One question that lingers in the mind when staring at the tub of wax purchased years ago is: “does car wax go bad?“. It might not cross most people’s minds often, but it is an interesting one.
It seems that when asking this question people might mean one of the following:
- Does car wax expire? or
- Does car wax have a best before date?
Let’s explore this in more detail.
No, not officially. This can be verified by checking the container for an expiry date. Generally, you won’t see an explicitly set date for the expiry of car wax.
Most people, once confirming that this information isn’t specified anywhere, will happily crack on with their detailing task. Especially if the wax looks OK to the naked eye (more on this later).
However, this is perhaps the cause of confusion in a weird way. Like, if there isn’t a date on the container then did they forget to add it? Or is it a common secret that only I don’t know?
These are legit concerns for those asking the question, but rest assured if there isn’t an expiry date on the container, then this means it can’t expire.
So this leads us on to the second concern.
Does car wax have a best before date?
Again no, not officially. But this is a less clear-cut issue. The term “best before” by its nature can be an ambiguous term for many products.
For wax, there is no hard and fast rule for knowing exactly how long it will be in the best condition for use. This is due to two main factors.
- Storage conditions – how was the wax stored?
- What physical condition is the wax in?
The Best Storage condition for car wax
When storing car wax, be sure to store it away from sunlight in a cool dry place. So, good places to store wax are in a dry airy cupboard or in storage space under the stairs perhaps.
Don’t leave car wax on the window ledge where the effects of sunlight will heat up the contents (even if the container is not transparent).
If the container is transparent then the damage to the car wax caused by heat will be compounded by the photodamage caused by the direct sunlight.
Do not leave it in a room or storage spaces that will heat up easily or are damp. So garages that are exposed to sunlight or uninsulated basements (where moisture can build up) could be an issue for example.
Rule of thumb when storing wax:
When storing car wax, try to keep it in the same conditions that it is designed to be used in (or as close as possible to this). Our guide explains why this important, but in a nutshell, the best conditions to apply car wax (and thus store it) are:
- In the shade
- When the car’s surface is cool
- In a dry environment
Do the above and your car wax will have every chance of lasting for years.
Physical condition of the Car wax
So even if you make every effort to store the car wax in the best environment, the actual wax still needs to be fit for use. If you store it in good condition, what else can go wrong?
Contaminants in the wax can cause it to degrade, and make it less effective or even cause damage to your paintwork.
Things you can do to keep your car wax in good physical condition:
During use, only use clean application pads.
For instance, if the pad has only been used for the current waxing session and definitely only has the used wax on it, then it’s probably fine.
But if you somehow drop the applicator on the ground, then discard it as this can introduce grit and dirt transferred from the ground to your container of wax.
This in turn can cause scratches when you use the wax again.
This can quickly reduce the effectiveness of the wax over time.
What else can affect the shelf life of car wax?
Thick carnauba-based waxes tend to be more durable in storage due to a few characteristics:
- The thick consistency means that it will not mix with unexpected foreign substances that may react badly with it
- Any contaminants, e.g. grit, can be picked out easier.
- The main ingredient is consistent – fewer additional ingredients when compared to liquid or synthetic waxes
Liquid waxes are physically more likely to separate after prolonged storage.
If the container isn’t airtight, stored in cool dry conditions, and away from direct sunlight then the chances of the wax degrading will be higher when compared to thick waxes.
You should also consider that even if tightly sealed, the solvent in liquid waxes, in particular, can and will evaporate over time, thus changing its composition significantly.
The effects of this may be visible to the naked eye, for instance, the fluid might appear more separated in distinct layers, and possibly a little lumpy in texture.
Furthermore, people frequently enquired about the following points…
Does car wax wash off?
Yes, car wax can and does wash off, but it depends on how this occurs.
For instance, rainwater will not wash off car wax. But normal car washing, after many sessions over time, can eventually remove enough wax to the point that a rewax is needed.
A thorough wash and decontamination with a clay bar will remove car wax.
Washing your car with dish soap will also strip any protective car wax from your paintwork.
There are, however, some waxes and sealants that are more stubborn/durable than others. Indeed, some sealants are designed to withstand the effects of multiple washes and even decontamination processes
Do car cleaning products expire?
The condition of car cleaning products can remain in usable condition for many years, especially if they are kept in near optimal conditions such as:
- In the original airtight container
- At the right temperature
- In dry atmospheric conditions – not in areas that are prone to moisture build up.
- The car cleaning product is not contaminated
Does old car wax go bad?
When stored in ideal environments the condition of car wax will remain in usable for many years. Such conditions include:
- In the original container and kept airtight
- In cool temperatures. Some people have been known to store carnauba-based thick waxes in the refrigerator. This seemed to work for them.
- In dry atmosphere Ensure the wax is not contaminated
- The type of wax will also affect how long it will keep for – as described earlier.