How to Use Clay Bar
Good question, but maybe not best question

How to use clay bar is both a very good question and valid question. As a beginner you will have many questions. But as a beginner you will also have a limited ability to be asking the right questions or maybe what you might also call better questions.

how to use clay bar

As a beginner you are in a vulnerable position as you lack knowledge and experience. Add to this position is this amazing love/hate thing called the Internet. Now you are dealing with the exact opposite problem I had starting out as a professional detailer over 30 years ago.

You are now living in a world of information and opinion overload. Not only are there endless answers and opinions at the touch of a keyboard or a smart phone screen, but the bar has been set so low since anyone with an opinion now has a free platform in which to express their opinion.

How To Use Clay Bar
Asking better questions

Using a clay bar is incredibly easy. Any actual instructions will be printed directly on the label of whatever version of a clay bar you choose. I personally am a fan of shopping for a top rated clay bar in the form of a clay bar kit.

Kits are an excellent way to save time and money, and often experiment with products you may not necessarily be willing to purchase separately, but can do so when they are part of a kit.

But as I said at the beginning, how to use clay bar is simply the beginning of your need for answers. I just don't want you stopping at this question as there are further questions you will naturally ask, but further questions you may not know to ask.

And this is where I come in. helping you ask the right questions.

How Do You Use a Clay Bar

I will start here since this is exactly what you came looking for. Clay bars are used by rubbing this clay (also referred to as detailing clay) across your car paint. By rubbing this clay bar across your paint, you are shearing off and down, any pollutants that have bonded to the surface of your car paint.

Since clay bars are naturally very tacky, you will not be able to rub or slide the clay bar across your paint without some type of liquid lubricant. Most clay bar manufacturers recommend using what is called a clay lube.

The reality is that you could use virtually just about any liquid (this could be as basic as tap water) to act as a lubricant. But then the question becomes about the need to use a dedicated clay lube versus any other type of liquid.

Why Do You Need to Clay Bar a Car

Clay bars are designed to remove what are called bonded surface contaminants. The air is filled with this stuff we call pollution. Pollution can be made up of endless types of microscopic dirt particles.

Some of these airborne pollutants can bond to the surface (actually all surfaces of your car, not just your paint) of your car paint and will not clean away during traditional car washing, polishing, or waxing efforts.

Clay bars are designed to handle this very specific problem with this very specific type of clay.

Is it Necessary to Clay Bar Your Car

Yes and no. Like any other question of life, you will be delivered a different answer based on who you are asking. The real question is a bit more complex and becomes a question of not as to whether it is necessary to clay your car, but when you know why you would want to clay your car, this question is then automatically answered for most people.

The reality is that you are never required to clay your car, as not claying your car will not cause the paint to fall off or to "wear out" sooner versus later; regardless of what you have heard.

Why Should You Clay Bar Your Car

This is where we are going to learn the more critical points of how to use clay bar. I find that people often ask very generalized questions, but actually have more complex questions they want answered, but simply lack the experience to ask them.

If you accept that certain types of pollution will bond to your cars surfaces, then you will likely accept that you will want to clay bar your car to remove these bonded paint contaminants.

But there is more to this than the obvious. I accept that many people have very busy lives and are not looking for perfection. You might be one of these yourself.

Which is why many people will ask if claying their car is necessary. To which I have said it is not a requirement, it is not necessary, but it is what I would call essential. Essential for many reasons.

Most of these reasons any beginner will not likely consider, but reasons most other online tutorials on how to use clay bar will not discuss. This only means that you will be making decisions based on limited understanding and knowledge.

  • Remove unwanted bonded contaminants
  • Creates silky smooth paint surface
  • Remove paint contaminants that interfere with washing, polishing, and waxing
  • Allows any of your products to perform better
  • Allows for a better user experience regardless of what product you are using, or what part of the detailing process you are performing

Dirt comes in endless versions. Unless you are a plant and you need dirt to grow, dirt is an unwanted part of life. This includes the dirt attached to your cars paint in the form of these bonded contaminants that will interfere with any step of the car care or detailing process.

You want to remove the dirt; not attempt to work around it or over it!

What Is That Noise I hear When I Clay Bar My Car

Some people would call that noise, scratching! But to me, this is an over-simplification. More accurately you are hearing the bonded contaminants as they are being sheared away from your cars paint surface.

This will be a disturbing noise for any beginner and you will automatically question as to whether the clay bar is scratching your cars paint. See next question...

Will Using a Clay Bar Scratch Car Paint

Yes, no, maybe. Once again this largely depends on not only who you ask, but how you define "scratching". More specifically what is happening is abrading rather than scratching.

regardless of how soft a material is, if you rub it hard enough or long enough on your car paint, some level of abrasions will occur. So the greater question then becomes about trade-offs.

Everything in life comes with their own unique set of pros and cons. Most professionals and car enthusiasts accept that any abrading that will occur during the clay bar process is a necessary evil. And the end results justify the means that got you to the end result in the name of fully decontaminated paint that is now silky smooth.

Not to confuse scratches with the deep, isolated scratches you might see on your car, but suing a clay bar has the ability to abrade your cars paint by putting what might be the more appropriate term of micro-scratches or abrasions into your car paint.

Why Would You Clay Bar Your Car If It Scratches the Paint

Because this is the means to the end result. The end result is more desirable than having your paint covered in airborne pollutants.

And most people can feel such a desirable distinction after having clayed their car, that the trade-off is worth it. These abrasions in most cases cannot be seen once you have applied car wax to your paint. 

And most car owners once they see and feel their car after using the clay bar and waxing their car are so amazed at the end results, find the trade-off completely worth it!

And if you happen to own a darker colored car and you find that you can see any abrasions the clay bar left behind, you can polish your paint to perfection and remove all these abrasions before you apply car wax to your paint.

Do Clay Bars Remove Scratches

No. If you have been following along you will know that if anything, clay bars will induce a form of "scratching" in the form of abrasions.

There are all kinds of myths that surround clay bars, how to use clay bar, what clay bars do and don't do that it blows my mind!

Clay bars remove most types of unwanted bonded contaminants, but they will not remove scratches.

Can You Use Water With a Clay bar

This question typically refers to using basic tap water as a clay lube rather than a traditional, and dedicated clay lube. While this is a topic of endless debate, you can use basic tap water as a clay lube.

The debate is not so much if water works as a clay lube as much as it is a topic about how safe it is to use water as a clay lube. Most so-called experts that speak from limited experience will tell you that you need to always use a dedicated clay lube.

They will often claim that using a clay lube will eliminate any type of scratching or abrading, but this simply is not true. perhaps a dedicated clay lube could possibly safer, but it would be seriously hard to quantify that statement.

The real question of how to use clay bar and clay lube is more about the user experience. Using a dedicated clay lube will provide better lubrication and make your clay bar experience a better experience.

Whenever anyone is asking my professional opinion and want to know how to use clay bar, I do recommend a dedicated clay lube or a quick detailer that provides more lubrication than basic tap water.

How Often Do You Need to Clay a Car

As often as you begin to feel an unwanted level of surface "texture" to your car. The contaminants that can bond to your car will create a gritty or texture to your car paint.

When done properly, your cars paint should feel silky smooth after you have washed and dried your car. Over time your car will collect pollutants and your paint will progressively feel less silky.

Since every city or area of the world has varying levels of pollution, this will be a case by case judgement call on your part. You may find you want to clay bar your car every month or once a year. Only you can decide.

Can You Clay Bar a Car Too Much

No. Yes. maybe...

Depends on who you ask. My professional opinion is no. In the extreme, you could argue that you could do anything too much. Even drinking water in excess in too short of a time can be deadly. But this is an extreme.

Since the clay bar removes bonded contaminants, and every situation is different, just as every form of paint contaminant will be unique, you will find that every clay bar job will also be unique.

This means that if you decide you want the silkiest paint on a regular basis, the time it takes to clay a car that has a trivial amount of bonded contaminants will be extremely short when compared to a car that has never been clayed, and has an excessive amount of pollution build-up.

Which translates into this: the more you have to rub to remove bonded contaminants, the more likely uyou will abrade your paint. Claying your car frequently is a sure way to keep this pollution from building-up to excessive levels.

This translates into very short claying time which then translates into very minimal abrading. Just as people say you can wax a car to much, they also claim you can clay bar a car too much. But I have yet to see this ever happen.

Will Using a Clay Bar Strip Car Wax

Yes is the simple answer. Regardless of a persons ability to actually prove this, you should apply a new coat of wax after every clay bar treatment. Which then leads us into the next question...

dish soap before using clay bar

Should You Strip Car Wax Off before You Clay Bar a Car

Probably. But before you overthink this, you should know that using the "right" kind f shampoo or car wash soap on your car will automatically take care of this.

While most clay bars claim to remove just about any type of "pollutants" (sometimes referred to as industrial fall-out), clay bars are rather ineffective at removing certain types of oils, grease, or road tar.

Not that a clay bar won't diminish these unwanted contaminants, but clay bars are not particularly suited to remove these types of "chemicals".

When a person asks how to use clay bar, I do recommend a good car washing first using a all-purpose cleaner or dish soap that will remove most forms of light to heavy grease and oils. While dish soap will not remove road tar, very few people will have road tar stuck to their paint.

By washing your car with grease-cutting dish soap (yes, it is safe), you will essentially prepare the surface of your car so that using a clay bar will prove most effective.

How To Use Clay Bar Summary

If you have stuck it out this far down this page you deserve a badge of honor! very few people have the patience to dig into any given subject for greater learning and understanding.

You can now call yourself part of a select group of people known as the informed.

I believe informed people make better decisions. How to use clay bar is a topic filled with much bad information.

I hope I have cleared up a few questions for you and have prepared you to get better results in your life with your car!


Darren priest

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