The pad you use on your buffing machine could make or break your detailing project. Going with the wrong pad choice could determine whether or not those swirls are removed from your topcoat. When it comes to cutting and polishing, there are two options to consider: microfiber and wool pads. Which one is better for your car?
To better understand the differences, we put together this guide. We’ll introduce both pad options and then get into the pros and cons of either choice. This guide will help you understand which pad is right for your car, and which one to use for your project.
Microfiber Pad Vs Wool Pad
Professional detailers might use wool pads for their cutting action then go through with a microfiber pad afterwards to clean up the surface. The microfiber option will also give a much better shine than the wool one.
What Is a Buffing Pad?
A buffing pad is affixed to a polishing tool that allows you to quickly detail your car. These pads are specifically created to be gentle on your car while still achieving great detailing results.
If you ever wanted to speed up your waxing, polishing, or finishing project, you should grab a buffing pad and polisher.
The pad is the only surface that will come in contact with your vehicle. You’ll put whatever compound you want to use onto the pad, then the pad will quickly spin around and apply the product to your car.
For instance, you might put a waxing agent on your buffing pad then use it across your car to give your car a great sheen.
The two really important factors here are the compound you’re using and the pad itself. Within the world of buffing pads, there are two popular options that a lot of people consider: microfiber and wool pads.
The major difference between the two is the material used in the pad. A microfiber pad is used from microfiber cloth and a wool pad will use real sheep’s fleece.
All About Microfiber Pads
You’re probably familiar with microfiber at this point. This is the material used in the automotive towels that you use to clean, dry, and wipe down your car.
In this case, manufacturers will create a pad out of the same microfiber material. The pad has a Velcro back which allows you to quickly put it on a dual-action polisher and get to work.
Types of Microfiber Pads
The fibers themselves can vary in length, quality, and thickness. The longer and thicker the fibers, the more cutting power is available. That means that you’d use a long and thick option if you want to get rid of swirls and surface defects in your topcoat.
Beyond that, most microfiber pads are basically the same.
Uses for Microfiber Pads
The two major uses for a microfiber pad are to either cut or finish. Cutting is the act of removing a thin layer of topcoat, and finishing is when you want to apply a small layer of material that gives your car a great gloss.
All About Wool Pads
Instead of using a man-made fiber, wool pads use natural wools. These are soft to the touch and feature long fibers.
Typically, wool pads are only used on orbital polishers and not dual-action buffers. However, they will fit on either machine, so it’s up to you.
Types of Wool Pads
The only distinction when it comes to wool pads is whether the fibers are natural or synthetic, and the length of fibers. Just like with microfiber pads, longer wool fibers will result in more cutting and more heat generation.
Short-hair wool pads are used for polishing while long-hair options are perfect for deep cutting.
Uses for Wool Pads
The only two uses for wool pads are polishing or cutting.
Why Does Pad Selection Matter?
The selection of your pad is one of the most critical decisions. If you want to get out some minor swirls and you use the wrong pad, you won’t notice any difference on your car.
The pad that you choose will influence how much you spend, the experience you have with the pad, how long it lasts, and how easy it will be to use your polisher. When you compare wool and microfiber pads, these differences are pretty noticeable.
Pros of Wool Pads
Let’s start by talking about some of the advantages associated with wool pads. These categories will vary a little bit based on the manufacturer, but they’re almost universally true.
Best Cutting Power
The biggest benefit of using wool pads is their great cutting ability. Between the three material types of buffing pads, wool ones offer the most cutting power.
This means that using a wool pad will allow you to remove deeper scratches and swirls as compared to a microfiber pad.
Better at Removing Wax
There are certain times when you need to remove residual waxes before moving forward. For that, you should choose a wool pad.
The wool will remove any stubborn wax that’s still on your car. Doing this will let you glaze or seal your car without the wax getting in the way. This concept has to do with the added cutting power that wool offers.
Faster, Deeper, and More Efficient
When you use a wool pad, you’ll notice that the buffing job goes by faster, the machine cuts deeper, and the project is much more efficient.
If you’re working in a professional detail shop, using wool pads means that you can get projects done faster and better — resulting in more money at the end of the day.
Much Easier to Use
For most users, using a wool pad is a lot easier. It feels smoother as you run the buffer. Comparably, microfiber pads have a bit of a learning curve. The microfiber material can sometimes feel like you’re sticking to the car as you buff it, but the wool doesn’t have the same issue.
With a wool pad, you can be more casual with your approach. Microfiber pads only like it when they’re pressed directly against the surface of the car. Wool pads can be used at different angles without the pad deteriorating (although we don’t recommend doing this).
Cleaning is Highly Restorative
When you clean a wool pad, you’re left with a like-new version of the pad. The wool fibers are very strong and easy to restore.
A microfiber towel will wear out quickly. Even after cleaning one, you’ll notice a difference in the performance.
As long as you correctly clean the wool pad, it will always act like a new pad. Not only will this help you buff your car down the road, but it will help you save money. Since you can continually use the same pad without a performance drop, you don’t have to worry about buying new pads as often.
Cons of Wool Pads
As great as wool pads are, they definitely have some disadvantages. Let’s take a second to discuss some of the cons associated with this pad type.
Deep Cleaning is Difficult
We mentioned that deep cleaning a wool pad is highly restorative, but it comes with a small caveat: doing the deep cleaning is hard.
With a microfiber towel, you can just throw the towel in a bucket then give it a rinse after. With a wool pad, you need to target the product that’s at the root of the wool fibers. You’ll need to use specialized tools, take extra time, and put in some elbow grease to truly clean a wool pad.
Has a Potential for Dry Buffing
The biggest thing to look out for is dry buffing when you’re using a wool pad. If you ever notice swirl marks after polishing, it’s likely due to dry buffing with a wool pad.
Dry buffing occurs when the polishing or cutting product that you’re using has an opportunity to dry before getting applied to your car. When these products dry, they harden and lose some of their lubricity. As a result, they can scratch against your topcoat and leave scratches and swirl marks.
Dry buffing becomes a bigger issue for wool pads due to the length of the fibers. Product at the base of the wool pad can dry before emerging to the top and scratching your car.
The best way to avoid this issue is to constantly apply more product to the wool pad and check to ensure the pad is always saturated with fresh product.
More Product Is Required
Since you’ll need to constantly apply new product to avoid dry buffing, you’ll be using a lot more product. This isn’t a huge deal, since a large bottle of buffing solution should cost less than $30.
Still, it will feel like you’re wasting product as you use a wool pad. We should mention that it’s not a “waste”, since it’s being used to avoid dry buffing and to give you the best results. Still, it’s painful to see the bottle of cutting solution get empty so quickly.
Pros of Microfiber Pads
Next, let’s talk about microfiber pads. Again, we’ll start with some of the advantages associated with this pad.
A huge benefit when it comes to microfiber pads is their ability to gently finish. Wool pads are aggressive and great at cutting, but they’re pretty poor at giving your car a shiny finish.
With a less dense, short-fibered microfiber pad, you can achieve a really nice sheen on your car.
Less Time Spent Correcting
Due to the aggressive nature of wool pads, you’ll have to spend time correcting your car’s topcoat. This happens when a rough pad is used and leaves uneven marks along your car. You’ll have to grab another, less aggressive pad to finish the project and “correct” the topcoat.
With a microfiber towel, you don’t have to worry about this issue. Since the pad is less aggressive, you’ll have a more even topcoat and won’t need to search for problem areas of your car.
Cleaning Is Easy
Cleaning a microfiber pad is really simple. If you want to do a quick clean, you can have your pad cleaned in less than 5 minutes. A wool pad doesn’t have that same luxury. For a deep clean on your microfiber pad, it’s just as easy:
Fill a bucket with a mixture of water and microfiber cleaning solution (the correct mixture will be determined by the product you use. Check the bottle). Throw your microfiber towels in the bucket and leave them for 20 minutes. Take each pad out and spray it directly with the microfiber solution.
Rinse each pad and leave them overnight to dry. By the next morning, your pads will be as good as new.
Microfiber pads are only getting less expensive over time. Wool pads are considered a luxury option when it comes to buffing pads, so they’ll cost a lot more money.
In certain cases, you can get a number of microfiber pads for the same price it takes to get one wool pad.
The only thing to keep in mind is that wool pads tend to last longer, so they’ll cost less money over time. Still, the upfront costs are very different between these two pad options.
Cons of Microfiber Pads
Finally, let’s discuss the downsides of owning and using microfiber pads on your polisher.
Needs to Be Cleaned More Often
During a single cutting or polishing job, you’ll probably need to clean and swap out your microfiber pad a few times. A wool pad should last the whole project and can probably clean a few cars before you need to replace it.
This is more of an inconvenience than anything else. Pads on your buffer are very easy to swap out. Most of them have Velcro on the back, so it’s just a matter of ripping off your current pad and putting on a new one.
Most detailers will leave the used pads to the side and clean them all at once rather than cleaning them one at a time.
When you use microfiber pads, you’ll need to be patient. It could take double the time a wool pad would take. This has to do with the cutting power and efficiency of the pad.
You’re cutting less with each pass, so you’ll need to make more passes. As a result, you’ll spend more time.
Not Great on Orbital Polishers
Orbital polishers and microfiber pads don’t go well together. Comparably, orbital polishers and wool pads are essentially made for each other.
The issue is that microfiber pads make too much heat. Couple that with the heat generated by an orbital polisher and you can easily melt your car’s topcoat.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to use a dual-action polisher whenever you use a microfiber pad. This polisher helps distribute the heat and prevent melting.
More Difficult to Use
A microfiber pad has extra grip as you polish a car. Due to this, you might feel like the pad is holding on in certain parts of your car, and you’ll need to push harder to move the tool.
A lot of detailers will tell you that microfiber pads are harder to use than wool ones. However, once you get a hang of things, either option can be pretty easy.
You Should Have Both Options
Truthfully, you should consider buying both pad options. Professional detailers might use wool pads for their cutting action then go through with a microfiber pad afterwards to clean up the surface. The microfiber option will also give a much better shine than the wool one.
Just like with a lot of our comparison guides, it helps to have both options. It’s hard to achieve a complete detail without at least owning a wool and microfiber pad.
Now you know more about microfiber and wool pads. They’re both great options for your polisher, and you should consider purchasing both options.
If you want to learn more about DIY detailing, explore the rest of our blog. We’re always here to answer your detailing questions.