How To Remove Scratches From Car Paint In 3 Quick And Easy Steps

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Scratches in your car’s nice paint job will happen. They can be caused by various things, from accidents and vandalism to parking mishaps and everyday wear and tear. While these scuff marks aren’t going to prevent your car from functioning, they’re an eyesore that can become costly at an auto shop. In this article, we’ll show you how to remove scratches from car paint in 3 quick and easy steps so you can fix the issue yourself in no time.

Before Your Start, Evaluate The Scratch

car paint scratches

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Before you do anything, you need to step back and look at the scratches on your car. The severity of the scratch could change how you approach your next steps, as deeper scratches may require more work to cover up. These home remedies are only intended for minor paint scratches, so a severe scratch will need a professional detailer. 

To figure out if your scratch is severe or small, run your fingernail across the scratch. You may notice your nail gets stuck in the scratch, which means it’s deep and will require a professional’s assistance. If, however, your nail runs across the scratch easily, you have an easy to remove the surface scratch.

Types Of Scratches

The different types of scratches are split up based on severity, with deep scratches requiring sanding, priming, and repainting to cover up. Deeper issues will require a professional for the best results. Otherwise, you could risk causing rust or other damage to your vehicle. 

Surface Scratches 

The lightest scratches possible, these tiny marks tend to happen when you miss the keyhole with your key too often or your ring contacts the car each time you get in. Minor scratches like this are easy to clean up at home with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and water. A less aggressive method like this is the best place to start with surface scratches, and there are alternative products you can use, including many household items (more on this later). 

Use this method if:

  • The scratch is very small or thin
  • You need an affordable product you already have at home

Small Scratches 

small scratches

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For minor scratches that are a bit deeper than surface scratches but don’t quite require a professional, you’ll need the help of scratch removal products. These rubbing or polishing compounds were designed to remove scratches and other blemishes in car paint but be aware that they also remove the wax on your car. Products like these are easy to find, and they commonly come in a liquid or paste. Pastes solutions are more aggressive and recommended for use on older or darker paint. 

Use this method if:

  • Your scratch is slightly more profound than a surface scratch
  • You prefer to use trusted products in the auto industry
  • You need a kit because you don’t have everything you need, like a microfiber towel

Deep Scratches  

back of the car scratch

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A deep scratch happens when something impacts your car. These are the scratches that you really notice and can’t run your fingernail over easily. They require a professional because you need to sand the car, recoat the paint primer, and repaint the area in the right color. This process is much harder for the average person to fix alone, and prices vary based on the shop and make of your vehicle

Seek professional help if:

  • You’ve already tried using toothpaste or other removal products, and nothing seems to work 
  • You can feel your nail getting caught in the scratch
  • You don’t want to risk messing up the paint job and don’t mind the price

Materials You May Need

Depending on how thick the scratch is on your car, you may need to purchase the following materials:

  • Toothpaste
  • Scratch-removal products or kits
  • Old cotton washcloth or microfiber towel
  • Car cleaners and wax
  • Touchup paint and primers

How To Choose The Right Toothpaste

toothpaste and toothbrush

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Toothpaste is a great product to use for surface scratches, as it sands down the surrounding area and fills the scratch naturally. This product also works to remove foreign paint from your car. Because everyone has this product at home already, it’s easy to use when you need and widely available. But which type of toothpaste works best?

Don't use just any toothpaste on your car; that won't work. Instead select a whitening toothpaste with a grittier, rougher texture such as whitening toothpaste. This kind of toothpaste has tiny abrasives that aren’t very different from the abrasives in over-the-counter car polish, and these abrasives will clear away the scratch mark as you rub them into the car. 

Remember, if you feel uncomfortable using toothpaste or aren’t sure which to buy still, you can always use a car detailing kit to get the job done. Toothpaste is much cheaper and works just as well as many store-bought products though, and you can even use it to clear up muggy looking headlights.

3 Quick And Easy Steps To Remove Scratches From Car Paint

For the purposes of this article, we’ll begin by using toothpaste. You can substitute an alternative product or scratch removal product and still follow the same directions. No matter how deep your scratch is or whether you use toothpaste or not, you can learn how to remove scratches from car paint in 3 quick and easy steps.

Wash And Dry the Car

wash and dry the car

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Begin by washing and drying the car thoroughly. The car needs to be clean so you can see the scratch clearly, and you don’t want to run dirt into your paint, or you run the risk of making the scratch much worse. Take your vehicle to the car wash or scrub it down yourself with the hose and car soap. Dry it off using a clean towel afterward. 

Buff Out The Surface

Once the car is clean and dry, dab a bit of toothpaste (quarter-size amount) onto a damp washcloth and rub it directly onto your scratch. The best way to buff out the scuff is to move your hand in circular motions, covering the entire surface of the affected area. While you move, you should be able to watch the mark disappear. Keep buffing until the scratch is gone. 

Alternatively, you can use a different product. Scratch-removal products are available at any auto supply store, and they typically come with the solution and a buffing pad you can use to apply it rather than ruining one of your microfiber towels. Sales representatives are helpful if you're unsure about which removal product or kit is right for your project. Some packages may even come with a mechanical buffer you can use to even out the area around a deeper scratch.  

When using a product other than toothpaste, you’ll still apply a quarter-sized amount of the product to your pad or washcloth. You may need more or less, depending on how big the scruff area is. Evenly distribute the product to the cloth by folding it in half before you begin buffing the car’s paint. Then, work the product into the area for at least a few minutes using a medium amount of pressure. 

For deeper scratches, you may also need to follow up this step by buffing out the surrounding area. Don’t allow the product to dry on the car while you work on this step though.

Rinse And Repeat

people car washing

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When you can no longer see the scratch, rinse off the area with water. Remove any excess toothpaste and spray dry off the car with a towel once more. 

If you still notice any surface scratches after the first application, you can repeat the process once or twice more. However, applying toothpaste to your car more than three times could damage the paint’s clear coat layer on top.

A Few Alternatives For Minor Scratches

Rather than using toothpaste to remove a minor scratch from your car paint, there are several other household products you can use. We’ve included a few of the most popular alternatives below. 

Shoe Polish 

Shoe polish, rather than remove the scratch, works by filling in the tiny dented area where the scratch etches into your paint job. Many people say this alternative is better than toothpaste for this reason. For this method to work, you’ll need a shoe polish in a shade darker than your car paint. It’s vital to thoroughly clean and sand the area surrounding the scratch before applying the polish and wipe the area off with soap and water afterward as well.

Nail Polish Remover

someone applying nail polish

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A popular women’s accessory product, nail polish remover has a surprising amount of alternative uses. Because it comes in various colors and types, it's essential that you select a color close to your car paint. You’ll still need to buff and sand the surrounding area and clean the car thoroughly before beginning for the best results. Then just apply the nail polish remover evenly, repeating as needed, and watch the scratch disappear.

Candle Wax

Although candle wax isn’t a typical scratch remover, it covers minor scratches well in a pinch. This method, however, isn't a long-term solution. You should only use candle wax when you're in an emergency, and nothing else is available. All you need to do is clean the car and rub the candle wax gently onto the scratch. 

Super Glue

super glue

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Because super glue is transparent, it’s easily used to even out scratches and help them blend in with the surrounding surface. Use this method to cover up a small scratch, which works particularly well in conjunction with the toothpaste method and buff the area with sandpaper as needed.

Be Aware

You should also check the directions that come with a scratch removal product or kit. Although the steps are often the same no matter what product you choose, double checking will help you protect your paint job. Your car’s manufacturer may also offer up suggested products or methods before you proceed to take care of the scratch yourself. 

Many scratch removal products are safe to use up to three times, same as the toothpaste method. If you can’t get the scratch out after repeating the process three times, you’ll need to seek the help of a professional. Otherwise, you may risk severely damaging the clear coat onto of your car's paint. If this happens, it could cost you must more in paint repair costs.  

Removing scratches at home is easy, and you can complete the steps in no time with an essential household product like toothpaste. If you're still not sure you know enough on how to remove scratches from car paint, there’s no harm in seeking professional assistance. 

However, attempting some of the DIY methods that we’ve provided could save you both time and money. With the right materials and a little bit of elbow grease, you could remove scratches from you car with ease.

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