How to tell if your wax is dry - The Swipe Test 

Q: Do I let Meguiar's waxes dry completely before removal, or do you take them off right after application?   
A: Let them dry fully before removal.    

Q: OK, so how do I know if my wax is dry and ready to remove?   
A: Do the swipe test!    

Q: Uh, OK, but what the heck is the swipe test?   
A: Glad you asked!

But before we answer, let's take a quick look at the waxing process itself. The two most common, and biggest, mistakes people make when waxing a car is to apply the wax too heavy, and take it off too soon. Much of that comes from using old school, heavy paste carnauba waxes. Back in the day these waxes could be a real challenge to use because if you did let them dry they could be very difficult to remove. And the thicker you applied them, the harder the removal. And, like we said, most people tend to apply wax too thick in the first place. It becomes a vicious cycle!

So you want to apply your wax in as thin a coat as possible, but also in as uniform a coat as possible. Whether you apply wax by hand or with a tool such as an orbital buffer or dual action polisher like Meguair's G110v2 makes no difference - the bottom line is you want a thin, uniform coat. No matter how thick you apply any wax, only so much of it can bond to the surface. Using too much just wastes product, lengthens the drying process, and makes removal more difficult. That's a lose-lose-lose proposition.

If you find simply waxing a car to be hard work, and your arms are dead tired when you're done, you're doing it wrong.

Applying a thin coat of wax to a well prepared surface is like spreading warm butter on a china plate. Removing that thin layer once it's dry should be almost effortless. A quick wipe with a clean, dry microfiber towel is all it takes.

So what's too thick, and what's thin enough? Look at the picture below - on the left side is a thin coat of wax, on the right is a heavy coat of the exact same wax. Too heavy. Far too heavy. Do NOT let your car look like the right side of this test panel next time you wax.

All right, now that you're putting down a properly thin coat of wax, let it dry. Yes, you can cover all the painted surfaces of a full sized car or SUV and then wait 10 to 15 minutes before doing the swipe test. If the weather is hot and dry, like Southern California in July, the wax may dry much faster than that. If it's cool and humid, like Detroit in September, it may take a bit longer to dry. Also, some waxes just dry faster than others. There are too many variables involved to give an exact time frame, so use the Swipe Test to your advantage. And here's how:

Using your index finger, and making sure it's clean and dry (that's really important!) quickly and briskly swipe it against the dried (drying?) wax to reveal the paint below. If the resulting swipe is smeared and streaky, that means the wax is not yet dry. If the resulting swipe is clear and glossy, however, then you know the wax is dry and you can begin the simple task of wiping it off. Looking at the image below you can see two swipe marks. The one on the bottom is noticeably smeared and streaked - it was done just a couple of minutes after applying the wax. The one on the top is clear and streak free - it was done about 10 minutes later. This is the look you're going for, this is the indicator that your wax is now fully dry and will wipe off easily with that clean, dry microfiber towel.

Waxing does not have to be a difficult, painful task. Apply a thin coat and use the Swipe Test to determine dryness and you'll find yourself completing the task in less time, with less effort, and getting a better result in the process. It's a win-win-win proposition.

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