Are you in pursuit of paint perfection to make your vehicle shine like new again? Struggling to remove nasty marks and contamination? In order to achieve this, you need a clay bar.
A clay bar is a revolutionary play-doh like bar which easily removed bonded contaminants from your paintwork and enables the best possible shine and finish to your paintwork once more.
In this review and buying guide, we take a look at the best clay bars, explain exactly how they work and assess their benefits.
In A Rush?
Struggling for time and would like a brief overview of our best clay bars? No problem.
1. Meguiar’s Quik Clay Bar Starter Kit
- Inlcudes 80g piece of clay and 473ml of quik detailer
- Safely removes bonded contaminants such as tree sap, tar, iron fallout and overspray
- Easy to use
- Prepares the surface for polishing and waxing
- Meguiar’s are experts in car care products with years of experience
2. Autoglym Clay Detailing Complete Kit
- Complete kit which even includes the superb Super Resin Polish for use after using the clay to create an incredible finish
- Kit contains Rapid Detailer – 500ml, Clay Bar – 100g, Super Resin Polish – 100ml, Microfibre cloth, Perfect Polishing Cloth
- Easy to use
- Removes bonded contaminants and prepares the surface for paint correction
- Safe for use on all exterior surfaces
3. Bilt Hamber Auto Clay
- Supplied in a 200g bar
- Only water required as a lubricant, no need for a quick detailer
- Leaves a clean, smooth finish
- 8 times winner of the Auto Express best clay bar award
- Available in soft, regular or hard variants depending on level of contamination
- Easy to use, no frills product
- Bilt Hamber products produce exceptional results, everytime
4. Chemical Guys OG Light Clay Bar
- Flex Clay technology ensures the clay flexes and shapes to the vehicle contours perfectly
- 100g clay bar
- Removes stubborn contamination such as overspray, tree sap, iron fallout
- Easy to use
- Works on all painted surfaces
- Restores a smooth as glass finish to paintwork
5. Pure Definition Car Clay Bar Detailing Kit
- Kit contains 1000ml of quick & slide gloss detailer, 100g fine grade clay bar
- Removes stubborn contaminants
- Enhances paintwork finish
- Easy to use
- Can be used on glass and headlights
What is A Clay Bar?
Put simply, a clay bar is an elastic, putty like material which is used to deep clean the paintwork of a vehicle. A clay bar is seen as a more advanced part of a car cleaning kit and isn’t something that you’d use on every wash.
A clay bar can remove contaminants which are bonded to a vehicle’s paintwork. Contaminants such as overspray, tree sap, tar, brake dust are easily removed with a clay bar, simply washing the car with a wash mitt and car shampoo will never remove these. Also, polishing with cutting compound won’t remove any of the above contaminants no matter how many times you try. This is when a clay bar is required, the clay bar will lift all of the contaminants from the paintwork due to it’s resin based elsatic like formulation.
Clay bar’s require the use of a lubricant in order to glide over the paintwork and pick up all of the bonded contaminants along the way. Most clay bar’s will use a quick detailer spray but some clay bar’s can use regular tap water for lubrication. Without this lubrication, the clay bar would simply stick to the paintwork and could potentially inflict damage.
When Should You Use A Clay Bar?
Generally speaking, you’d use a clay bar before polising and waxing your vehicle. The purpose of using a clay bar is to “deep clean” the paintwork of your vehicle which then enables the polish and wax to produce the best possible results.
Quite often, people will wash their car and begin polishing without properly preparing the paintwork and ensuring that it’s entirely clean and prepared. Without using a clay bar to remove all of the bonded contaminants, your polishing and waxing results will never be as good as they should be. Think of it like this, instead of polishing the bare paintwork, you’re simply applying polish to a bonded layer of grime and contaminants.
By using a clay bar before polishing, you’ll prepare the paintwork as best as possible and allow the polish to fix defects and restore the best possible shine.
You can also use a clay bar as and when you need to remove any stubborn marks or defects. For example, if you regularly park your car under a tree, you’ll likely end up with tree sap on the roof and bonnet of the car. Simply washing the car won’t remove the tree sap and you’ll have water sitting on the roof and bonnet in one big sheet because of the tree sap. A quick once over with a clay bar regularly will completely remove the tree sap. Once you’ve removed the tree sap, our tip would be to apply a good quality wax to protect the paint and prevent the tree sap from damaging it. If you’re unsure of which wax to go for, check out our review and buying guide of the best car wax to buy.
If you’ve had any repair work done on your car which included re spraying part of the bodywork, you may have overspray on other panels from the painting process. Whilst all paint shops will always do their best to prevent overspray, sometimes it’s impossible. Overspray can be identified running your hands across the paintwork. If the paintwork feels rough, almost sandpaper like, it’s more than likely to be overspray. Don’t panic, it can easily be removed with a clay bar. Again, as we mentioned earlier, no amount of washing with shampoo is ever going to remove overspray, you need a clay bar.
How Do You Use A Clay Bar?
A clay bar is really simple and straight forward to use, but it’s really important to understand exactly what to do with it and how to use it. If used incorrectly, i.e without lubrication or not enough lubrication, you could potentially damage your paintwork which could be costly. Follow these simple but important steps and you’ll get great results everytime;
- The first step is to ensure that you’ve thoroughly cleaned the car using a wash mitt and a good quality car shampoo.
- Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to prepare your clay bar for use. The clay bar will be a solid singular piece of clay, break it down into smaller pieces and set them aside.
- TOP TIP : Dunk your clay into a tub of warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes or so. This will make the clay much easier to work with an manipulate
- Depending on the clay bar that you’re using, you’ll either use a quick detailer as a lubricant or in some cases it’ll require just tap water. Take your bottle of lubricant and saturate the panel that you’re going to begin working on. Don’t be affraid of getting the panel too wet, you want to avoid the panel getting too dry at all costs as this can inflict damage.
- Manipulate the clay into a disc shape of around 5cm in size.
- Now that your panel is wet, you can begin gently working the clay bar across the panel.
- Start gently rubbing the clay across the paintwork ensuring to work in small areas at a time. As the clay bar comes into contact with contaminants, you’ll feel and hear it. You’ll feel resistance and hear a rough and grimey sort of sound as the clay lifts the contaminants from the panel. Once the contaminants have been completely removed, the clay bar will glide across the panel without any resistance and nasty sounds.
- Once you’ve removed an area of contamination, inspect the clay bar and fold it over on itself to create a fresh part of the clay. Continue the process until there’s no clean, fresh clay left. At this point, bin that piece of clay and move onto a new piece.
- Continue this until you’ve covered the entire car
Once you’ve finished the process, you’ll be left with a beautiful clean paintwork surface which is ready for polishing and then subsequently waxing. Remember our golden rule, always polish BEFORE wax and never the other way around.
Clay Bar Top Tips
- A clay bar should never require a lot of heavy force to remove contaminants, you should only ever need a light pressure.
- Break your clay bar into small pieces, this will make it easier to work with and also make your bar last longer
- When storing the clay bar, ensure it’s stored in a completely sealed jar or packet. Spray a small amount lubricant in your storage container to ensure it’s kept fresh
- Light coloured vehicles may need clay bar treatment more often that darker coloured cars. This is because a light coloured car, such as white, will show contaminants such as tar and iron fallout much more than a darker car would
- Avoid plastic trims, chrome trims etc, don’t clay bar these
- Clay bar’s are safe to use on glass and headlights
Clay Bar FAQ’s
Q. How do I store my clay bar when i’m not using it?
A. It can be quite difficult to store a clay bar, particularly in the original packaging that it came in. Our advise is to store it into a sealed jar and spray some quick detailer in the jar to keep it moist and lubricated. This should ensure it’s fresh and ready for use when you need it next.
Q. Can A clay bar make my car shinier?
A. In a roundabout way, yes, a clay bar can massively help with the shine on your car. If you’re always left a little underwhelmed with the shine on your car after polishing and waxing, it may be worthwhile clay barring the car. This will remove all bonded contaminants which could be preventing the polish and wax adhering to the paint as best as possible. Once you’ve clay barred the entire car you should get a much better result after polishing.
Q. What’s the difference between a clay bar and a clay mitt?
A. Both products do the same thing, just in a slightly different way. A clay mitt is a wash mitt which has a large piece of clay on one side of the mitt. This can be used in the same way as a clay bar to remove contaminants and cleanse the paint.
Q. How do I know when it’s time to clay my car?
A. After washing your car, run your hand and fingertips across the paintwork to check whether it’s smooth. If it feels rough and bumpy, it’s definitely time for a clay bar. Also, you may be able to visibly see contamination such as tree sap and tar deposits.
Q. How often should I clay my car?
A. The answer to this is very much dependant on a number of different factors but we think you should clay your car atleast once every 6 months. Here in the UK, the weather is pretty grim all year round and our car’s are often subjected to all sorts of grime and nasty stuff. We would personally advise using a clay bar 3-4 times per year to ensure that your paintwork is kept free of contaminants and kept in it’s best shape.
Q. Does a brand new car need a clay bar using on it?
A. Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, the preperation on brand new cars isn’t as good as it should be and often the vehicle will be full of iron fallout, tar deposits, tree sap etc. This is because that most brand new cars are stored in compounds and then travel long distances via rail, ship and truck. In doing so, they often pick up lots of contamination which is rarely removed the supplying dealer when valeting the car prior to handing over to the customer.
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