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Carnauba Wax -vs- Gel Coat Sealants

interior / Exterior Shift

Q: Carnauba Wax -vs- Gel Coat Sealants!  Which is better?

A: Both!   How can that be?       

          No one debates the need to seal and protect gel coat finishes, but there is disagreement over how best to do it. Many “old timers” will only use a natural carnauba wax. There are a number of reasons for this. Combining the corrosive effects of acid rain and constant exposure to sunlight limits carnauba wax durability to six months.

          Synthetic sealants on the other hand, have better bonding characteristics than carnauba waxes and better abrasion resistance. Synthetic sealants will outlast carnauba waxes, and will typically produce a brighter shine. Sealants should last six to nine months.
So why the debate?
       In the early days, enthusiasts often applied over-the-counter automotive sealants to their gel coat. Many of these sealants contain strong petroleum solvents and/or coarse abrasives which actually accelerated gel coat oxidation. These enthusiasts were applying a “protective” sealant only to have it quickly turn a dull, chalky white. No wonder sealants got such a bad image.

Rule No. 1: Clean the surface first! Then, seal it with a Carnauba Wax or Synthetic Polish. Either will produce the long lasting shine and protection needed for your gel-coat surface.

Rule No. 2: Select a gel coat sealant that has some kind of micro-fine cleaning or polishing agent (not a coarse abrasive) to remove existing contamination in the pores. Removing the debris and then sealing the surface with a gel coat sealant will greatly retard the oxidation process and add years to the life of your gel coat.

Rule No. 3: Don’t use automotive sealants on gel coat finishes. There are exceptions, but if the manufacturer doesn’t specifically recommend their product for gel coat, don’t use it! Use only polishes and sealants that are designed for gel coat. Gel coat is porous. Seen under a microscope, your smooth gel coat surface is millions of tiny holes! These holes, or pores, fill with microscopic grime and road salts which promote gel coat oxidation. Think of oxidation as “plastic rust”. The contamination in the pores is eating away the gel coat from the inside, filling the pores with a dull chalk. As the chalk fills more and more pores, the entire gel coat surface will take on a dull, whitish finish.  Carnauba waxes and automotive sealants do not remove pre-existing micro-contamination in the pores. Worse, they seal the contamination in place where it continues to oxidize from the inside, under the protective wax.


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