Does Toothpaste Actually Remove Scratches?

A while back, I was talking to a pal about a scratch that I’d discovered on my car. I was bemoaning the fact that I had to fork out to get the scratch buffed.

“Buffing!?” he exclaimed, visibly shocked. “Why are you wasting money on that. Just use toothpaste.”

It sounds pretty weird car repair and like I’ve spent far too long in the sun, but stay with me. There is some science behind using toothpaste to try to remove scratches on your car’s finish.

I was interested – could this, admittedly odd, form of car maintenance, really work? I decided to do some research and here’s what I found.

The science behind how toothpaste can remove scratches from your car

To understand how toothpaste can remove scratches from your car, you need to understand how the layers of your car’s finish are structured.

Generally, a car has 4 layers to it’s finish. First of all is the bare metal of the panel, then the primer undercoat, the base coat and finally a clear coat that provides a protective finish.  

When the panels of your car get slightly scuffed, they usually only damage the first protective finish layer and, importantly, not the actual paint layer itself. Sometimes scratches will do the same, only penetrating through a bit of the first layer of finish and not hitting the paintwork itself.  

The good news is that scratches and scuffs which have only damaged the first layer of finish can be easily fixed.

Like a lot of urban myths, there actually is a kernel of truth behind the story: toothpaste can actually help to disguise light scuffs and scratches in some cases.

The idea behind using toothpaste is that it mimics the action of an abrasive, like car polish for instance. Abrasives smooth out the initial surface layer of a material by rubbing minute particles of it away. This makes the surface of the material you’re polishing or buffing look cleaner, brighter and shinier without – visibly, anyway – damaging the underlying paint layer.

So, does toothpaste really remove scratches from your car?

Well, the honest answer is – it really depends. If you’re trying to deal with tiny scratches, scrapes and scuffs that have only attacked the first layer of clear finish, you’ll probably be able to fix the problem with toothpaste. But if the scratch has hit any layers further than this and damaged the paintwork itself, you’re going to need to get the local garage or bodyshop involved.

So, toothpaste could be a good budget option when it comes to fixing simple scratches on your car. In cases with deep scratches, it might make more sense to invest in the services of a professional with kit that isn't just old toothpaste though.

How to fix a scratch with toothpaste

We’re not saying it’ll solve all of your problems, but it could help to reduce the glaringness of the scratch. Here’s how to use toothpaste to fix a scratch on your car.

  1. Clean the affected area with soap and water
  2. Put a liberal amount of toothpaste on a cloth
  3. Rub the scratch with the cloth in a circular motion
  4. Once you’ve done this for a while, rinse the area and dry