Car Brite Frequently Asked Questions

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Are Car Brite products phosphate and NPE-free?

Both Phosphates and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE) are commonly used to enhance the cleaning characteristics of certain reconditioning chemicals. But, concerns have been raised over their potentially harmful effects on rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of fresh water.

Car Brite offers a range of cleaning products that are phosphate and NPE-free (see the Product Information Sheets in the Products section for phosphate and NPE designations).

What is VOC and are Car Brite products VOC compliant?

A number of states have enacted restrictions on the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) allowable in certain automotive care products. VOCs are common chemical ingredients (primarily solvents) found in a variety of consumer products ranging from wood preservatives to underarm deodorants.

When emitted into the atmosphere during storage or use, VOCs can cause adverse health effects and are a major component of ground-level ozone. The health problems include eye, nose and throat irritation; shortness of breath; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

In 1991, California began regulating VOCs by setting emission limits by product and product category, and has expanded the number of categories monitored since then. Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia adopted California's restrictions in 2005 and, in 2007, Michigan and New Hampshire did, as well.

Similar restrictions are also being considered in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Additional states (and possibly the entire country) are expected to adopt these restrictions, as well.

The specific automotive product categories now regulated are:

  • Air fresheners
  • Automotive rubbing or polishing compounds
  • Automotive waxes, polishes, sealants & glazes
  • Automotive windshield washer fluids
  • Bug & tar removers
  • Carpet/upholstery cleaners
  • Engine degreasers
  • Fabric protectants
  • General purpose cleaners
  • General purpose degreasers
  • Glass cleaners
  • Metal polishes/cleaners
  • Rubber/vinyl protectants (dressings)
  • Spot removers
  • Undercoatings

Car Brite has introduced VOC compliant versions of popular products in these regulated categories, and will continue to do so. The Car Brite Product Information Sheets (found in the Products section) designate whether a product is VOC Compliant.

What is the best method for reconditioning a vehicle?

There are nearly as many approaches to reconditioning a vehicle as there are detailers. The key is to follow an established procedure that is safe, effective, efficient and consistent.

You should use appropriate products on each surface in a logical sequence that your detailing personnel understand – all while following the necessary safety precautions.

Car Brite has published a number of procedures (see Detailing Guides in the Learning Center section) ranging from our comprehensive Professional Automotive Reconditioning process (for reconditioning a used vehicle) to new car “make ready” to various levels of Express Detailing.

While these procedures are not the only methods for detailing a vehicle, they have long been safely and effectively used by reconditioning professionals worldwide.

Whether you use the processes outlined or another method, be sure to follow the same sequence on each vehicle. A consistent approach ensures consistent results.

Is a complex process involving multiple products really necessary?

Professional automotive reconditioning involves much more than washing dirt off a car with a bucket of soap. The objective is to safely remove contaminants from all vehicle surfaces, restore those surfaces and protect them from further damage.

The surfaces include paint, metal, rubber, plastic, vinyl, glass, fabric and leather – some of which can withstand aggressive cleaning chemicals and techniques, and some of which cannot.

The contaminants range from soil to grease to tar to tree sap to coffee to red lipstick – each requiring specific chemistries to remove them. Throw in oxidation, embedded brake dust and protein-based stains and you’ve got a real detailing challenge.

Therefore, you need a variety of reconditioning products – ranging in strength and formulation – and a logical process for safely and effectively applying them.

What is the best way to restore gloss to a dulled painted surface?

Lack of gloss on the painted surface can be caused by several factors:

  • Oxidation
  • Scratches
  • Lack of a Protective Coating

Oxidation is the dulling of the painted surface that occurs when the sun’s ultraviolet rays deplete the paint’s natural oils and resins. Scratches prevent light from reflecting uniformly, which limits gloss. In order to restore gloss, the oxidation and scratches must be removed.

Once the surface is free of oxidation and scratches and any swirl marks caused by compounding are removed, a wax or paint sealant should be applied. It will protect the paint against further oxidation, level the surface and intensify the reflection of light.

How do I safely remove scratches and oxidation from the painted surface?

To remove medium to heavy scratches and oxidation, we recommend compounding the surface with a high speed buffer, cutting pad and compound (For a complete listing of Car Brite compounds, see the Compounds section of the Products page).

If only light scratches and oxidation are present, buff the surface with a mildly abrasive glaze or polish and polishing pad.

If the scratches and oxidation warrant compounding, the compound used should be aggressive enough to correct the imperfections but appropriate for the vehicle’s paint system (conventional or basecoat/clearcoat).

To identify your vehicle’s paint system, hand-apply a medium-duty compound with an applicator pad to an inconspicuous spot on the paint. If color comes off on the pad, you’re working with a conventional system. If not, you have a basecoat/clearcoat system.

The thickness of the exterior paint layer of conventional systems is 3 - 4 mils (1 mil = 1/1000 of an inch), while the thickness of the clearcoat layer is 1 - 1.5 mils. Therefore, you can use a much more aggressive product on a conventional finish than a basecoat/clearcoat finish.

When compounding, set the buffer speed at no higher than 1800 - 2000 rpm, and use either a wool or foam cutting pad. Wool cutting pads tend to generate more heat than foam pads - increasing the amount of cut - and often leave more swirl marks.

If a paint thickness gauge is available, measure the total thickness of the area you plan to compound. Then measure the thickness periodically as you buff, ensuring that you don’t remove more than .5 mils of paint (especially from a clearcoat layer).

Select your compound accordingly, and buff the painted surface as follows:

  • Make sure the painted surface is cool before buffing
  • Apply a moderate amount of product to surface
  • Don’t allow the product to dry on surface
  • Don’t mix buffing products
  • Moisten pad before buffing (especially foam pads)
  • Buff slowly in shoulder width area, moving buffer side-to-side, length-wise with panel
  • Spur pad regularly with pad spur (never a screwdriver!)
  • Keep pad flat on surface, applying light even pressure
  • Bring buffer off painted surface before stopping
  • Wipe off residue with clean, soft cloth

This process is illustrated in greater detail in the Removing Scratches, Oxidation and Swirl Marks section of the Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

What are swirl marks, and how do I remove them?

Swirl marks are light, circular scratches often caused by buffing with a compound. As the compound cuts away the oxidized paint layer and reduces the depth of deep scratches – by abrading away their "ridges" – it can cause light scratches, especially on dark colors.

Fear not, for swirl marks can be buffed out with a high speed buffer, polishing pad and a glaze or polish (as can light scratches and oxidation not severe enough to compound). For a complete listing of Car Brite glazes and polishes, See the Glazes & Polishes section of the Products page.

Glazes and polishes are lotions containing mild abrasives and resins (usually silicone) that can be applied with a buffer or by hand. Glazes tend to be more aggressive, while polishes tend to generate more gloss.

The abrasives remove swirl marks by abrading away their "ridges" in a manner similar to compounding, but with much less paint being removed. The resins fill any indentation in the paint too deep to be abraded out, and bond to the surface.

By removing the "ridges" and filling any remaining indentations, the painted surface is leveled, which restores its gloss. The newly level surface reflects light in a uniform manner causing the eye to perceive a deep, rich shine.

In addition to providing "fill", the resins deflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays (minimizing further oxidation) and magnify the gloss created by the newly level surface.

The durability of the bond between the resin and the painted surface will vary depending on the number and type of resins used. Silicone is the most common resin, and certain chemically-bonding silicones can last up to six months. Glycerin and mineral oil are also used, but aren’t nearly as durable.

When polishing, buff at 2400 - 2800 rpm (the resins provide added lubrication which allow for higher buffer speeds), and utilize a lambswool, blended wool or foam polishing pad. Also, follow the buffing guidelines listed in Question #4.

This process is illustrated in greater detail in the Removing Scratches, Oxidation and Swirl Marks section of the Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

How often should I wax my vehicle?

Waxing frequency depends on the type of wax or paint sealant you use, the climate you live in and the soap you use to wash your vehicle.

Before discussing these variables, we should review the terms "wax" and "paint sealant". Historically, a "wax" was a final finish product which contained natural waxes such as carnauba, while a "paint sealant" was a final finish product containing synthetic polymers such as silicone, glycerin and mineral oil. Waxes tended to generate more gloss, while paint sealants tended to last longer.

Today, however, the distinction between these products is not as pronounced. Many "waxes" contain synthetic polymers, while many "paint sealants" contain natural wax. It’s best to review the product label to determine shine and durability (For a complete listing of Car Brite waxes and paint sealants, see the Waxes & Paint Sealants section of the Products page).

Like polishes, waxes and paint sealants contain resins which bond to the painted surface forming a protective layer against sunlight and the elements. The strength of the bond will vary depending on the number and type of resins present and the condition of the painted surface.

Chemically-bonding silicones can last up to six months, while physically-bonding silicones, mineral oil, glycerin and natural or synthetic waxes last one to four months. It is critical to ensure that the paint is free of dirt, tar, grease, and other surface contaminants before applying your final finish product. Neither wax nor paint sealant will adhere to a dirty surface.

Climate affects the durability of waxes and paint sealants, as well. Harsh weather conditions such as rain, wind, snow (and the accompanying road salts) will break the bond between the resin and the painted surface much more quickly than will dry, mild conditions. Constant exposure to bright sunlight will also accelerate wax and sealant deterioration.

When washing a freshly-waxed surface, be sure to use pH neutral car soap instead of a highly alkaline dish soap or household cleaner. The alkalis will strip the resins from the painted surface, lessening gloss and exposing the surface to the elements.

Car Brite’s recommended procedure for applying a final finish product can be found in the Applying Wax or Paint Sealant section of Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

How can I remove surface contaminants without buffing?

Paint overspray, bugs, tree sap and other light surface contaminants can be quickly and easily removed with Car Brite’s Brite Stik Gray (B080) or Brite Stik Purple (B081) clay bar.Paint overspray, bugs, tree sap and other light surface contaminants can be quickly and easily removed with Car Brite’s Brite Stik Gray (B080) and Brite Stik Purple (B081) Clay Bar.

What is a clay bar, and how is it used?

Car Brite’s Brite Stik Clay Bars are blends of synthetic rubbers containing mild abrasives which remove light surface contaminants such as paint overspray, bugs and tree sap from painted, glass and chrome surfaces.

Car Brite’s recommended procedure for using the clay bar is illustrated in the Surface Contaminant Removal section of the Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

What is the best way to remove industrial fallout?

Industrial fallout is tiny metallic particles which become airborne, then settle on vehicle surfaces. Primarily "rail dust" caused by friction between train wheels and track, these particles often become embedded in the paint.

In order to correct this situation, you should use a product designed to remove industrial fallout. Car Brite’s Fallout Gel (E038) and Liquid Fallout Remover (E038E) are specially formulated cleaners containing oxalic acid which dissolve these metallic particles, enabling complete removal.

Though extremely effective in removing surface contaminants, Brite Stik Gray (B080) or Brite Stik Purple (B081) should not be used on medium to heavy industrial fallout. Clay bars won’t completely remove particles embedded in the paint, plus they’ll become contaminated with fallout and could damage the paint if used further.

To remove industrial fallout, we recommend the following procedure:

  • Remove all grease, tar and wax from the area to be treated by applying Take Off (F003) or All Sol (F004), then pressure rinse.
  • Thoroughly wash the area with a Car Soap solution.
  • Rinse thoroughly and, while the surface is still wet, liberally apply Fallout Gel (E038) or Liquid Fallout Remover (E038E) with an applicator pad.
  • Allow product to dwell on surface for 3 - 5 minutes, continually misting it with water. Do not allow product to dry on surface.
  • Lightly rub surface with sponge or applicator pad to loosen particles.
  • Rinse thoroughly, re-apply Car Soap solution, and re-rinse.
  • If all particles are not completely removed, repeat this process.
  • Once all particles are removed, seal the paint with a wax or paint sealant

Caution: These products contain strong mineral acids. Always wear protective gloves, apron and goggles when using

How do I calculate the "usage cost" of concentrated products?

Since concentrated products are diluted with water, one gallon of concentrate produces multiple gallons of cleaning solution.

For example, one gallon of concentrate mixed with four gallons of water (a dilution of 1:4 - one part product, four parts water) will product five gallons of cleaning solution.

Therefore, the purchase price of one gallon of concentrated product does not represent the true cost of the cleaning solution it generates. Usage Cost is the ACTUAL cost of the solution, and is based on the number of gallons of solution produced by one gallon of concentrate.

The amount of solution generated by one gallon of concentrate is its Product Yield, and is determined by adding the numbers in the dilution rate (1:4 = 5).

Once the Product Yield is identified, Usage Cost is calculated as follows:

Product Cost Per Gallon ÷ Product Yield = Usage Cost

Therefore, if one gallon of product costs $10.00, and yields five gallons of cleaning solution, its Usage Cost is $2.00 per gallon ($10.00 ÷ 5 = $2.00)

Example 1:

  • Product Cost/Gallon: $4.00
  • Dilution Rate: 1:15
  • Product Yield: 16 (Sum of Dilution Rate)
  • Usage Cost: $.25 per gallon (A ÷ C)

Example 2:

  • Product Cost/Gallon: $22.00
  • Dilution Rate: 1:128
  • Product Yield: 129 (Sum of Dilution Rate)
  • Usage Cost: $.17 per gallon (A ÷ C)

What’s the difference between a solvent-based and water-based dressing, and should they be used differently?

Solvent-based and water-based dressings are both products formulated to shine and protect vinyl, plastic and rubber surfaces. They each contain a shine agent (silicone, mineral oil or glycerin) that is delivered to the surface via a "carrier" which evaporates once applied.

In solvent-based dressings, the "carrier" is a blend of solvents, while in water-based dressings, the "carrier" is water.

Solvent-based dressings are more durable since their solvents open the pores of the rubber, plastic or vinyl, which enables the shine agent to penetrate the surface. The shine agents in water-based products remain on the surface and, thus, rinse off more readily.

Additional care must be taken when using solvent-based dressings, however. Repeated applications to surfaces exposed to direct sunlight (like dashboards) can lead to cracking. Also, solvent-based dressings are flammable, and should not be used on engines. Finally, improperly applied solvent-based dressings can stain certain fascias.

How do I avoid fascia staining from solvent-based dressings?

Plastic fascias can be stained when a mixture of solvent and carbon black is “slung” onto them from freshly-dressed tires (late-model, light colored GM vehicles are especially susceptible). Opinions vary on the exact cause of the staining (tire mold release agents, clearcoat flex agents, etc.), and the problem exists industry-wide (all manufacturer’s solvent-based dressings can stain if applied incorrectly).

Until the exact cause and remedy for this problem are identified, proper dressing application is critical to minimizing the risk of staining. As stated on all product labeling and certain product literature, the correct way to apply solvent-based dressings to tires is as follows:

  • Spray product on applicator pad.
  • Apply product to tire with pad.
  • Allow product to thoroughly dry before moving vehicle.

As stated in the usage instructions on each product label, Car Brite assumes no liability for fascia staining resulting from the application of solvent-based dressing.

How do I remove stains from fabric seats?

We've recently added a blog post that goes into detail about cleaning fabric seats and the upholstery of a vehicle. Check it out here.

What if a stain won’t come out of the fabric?

Despite using the proper products and techniques, certain stains will not come out of certain fibers. All is not lost, however.

Car Brite’s Kolor Kote (G014) is a comprehensive line of aerosol vinyl and fabric dyes which can be used to return deeply stained fabrics to their original color.

When using Kolor Kote, proper surface preparation and product application is critical to the overall appearance of the fabric. The recommended process is as follows:

  • Thoroughly vacuum areas to be dyed.
  • Spray a light coating of dye on the surface.
  • Brush the dye in with an upholstery brush.
  • Let the dye dry for several minutes.
  • Lightly spray a second coating
  • Re-brush surface, blending color with surrounding fabric.

Bear in mind that a dye takes a 48 hours to cure fully.

How do I remove offensive odors from the interior compartment?

When confronted with stubborn interior odors, the key is to eliminate them, not to mask them. Car Brite has recently introduced Odor Eliminator (578834, 578835 & 578836), the next generation in malodor removal.

Odor Eliminator features ORDENONE®, a revolutionary deodorizing ingredient that encapsulates common odor – causing contaminants such as mercaptans, sulfides, amines and certain aldehydes on a molecular level. ORDENONE effectively neutralizes both airborne odor molecules and those embedded in interior surfaces.

Odor Eliminator is sold in an attractive, 1.5 ounce aerosol container featuring a locking trigger button that lightly “fogs” the interior, and leaves no messy residue. One container is used for each vehicle deodorized.

Are Car Brite products bio-degradable?

The Car Brite Product Information Sheets (found in the Products section) designate whether the product is bio-degradable. All bio-degradable Car Brite products are certified per EPA Test Method 405.1.

When working with a biodegradable product, it is important to remember that bio-degradability is a measurement of a substance’s ability to decompose by natural processes, not its safety.

Some bio-degradable products are corrosive and should only be used while wearing gloves, goggles and an apron. Always consult the product label or material safety data sheet for appropriate safety precautions.

Are Car Brite products body shop-safe?

In a body-shop environment, products containing silicone should not be used. When atomized silicone comes in contact with uncured paint, a chemical reaction (commonly referred to as “fish eyeing”) occurs.

The Car Brite Product Information Sheets (found in the Products section) designate whether a product is “body shop-safe” (silicone-free).