Buffing Pads 101 – Which Foam Pad Type is Best for You?

By: Clint Hintz
Pad Type is Best for You? There seems to be little to no decrease of momentum for innovation in the detailing industry lately, which is quite exciting.  It can however become a long and cumbersome process to stay educated on these changes in innovation, as well as choosing which option(s) works best with your preferences.  […]

Pad Type is Best for You?

There seems to be little to no decrease of momentum for innovation in the detailing industry lately, which is quite exciting.  It can however become a long and cumbersome process to stay educated on these changes in innovation, as well as choosing which option(s) works best with your preferences.  When choosing a complete exterior system, 3 major components would be-

  1. Polisher/ Tool Type
  2. Liquid Abrasives / Protectants (compound, polish, AIO, Sealants)
  3. Buffing Pads

This article is to help define the differences in newer innovative buffing pad types for newer polishing tools.  This article is NOT to steer you towards a particular pad type, but rather to provide enough data and education to help you choose what type of pad type will work best for you and your service options.  When selecting a buffing pad type for your preferred DA tool, there are 2 basic categories to look at:

  • Foam or Fiber 

This article will be discussing foam, which foam buffing pads have been around for many years now.  There have been many new technological advances in the foam pad industry and foam pads work much differently than wool and microfiber pads as far as cut, feel and performance.  PPI is a general way of distinguishing foam, but there are easier and more accurate ways to identifying foam types.  The best way to generally measure foam is with a basic understanding of whether it is OPEN CELL or CLOSED CELL technology.  There are Pros and Cons to each of these foam types, and each type will work differently with all paint systems.

Open Cell Technology 

Many open cell foams actually begin as closed cell and are “reticulated” to produce the open cell.  “Reticulation” is a process used in processing foam where a bun of foam is placed in a concrete and controlled room, the room then filled with hydrogen for the foam to absorb, and finally the foam is actually ignited.  This process causes the membrane (or window) of the foam to wrap around the branches.  The window/membrane on foam is the transparent thin layer in between the branches and is what you feel when you touch it.  If you would look at foam under a microscope, you would see those branches and windows.  Foam that has been reticulated is open cell, and foam that is not reticulated would be considered closed cell.  Once you reticulate a foam, it may become stronger in its tearing characteristics.  Reticulated or “open cell” foams run much cooler on the surface as compared to closed cell foams.  The reason for this is with the cells being open, they will dissipate heat while in use.  With this happening, there may be a chance the chemical you are working with may dry faster and possibly dust since the lubricant in it is getting dried with the air passing thru the foam.  Open Cell foam pads are designed for, and typically recommended for long-throw or long-stroke dual action polishers.

Closed Cell Technology 

Un-reticulated or Closed Cell foam pads are designed for a wide variety of polishers and buffers, including standard dual action and random orbital machines, gear-driven DAs, and rotary (high-speed) polishers.  Closed Cell pads are generally not recommended for use with a long-throw or long-stroke dual action polisher (Open Cell technology foam is recommended for these machine types).   One strong benefit of closed cell foam is chemical savings, as polishing or compounding chemical does not readily soak up into the foam, which means less product is required to do the same amount of work.  Less saturation of chemical into the foam pad results in less wasted product.  Buffing technicians may find that because the product is not soaking into the pad, the performance of the pad and chemical is consistent for a longer work time, basically taking it longer for the dollop of product to “wear out“.  Technicians may also notice quicker cutting time due to the denseness of a Closed Cell pad.  These types of pads also tend to work very well with newer water-borne, VOC compliant, or “high water content” detailing chemicals.  The pads bring out the best performance from these products, providing even dispersion across the pad and surface of the vehicle.  Even yet another benefit to Closed Cell foam is that with chemicals not being soaked into the pad at the same rate of an open cell foam, cleaning becomes much easier and quicker.

Always keep in mind that not all foam types work the same with all polishing systems.  In fact, in many instances, it can still be trial and error.  There are still numerous ways that foams are measured, but the information in this article was put together as a starting point to help pick the best foam for your particular project.

Clint Hintz

North American Sales Manager – Eastern Region

Buff and Shine Mfg.

IDA CD-SV-RT – Certified Trainer

chintz@buffandshine.com

Written By: Clint Hintz

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