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How To Decontaminate Your Car’s Paint Like A Professional Using A Clay Bar

Ever washed your car and realised in the end that there were still some spots and gunk remaining on the car? Or had a car detailing service performed professionally and just wondered how they got such a nice glistening finish? No, it’s not because you didn’t wash hard enough with the wash mitt or you didn’t use enough shampoo… Chances are, you are missing out on a paint decontamination step ie the Clay Bar. If you have been in the car game for quite some time, you may have heard the term Clay Bar thrown around, but otherwise if not, we will go through what it is and how you could use one to get that flawless finish shine on your car.

What Is A Clay Bar?

A clay bar, also known as Cleaner’s Clay, is typically a part of a professional car detailer’s arsenal to tackle paint surfaces that are dirtier than your average car. There are certain contaminants and pollutants that a regular car wash can remove and there are some that require extra attention to detail eg tree sap, bird droppings and so on. The Clay Bar as the name states, is made up of special clay designed to clean the car paint without the use of any abrasives. Meaning, it will not change the textural condition of your paint as it has no agents that will ‘cut’ through, much like how a polish/buff would.

When To Use A Clay Bar?

If you have washed your car and noticed that there is still dirt, bug guts, tree sap and so on, then your most likely due for a clay bar. Do not attempt to dig in hard with your wash mitt to remove these dirty areas as you can risk damaging your paint.

You will notice a difference once you are done as the surface will not only look more cleaner, but also feels smoother. By spraying a generous amount of detailer spray or even car wash shampoo for lubrication, you simply glide the clay across the surface to collect dirt. Inspect the clay every now and then and when you notice it getting dirty, simply knead the clay like bread dough and use a new cleaner side. Repeat this process for the whole car and simply dry each section panel by panel after a light rinse.

Sometimes when the contaminants are strongly etched on to the paint, like in the past where there was heavy tree sap, using a stronger lubricant can work. Of course, extreme precaution must be taken as to not damage the paint, but diluting degreaser with water can allow the tree sap to soften up and loosen the bind, making it easier for the clay bar to work its magic. If you feel like you’re in a position as such, best to contact a professional car detailer to lower any risk of damaging your paint.

What Next?

Once you have clayed the whole car, this usually presents your car in a state ready for a wax application. By having a clean surface, dust will not get in between the paint and the wax, therefore creating a better bind. Whether you use a liquid, paste or spray wax, either is fine and we always recommend Carnauba Wax for its great shine properties.

What You Need To Know

  • A clay bar is reusable – simply flip to a new side by kneading each time it gets dirty. However, if it gets to a point where it is dirty, best to be safe and dispose of it and get a new one.
  • Do not use the clay bar if you drop it on the ground, dirt, rocks and so on will stick to the surface and act like sandpaper if used on the paint work.
  • Make sure you use enough detailer spray or car wash shampoo for lubrication, this will make your decontamination step smoother and easier with less friction.
  • A clay bar contains no abrasives and will not scratch or fix your paint – it does not correct paint, it just cleans and decontaminates. This makes the clay bar a safe process as long as you are taking the right steps to keep it clean and using the right materials.
  • Clay bar is a great way to prepare your paint for waxing or polishing


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