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Best Car Scratch Removers for 2022

Scratches and swirls are a real pain on a car's paintwork, but these products can help eliminate them.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
7 min read
$13 at Amazon
Meguiar's Ultimate Compound
Meguiar's Ultimate Compound
Best car scratch remover overall
$11 at Amazon
Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover
Mothers California Gold Scratch Remover
Best car scratch remover for the money
$20 at Amazon
Chemical Guys VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover
Chemical Guys VSS Scratch and Swirl Remover
Best car scratch remover for ultrafine scratches
$20 at Amazon
Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover
Carfidant Scratch and Swirl Remover
Best car scratch remover for small scratches
$30 at Amazon
3D One Professional Cutting Polishing Finishing Compound
3D One Professional Cutting, Polishing and Finishing Compound
Best scratch remover for deeper scratches
$29 at Amazon
Adam's Car Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System
Adam's Car Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System
Best complete kit for car scratches

Scratch removers can make your car look new again. Finding a new scratch in the paint job of your vehicle, whether it's from a traffic scrape or an abandoned grocery cart, can feel like the most frustrating thing in the world. Still, the more you take your car out of the garage and onto the road, the more likely it is that your car will get dinged, scratched or nicked. Considering how expensive our vehicles are, it's hard to see them looking rough and beat up. These imperfections don't have to be permanent, though. Scratch removers are designed to help, and the best car scratch remover options can help erase your car's bad day and improve the appearance of your car.

We take the vehicles that pass through the CNET garage a lot of places and superficial scratches and swirls are inevitable. That means we're exactly the right people to test out different scratch removers -- we want to keep those cars looking top-notch. As such, we've spent a considerable amount of time sampling various car paint scratch removers, rubbing compounds and polishes to see which products remove a shallow scratch and restore your paint job with just a microfiber cloth and some elbow grease, and which ones don't live up to the hype. Below you'll find our top picks for the best car scratch remover brands so you can have confidence when combating paint defects. Read on and see which one is right for you and for some pro tips.

A quick caveat, though: If you have a deep scratch, these might not do the trick. For deeper scratch issues, a car paint expert is probably in order.

Read more: The 10 Best Car Waxes for 2022

Meguiar's

Overall, Meguiar's Ultimate Compound is a friend to anyone trying to remove a scratch or other surface imperfection from their car paint. It's affordable compared to similar rubbing compound products, and frankly, does exactly what it's meant to do: remove scratches and swirls from a clear coat. It also breathes new life into tired or cloudy-looking paint. Better yet, you don't need a dual-action polisher to apply Ultimate Compound as it's totally safe to use by hand. But, if you really want excellent results, it's best to invest in some sort of polisher. Plus, working a whole car by hand with a microfiber towel is quite the job. Trust us, we know.

Ultimate Compound works on clear-coated cars and isn't incredibly harsh, so you don't need to fret about creating new swirls with this compound. Do know you'll need to follow this product with a polishing compound to restore shine to car paint, however. After that, your car will look like a million bucks. 

Carfidant

If scratches you wouldn't consider ultrafine bog your paintwork down, Carfidant can help save the day. We're not talking giant scratches, but if you have some pesky surface scratch imperfections worse than swirls or a medium scratch, Carfidant's Scratch and Swirl Remover does a superb job at more difficult jobs.

The neat thing about this car scratch removal product is Carfidant says it's also a paint restorer, though it doesn't cut like a compound does. In our experience, paint did shine with some more depth after use, which is really a bonus to a scratch removal product. We also love that it's super easy to work with by hand with a microfiber cloth, or with a basic orbital polisher. It even comes with its own hand buffer.

Comparison of best car scratch removers

Best scratch removerBrandNamePrice
Overall Meguiar'sUltimate Compound$13
For the money MothersCalifornia Gold Scratch Remover$8
Ultrafine scratches Chemical GuysVSS Scratch and Swirl Remover$20
Small scratches CarfidantScratch and Swirl Remover$20
Deep scratches 3DOne Professional Cutting, Polishing and Finishing Compound$28
Complete kit Adam'sCar Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System$27

Things to know about scratch removers

  • Scratch repair is tough: That's the truth. It's not quick work. It's incredibly common for people to buy a car scratch remover and believe it will work miracles right away. The fact is, if you can stick your finger nail in a clear coat scratch, you're probably beyond compound and polish. Instead, a professional will have far better luck with the more advanced tools at their disposal. 
  • Take your time: These car scratch remover products do work. But, you need to follow the instructions and have the right tools to help you succeed. If a product needs time to cure, don't wipe it off immediately. If one requires a dual-action polisher, don't expect the best results with hand application. If you do things right, the reward is an incredible finish on a car's paint. 
  • Scratch removers aren't just for paint: Check the specific product, but more often than not, you can use scratch removers on headlights, taillights and even auto glass to fix pesky problems.
  • Skip the toothpaste: It's a fun idea, but please use a professional scratch removal product to repair scratches. Toothpaste is for your mouth, first and foremost -- not automotive paint and clear coat. If you're seriously concerned about heavy scratches that won't come out with our picks, it's time to talk to a professional. 
  • Use compounds sparingly: It would take a lot of applications, or some aggressive buffing, but you can wear down a car's clear coat with too much rubbing compound. In fact, remember these two things: A little product goes a long way on an applicator pad, and if you can fit your fingernail in a scratch, it's likely too deep to safely fix it. 
Adam's Car Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System
Enlarge Image
Adam's Car Scratch & Swirl Remover Hand Correction System

Yes, you can do this. We believe in you.

Adam's

Happy buffing

With patience, the right scratch removal product, elbow grease and more patience, you can take scratches and swirls out of your car's paintwork. It may take some work, but we promise the end result is absolutely worth the time and effort put into it. Follow these products with one of our top wax picks for added protection and the whole neighborhood will wonder who detailed your ride.

More to keep your car clean as a whistle