How to Remove Water Stains, Spots or Etching of the Finish

How to Remove Water Stains, Spots or Etching of the Finish

These paint defects occur when untreated or unfiltered water containing impurities dries on the finish. The most common damaging impurity is calcium. We mostly see water stains and etching from sprinklers, leaking pipes in underground garages, and when vehicles are not dried after washing. There are ways to prevent and/or keep the damage to a minimum. Maintaining a coat of wax or sealant will help reduce the damage, and drying the vehicle with a soft towel or chamois after.

Types of Water Marks


watermarksThe way to recognize that your vehicle has deep water spots or etching damage on the finish is if you see white ring shapes or streak marks. If washing, clay barring and waxing fail, a more aggressive approach is needed.

watremark damage


There are different approaches, depending on the amount of time, sun or heat exposure and calcium the water contains. The removal approach is always the least aggressive. There are some tricks of the trade. The first is the proper application of a specially designed product containing acids that soften or cut through the calcium deposits.

Water Spots Before and After

Acid-based products are sold in powder or liquid form but must be used carefully and properly or they can cause damage to the finish as well as causing damage to the other exterior parts, trimming, windows and other moldings. If the stains are superficial or fresh, the acid bath alone can completely remove stains. If the stain or paint defect is deeper, they must be removed by polishing with compound.

If polishing with compound does not remove the water stain, it is more than likely etched into the clear coat portion of the finish. This requires color sanding, followed by compound. After removing the stains or etching, the finish should be polished to restore luster and waxed/sealed to protect.

If your finish is damaged by water spots, stains, or etching call us for a free estimate to bring your finish back to new!

We, at Detail USA, are committed to keeping our customers’ vehicles looking new. We do this by providing the services to protect your investment. To request an appointment to give your vehicle’s finish the ultimate protection for the winter, go to our Request for Appointment  page. For special deals and promotions, please visit our Specials page.

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