Clay Bar Detailing: What Is A Clay Bar and When Should I Use It On My Car?

What Is A Clay Bar and When Should I Use It On My Car?

Updated on February 24 2024

Our previous article about the five steps on keeping your car’s paint shiny involves using a clay bar for step number two. However, we bet many Filipino car owners have no idea what a clay bar is and what it can do for their cars.

This helpful guide will discuss the many benefits of clay bar detailing, including the easy steps on how to clay bar the paint, along with valuable tips to keep your car – whether new, used, or repossessed – looking shiny and new.

What is a clay bar?

Also referred to as detailing clay, professional detailers use clay bars to remove deep-seated dirt and contaminants from the paint without scratching, marring, or harming the finish. Professionals recommend using a clay bar before polishing or waxing the paint to achieve a perfect, flawless, and smoother shine.

You can think of clay bars like those cosmetic pore strips that remove blackheads and whiteheads from your face. It’s a weird analogy, yeah, but clay bars work in the same way as those blackhead-removing face strips.

How does a clay bar work?

After washing your car and drying the finish, wipe your palm gently over the hood. Does the surface feel as smooth as glass? If not, can you feel all those rough spots as you glide your hand over the paint surface? Those are the type of dirt or contaminants that literally dug themselves on the finish.

The bad news is deep-seated dirt will not wash away easily even after repeated car washes. The worst part is when you decide to wax or polish your car. As you rub the paint with wax, some of those dirt particles will dislodge and stick to the applicator pad. As you continue applying wax, the dirt particles will eventually scratch the paint, leaving ugly swirl marks and hairline scratches that are more difficult to remove.

However, the good news is you can use a clay bar to remove all those rough spots on the paint surface, giving you a smoother foundation to apply polish or wax. Clay bars are similar to molding clay or Play-Doh but are made from a scientific blend of resin compounds.

Image courtesy of Meguiars.com

As the clay glides over your car’s paint, it pulls out the dirt while trapping the contaminants deep in the clay, and protecting the paint from further harm. Some polishes or paint cleaners can also remove deep-seated dirt, but clay bars are a safer way of doing it without using chemicals while reducing the risk of scratching the paint.

Can I use clay bars on glass and other surfaces?

Yes! Clay bars are remarkably versatile not only for your car but around the home, as well. You can use clay bars to remove water spots in your car’s windshield, and you can also use them to clean shower doors, shower mirrors, and kitchen tiles.

There’s more: You can use a clay bar to remove tar spots and grime on alloy wheels, fiberglass, and most metal surfaces.

Is a clay bar safer to use on paint than polish?

Comparing a clay bar to paint polish is like comparing apples to oranges, but the answer is YES. When polishing your car’s paint, you remove or shed off a fine layer of clear coat. If not careful, heavy polishing can burn off the clear coat from the color, leaving the surface exposed and vulnerable to UV rays and rust.

On the other hand, clay bars will not remove the clear coat in every stroke. It only removes dirt and dust that are clinging or stuck to the paint.

Remember, clay bars are non abrasive and will not scratch or harm the paint in any way when used correctly.

How often should I clay bar the paint?

The better question is: How much do you love your car? Since clay bars are non abrasive, you can use them whenever you like or whenever you feel the paint surface is rough to the touch, but there’s a catch: You need to polish – or at the very least, apply wax – the paint after treating the surface with a clay bar.

Why? After removing dirt particles from a particular surface, it leaves behind a bevy of microscopic peaks, valleys, or tiny craters on the paint. Those ‘craters’ will affect how light reflects on the paint surface. If you like a flawless shine, you need to wax or polish the paint (preferably both) after using a clay bar.

How to Use a Clay Bar

Are you ready to give your paint a much-needed makeover? Here are the easy steps on how to use a clay bar.

Materials Needed:

  • Clay bar
  • Lubricant (car shampoo mixed with clean water is acceptable)
  • Microfiber towels
  • Clean water for rinsing
  • Car wax

Step 1: Wash the vehicle thoroughly.

The first and most crucial step is to give the vehicle a thorough wash using clean water and car shampoo.

If you want to prevent scratches while washing the paint, this handy guide about the proper steps in washing a car will prove helpful.

Step 2: Grab the clay bar and knead it to a flat, disc-like shape.

The best time to use a clay bar is after washing and rinsing the vehicle. At this point, do not dry the car yet. Grab the clay, knead it into the shape of a circular sponge, and you’re ready to go.

Step 3: Apply lubricant before claying the paint.

The trick in using a clay bar is to lubricate the surface constantly as you go. You can use a mixture of car shampoo and water in a spray bottle, or you can dilute a capful of shampoo into a small bucket of water and apply the liquid with a wash mitt. The idea is to wet the paint surface and keep it that way as you rub the clay bar.

Step 3: Rub the clay bar gently on a small section at a time.

Start working on the upper portions like the hood, roof, and trunk before moving to the doors and bumpers. Work in a small section at a time. Apply lubricant, clay, and apply more.

Step 4: Knead the clay when dirty.

As you move along, you will notice the clay change color as it picks up dirt. If this happens, re-knead the clay to expose a fresh surface. If you drop the clay on the floor, discard it and grab a new batch. Remember that clay is like a dirt magnet. If you drop it on a dirty and wet surface, all the dirt on the floor will stick to the clay and may end up scratching the paint.

Step 5: Rinse the vehicle when done and wipe dry.

After claying the entire vehicle, rinse it well with clean water before wiping it dry using a microfiber towel.

After this, run your dry hand over the paint surface. It should feel smooth after claying. If not, you can repeat the above steps to remove all remaining dirt.

Step 6: Polish or wax the vehicle.

The final step is to apply a light coat of wax to seal the surface. If possible, it’s better to polish and then wax the paint afterward to achieve the best results.

Conclusion

Clay bars will keep your car’s paint smooth, shiny, and flawless when used as directed. Remember to consider using a clay bar at least once every three months or before waxing and polishing the finish to achieve a showroom shine.