How and Why To Clay Bar Your Car [Beginner's Guide]

on November 05, 2021

Thanks to their powerful absorptive properties, natural clays have been used to treat various skin conditions for as long as humans have kept historical records. A clay mask can help to absorb the various impurities, toxins, and other contaminants found in your skin. Once the clay has been removed, your skin will be cleaner and feel much smoother. 

Using a clay bar on your car will have a similar effect and provide a deep cleaning for your paint. Think of it this way: if washing your car is the equivalent of taking a shower, then using a clay bar would be like going to a spa and getting your pores exfoliated. 

You wouldn’t use a clay mask every day, and you don’t need to use a clay bar every time that you wash your car. However, a clay bar should still be part of your regular maintenance routine to protect the paint job.

Damage to your pain from regular occurrences and environmental hazards can be a real headache. Just like your skin, you’ll be able to tell when it’s time for a deep cleaning with the help of clay.

 

How Do You Know When You Need To Use A Clay Bar?

Despite your paint looking smooth and slick, it can actually feel pretty rough when you touch it sometimes. 

One mistake people make when trying to determine if they need to use a clay bar is touching their paint with their bare fingers. Instead of using your bare fingers, place your hand inside a sealable plastic bag first. 

When you run your fingers on your paint, you will probably notice an incredible difference from when you touched it using your bare fingers. If the paint feels rough through the plastic, then it’s time to use a clay bar. Taking care of your paint is critical.

 

How Often Should You Use a Clay Bar? 

Ideally, you should use a clay bar any time that you plan on waxing and polishing your car. The clay will help to provide a thorough cleaning of your paint and boost the effects of the wax and polish. 

Several factors will influence the number of times that you should wax your car. For example, living in an area with heavy snowfall will result in more salt on the roads that can quickly damage your paint in the winter. Alternatively, living in an area with intense levels of direct sunlight can lead to oxidation in your paint and can lead to damage. 

If you live in areas with these extremes of weather or are unable to park your car in a covered area each night, then you should probably be waxing your car once every three to four months. 

 

What Does a Clay Bar Do?

It really can’t be overstated the level of punishment that the exterior of your car will experience on a daily basis. 

Your paint job has to constantly endure the elements of nature, including extreme high or low temperatures, ultraviolet rays from the sun, and whatever type of precipitation is most common in your area. As if that wasn’t enough, your paint also has to experience other potential contaminants such as dirt, road tar, bugs, tree sap, and gasoline, to name a few. 

These harsh environmental contaminants can find their way into your paint and cause all kinds of damage. As mentioned previously, clay has incredibly strong absorbent properties and can absorb as much as four times its own weight.

As a result, using a clay bar will help to absorb and remove the environmental contaminants from your paint much more effectively than using soap and a sponge.

 

How Do You Use a Clay Bar? 

Using a clay bar isn’t a particularly complicated process. However, it will require some attention to detail and a decent amount of patience.

Before you get started, this is a list of all the things that you’ll need in order to complete the job:

  • Clay bar
  • Water hose
  • Two buckets (one for soapy water and one for dirty water)
  • Ultra Concentrated car wash soap
  • Sponge or wash mitt
  • Detailing spray
  • Gloves
  • Microfiber towels

Step One: Wash Your Car 

The first thing to do is properly wash your car. A clay bar will be much more effective when the loose dirt and grime have already been removed. 

Rinse off your car with a quick spray of your hose. When it’s still wet, use your sponge or wash mitt to apply the car soap. Use circular motions to really break up the dirt and grime. Rinse off the soap with your hose and blot your car with microfiber towels to quickly dry it. 

 

Step Two: Prepare the Clay Bar 

If you haven’t seen a clay bar, it looks just like you would imagine it. Think of a bar of soap only if it's made out of clay instead. 

Once you open the package, you should break the bar into equal halves or quarters. There is no need to use the whole bar as a quarter portion should be plenty. Work the stiff piece with your fingers and flatten it as best as you can to make it more malleable. You want it to fit comfortably underneath your fingers and be able to move it around easily. 

 

Step Three: Choose Your First Panel 

It’s best to use your clay bar one panel at a time so you make sure that you get everything evenly. You can start wherever you want to as long as you make sure you hit the hood, trunk, roof, doors, panels, trim, and everywhere else that you see paint. 

 

Step Four: Lubricate the Panel and the Bar 

The key to using a clay bar is lubrication. You will need to use your detailer spray often in order to maximize the effects of a clay bar. Ensure that the panel itself is well lubricated before touching the clay to it, and occasionally spray the clay bar. 

 

Step Five: Gently Glide the Clay Bar 

Once everything has been properly lubricated, it’s finally time to touch clay to paint. You should be able to gently glide the clay across the surface of your car. 

It might feel similar to washing your car like in step one, but it’s very important that you follow a specific pattern. You should glide the clay bar in an up and down motion or a left to right one. Don’t use the clay in a circular motion.  

 

Step Six: Dry the Panel When You’re Done 

You’ll need to dry the panel after you’ve applied clay to it. Be sure to use a microfiber cloth and blot the panel like you did when you washed your car earlier. This will help to dry the detailing spray more quickly, remove any residue, and prevent any possible streaking or inconsistencies. 

 

Step Seven: Repeat and Double Check 

Repeat the last few steps until you have successfully applied clay to every part of your car and all the paint. When you feel like you’ve completed the job, take a little bit of time to double-check your work and make sure you didn’t miss a spot. 

Using the sealable plastic bag from before, rub your hand over your car and see if any rough patches stick out. Your paint should feel silky smooth, so anything feeling rough or abrasive should get another pass with the clay bar. 

 

Step Eight: Apply Some Extra Protection

You shouldn’t waste the opportunity to protect your paint now that you’ve taken the time to thoroughly clean it. Now is the perfect time to wax or polish your car to get it looking smoother and shining brighter. Using a quick coat ceramic spray might be the best option as it will help to seal and protect the ceramic in your paint with a much easier application than traditional wax or polish. 

 

Additional Tips For Using a Clay Bar 

When using a clay bar, you should keep the following tips in mind:

  • It’s very important that you use a detailing spray with your clay bar. You may be tempted to save a few bucks and use your water hose instead, but that’s a very risky move. Water doesn’t provide the same level of lubrication that a clay bar needs. Without proper lubrication, you could end up damaging your paint when using a clay bar. 

  • Clay is extremely absorbent, and you should take great caution to prevent it from accidentally getting dirty. Never reuse a clay bar that came into contact with unclean surfaces, that you’ve dropped on the floor, or stored in an area where it may have collected dirt. Toss it out and use a new one instead. 

  • The clay will naturally start to become dirtier as you continue to use it. Make sure that your clay is clean before you use it on your car; otherwise, it won’t be very effective. Instead of breaking in a new piece of your clay bar, you can fold over the one you are using and flatten it out again. Depending on the size and cleanliness of your car, you might have to do this a few times or get a fresh piece. 

A Deep Clean and Bright Shine 

Using a clay bar can be a lot of work, but the results are impossible to deny. Nothing can provide a deep clean for your paint in the same way as clay. Ideally, you should use a clay bar any time you plan to wax your car or apply a new ceramic coat.

When used properly, a clay bar can help your paint to shine like the day it did when it was first applied to your car. For a shine that never dulls, check out our supplies and products at Shine Armor.

 

Sources:

What's so great about microfiber? | University of Washington

10 Things That Can Seriously Mess Up Your Car's Paint | AutoGuide.com News

Evaluation of the medicinal use of clay minerals as antibacterial agents | NCBI

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