Does Your Car Have Small Scratches in Its Clearcoat Finish? Use Toothpaste to Remove Them!

If you don't have buffing or polishing compound and want to take a shot at lessening the appearance of a surface scratch, give toothpaste a try

Does Your Car's Paint Have Small Scratches? Use Toothpaste to Remove Them!
Image: Pixabay
May 2, 2019

Who knew that toothpaste could be so versatile? You use toothpaste to clean and polish your teeth. But have you ever considered using toothpaste to polish out those small scratches in your car's clearcoat finish? We're guessing that you haven't. So, the next time your car gets a small scratch, consider reaching for a damp cloth and your favorite tube of toothpaste before more expensive solutions.

Scratches, scuffs and abrasions are Often Just in the Clearcoat

Minor scratches, scuffs and abrasions typically don't penetrate the car's clearcoat, which is a very thin layer of clear protective enamel that's applied on top of the car's paint. It adds an extra layer of shine to the car, which makes a brand new car look that much more appealing.

The clearcoat also takes the environmental beating, leaving the paint underneath virtually unweathered. It takes abuse from things like ultraviolet light, ozone, exhaust, dirt, rain, road salt, bugs, bird droppings, etc. Each of these things causes microscopic (or more) damage to the clearcoat, which is why the car appears hazy and less shiny as the car ages. But the paint underneath is usually still flawless and a good buffing can bring back the car's shine.

Toothpaste is an Alternative to Buffing The Whole Car

Let's face it. Most of the time we don't want to drop the money on having our cars professionally polished no matter how nice the car will look afterwards. And with the wide variety of products out there, most of us also don't want to run out to the store to find the right one that can take care of our scratches.

That's where a simple tube of toothpaste comes in. Everyone has a tube somewhere, so there's no running to the store and searching through isles of different products from fillers to rubbing compound to polishing compound.

We recommend whitening toothpaste. It's slightly more abrasive than regular toothpaste, but any toothpaste will do. This abrasiveness is very similar to the abrasives found in your typical container of car polish. The abrasive action can remove microscopic layers of film and clearcoat, polishing what you once thought to be a permanent scratch to a brilliant shine! And depending upon which toothpaste you use, will leave the car with a minty fresh feeling!

Toothpaste Won't Fix Everything

The deeper the scratch, the harder is is to remove. If your scratch penetrates through the clearcoat, toothpaste might help to lessen the appearance of the scratch by polishing the clearcoat around it. Depending upon the clearcoat, it might 'melt' slightly to fill the scratch.

Toothpaste will not fix chipped or peeling clearcoat or paint. It should be obvious, but no matter how hard you try it won't fix dings, dents, or busted bumpers.

Start With a Hidden Area First

We recommend testing this technique in an inconspicuous area of the car before you start throwing toothpaste onto an orbital buffer and come to us seeking a new paint job.

Step 1: Washing the Car

Before getting to work, clean your car well. If you're just working on a small area, you can clean just that area. Don't skip this step, even if the car was recently cleaned. The instant you start rubbing you might start swirling tiny pieces of dirt causing more damage and scratches. Besides, once the scratch is gone you'll want the car to look nice!

Step 2: Choose Your Cloth

You'll want to use a smooth cloth, like a terry or microfiber cloth. If you don't have either, you can use a soft washcloth. The smoother the cloth, the smoother the finish will be. Don't pick up your old shop rag or you might rub embedded dirt into your clearcoat.

Step 3: Apply the Toothpaste

Dampen your cloth with a little water and then dab a small amount of toothpaste onto it. Begin gently rubbing the toothpaste into the abrasion in a small circular fashion. Depending upon the depth of the scratch, you may see the whole thing or parts of it disappear in a few seconds.

Step 4: Getting to the Deeper Scratches

Light pressure may not been enough to really get at some of the scratches, so you might have to use more pressure. Be careful about the pressure you use as too much pressure can backfire. Gradually increase the pressure until the scratch begins to fade. Keep the cloth damp and reapply toothpaste as needed.

Step 5: STOP

Once the scratch is gone or you've done all you can do to lessen it, STOP! Paint is very thin, but clearcoat is only a fraction of the thickness of paint. The longer you rub, the more clearcoat you'll remove. Once you completely remove clearcoat, the only way to fix it is to have it redone.

Filling a Deeper Scratch

If you have a deeper scratch that toothpaste alone won't fix, you can fill the scratch with touch-up paint and then use toothpaste to polish it.

If applying the touch-up paint works to your satisfaction, you can stop there. Or you can apply the touch-up paint to a cloth and gently rub it in to the scratch. Once the paint dries, you can use the toothpaste to polish away the excess paint from the clearcoat surface. You should then be left with a scratch that has been leveled out and isn't as noticeable.