Buffing pads are typically sponge pads which affix to a machine polisher. The polish or compound is then applied to the sponge pad, which when it spins around, will polish the car.
Polishing pads can be made of other materials, such as soft fabric and felt. Wool or similar synthetic materials were used for many years, but is now far less common.
While the grade of compound determines the majority of the degree of cut, the coarseness of the buffing pad also plays a part. Therefore, coarse pads are used when using cutting compounds, and close cell dense foam is used for applying finishing products.