Buffing and Polishing

Although polishing and buffing both work to achieve a smooth and even finish on a surface, the two are different from each other for a few reasons. We will be going over the differences to figure out which one will be most useful for you. 

There are a couple of buffing products for you to choose from: buffing wheels and buffing compounds. Buffing essentially will give a shine and evenness to a surface you are working on. You can use the process of buffing on materials such as glass, woods, aluminum, copper, brass, etc. A fast way to buff something is by using a buffing wheel; however, there are several different kinds of buffing wheels that we need to go over before you purchase one. There are airway, spiral sewn, loose sewn, and sisal buffs. 

To buff material such as plastic, the recommended buff would be an orange or white airway buff or a loose sewn buff. Those buffs are ideal because the other kinds of buffs would destroy the plastic. Pink compound bars are best for projects that are plastic. Buffing material like stainless steel is a two step process. You will first want to start with a red airway buff. Pairing our red airway buff with the Black Magic compound bar is best. The second step is to use the pink buffing wheel along with the Yellow Deluxe compound bar. If you are looking for maximum shine, an extra step would be to use the white buffing wheel with the Blue Rouge metal polishing compound. Polishing Aluminum metal will consist of using the orange airway buffing wheel with the Brown Tripoli metal polishing compound bar, then switching to a yellow airway buffing wheel with the Green Rouge compound bar.

Compound Bar Chart - Most to Least Aggressive

  • Black Magic Bar - will take out the 320 - 400 grit scratches that were left from your sandpaper. Best for stainless steel.
  • Tripoli Bar - Best at removing visible scratches during metal restoration. Best for aluminum. 
  • Yellow Deluxe and Green Rouge bar - Both great for a softer luster finish. Mostly used for stainless steel. 
  • Pink Bar - Mostly used for polishing woods and plastics.
  • Blue Rouge and White Rouge bar - Both of these are great for a high luster finish. 
  • Purple bar - Great for a mirror like finish.  
  • Red Rouge bar - Great for buffing soft and fine metals. Brings out the maximum luster. 

Buffing Wheel Chart

  • Red buffing wheel - First step used to polish stainless steel. Pair with Black Magic compound bar. Run with an RPM of 3000 - 3500.
  • Orange buffing wheel - First step used to polish aluminum metal. Pair with the Brown Tripoli compound bar and run at an RPM of 3000 - 3500. 
  • Pink buffing wheel - Second step for polishing stainless steel. Pair with the Yellow Deluxe compound for a clean shine. Run at an RPM of 2800 - 3200. 
  • Yellow buffing wheel - Second step for polishing aluminum metal. Pair with the Green Rouge compound bar for a clean shine. Run at an RPM of 2800 - 3200. 
  • UBM airway and Domet Flannel wheels - Used for a show shine mirror like finish. Pair with a Polishing Compound. Run at an RPM of no more than 2200. 

To use a compound bar, hold it up to the buffing wheel as it is moving. The heat and friction will transfer the compound bar onto the buffing wheel. If you happen to put too much product from the compound bar onto the buffing wheel, a buffing wheel rake can help remove some of the excess product. 

Tip: It is important to purchase the correct buffing wheel. Make sure you get the right size, they come in 8", 10", 14", 16", 18", and 20". They also come with either no center plate or with a center plate!


Cut Buffing vs Color Buffing

Cut buffing uses a more coarse material and is the first step to buffing a surface. You need to use more pressure for cut buffing compared to color buffing for best end results. The compound bars that are used for cut buffing are the Black bar and the Brown Tripoli Bar.

Color buffing uses a fine buffing process that removes small scratches that remain from cut buffing. The compound bars that are used for this step are White Rouge, Blue Rouge, and Green Rouge.


Polishing is a process used to even out surfaces caused from previous sanding or just over a period of time. Polishing is essentially a more intense or coarser version of buffing. Common surfaces or materials that are polished are: metal, glass, plastic, marble, stone, etc. When polishing, it is important to remember that it creates a lot of heat. Some people use flap discs due to the fact that these discs allow for more air flow. Unlike buffing where you use a buffing compound, for polishing you use a polishing solution

The Difference Between Buffing and Polishing 

If you are still unsure what the difference between polishing and buffing is, the following will help clear it up. 

Polishing is harsher than buffing because it has more abrasives. It is better at diminishing deep scratches and lines. Buffing is a two step process – cut buffing and color buffing. Buffing also smoothens lines from the polishing step. 

Although people tend to think polishing will give a better shine than buffing, it is actually the buffing process that will give you more of a mirror-like finish. If the surface you are working on is not in bad shape, you can usually skip polishing and go straight to buffing.

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