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Silicone vs Non-silicone Products. What's the Difference?

Polydimethylsiloxanes - more commonly known as silicone fluids or silicone oils are colourless and odourless liquids available in various viscosities commonly used throughout many industries. In the car care world they are extremely useful for 4 of their unique properties. These are:

  • Excellent lubrication properties and slick finish

  • High gloss

  • Water repellency and weather resistance

  • Rubber conditioning


Generally speaking any car care product which enhances gloss on paintwork, vinyl,plastic or rubber (with the exception of cutting compounds which mechanically remove imperfections to improve gloss) will use silicone fluids as the primary active ingredient to do so.


For many years it has been commonplace to see products advertised as 'non-silicone' or 'silicone free' or even non silicone versions of popular products usually containing silicones. There is a very simple reason for this and one that is not commonly known outside of the professional market, and there is a lot of confusion and misinformation spread by those who wrongly assume silicone must be 'bad' for your vehicle because some products are specifically formulated without it.


Silicone fluids have one very undesirable property which doesn't affect the vast majority of end users but yet can have expensive consequences for some. Silicones fluids are extremely hydrophobic and virtually impossible for anything other than another silicone based material to bond to. This is great for repelling dirt and dust from your vehicle but bad news for those working in bodyshops or other painting industries.


When paint is applied over a surface contaminated with silicone, small spots appear in the wet paint surface known as 'fish-eyes'. No matter how many times the panel is sprayed, the paint will always be repelled away from this spot and the only solution for the paint sprayer is to strip the panel down and start from scratch. To someone who has never witnessed this it is truly incredible how little silicone is required to compromise a painted surface. We have heard stories of vehicles compromised by someone using a product containing silicone several buildings away within an industrial estate, the mist of product carried by the wind, brought in to the air within a bodyshop by the extraction system and eventually settling on a prepared vehicle. Some products contain what are known as volatile silicone fluids, which actually evaporate and become airborne even if they're not actively being sprayed. This costs a paint sprayer a lot of time and money to have to start the job from scratch and so it has become industry standard for most bodyshops and paint sprayers worldwide to use only non silicone products (often containing oils such as mineral oil in place of silicone) within their shops to prevent any chance of contamination.


Within the car care world this is the SOLE reason for non-silicone products. Any other information you may read or hear online is simply incorrect. Many products such as detergents, wheel cleaners and glass cleaners, to name a few, do not require the addition of silicone within their formulation to effectively do their job and you will find these will almost always be silicone free in any case. However most polishes, tyre dressings, trim and bumper dressings, detailers and waxes will contain silicones unless otherwise stated. Unless the product is to be used within a silicone free environment such as a bodyshop, superior results will almost always be acheived with the silicone version of one of these products. By choosing not to use silicone products you are missing out on it's 4 beneficial properties listed above. A non-silicone product will almost always give less gloss, less slickness or lubrication and reduced rubber care and moisturisation.



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