for making them shine
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Keeping your car looking great is probably at the top of your vehicle maintenance list. To do that, you know that your car needs regular washing and waxing, and you’ve probably heard about the wonders that polish can do for your chrome details. Read on for everything you need to know about this inexpensive and easy-to-use product, and find the best metal polish for your needs.
Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer
Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish
Flitz LQ 04535 Multi-Purpose Polish
Benefits of Metal Polish
- Aesthetics. The simple and straightforward answer to why you need metal polish is that it makes your car look good. All the chrome and metal parts on your car need to be taken care of as well. Metal polish lets you do just that.
- Maintenance. As part of your car maintenance routine, you should include a regular polishing of all chrome and metal parts. That not only helps them (and your car) look their best but will also aid in keeping everything in good condition.
- Restoration. If your car’s details are already looking a little worn, fear not. Certain types of metal polish have restorative properties that will help buff out the signs of wear on metal parts, helping them to look new again.
- Resale value. This one almost goes without saying, but keeping your car in excellent condition overall will retain the maximum resale value for as long as possible. That will come in handy when you’re looking to trade up down the line.
Types of Metal Polish
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Restorative metal polishes contain higher levels of abrasives, which help to restore the surface of the metal you’re polishing. Best for worn, rusted, or pitted metal and chrome details, this type of metal polish is a real life-saver for metal parts that have lost their lustre.
A milder type of metal polish, polishing products tend to require a bit more elbow grease to use. They are, however, mild enough to use regularly without damaging the surface of whatever metal parts you’re using them on. They won’t restore metal parts, but they are ideal for keeping the lustre alive and well.
Based in Cleburne, Texas, Blue Magic has been around for more than 50 years, formulating and manufacturing high-quality automotive repair products. Its big lineup includes metal polishes, which are some of the best on the market. Top sellers include the MTL Polish Cream.
Founded in 1995, Mothers is based in beautiful southern California. The company is one of the biggest manufacturers of polishes, waxes, and cleaners for automotive uses. Among its bestselling items are the Mag & Aluminum Polish and the Billet Metal Polish.
Chemical Guys is a popular brand thanks to their heavy-duty formulations that are also eco-friendly. Based in Gardena, California, Chemical Guys has been around for over 50 years, perfecting polishing products. Its bestseller is the Heavy Metal Polish Restorer and Protectant.
Metal Polish Pricing
- Under $10: You’ll find a lot of basic metal polishes at this price point, some of which will be decent to good quality, and others which will be of poor quality. In this price range, it’s important to be on the lookout for the quality of the formulation, as bad additives can be damaging.
- $10-$20: In the mid-range, you’ll find a number of great products that will take care of your metal polishing needs. There are still some differences between brands in terms of quality of the formulation, but most will get the job done.
- Over $20: If you’re looking for the best of the best, this price range will deliver. Quality will be high, eco-friendliness is often considered, and toxic additives are left to the wayside. That being said, a couple of products can be overpriced for what they are, so watch out for hype.
The strength of the polish corresponds to the number of abrasives in the formulation. Higher grits are better for restoring rusted and pitted metal parts, whereas lower grit is ideal for upkeep. You can also switch between the two as your needs change, starting off with the higher abrasive polish to restore your metal parts and then switching to the milder formulation to keep things lustreful.
A major point to keep in mind is the formulation itself. Generally, metal polishes come in one of two forms: as a viscous, wax-like product or a runny, watery one. The thicker, paste-like formulation is easier to use, as it doesn’t drip down or runoff, helping to get the product right where you need it.
A number of products have formulations that will offer some degree of long-term protection. Metal polishes do this by building up a layer over several applications, which works to block grime and dirt, and may help prevent pitting. Through this, the metal will also maintain its shine over long periods of time.
- Eco-Friendly: All metal polishes are chemical products, but some contain more harmful ingredients than others. If eco-friendliness is an important factor for you, watch out for petroleum-based products, which both smell strangely and aren’t great for the environment.
- Multiple Application: Some metal polishes can be used on other surfaces as well. These can include porcelain, wheels, and even silver. If a multi-use product appeals to you, check the label for all recommended use cases.
- Packaging Size: If you’ve got lots of metal to polish, you’ll want a bigger bottle or tub of product. But keep in mind that some polishes tend to wear down once opened, so don’t buy too much at once.
- Quality: Metal polishes contain abrasives that could potentially damage your vehicle if they’re too coarse. Watch out for poor quality metal polishes, which could end up doing more harm than good to your vehicle.
Best Metal Polish Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Suitable for a number of different metal surfaces, this heavy-duty metal polish is our top pick thanks to its all-rounder status. It’s ideal for cleaning and restoring a number of different metal surfaces, including chrome bumpers, stainless steel exhaust tips, and aluminum trim. Light rust stains and oxidation are removed with one application, even from billet wheels. Also suitable for diamond plate metal work, this metal polish works even better when topped with a protectant to seal in the shine.
Ideal for use with polishing pads, we’ve seen this product do great work on restoring worn down metal trim and chrome finishings. If you’ve got an older car with a chrome bumper, this will do wonders for its lustre, even if pitting has already set in. The heavy-duty nature of this product does a great job of restoring a number of metal finishings on your vehicle.
The one downside is that it’s a little bit on the pricey side, which makes it a little less appealing for those sticking to a tight budget. That being said, you get a great product with the investment, and the bottle should last you a while, so keep that in mind when deciding on a metal polish.
A gentler alternative to high grit polishes, this Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish is suitable for regular use, making it ideal for all your metal polishing upkeep purposes. Regular use protects your vehicle’s aluminum finishing and other metal trim from fading, dirt, and grime. The easy-to-apply formula works best when applied with a clean cloth and a little elbow grease. As a multi-use product, this metal polish can be used on stainless steel and many other metals outside of your car.
Although the formula is on the less abrasive side, you can still use this product on mild oxidation to clean up the metal and restore lustre. It also works on headlights that have been scuffed or fogged up, although we recommend caution in this approach to avoid damage. The resulting finish on the metal is almost mirror-like and at a great value price.
If you’re looking for something to polish up your chrome, this is not the right product for you, as it isn’t made for this purpose. That being said, it works exceptionally well on a number of other metals and metal alloys, so double-check the type of finish you have.
Honorable MentionFlitz LQ 04535 Multi-Purpose PolishCheck Latest Price
If you're looking for a multi-purpose polisher, this one from Flitz might be an excellent choice. It's one of the most versatile polishers on the market. It works on metal, plastic, fiberglass, aluminum, and chrome. Along with applying it on your vehicle, you can also use it to polish and clean many other things, from kitchen tools to personal accessories.
The polisher features a powerful formula that efficiently removes tarnish, rust, water stains, and much more. Still, it doesn't contain any toxics and proves to be safe for all surfaces. The polisher is easy to apply and leaves a glossy shine. A little of the liquid goes a long way, so you'll most likely be using the Flitz polisher for quite some time.
Some customers, however, don't like that the polisher comes in a small bottle. Although it does last for a while, the polisher might run out quickly because a double application might be needed for flawless finishing results. Also, the product might require some elbow grease.
Honorable MentionBrasso Metal PolishCheck Latest Price
This multi-purpose metal polish can be used on your car, motorcycle, or around the house on any metal surface. It’s safe for use on stainless steel, chrome, pewter, aluminum, copper, and bronze. This polish will work to clean and polish your metal, leaving it with a long-lasting and brilliant shine.
If you have stainless steel appliances, this will make them shine and have a deeper luster that you can’t achieve with a simple household cleaner. You’ll love how versatile this polish is. It’s also incredibly easy to use. Shake the bottle, soak a sponge or cloth, buff your metal, then wipe with a clean cloth.
Unfortunately, it isn’t safe for painted or lacquered surfaces, so you’ll need to be very careful when polishing metal surfaces that are adjacent to these other materials. It also has quite a strong chemical odor. You may also find that it takes a lot of rubbing and buffing to get your metal clean.
Honorable MentionBlue Magic 400 Metal Polish CreamCheck Latest Price
This polishing cream has a thick paste-like texture. It’s non-abrasive, yet it removes oxidation and tarnishes on your metal surfaces. It’s safe for use on copper, brass, aluminum, stainless steel, gold, and sterling silver. You get a tub with 7 ounces of product. Be sure to stir it well before use, as the product can separate in the container.
Once you use this on your metal, it will stay brilliant and beautiful longer thanks to a protective silicone coating that’s left on your metal. You can also use this cream with your powered polisher or buffer, which makes the polishing process faster and easier.
Unfortunately, this cream has some strong and toxic fumes, as it contains ammonia. This can make using this polish quite unpleasant. You also don’t want to get it on your skin. The directions are also slightly off in how to use the product. The directions claim to apply, let dry, and buff off. However, it’s more effective to apply and immediately buff and rub.
Honorable MentionSimichrome All Metal Polish TubeCheck Latest Price
This small tube of 1.76 ounces of chrome polish will remove the rust from your chrome. It will also polish aluminum and silver. This non-abrasive formula is safe for use on gold, aluminum, silver, magnesium, chrome, pewter, copper, and stainless steel. Oxidation and tarnish are removed to leave you with a brilliant, mirror finish. You can use this polishing paste on your vehicle, motorcycle, household items, and antiques.
You’ll find that this polish works fast. The manufacturer claims you’ll start seeing results in as little as 30 seconds. Once your metal is polished, Simichrome will leave a protective coating to help prevent future tarnishing.
Unfortunately, you need to use this product in an extremely well-ventilated room, as the fumes are quite toxic. You also shouldn’t let it touch your skin. Also, this polish only works on bare metal, so if yours has a coating on it, this polish won’t do much to clean it up.
Honorable MentionMothers California Gold Metal PolishCheck Latest Price
This metal polish is specifically designed for the metal in your car. It will gently clean, restore, and protect your bare metal surfaces. After use, you should have a high polished shine. You can use it on uncoated nickel, brass, silver, copper, billet, and aluminum. This polish can be applied by hand or used with the Mothers Powerball line.
This metal polish works when others on this list don’t make a dent. It’s also nice that you can use it with power polishing tools. This gives you more polishing power for a more effective clean. If you do decide to use it by hand, it will take less elbow grease than other polishes on this list.
Unfortunately, it only works on uncoated metals. This can limit what you can effectively use it. You may also find that the polish has some grit that can scratch some metal surfaces.
Honorable MentionTurtle Wax Premium Grade Chrome & Metal PolishCheck Latest Price
This metal polish will safely remove the oxidation and micro scratches that are in your soft metals. It works on chrome and aluminum to give you brilliant mirror-like shine and protection. A protective layer is left on your metal to prevent further oxidation or tarnishing.
What makes this polish stand out is the precision engineered polishing agents. This polish is effective no matter the amount of pressure or buffing you do. This means you don’t have to work as hard to get the same results as other polishes. The squeeze bottle is a nice container that makes it easy to dispense just the right amount of product.
Unfortunately, this metal polish is really only meant for metals you find on your vehicle. So while you may find other uses, it isn’t widely usable on metals throughout your home. You may find that no amount of polish or work will get you the results you want with this polish.
This concentrated metal polish is designed for hand polishing aluminum, brass, chrome, and stainless steel. When used on metal, it will remove oxidation and discoloration. It then leaves a long-lasting protective sealant to protect your metal from future oxidation.
One really nice standout feature of this polish is that it’s vanilla-scented. This makes it more pleasant to use than many of the other polishes on this list. You can also use this polish on your discolored headlights to make them clear again. You’ll just need to use a polymer paint protectant to seal your headlights after using this polish.
Unfortunately, you’ll find that this polish leaves a hazy film on your billet aluminum, which can make it look dull, and no amount of buffing will fix it. This polish also isn’t very effective at removing stains in your metal. Some metals may not benefit from the protective coating left behind, which means they immediately begin to tarnish again.
Honorable MentionMeguiar's Hot Rims Metal PolishCheck Latest Price
Meguiar’s is one of the most trusted names in car care products, so their metal polish is surely something worth checking out for use on your vehicle. This metal polish is specifically formulated for use on automotive metal. It has micro abrasives that will cut through the oxidation and grime while being gentle enough to not scratch the metal’s surface. What you end up with is a high polished shine on aluminum or chrome.
This polish is easy to use with a squeeze bottle. All you need to do is dispense some product, work it into the metal surface, and then wipe clean.
Unfortunately, there are no directions on how to get the product out of the clear tip, which can make it challenging to get it working. This polish also acts differently than others, which can make it difficult to get used to. It will congeal in cold water, which makes rinsing your wheels after polishing an almost impossible task. From start to finish, this product takes longer than other polishes on this list.
- Make sure you wash your car properly before polishing any metal details. This will ensure a superb finished lustre, as well as protection from damage, as dirt and grime can cause harm to the finish.
- Paste-like metal polish formulations are easiest to use since you can easily control the movement of the product.
- Apply metal polishing in small circular strokes for an even finish, and always use a clean cloth or applicator to avoid damage.
- For polishing first-timers, remember that a little product goes a long way. Also, keep in mind that the final results depend a lot on both your elbow grease and the product itself, so keep at it.
- Rusting, pitting, and other damage can be restored using a heavy duty polishing solution. Apply it with a power tool for best results, and seal it up with a protecting polish when you’re done.
Q: What’s the best way to polish chrome details?
A: The first step in any polishing routine should always be a thorough wash and dry. This will remove any built-up dirt and grime, making space for the metal polish to do its work. Next up, apply your choice of metal polish to a microfiber cloth or sponge. With a little elbow grease, work in the product until the level of lustre you desire is achieved. That’s it!
Q: Can I use metal polish to restore the shine of a chrome exhaust pipe?
A: The short answer is yes! Since a chrome exhaust is a metal detail just like any other, you can use the same steps we detailed above to restore the pipe’s lustre. Keep in mind that exhaust pipes do get hot, so make sure that it’s cool to the touch before beginning the wash, dry, and polish routine to avoid injury and unflattering results.
Q: How often can I polish my metal details?
A: We recommend about twice a year, but you can do it a little more frequently, provided you’re using a high-quality, mild metal polish. Anything with a high grit can damage the finish with repeated use.
Q: Can I use a polishing tool to shine up chrome and aluminum details?
A: You can use any application method you desire to polish up chrome and aluminum details, although power tools are best used in extreme cases to restore the finish using heavy-duty polishes. If you’re wanting to do some upkeep polishing, we recommend skipping the power tools or being extra gentle while using them to avoid over-polishing.
Our top pick is the Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish Restorer. It does an excellent job at restoring rusted and worn metal components without too much of a hassle.
If you’re looking for our most wallet-friendly option, check out the Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish. It does the trick at half the price.