Carnauba Wax is Dead… Long Live Paint Sealants!

Is Carnauba Paste Wax a Dinosaur?


I started my annual garage cleanup last week. It’s never a fun chore, but it’s always revealing. When I got to my detailing supply cabinet I noticed something very telling. In fact, it was so blatantly obvious it made me think “…is this happening in other garages?”

What was so obvious is that all of my cans of Carnauba paste wax had migrated to the back of cabinet. Even my beloved Pinnacle Souveran and P21S Carnauba Wax were on the back row. Has Carnauba wax become a Dinosaur?

Looking Back

I grew up washing and waxing cars using a can of Turtle Wax paste wax. Back then, Carnauba paste wax was what you used on your car to protect it. When I got my first car in 2006, I continued the tradition of cleaning and protecting the paint with paste wax. At the time, synthetic waxes (sealants) were not common or they were seen as snake oil products.

I’m not sure what caused the paste wax phenomenon. If you look back at the history of two car care giants, Turtle Wax and Meguiar’s, both companies started by making liquid polishes.

The original Turtle Wax product, called Plastone, was a synthetic protective paint polish invented by Ben Hirsch, the founder of Turtle Wax® Inc. Ben changed the product name to Super Hard Shell and the business name to Turtle Wax in the 1950’s to convey the idea of a hard, protective shell.

In the 1960’s the paint polish products (what we now think of as a liquid cleaner/wax) were pushed to the side by paste wax products containing “pure Carnauba wax.” Interestingly, many (if not most) of the liquid car polishes also contained Carnauba wax, but it was rarely used in marketing the product.

As if by magic, Carnauba wax suddenly became the wonder component of the car wax industry. In reality, Carnauba wax is a minor component in most paste and liquid car waxes due to the cost of the wax in its purified form.

Paste wax marketing from the mid-1960’s through the 1980’s gave car owners the impression that Carnauba paste wax was the only way to truly protect your car. Men began this love-hate ritual dance on weekends by paste waxing their family car and the hotrod. Holding that can and swirling the applicator around became part of the feel-good nuance of Carnauba paste wax.

I Can See Clearly Now

When I first started using Carnauba paste waxes, my cars had a traditional, single-stage paint (no clearcoat or metallic). My favorite colors were “attract-a-cop red” and “you-must-be-speeding yellow.” I hand polished the paint on my bright sports cars to a mirror-like finish.

But the paint lacked depth until I added a coat or two of a quality Carnauba show car wax. These expensive Carnauba waxes are blended with oils that wet the paint and keep it looking wet until the wax evaporates or washes away.

I remember standing back admiring my work after the final coat. My Guards Red Porsche, in particular, just glowed and radiated energy. The Carnauba wax gave the paint an almost liquid look that couldn’t be matched. It’s funny, though, how your memory plays trick on you.

I recently buffed out a