Revive That Shine: The Art of Clay-Barring
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Being a car enthusiast is akin to being an artist: Both require a keen eye for aesthetics and a commitment to bringing a creative vision to life. Just as an artist pores over every detail of their work to ensure that it accurately represents their vision, car enthusiasts meticulously research, plan, and execute every modification or upgrade to enhance their vehicle's beauty and functionality.
Whether you consider yourself an enthusiast, artist, or both, you know that the devil is in the details, and a commitment to the correct process is the only way to achieve the best results. We want to make sure your process includes a crucial step: clay barring. The humble yet mighty clay bar removes contaminants from your vehicle's paint before waxing to reduce scratches, swirls, and grit. We've rounded up the top clay bar necessities on the market—that way you can concentrate on polishing your paint to your desired level of perfection. Even Da Vinci would be impressed.
What Is Clay Barring?
Clay barring is an essential step in the detailing process for your vehicle's paint job and should not be skipped. The process involves using a clay bar to remove contaminants from your car's paint, leaving it smooth and ready for waxing or polishing. It's an essential step in the car detailing process, as contaminants like brake dust, sap, and tar can embed into the paint, causing it to feel rough and look dull.
Traditionally, clay bars have been malleable clay blocks, which you would knead and fold contaminants into as you went along in the process. Now, there are newer, more ergonomic options such as mitts and sponges which require washing after use. What type of clay bar you choose really does come down to user preference. It doesn't matter what one you use—just as long as you use one.
How Do I Use a Clay Bar?
Start by washing your car thoroughly to remove any loose dirt and grime. Then, dry the vehicle with a clean microfiber towel.
Take a small section of the clay bar and knead it until it becomes pliable (if using a traditional clay bar).
Spray the car's surface with a clay lubricant or quick detailer to provide lubrication for the clay bar.
Glide the clay bar over the lubricated surface in a back-and-forth motion. Use light pressure, and let the clay do the work; don't press too hard, as this can cause scratches. You should feel the clay picking up contaminants as you work.
Fold the clay bar onto itself and knead it again to expose a clean surface.
Repeat the process on the next section of the car.
When you've finished clay-barring the entire car, give it another quick wash and dry it with a clean towel.
Finally, apply a coat of wax or sealant to protect the paint.
Ready to give it a shot? Here are some of the best clay bars you can buy.
Mothers California Gold Clay Bar System
The Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System kit includes two clay bars, a lubricant spray, and a microfiber towel. The clay bars are formulated to be gentle on the paint while still removing embedded contaminants.
AutoScrub Fine Grade Sponge
The AutoScrubFine Grade Sponge is a sponge-style clay-bar alternative designed to be more effective and easier to use than traditional clay bars. Additionally, it can be washed and reused many times.
Griot's Garage Synthetic Clay
Griot's Garage 10691 Synthetic Clay resembles an air-hockey handhold and is designed to be used up to 24 times. It's more ergonomic than a traditional clay bar and can be washed after each use (or until the polymer/clay surface wears away).
Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Kit
The Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Kit has two clay bars, a bottle of Quik Detailer spray as a luber, and a microfiber towel. It's a great all-in-one option for those new to clay barring.
Adam's Polishes Clay Mitt & Detail Spray Clay Lubricant
Adam's mitt-style clay bar kit is designed to fit right over your hand. In addition, it's washable and reusable, making it an excellent long-term investment. Paired with Adam's Detail Spray, you have everything you need to do a clay-bar touch-up.
What is a clay bar?
A clay bar is a soft, malleable material that is used to remove contaminants from the surface of a vehicle's paint. It is typically made from a combination of natural and synthetic materials and is designed to be used in conjunction with a lubricant to prevent damage to the paint.
Why should I clay bar my car?
Clay barring is an effective way to remove contaminants from the surface of your car that washing alone may not be able to remove. These contaminants can include things like tree sap, road tar, and brake dust, which can cause damage to your car's paint if left untreated.
When should I clay bar my car?
Clay barring should be done periodically, typically every six months to a year, depending on the level of contaminants on the surface of your car. If you notice that your car's paint feels rough or gritty to the touch, it may be time to clay bar.
How do I clay bar my car?
To clay bar your car, you will need a clay bar, a lubricant, and a microfiber towel. Begin by washing and drying your car thoroughly. Next, apply the lubricant to a small section of your car's paint, and rub the clay bar over the surface in a back-and-forth motion. Use light pressure, and keep the clay bar lubricated at all times. Finally, wipe away any residue with a microfiber towel.
Can I damage my car's paint by clay barring?
Yes, it is possible to damage your car's paint if you do not use a clay bar correctly. This is why it is important to use a lubricant and avoid applying too much pressure. Additionally, you should never reuse a clay bar once it has become contaminated with dirt or debris as this can scratch your car's paint.
Can a clay bar remove scratches?
No, clay barring is not designed to remove scratches from your car's paint. However, it can help smooth out the surface of your car's paint, which can make scratches less noticeable.
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