How to Wet Sand Clear Coat and Buff to Get Rid of Orange Peel

The process of painting a car can be quite a challenge. This is, especially if you’re a beginner. Ideally, it involves sanding down the affected area, applying a primer, sanding that down, applying a base coat, and then finishing it off with a clear coat.

Not everything goes as planned. Sometimes, the texture of your clear coat may not form a smooth and flat finish. The texture can be bumpy and resemble an orange peel. This affects the aesthetic appearance of the car and reduces its shine.

Sanding and buffing is a process that helps to remove the orange peel. In this post, we’ll go through a simple step-by-step process on how you can wet sand and buff your clear coat to get rid of orange peel. This process works for custom paint jobs that have thicker layers of clear coat.

Why do you need to wet sand your clear coat?

Vehicle panels typically come out of the assembly line as bare metal. To protect the metal from corrosion and rust, a self-etching primer or an epoxy primer is sprayed on top. The primer also acts as a bonding agent that makes paint stick better on metal.

Car manufacturers then spray a base coat of paint. This is the layer that gives the car its color. To protect the paint from sun damage and give your car its well-deserving shine, a clear coat is sprayed on top of it. This is the thickest coat. Sometimes, the clear coat does not form a flat finish when it cures.

It can create a wavy texture while still in its semi-liquid state. This is what gives it the “orange peel” that reflects light off the surface of your car. To get rid of the orange peel, you need to sand down the top part of the clear coat to make it flat. Once that’s done, you’ll need to polish it to give it its shine. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wet sand and buff clear coat.

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Step-by-step: How to wet sand clear coat and buff

Tools you’ll need:

  1. Clean bucket of water
  2. Car wash soap
  3. Sponge
  4. 1” Masking Tape
  5. 1500 Grit Sand Paper
  6. Soft Sanding Block
  7. Rotary polisher + wool pad
  8. Towels
  9. Rubbing compound
  10. Spray detailer
  11. Liquid wax


Step 1: Wash the car

Grab a clean bucket of water, some car wash soap, and a sponge. Wash all the areas of your car that need to be wet sanded. Do a thorough wash to remove all the dirt and debris. Wipe off all the water using a clean microfiber towel once done. Let the car dry.

Step 2:  Tape up all the edges of your panels

How to Wet Sand Clear Coat and Buff

The next step is to tape up all the sharp edges of your car panels. This includes all the sharp body lines that you may have on your hood and the adjacent panels. This prevents you from sanding and buffing over them. Doing so can burn through the clear coat and cause damage to your newly painted panel.

Step 3: Start wet sanding your car

How to Wet Sand Clear Coat and Buff

Wrap your 1500 grit sandpaper around the soft sanding block. Pour some water over the panel using a sponge and start wet sanding one section at a time. Apply slight pressure and remember to sand evenly. Pay attention not to pass the sandpaper over the contours of your vehicle’s panel. Also, don’t let the water dry up. Keep the surface wet throughout the sanding process. You can use elbow grease to help remove any stains you find on the panel.

Use the soft sanding block to clean out the water so that you can see which parts need more sanding. The goal is to achieve a milky color. If the clear coat is still fairly soft and hasn’t cured completely, you most likely won’t need to sand for long and neither too hard. Dry the sanded area once done.

Step 4: Polish your panels

How to Wet Sand Clear Coat and Buff

Apply some rubbing compound on the sanded area. You can make the shape of an “S” on one section then spread it gently using your rotary polisher. The next step is to switch on the polisher at low RPMs and start moving it over the surface.

Polish the area in a circular motion while moving the polisher constantly to prevent overheating a single area. Increase the polisher’s speed as you continue to polish the area. If the clear coat is still soft and hasn’t cured completely, move the polisher around faster using your hand still at lower RPM.

Apply and spread the rubbing compound over a section about three times. This is how you make a clear coat shine. If you have any fine scratches on the surface caused by the wool pad, you can use swirl remover to get rid of them.

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Step 5: Clean off the polished area using spray detailer and wax it

A spray detailer helps to remove any dust, dirt, or smudges that may have formed while working on your panels. It is also used to protect the polish and extend its life. Once done, apply a coat of liquid wax or paste wax following the manufacturer’s instructions.


A clear coat has to be maintained and protected on an ongoing basis. Experts recommend doing a weekly car wash and periodically waxing the vehicle. This will help keep the surface glossy and shiny.

Knowing how to wet sand clear coat and buff it can help keep your car looking shiny and aesthetically appealing. If you’re a complete beginner, you can start off by practicing on scrap metal before doing it on your car.

Put in the hours so that you can avoid ruining the paint on your car. Or, better yet, you can always consult a professional. I hope this article helped you figure out how to remove orange peel from your clear coat. Stick around for more guides.

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Can you wet sand between clear coats?

It’s not advisable to wet sand between layers of clear coat. Doing a complete wet sanding and polishing the top layer provides better results than doing it in between the coats.

How long should clear coat dry before wet sanding?

If you’re wondering how long you should wait before wet sanding a clear coat, you should let your clear coat cure and harden for 24 hours. This, however, depends on the type of clear coat you use and the number of layers applied. You may have to wait up to 72 hours in some situations.

How many coats of clear coat does a car need?

A car needs between 2-4 clear coats. Apply the first coat lightly to prevent shrinkage and cracks. This should be followed by full and wet additional coats.

What grit to wet sand clear coat?

You can start with 400-grit sandpaper when wet-sanding your clear coat. Move to higher grit sandpaper to achieve an even finish. The results should be smooth to allow the polish to adhere well.

Can you polish clear coat without sanding?

You can polish or buff your car without sanding. However, this will not help remove the top layer that forms the orange peel. It may also not help with removing debris and dirt that may be stuck on the surface.  

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