View Full Version : Pad Cleaning "On The Fly"

Michael Stoops
Oct 9th, 2012, 03:07 PM
Pad Cleaning "On the Fly" (https://meguiarsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?56553-Pad-Cleaning-quot-On-The-Fly-quot)

Work Clean.

That should be everyone's mantra when polishing paint, and that attitude should definitely carry through to your pads. Too often we see people continue to add more and more product to their pads when machine polishing, to the point where the pad becomes saturated with product. A few different situations are created when you neglect to clean your pad regularly, and none of them are good for the paint polishing process.

First off, just loading the pad with product over time adds mass to the pad and the tool then uses energy just to overcome that mass. This alone can reduce your correction efficiency. But it gets worse than this. A saturated pad is a heat conduit and heat retainer. On a DA buffer this especially causes problems where the pad and backing plate come together, even causing failure of the loop attachment material on the back of the pad. The excess liquid collected in a pad on a DA will collect toward the center of the pad, which only exacerbates this problem. Regular cleaning of the pad to force excess product out of it will prevent this problem from developing.

Failure to clean the face of the pad, whether you're using a rotary or DA, will cause dried product to collect on the outer edges of the pad. At the very least it becomes annoying when a pad who's outer edge is covered in dried product comes in contact with a bit of trim or a panel edge, scattering that dried product dust everywhere; at the most it scatters dried product over the area you're trying to correct, compromising your efficiency and ability. Regular cleaning of the pad face removes this build up before it becomes a problem, keeping your work area cleaner and your polishing more consistent.

This polishing pad, used on a DA buffer, has dried product built up on the edge. Just lightly tapping against this spoiler edge creates a lot of dust.

The pad might be cleaner now, but this is not the way you want to accomplish that cleaning - look at all that product dust!

Remember, too, when doing defect removal on paint you are removing some of the paint itself. That paint is being collected on the face of the pad. How much paint you remove depends, of course, on the process used. For example, you remove more paint when rotary buffing with a cutting pad and compound than you do when finish polishing with a DA, using a finishing polish and foam finishing pad. While the amount of paint removed is commensurate with the aggressiveness of the process, it's just as important to work clean in the finishing process as it is in the cutting process, and maybe more so.

Whether your pad is wool, foam or microfiber, it's designed to perform a specific task and does it a specific way. Likewise, regardless of the aggressiveness of the liquid you're using it's also designed to perform in a specific way. Over time you contaminate both of these with dried product and removed paint. Heavy defect correction may be compromised by spinning dried product against the paint. With a dirty wool pad you seriously risk scouring the paint and greatly increase the risk of holograms. While some level of hologram or rotary swirl is to be expected with a wool pad and compound, that doesn't mean you can't minimize it simply by cleaning your pad regularly. And while DA (or even rotary) finish polishing isn't removing as much paint as aggressive compounding does, keep in mind that you are now doing very fine finish polishing. That means you're striving to achieve the finest, glossiest, highest clarity finish you possibly can. And that's hard to do with spent paint on the face of the pad, or some dried or excess product getting in the way.

The DA Microfiber Correction System poses additional issues if you fail to clean the pads very regularly. Everyone loves microfiber because it's gentle on the paint and is just so darn good at hanging on to stuff. If you don't clean your microfiber cutting disc regularly, it will hang on to spent paint and dried product, causing clumping of that material. That translates into particulate that will actually grind into the paint, potentially creating pigtails on the surface that can be surprisingly difficult to remove due to their depth. Cleaning these discs with either a pad brush or compressed air not only removes this excess product and spent paint, but it fluffs up the microfiber fingers allowing them to make greater contact with the paint. Both of these conditions greatly enhance the ability of these discs to remove paint defects quickly and uniformly.

OK, so now you've got a better idea why you should clean your pads regularly, regardless type of pad, which tool you're using, or which step of the paint polishing process you're in. But just how does one go about actually cleaning all these different kinds of pads? Glad you asked! Let's look at different processes for cleaning your pad on the fly (ie, while in the middle of polishing paint) and when using different tools.

Rotary Buffers and Wool Pads:

When cleaning a wool pad on the fly during a rotary buffing process, a pad spur is the tool of choice. Start by bracing the tool against your lower leg, or by bracing the handle (if you use one) against your leg. With the tool on a moderate speed setting, bring the spur in contact with the pad on the area spinning away from you.

This pad is matted with dry product, reducing efficiency. The tool is pressed against the leg for support.

With the tool switched on at a moderate speed the spur is moved across the face of the pad but only on the side that is spinning away from you. Should you lose control of the spur at this point it will merely be flung to the floor: doing so on the other side of the pad could throw the spur into the air and directly into your face.

When finished spurring the fibers of the pad are no longer matted, and spent product/paint has been expelled. You can now continue buffing efficiently and effectively.

Compressed air can also be used to clean excess, dried product from a wool pad, as can a pad washer (see below). The pad washer is an excellent way to finish the day when using wool pads - fully clean them as outlined below before putting away until the next project. Any slight amount of product left behind can then be cleared out with a spur (as above) or with compressed air before beginning a new project later on.

Rotary Buffers and Foam Pads:

The same excess product and spent paint can collect on foam pads, quickly building up and drying on the face of the pad. A pad conditioning brush is best for cleaning foam pads on the fly, and the basic process is essentially the same as with the wool pads shown above.

With the tool braced against your leg, switch the tool on at moderate speed and move the brush across the face only on the side spinning away from you.

Excess product/paint is removed but the pad remains essentially "primed" and you can continue buffing.

Another option for the above is to use a terry cloth towel wrapped around the index finger of one hand while holding the tool with the other. Use exactly as shown above so that the tool spins the pad away from your finger rather than towards it.

A pad washer can be used both for cleaning on the fly and at the end of a project. When cleaning pads on the fly we do not recommend using anything but plain water in the washer. Follow these same steps if cleaning a wool pad on a rotary buffer.

Follow directions for fill levels on the washer, and then simply set the face of the pad against the grit guard on the top of the washer, closing the swing away lid over the pad. Switch the tool on and press it downward a few times to pump a bit of water onto the pad, spinning it against the grit guard to clear extra product/paint from the face of the pad.

Before removing the pad fully from the washer, lift it off the grit guard but still away from the underside of the lid, and keep the tool on to let centripetal force spin dry the pad before next use.

You may still have the slightest bit of dampness on the face of the pad, but it will be very clean and ready to continue buffing.

A pad washer is great as a final wash for your pads at the end of a project, whether you're using foam or wool pads. Foam pads that are machine washable can be cleaned that way, but if you prefer not to use your washer and dryer this is a great option. For wool pads it's a great way to clean up at the end of a project. Use of a pad cleaning additive is optional at this point.

DA Buffers and Foam Pads:

The spur mentioned above should not be used on a DA if only because it's a wool pad cleaning tool and wool pads are not used on the DA. Using a pad conditioning brush on a foam pad when DA polishing can be done exactly as described above, and with the same results.

Using the pad washer with a DA for cleaning pads on the fly is basically the same as doing so with a rotary buffer.http://archive.meguiarsonline.com/forums/photopost/data/2047/IMG_03201.JPG

Optionally, the dome from the center of the grit guard can be mounted on the top cover of the pad washer and the pad can then spin against it, knocking off any loose, dried product and spent paint.http://archive.meguiarsonline.com/forums/photopost/data/2047/IMG_03374.JPG

Otherwise, place the tool inside the washer as described with the rotary cleaning process and continue as described above.

It should be noted that this process will primarily remove excess product and paint from the surface of the pad, and will not remove excess product that migrates into the pad. This happens mostly when people over use product and the pad becomes saturated. For removing excess product from deeper in the pad, see the options below.

If you've gotten to the point where your foam pad is become loaded with product you need to force that product out of the pad. There are two ways to do this; with the pad on the tool, or removed from the tool.

With the pad still affixed to the tool use the following method: Select a clean terry cloth towel, fold it in quarters and place it against the face of the pad. Switch the tool on at speed setting 5 or higher and press the towel firmly against the pad. Let the tool run for several seconds, forcing product out and into the terry towel. We recommend terry cloth for this process as it's more absorbent than microfiber.

Switch the tool off and remove the towel from the face of the pad. You should see and feel the spent product in the pad, meaning mission accomplished.

It's easy to see the product that was removed when the towel is unfolded.

Alternatively, you can take the pad off the tool and place it face down on a clean, folded terry cloth towel. Now roll up the towel very tightly with the pad inside. Yes, you'll be compressing the heck out of the pad, but that's fine. You'll squeeze the product out of the pad and the terry towel will absorb it. Whether you do this on or off the tool, the excess product can only go one way - out the front of the pad. This is because of the hook & loop backer acting as a barrier, preventing the excess product from trying to escape out the other side.

DA Buffers and Microfiber Pads:

Microfiber pads pose an even greater potential for diminished results if you fail to clean them. In fact, we recommend cleaning your microfiber pads after every section pass. You may not need to clean a foam pad as often, but if you get into the habit of cleaning all pads, regardless of process, on a very regular basis you'll work more efficiently regardless of tool or pad selected.

The two best ways to clean your microfiber pad are with a pad conditioning brush or compressed air. The brush can be used with the tool on or off.

Here the brush is used with the tool on. Set the tool to speed 5 or higher and use light to moderate pressure on the brush while moving it slowly across the face of the pad. Remember, this is a DA so too much pressure while the pad is free spinning like this will cause the pad to cease rotation. Pay attention to rotation and get a feel for how much pressure you can use.

If you choose to use the pad conditioning brush with the tool off, brace the back of the backing plate with your hand to keep it from rotating while brushing across the microfiber material. Rotate the pad 90 degrees and brush again, repeating this until you have sufficiently removed dried product/spent paint and the fibers are fully fluffed up.

Using compressed air. Another pad, matted down following a section pass.

With the tool switched off, blow air across the pad, moving the nozzle back and forth from outer edge to center, directing air flow away from you and toward the ground. The free rotating spindle assembly of the DA will allow the pad to spin under the force of the air, and you will easily blow out any excess material.

Clean, fluffed and ready for the next section pass.

Alternatively, you can use the pad washer with microfiber pads on the DA, and the dome from the grit guard works great for "dry cleaning" the pad if you so desire.

With all these options, there should be no excuses for an overloaded pad, huge amounts of dust created by tapping trim pieces, and you should see a marked improvement in your efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimate outcome of the paint finish. Maximize the potential of your tools and liquids and you'll maximize the paint finish.

Oct 9th, 2012, 03:19 PM
Wow, thank you for the outstanding post, Mike!

Oct 9th, 2012, 03:21 PM
Great write up! Cleaning my pad has always been my achilles heel.

Scott's 62
Oct 9th, 2012, 06:29 PM
Great info Mike! thank you.

Oct 9th, 2012, 07:37 PM
Mike, great write up this is something that everyone should read. Cleaning the pad is just as important as your technique used when using the these machines. :goodjob1

Oct 9th, 2012, 08:09 PM
Great timing with this post!!
Saves me from explaining to my noob detail friend :)

Mar 5th, 2013, 09:55 PM
Wow!!! like i said the more i log on to this forum the more i learn....Thanks Mike!!!

Apr 3rd, 2013, 05:52 AM
Handy information. :)

Dec 17th, 2013, 04:58 AM
Thanks for that very useful info Mike. wasn't really sure how to clean it on the fly.

Jan 6th, 2014, 06:43 PM
How often do I replace my Buffing Pads...

Michael Stoops
Jan 7th, 2014, 10:45 AM
How often do I replace my Buffing Pads...
That's kind of a judgement call, really. The more aggressively you use a pad, the faster it's going to wear out. Finishing pads, usually used for light finish polishing and wax application, are usually used at lower speeds and light pressure so they tend to last quite a long time. Polishing pads, if used very aggressively (higher speed, lots of pressure) and not cleaned out regularly will wear much faster. We've got foam pads here in our training garage that have been machine washed 25 or 30 times and they're still very usable. Very stiff foam cutting pads will start to exhibit deterioration on the face of the pad, while heavy use of polishing pads will often show a collapsing of the center portion of the pad. When either happens, the pad is basically toast. It can still be used, but results will vary and you probably don't want to use them for anything other than initial cutting (if they perform well enough still) and definitely not for any sort of high end finish polishing.

There is no set number of cars buffed, or hours used, to determine life expectancy of a pad. Much like clay, it's up to the user to decide if the pad is still viable for the task at hand.

Jan 7th, 2014, 02:28 PM
Can a conditioning damage a microfiber pad?

Michael Stoops
Jan 8th, 2014, 08:32 AM
Can a conditioning damage a microfiber pad?
What do you mean by "a conditioning"? Are you talking about any of the pad or microfiber conditioning washes or treatments on the market? If so, then no, those should pose no problem for the microfiber pads. But really, all they need is to be washed and dried after every project.

Jan 8th, 2014, 09:39 AM
What do you mean by "a conditioning"? Are you talking about any of the pad or microfiber conditioning washes or treatments on the market? If so, then no, those should pose no problem for the microfiber pads. But really, all they need is to be washed and dried after every project. Sorry, I forgot the word brush after conditioning. Can the conditioning brush damage the fibers if press to hard, or pull them out since the bristle is kind of stiff?

Michael Stoops
Jan 8th, 2014, 10:06 AM
Sorry, I forgot the word brush after conditioning. Can the conditioning brush damage the fibers if press to hard, or pull them out since the bristle is kind of stiff?
Gotcha. While compressed air is really the best way to clean microfiber pads on the fly, not everyone has compressed air handy. In that case, the pad conditioning brush is a great tool for cleaning these pads on the fly. Obviously you don't want an overly stiff brush because then, yes, you can start pulling fibers out. We've seen some people using whatever stiff nylon brush they happen to have laying around, and that's not always the best idea depending on the brush type. But typical pad conditioning brushes work great for this purpose.

Daniel Kinder
Jan 8th, 2014, 07:36 PM
Great write-up Michael, I need to get one!

I hate cleaning my foam pads in the sink! Not to mention it would be nice to be able to clean during polishing like you mentioned.