How To Clay Bar A Car: The Surefire Guide To Decontamination

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The clay bar is a great tool to super clean your paint and get it ready for any paint correction process and ceramic coating, or even a simple wax application. Claying your car is very simple, but there are a few helpful tips and a pro step-by-step process that we provide here to help you achieve the best results possible!

Premium Clay Bar Kit w/ Clay Lube
Everything You Need To Clay A Car (KIT)

Your vehicle's surface is filled with contaminants. Some of these may be visible, such bug guts, bird droppings, water spots, and tree spots. And some contaminants, such as iron deposits, brake dust, and overspray may not be visible to the naked eye.

Table of Contents

What Is A Clay Bar?

Pictured above, a traditional clay bar.

An automotive clay bar is a resin and clay mixture that’s used to remove contaminants and pollutants from the surface of your car’s paint, glass, fiberglass, and metal. Detailing clay can be found in two forms: natural and synthetic. Just like waxes, the original clay bar was natural. However, synthetic clay mitts are most common these days for both professionals and enthusiasts thanks to their ease of use, great results, and durability.

Clay Bar Grades

Just like polishing pads, not all clay bars are the same. Each clay bar can have a different clay and resin composite, providing it with different grades of aggressiveness. For example, clay bars can be made especially for light contamination that can be found on newer vehicles, while other more aggressive clay bars are made for removing heavy contamination such as overspray or tree sap. The more aggressive the clay bar, the heavier contamination it can remove - but at a cost. Clay bars require friction to grab hold of contamination and remove it from the surface, which means they also cause some light marring and scratching. That's why, after a clay bar service, the vehicle is typically polished to remove any type of scratching.

What Are Clay Bar Kits?

Clay bar kits provide you everything you need to properly clay bar your car. The main items typically found in a clay bar kit are the clay bar itself, clay lube or a quick detailer, microfiber towels, and a plastic case to store any extra clay. These kits are a great generally affordable option for DIY individuals to clay one or two vehicles at home prior to polishing or waxing.

Why Torque Detail Prefers Clay Blocks over Clay Bars

If you haven’t noticed, we only include clay pads (also known as clay blocks) in our kits. Why? We like using them much better.

First of all, if you drop a typical clay bar on the ground, you’re pretty much forced to throw it away. It has likely picked up debris from the ground and you’d be better off not having it scratch your car!

Our clay pads have a nice, natural feel in the hand, can be re-used up to 100 times, and if you happen to drop it on the ground, simply rinse it off in your bucket of soapy water and you should be good to go!

Is A Clay Bar Good For Your Car?

Yes and no. If used properly, using a clay bar is a necessary step to properly decontaminate your vehicle prior to polishing, waxing, or coating. However, if the clay bar process is not performed correctly or performed too often, it can scratch the painted surfaces of your vehicle. Contamination can also build up in the clay bar or synthetic clay mitt, and if not cleaned properly, this can cause marring and scratching to the surface of your cars’ paint over time. This is why it's very important to clean out your clay mitt and use a fresh side of your clay bar as frequently as possible to avoid any damage. If you happen to drop your clay bar on the ground, discard it completely and grab a new one. Never risk thousands of dollars of damage to your paint just to save $20 worth of clay!

Why Should You Clay Bar A Car? What’s The Point?

The whole point of a clay bar service is to remove embedded contamination from the surface of your paint and glass. Imagine your car's paint and glass like skin. It has pores, cracks, and valleys, and over time, these areas collect contamination, causing your paint to look dull and feel rough. The clay bar grabs hold of all this contamination and removes it from the surface, leaving your paint smooth and ready for polishing or waxing.

The clay bar is a necessary step in the decontamination process of detailing. Sadly, hand washing alone cannot remove all the contamination on the surface of the vehicle, and if this contamination is not removed, it will negatively affect the polishing process and any type of protection that you try to apply to the vehicle’s surface.

How To Clay Bar A Car

Step 1.) Pick a Good Location

Make sure to find some shade and avoid working in the sun! You have to wash the vehicle prior to claying it, so the shade is really going to help both the wash and claying process.

Step 2.) Perform a Basic Wash

After you’ve found a cool day and some shade to work in, the next step is to perform a complete hand wash on your car. The best kind of soap to use here is one with decontamination properties such as Torque Detail Decon Soap. The hand wash will remove any loose dirt and grime on the surface of the vehicle, allowing the clay bar to perform at its best. The best way to wash your car is with a quality automotive soap, wash mitt, and the two-bucket wash method. After you finish washing all your paint, glass, plastic, and chrome pieces, make sure to completely dry the vehicle.

how to remove iron deposits car - car washing infographic

Step 3.) Using The Clay

After drying your vehicle, it's time to prepare the clay bar kit!

If you’re using our clay pad, you’re good to go.

If you’re using a typical clay bar, you’re going to want to cut the bar in half. Half a clay bar is more than enough to complete an average size vehicle. Take the other half and store it in a zip lock bag or a plastic tub. Take the leftover clay bar and shape it into a patty. This will make the clay bar easy to work with and provide more surface area for you to complete the job more efficiently.

Now it’s time to clay the paint! Grab the clay lube and mist it a few times on the clay, as well as on a 4x4 section of the car. In straight lines, up to down and left to right, lightly rub the clay on the surface. You'll notice that the paint will get smoother and smoother, making it easier to clay. After the paint has no more resistance, wipe off the access clay lube from the surface and repeat the process on the rest of the panel.

You'll notice all the contamination collecting in the clay bar after each pass through, so make sure to fold the clay over to a fresh side after each panel. Continue this process over the rest of the vehicle panel by panel, making sure not to let the clay lube dry on the surface of the paint or glass. If you’re using the Torque Detail clay pad, a simple rinse will do.

Step 4.) Inspection

Perform a post-inspection of the vehicle by taking the back of your hand and feeling the paint and glass surfaces. The paint should be super smooth to the touch! If you feel a rough spot, go over it again with the clay lube and a fresh side of clay, then buff it off to a shine.

Always use clay lube when using a clay bar. Never get lazy! What happens when you do a quick pass of the razor when shaving without shaving cream? You’re likely to get a cut or razor burn. Treat it the same way when claying a car.

How Often Should You Clay Your Car?

Clay your car only when it needs to be clayed. On daily drivers that are well-maintained with hand washes and some type of polymer sealant or ceramic coating, you should only need to clay the paint every few years or so.

When Should You Clay A Car? Under What Conditions?

Clay your vehicle when your paint starts to feel rough even after you're done with your hand wash, or right before polishing your paint or performing a coating application. You need to make sure that your paint is perfectly clean and contamination-free before the polishing or coating process. If your paint is not perfectly clean, your polish will not perform well and your coating can fail prematurely, costing you money and time!

Do You Need To Clay A Brand New Car?

You would think that a new car’s paint would be in brand new condition, but typically, that's not the case. Most brand new cars sit in dealership lots for months with little to no protection, collecting dirt and grime during that time. This means that, most of the time, you will need to clay bar new cars and prep them for polishing or protection. Speaking about new cars, here's another question: Should you ceramic coat your new car?

Can Claying A Car Damage Paint / Clear Coat Or Cause Swirl Marks?

Yes, if a clay bar service is performed improperly, it can damage paint, causing swirl marks and maybe even deeper scratches. Making sure to have the right technique, using a fresh side of clay after each panel, and having proper clay lubricant are all key steps in making sure you don't damage your vehicle's paint during the clay bar process.

What Is Clay Bar Lubricant And Why Do You Need It?

Because a clay bar is designed to be super tacky in order to grab on and remove embedded contamination, some type of lubricant is needed for the clay bar to slide across the surface of the paint and glass properly. A clay bar lubricant is used for this process, and provides the clay bar the perfect amount of lubrication to slide across the surface while still grabbing hold of contamination.

Quick detailers can be used as well, but these contain polymers that cause the paint to feel slick even though the paint might not be properly decontaminated. This gives the user a false sense of slickness to the paint, making them think the paint is actually decontaminated when in reality, the quick detailer is just making the paint feel slick. This is why dedicated clay lube is recommended for the clay bar process.

Can Clay Bars Remove Scratches?

A big misconception about the clay bar is that it can remove scratches. However, in reality, clay bars cannot remove scratches from your vehicle's paint. In fact if a clay bar is used improperly it can induce light scratches on your painted surfaces. The only way to properly remove a scratch is to polish it off the surface or fill it in with some type of wax or coating.

What Is The Best Clay Bar Alternative?

With advancements of technology in the detailing industry, many professional detailers and enthusiasts have stopped using clay bars and moved on to synthetic clay mitts, towels, and of course our very own clay pads.

Clay mitts and towels are generally more expensive compared to clay bars but while traditional clay bars can only be used once, synthetic clay mitts can be reused multiple times on multiple vehicles. They also have much larger surface areas compared to clay bars allowing you to clay a vehicle faster with the same results. This means synthetic clay mitts are more value-oriented, last longer, and speed up the claying process, all while providing the same results. Synthetic clay mitts can also be found in the form of towels and pads, allowing users to have different form preferences while claying their vehicles.

Another product on the market that’s used during the decontamination process is the iron fallout remover. This chemical process is used to remove embedded metal and iron particles from your painted and metal surfaces. This isn’t necessarily an alternative to clay bars, but is recommended to be used side by side with a clay bar to further enhance the decontamination of the vehicle. If you do want to use an iron fallout remover, we recommend doing so after a quality hand wash but right before claying the vehicle, as this will provide you the best results.

At Torque Detail, we like to use Decon soap as an iron remover. It makes efficient use of your time and allows you to remove iron right in the basic wash phase of clay barring.

Torque Detail’s Clay Pad: Our #1 Recommendation

Premium Clay Bar Kit w/ Clay Lube
Everything You Need To Clay A Car (KIT)

Your vehicle's surface is filled with contaminants. Some of these may be visible, such bug guts, bird droppings, water spots, and tree spots. And some contaminants, such as iron deposits, brake dust, and overspray may not be visible to the naked eye.


We highly recommend the Torque Detail Clay Pad kit. This kit provides you with an easy-to-use clay pad and clay lube that provides amazing results! The clay pad can be used over a hundred times with proper maintenance, and the clay lube provides the perfect amount of lubrication so that you don't have to worry about scratching the surface of your paint while removing all that nasty embedded contamination. This is the perfect combination for both professionals and DIY enthusiasts, so make sure to check it out and get your vehicle super clean!


We now know that claying your car is not a difficult process, but is required to make sure your paint stays clean and healthy while getting it ready for polishing and protection. Just make sure you're using the right products and tools, working section by section, and inspecting your vehicle for any missing spots after you complete the clay bar process. Our step-by-step process, pro tips, and product recommendations will help you ensure that your vehicle will get the best possible results, so enjoy!

Published on Oct 27, 2020