Car Detailing Myths – Cleaning a Car With Toothpaste

Car detailing experts are constantly running into myths that keep them in awe. One of those myths is using toothpaste as a polishing compound. 

Even though toothpaste has some abrasive qualities, it can’t replace a dedicated product such as polishing paste. Using toothpaste to clean or polish your car can damage the clear coat or even the paint under it. Toothpaste should never be used to clean or buff a car. 

This article explains all of the potential harm that can come with using toothpaste to buff or detail your car. In addition, I’ll also list some of the best scratch-removing methods. Enjoy finding out more on how to keep your vehicle scratch-free and shiny! 

Does Toothpaste Really Remove Scratches From Car Paint?

Toothpaste is one of the things that every house has, or at least should have. Toothpaste is great for many things, most evidently providing us with fresh breath and ensuring oral health. But, can this common household product be used for more than our teeth? 

There are dozens of articles circling around the Internet claiming that toothpaste is an effective way to remove scratches from your car’s paint. However, all of those articles are spreading potentially harmful information: 

Toothpaste has a certain grit and can remove scratches in theory. It’s one of the main reasons DIY car detailing enthusiasts try to justify its use. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be used to remove scratches from cars. It’s better to use a proper polishing paste to remove scratches from your car. 

You can find some of the typical toothpaste contents in the table below: 

Toothpaste ComponentsPercentage
Humectant20% to 70%
Abrasives (calcium carbonate, aluminum hydroxide, silica, etc.)10% to 40%
Water5% to 30%

Unfortunately, removing scratches from car paint has nothing to do with smelling minty fresh.

While toothpaste has some abrasive qualities, this product is simply not designed to remove car paint scratches. Toothpaste’s abrasiveness allows this household product to clean our teeth without damaging them. Tooth enamel is much softer than car paint, and it receives no scratches with regular brushing. 

Our cars’ paint, on the other hand, is a harder material and requires a much higher level of abrasiveness to be affected. For comparison, aggressive polishing compounds that can remove most car scratches come in grits that range from 1,000 to 5,000

If we ever used something of this grit for cleaning our teeth, we would all walk around toothless. Toothpaste’s abrasive qualities are so minor that the product can’t help with any scratches on your car’s paint. 

In addition to not being helpful with scratches, toothpaste can actually damage your car’s paint. 

Does Toothpaste Harm Car Paint?

We’ve established that toothpaste isn’t effective in removing scratches from our cars. However, this basic hygiene product is not only ineffective as a car cleaner, but it’s also potentially harmful to the vehicle: 

Toothpaste isn’t the right product for cleaning or polishing a car because it can dull the car’s clear coat and excess amounts can damage the paint. Moreover, applying toothpaste using a buffer or other application methods can damage your car’s paint. 

Despite not being nearly as abrasive as polishing paste, toothpaste can still damage your car’s clear coat. Instead of removing scratches and making your car shine like new, applying toothpaste using a buffer or any other method can have the opposite effect. 

Here’s what you can expect if you decide to rub toothpaste onto your car: 

Not only will this process not remove the pesky surface scratches you want to get rid of, but it can also dull your car’s clear coat. Avoid using toothpaste if you want to keep your car’s clear coat shiny. 

While toothpaste’s grit can’t mechanically harm the paint in a major way, it can permanently affect the main coat’s shine. 

There’s no chemical reaction between your car’s paint and the toothpaste that can cause immediate damage. Still, toothpaste can cause damage over time, especially if you don’t wipe off the excess immediately. This damage can even be more serious if the car is left in the sun. 

Leaving your car in the sun with toothpaste residue is almost guaranteed to cause fading. When left for prolonged periods in the sun, toothpaste has similar effects on the car’s paint as bird feces

That’s why all of those who decide to go against recommendations and try toothpaste as a scratch remover should make sure that there’s no toothpaste left on their car’s paint. A thorough wash is a must after all toothpaste experiments. 

What To Use To Remove Scratches

Although it’s best to visit a body shop for deeper scratches and serious paint damage, we can easily remove some paint and clear coat anomalies using common DIY methods and some elbow grease. 

If you’re dealing with superficial scratches, the best approach is to use a polishing machine with the correct pad and paste. If, for some reason, you want to take the DIY route (not recommended), here are a few options: 

  • Use nail polish for a quick cover-up. 
  • Remove surface scratches using a scratch repair pen. 
  • Remove deeper scratches using a full scratch repair kit. 
  • Use touch-up paint for deeper scratches. 

Let’s take a more detailed look into each of these scratch-removal and repair methods: 

Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for Light Car Scratches

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is one of the items that every auto detailer should have on hand. You may think it’s just for scrubbing stubborn dirt off surfaces but it can do more than that. 

In addition to being an excellent way to clean your car’s grimy interior, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers can also be used to remove exterior scratches on your car. Here’s how the process goes: 

  1. Clean the area you’re about to work on. Any car shampoo can work for this, but it would be best if you spray the area with some diluted degreaser. 
  2. While the area’s still wet, rub it with the Magic Eraser. 

The key to this method is maintaining a light touch to avoid creating deep scratches. Remember, this method only works on light-clear coat scratches.

There are more things you can do with a magic eraser, so check out my article about magic eraser do’s and don’ts.

Use Nail Polish for a Quick Cover-Up

Before explaining this method, it should be clear that it’s only meant for covering up scratches. This method won’t remove the scratch, but it will temporarily protect the car from rust. 

If you drive an older car that you don’t want to spend a lot of money on, the nail polish scratch repair method might be the one for you. Plus, you should use clear nail polish to cover the area. Otherwise, it may create an uneven look on your car that has the exact opposite of what you expect. That’s because finding a nail polish product that perfectly matches the texture and color of your car paint may be difficult. 

All you need to do is take some clear nail polish and apply it over the scratch. Just like with any other method, the area should be clean before starting the work. 

Remove Surface Scratches Using a Scratch Repair Pen

Scratch repair pens are another great way to fix up lighter scratches. The pen contains a sanding compound in its tip and a lacquer dose that’s activated according to the instructions. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do to remove scratches using a scratch repair pen: 

  1. Go over the (previously cleansed) scratches on your car with the tip of the pen. 
  2. Activate the scratch pen by either shaking it or twisting the top part (depending on the manufacturer). 
  3. Go over the area once again. 

Remove Scratches Using a Full Scratch Repair Kit

For deeper scratches, full repair kits are available from reputable sellers. These kits are used similarly to the scratch repair pen, and they commonly include elements such as: 

  • Various grits of sanding paper 
  • A spray lubricant 
  • A paint clarifying compound 
  • A clear coat finish pen 

Here’s what the typical application process looks like: 

  1. Clean the scratched area. 
  2. Use the clear coat pen to fill in the scratch. 
  3. Starting from the roughest grit sanding paper, sand the filled area. The part you’re sending will need to remain lubricated at all times. This is where the spray lubricant comes in. 
  4. Apply the paint clarifying compound and rub it in. 
  5. Once the process is completed, I recommend buffing the area. 

Use Touch-Up Paint for Deeper Scratches

Whether it’s in spray paint form or in the form of a paint pen, touch-up paint is one of the best ways to protect your car from rust: 

For a quick job, all you’ll need to do is clean the scratched part of your car and apply the touch-up paint to it. 

In case you’re after a smoother final product, you can purchase a scratch repair kit and use it in addition to the touch-up paint. 

Key Takeaways

  • Toothpaste isn’t a suitable replacement for dedicated car polishing products. 
  • Toothpaste isn’t abrasive enough to remove scratches from your car. 
  • Toothpaste can be harmful to your car’s paint.


Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge