cleaning water stains from paint

muscl car

Veteran Member
Lifetime Gold Member
Jul 8, 2001
Gallatin Tennessee
nonstopgo68 said:
try vinegar . make sure you put in a coat of wax cause it will take it off

vinegar will work for type 1 stains maybe type II stains but i highly doubt type III stains such as i've got

Type III Water Spots ... below painted surface stains that have leached into the paint

Type III Water Spots are spots that look faded or dull and are found primarily found on single stage paints after a water source lands on and then pools on the paint and is usually left to dwell on the surface for some measure of time before it evaporates or is wiped-off the surface. Type III Water spots can also happen to clear coat finishes too but it’s not as common because I Type III Water Spot is either a stain or fading. Clear coats don’t stain as easily as single stage paints because they are not as porous or permeable. Clear coats can’t technically fade because they are clear to start with, there’s no color to fade.


muscl car

Veteran Member
Lifetime Gold Member
Jul 8, 2001
Gallatin Tennessee
these are the other types of water spots (these i do not have on my paint )

type of water spots you have,
Type I Water Spots
Type I Water Spots are primarily a mineral or dirt deposit laying on the surface of paint. Type I Water Spots can be the results of minerals suspended in city water or well water that are left behind after the water evaporates off the finish. This can happen by washing a car but not drying the water off the paint or if a sprinkler goes off next to the car covering the car with water drop that are not dried off the paint. Type I Water Spots can also be dirt or pollution particles left behind after water from rain or inclement weather evaporates of the finish. Type I Water Spots can also be Type II Water Spots in that the water can leave both a deposit on the surface and an etching in the finish. Another way people describe mineral deposits is to refer to them has Hard Water spots, or spot left by “hard water.

Type II Water Spots
Type II Water Spots are actual etchings or craters in the paint because something corrosive in a water source has landed on the paint and was not removed before a portion of the paint was eaten or dissolved by the corrosive substance.


Type I Water Spots

Type II Water Spots
I took this photo myself when I helped Alex Fong from Corvette Forum remove a zillion Type II Water Spots out of the clear coat finish on his Corvette.

Photo Courtesy of

Here's a close-up of the same photo, if you look closely you can see the edges are angled downward as this is an actual etching "into" the clear paint.


Veteran Member
Lifetime Gold Member
Oct 22, 2009
Greenville, TX

Sounds like those spots are a pain in the rear for sure.

Here is what Mike Phillips, trainer for Autogeek and an ex trainer for Meguairs recommends. You can try what he suggests and keep us updated.

I think the best thing to try would be something that will completely seal the surface so water cannot seep into the pores of the paint. Perhaps try Opti-Coat II although it was designed for clear coat paints I've applied it to single stage without any known problems. Whether it will stop the problem or not I do not know though...

I asked him about using a glaze and he responded with:

Loading the pores and any other voids "in" the paint with polishing oils would help to prevent water from filling the pores and voids so in that sense it would help.

Coatings like Opti-Coat or EXO, or Crystal Lacquer or CarPro CQuartz are all supposed to be applied over oil, wax and grease free finish for proper bonding.

Trying any of the above to prevent Type III Water Spots on single stage paint would all be experimental.


Apr 12, 2013
Aldergrove, B.C.
have you tried a quick detailer spray?
You still have to spray and wipe, but if you've got a protectant base, (yellow carnuba) it should pick up the hard water minerals without much effort.
Anything you can put between your paint and the environment should help, but if you've got acid rain or other industrial pollution raining down, it's left behind when the water evaporates.
We have lots of calcium our tap water... no way can I wash our vehicles in the hot sun, it leaves white hard water spots in seconds, unless I drag a chamois across the surface. Anything that gets missed, I wipe off with the quick detailer spray.


New Member
Jul 19, 2016
Hi, hope I am ok to resurrect this old thread. I too suffer with these spots and have spent a lot of time looking into the causes and solutions. Wax is one of the ingredients which causes this, on some paint types, along with water which is allowed to settle on the surface and dry especially quickly, such as in the hot sun. Although the type 3 spots are quite rare, I do know a handful of people who have this same issue. I have found a couple of solutions to remove mine, put have yet to find a preventative measure to stop it repeating. Just wondering if anyone has any further info to share since this thread was last updated? Thanks!


Veteran Member
Apr 2, 2016
Jax Florida
I worked at a dealership and witnessed the guys using wheel acid the kind for aluminum or steel. When he noticed he put his finger up to his mouth like shush. Don't tell. He said do this only after a good wash and the car is wet. Let it set for a few then rinse off. Then chamois immediately. He said a lot of cars come in with rust stains on the whole side of the car because it is parked by sprinkler and iron deposits on the paint. It takes it off fast. They use "PRO" products. The actual name. They put a good wax on after. I guess the detailers know what they are doing.


Veteran Member
Oct 9, 2000
SF East Bay CA
Fast forward to today, DA polishers (Porter Cable, Rupes, Flex, Griots, Meguiars, etc...) have become much more common and with the right cutting polish can easily remove most water stains. If it gets etched in, wet sanding may be required. Start with 3000.


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