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Electric Buffing vs. Hand Buffing

Aircraft owners must ensure their planes are polished on a regular basis in order to remove corrosion, dirt, debris, and water spots from the surface of the plane. Polishing isn’t just about making sure the airplane looks nice, but also about increasing its fuel efficiency, extending its lifespan, reducing downtime, and lowering its carbon footprint.
In order to begin polishing, you will need to decide whether you want to use an electric buffer or hand buff the entire aircraft. An electric buffer is a machine that rotates a buffing pad at high speeds to polish the surface of your plane. However, hand buffing is the process of using a buffing pad and applying the polish to the aircraft by hand. There are pros and cons to each option, but ultimately the decision is left up to the aircraft owner. To help you decide which method is better for you, take a look at the pros and cons of each:

The Cost

If you plan on polishing the aircraft on your own, you will need to take the cost of each method into consideration before making a decision. Hand buffing an aircraft does not require any equipment—in fact, you will simply need the polish, buffing pads, and some soft cloths to get the job done. However, if you choose to use an electric buffer, you will need all of these items in addition to a buffing machine. You may be able to rent one of these machines for the day from a hardware store, but most aircraft owners choose to buy one so they can use it every time they need to polish their aircrafts. Don’t forget there may be additional costs related to maintenance if you use the machines over a long period of time. Overall, these machines can set you back a few hundred dollars, so if you’re unwilling to pay the price for an electric buffer, hand buffing may be right for you.


Another factor you need to take into consideration is the condition of your plane. If your plane has a lot of imperfections on its surface, polishing it by hand may not be effective. Remember, if you polish by hand you are relying on your own strength to buff the surface of the plane. On the other hand, a machine is electrically powered, so it is capable of cutting through layers of dirt and cloudiness quickly. If you hand buff a plane that is in poor condition, you may find that you have to repeat the process over and over in order to see results.


If you’ve ever polished a car by hand before, you know just how long it can take to reach into every nook and cranny and ensure the surface is as shiny as it should be. Unfortunately, the larger the size of the surface, the longer it will take to hand buff, so it will take even longer to polish an aircraft than it would to polish a car. That’s not to say that using an electric buffer will make this job easy—both methods will require a significant time commitment, but an electric buffer will reduce the amount of time it takes to get the job done. Therefore, although it may be less expensive to polish the aircraft by hand, it really comes down to how you value your time.


Polishing a plane by hand is much more labor-intensive and exhausting than using an electric buffer. When you do it by hand, you are forced to constantly use your strength to power the movement of the buffing pad. It can be difficult to apply the same amount of pressure to the buffing pad throughout the entire process, so you may find yourself stopping and starting to give your arm a break. To use an electric buffer, you will have to control the machine with your own strength, but this won’t be nearly as tiring as hand buffing. Some machines are even designed to be a lighter weight than others so they don’t require as much strength to use.


You may not be able to reach smaller areas of the plane with an electric buffer because of the size of the machine. However, if you choose to polish your plane by hand, you can reach every spot of the plane because you won’t have to try to angle a heavy machine in the right position to reach them. This ensures that every inch of the plane is polished and protected from corrosion and other forms of surface damage. If you want the benefit of being able to polish the entire plane but don’t want to commit to doing it by hand, use a combination of both methods. Use an electric buffer to polish the majority of the plane, and then go back and buff areas in tight spaces by hand.

Choosing An Electric Buffer

Aircraft owners often end up deciding to use an electric buffer in order to save themselves time and ensure they get the best results possible. If you decide to use an electric buffer, make sure you are choosing the right machine. Choose a variable speed buffer so you can control the speed as you move across the surface of the plane. You should also look for a random orbital buffer, as these are designed to mimic the motions of hand buffing and will not damage the surface. These machines are also easy to use so even if you don’t have experience polishing an aircraft, you should pick it up quickly.

A Final Note

Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to use the best aircraft polish for the job. Brightwork Polish has been aviation approved, so you can trust it to remove corrosion, water spots, cloudiness, dirt and debris from the surface of your beloved aircraft. Our red, white, and blue polishes work together to restore your plane’s beauty and protect your investment!

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