The Importance Of Using A Clay Bar


In this article, you will learn:

  • Why a clay bar treatment should be your first step (after washing your car)

  • How frequently you should clay bar your car

  • How to use detailing clay to remove contaminants from your clear coat

Did you know your car probably isn’t completely clean even right after you’ve washed it? It’s true. Most cars and trucks have tiny contaminants embedded in their clear coat, and, once they’ve bonded with your paint surface, car washes often fail to remove them. The more you drive your car, the more frequently you park outside, and the more wind you get, the more likely you are to have them. Basically, avoiding them is impossible.

So, what’s the big deal? If you can’t see them, and your car looks clean, why should you even care? Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Wrong. Removing these contaminants is important to help prevent scratches in your paint job, to help your polish and wax work more effectively and to maintain the integrity of any protective coating you apply to the finish. That’s why auto detailers prep the surface of your car with a fine grade clay bar or clay mitts before they polish or wax it.

Stop scratching

Bonded contaminants don’t always bond permanently with your clear coat. Sometimes, they break free. If that happens while you’re towel drying or waxing your car, your rubbing and buffing action could grind them across the clear coat, leaving scratches behind. Then, you’ll have gone from taking care of your car to damaging your car without even knowing until it’s too late.

scratched paint

Avoid the pits

Embedded contaminants are unpredictable. You never know when a contaminant may break free. Leaving these soils in the surface of your car before you wax can create more problems in the future. When each contaminant comes loose, it will leave a tiny pit in your clear coat that’s unprotected by wax. Multiply that by all the contaminants that may break free over six months or so, and your car will have an untold number of unprotected pits in its surface. This defeats the whole purpose of protecting your car with wax. 

Wax your car, not the contaminants

Finally, if you don’t remove all the contaminants from your clear coat before you wax, you’ll be waxing the tops of those contaminants, not your car in those spots. This is important because waxes and other car coatings work best when you apply them in a smooth, even layer. They won’t adhere to your clear coat as well or last as long if you apply them to a contaminated surface.

hybrid solutions ceramic spray coating

Decontaminate with a clay bar

The surefire way to remove all bonded contaminants from your clear coat is with a simple clay bar treatment. A clay bar is an engineered, clay-like product that pulls contaminants like water spots, brake dust, metal dust, industrial pollution and road grit from your clear coat.

When used with a clay lubricant, these contaminants come loose from your car and get stuck safely in the clay so they don’t damage your clear coat. It’s a simple step, usually taking about 30 minutes, and one that’s well worth doing for a proper car detailing. We recommend decontaminating your car with a clay bar every time you wax, which should be at least twice a year. After your car is washed and dried, clay bar the entire car before moving on to any paint correction and wax application. 

the wax shop slick & slide clay lubricant

How to clay bar your car or truck

Before reaching straight for a clay bar, you can test your clear coat for contaminants in just a few seconds. Slip your hand into a zippered, plastic bag and gently slide it across the surface of your car in a number of different locations. If the surface feels smooth like glass, your clear coat is free of contaminants. You can skip straight to any paint correction your car needs and then apply a layer of wax. If you feel little bumps under your fingertips, you have bonded contaminants in the clear coat. You need to clay bar it first. Then, you can polish and wax.

To clay bar your finish, you’ll obviously need a clay bar. You also need a lubricant spray that’s formulated specifically for this job. This is important because the lubricant keeps your finish safe and scratch-free as you wipe the clay across it. And lastly, you’ll need a few clean, dry microfiber towels to wipe up any residual lubricant.

Remove the clay bar from its package, break off half and return the other half to the package or a zippered plastic bag. Knead and shape the bar into a flat oval that’s large enough to cover your fingers. Spray lubricant onto the clay and the small area of the car you’re about to treat. Wipe the clay back and forth across the surface. Then, wipe away excess lubricant with a microfiber towel. Use the plastic bag to test the surface. If you still feel bumps, clay bar the area until it feels smooth. As the clay picks up contaminants, it will begin to appear dirty. Knead the clay to reveal a clean surface and continue working. Treat the entire car, working in 2’ x 2’ sections until the finish is entirely decontaminated.

Once you’ve removed all contaminants from the finish of your car, it’s ready for a polish and wax for that beautiful Turtle Wax sparkle and protection!

the plastic bag trick


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