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Comparing 3M Automotive Rubbing Compounds

Comparing 3M Automotive Rubbing Compounds

It’s an imperfect world, screws fall out. Cars get dinged and scratched, headlights get cloudy and things need to be touched up and restored occasionally. Luckily you can save hundreds and thousands of dollars on light bodywork by buffing and rubbing out dings and scratches yourself. Or I guess if you run a body shop, you can use these products to touch up and repair people’s cars and charge them hundreds and thousands of dollars. It’s up to you. For laymen though, you’ll need to find the right 3M rubbing compound, the right pad and tool, then get ready to wax-on and wax-off, then your car will look like new in no time. But how do you know which rubbing compound is right? 3M makes a few different rubbing compounds, but it’s not as hard as you would think to find the right one. While there are a number of different products and sizes, they fit nicely under three categories:  Basic Rubbing Compound, Perfect It, and Super Duty. Here’s a quick look at each category.

3M Rubbing Compound

3M Rubbing compound restores headlight Our bestselling 3M Rubbing Compound is the 3M 03900 and it’s a good general purpose auto body revitalizer. It’s a medium cutting compound and it’s typically used before the Perfect-It or on its own entirely. Many people use this rubbing compound to restore yellowed or cloudy headlights. It’s also excellent for cleaning old looking auto body and repairing what appears to be dings from carts and car doors – without damaging the paint.

This is a really good basic compound and you can work it in and out with just a rag and some elbow grease. This compound also removes scratches caused by sanding, removes surface blemishes including oxidation. You can see more videos for headlight restoration and body touchups here. This compound in different sizes, like 3M 05973, so if you want a specific amount, let us know!

3M Perfect It

3M rubbing compound before and after3M Perfect-It isn’t just a compound, but an entire system for paint finishing which includes not just the liquid component, but also abrasives and pads. For optimal results, and probably even ANY results, you should use the Perfect-It pads as they are specially designed to work with the compound. There is a pad for each step of the process. You’ll need at least one of each of the following:  3M 05737 foam compounding pad, 3M 05753 wool compounding pad, 3M 05708 Ultrafine foam polishing pad (removes compounding swirls and paint defects), and the 3M 05726 foam polishing pad (removes polish swirls and holograms). Each of these pads will obviously need to be used with a buffing tool, sold separately.

The compound you’ll need to use, probably after using a clay bar (or 3M 38070) to remove debris from sanding, is the 3M 06085. This is the basic, 1qt Perfect-It rubbing compound, 3M 39060 is 1pt. This version of the Perfect-It compound is used after sanding, removing scratches from P1200 grade sandpaper. You can see it in action here and here though you may want to do your own research to see if they’re using it properly.  

3M Perfect-It systemBeyond the Perfect-It, you have the Perfect-It EX, which is advertised as having “EXtra cutting power, EXtra smooth handling and finish, EXtra easy to use and clean up.” So, you’d probably want to use that if you somehow feel the regular Perfect-It isn’t going to do the job. The Perfect-It EX comes in several sizes, the 36058 is 8oz, 36060 is 1qt, 36061 is 1 gallon, and the 3M 06068 which is a 1qt bottle for ultrafine machine polish which also comes in Perfect-It EX.

Super Duty

3M’s Super Duty Rubbing Compound is the last entry on the list here, and you can see how it works to remove scratches from various grit sandpaper. The Super Duty Rubbing Compound removes 1000 and finer sandpaper scratches, removes oxidation and can be used by hand or by machine. It’s a heavy cut compound that makes your car shine and restores imperfections. We carry 3M 39004 which is the 16oz bottle and it’s the professional formula but available for the general consumer market. For the price it’s a great way to get a professional shine or restoration for a fair cost. The 05954 is the same formula but in a 1qt bottle. The Super Duty is one of the fastest ways to get scratches out of your car.


All of these products are used by industry professionals to create a new-looking finish on auto body making them perfect to restore your car. These rubbing compounds are also used by laymen and auto enthusiasts to get the same results as the professionals. Whatever defect you have, from cart crashes to sanding scratches to random parking lot dings, 3M has a rubbing compound that will help you get it out!  

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