Water spots or etching would have to be the most annoying paint defect, second in line from swirl marks and scratches.

Water spots is the suspended material that remains on your paint after the water has evaporates, the most common cause is tap water and rain water. The water from your hose is full of minerals and the mineral content will vary depending on your location, age of the plumbing and the water source. Rain water contains airborne pollution as well as dust or dirt that is collected while falling from the sky. To add further insult to injury, water falling from nearby trees can contain sap which adheres to the paint as well. Road water that is washed up while driving is the most contaminated.

Water etching is the worst case of water spotting and in some cases needing very aggressive means of correction, potentially wet sanding. Etching is a circumstance where the minerals have physically ‘eaten’ their way into the clear coat. This uneven deterioration of the clear coat results in areas that are at lower levels than the surrounding surface.


Removing water spots, whether by hand or machine, you need to test their severity. Now you can find many articles on the internet that categorise types of water spots, however, we have an alternative method. Try the least aggressive method possible first and build from there, as you can have a variety of water spot severity on just one panel alone.


  1. Wash the vehicle – preferably with a strip wash
  2. Clay the vehicle
  3. Work out of direct sunlight
  4. Start with least aggressive method first
  5. Use test spots

Strip washing the vehicle aims to clean the paint surface and remove any superficial minerals, ensure that you dry the vehicle well. For lighter spots, a simple wash or wipe down with a quality detail spray and a microfibre towel can be enough to fix the problem. White vinegar can be used for spots that are a little more stubborn and more mineral based. Use a soft microfibre towel and a little amount of vinegar to wipe a test section. Monitor your progress to see if this methods works for the water spots in that section. When performing a vinegar wipe down you don’t want to scrub the paint. Lightly apply the vinegar like you would a wax and remove it well. You will find that the horizontal panels will be worse than the vertical panels, so multiple techniques may need to be employed.


If any of the less aggressive steps fail to remove the water spots then you may be dealing with water etching. In this case physical abrasion of the surface becomes necessary to ‘level’ the clear coat back to the same as the surrounding areas. When it comes to abrading the paint (correcting/polishing) you have two main options.

  1. Restore the area by hand
  2. Restore the area by machine

Option 1: Prepare your shoulders and elbows and limber up, this is going to take a while. Polishing by hand can be done however, it is limiting due to the low speed, inconsistent pressure and small coverage. You can apply a paint correcting polish to a polishing applicator and work in small sections with moderate and even pressure. This method will take some time and patience so make sure you spread out the work over a few days.

Option 2: If you own a polisher and have experience using one, you can apply the same method of removing swirls to water spot removal. Ensure that you complete test spots to find out which polish and pad combination you need to achieve desired results. Ensure that you work a few adjacent sections at a time to avoid excessive heat and to give the paint some time to recover between sessions. If you don’t own a polisher or don’t want to correct your own vehicle contact usto see what we can do for you.


The exact same rules apply for glass, but with one exception. Glass is much harder than clear coat so it allows for more aggressive options when finer options fail. If you have attempted the above steps on glass and have not seen any improvement there is one more step. Try using ‘0000’ steel wool and a liberal application of glass cleaner. Spray a good amount of glass cleaner into the steel wool pad and the glass, with light pressure, scrub the affected areas of the glass. Since this is an aggressive approach, mask off surrounding trim and paint to avoid accidental damage and test an area to make sure the desired results can be achieved. You can substitute the glass cleaner with a paint correcting polish for extremely severe water spots on glass.


Paint with a nano coating or maintaining a coat of sealant and/or wax will prevent minor spotting and lessen the impact of more severe conditions. Seal the glass as well to give maximum protection.
On hot sunny days, wash your vehicle in the shade, dry it well and don’t allow water spots to go untreated for extended periods of time. The longer they sit the higher the chances of a bigger issues arising.


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