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Car Clay - Performing Paint Cleaning

Car Clay - Performing Paint Cleaning
Show Table of Contents What is Car Clay?
What Types of Cleaning Clays Are There?
When Should I Use It?
Where Can Clay Be Used on the Car?
How Do I Use Car Clay?
Can I Use Car Clay Without Polishing Afterwards?
What Lubricant Should I Use for Cleaning Clay?

Car Clay: What Is It and How Do You Use It?

Whenever you want to polish and possibly seal your car, proper cleaning is necessary to remove deep-seated dirt and paint imperfections. Fortunately, there's the right product for that: car clay.

Find out what car clay is and how to use it for cleaning your car in this article.

What Is Car Clay?

Car clay is used for cleaning car paint and is intended to remove "deep-seated" contaminants and rough spots from the paint. Car clay is often very elastic and can remove brake dust, rust, oxidation, and tree sap from the paint.

You may have heard of car clay under the terms Clay Bar, Paint Clay, or Cleaning Clay.

When you want to polish or seal your car, it's essential to work on the paint with cleaning clay first. This ensures a clean paint surface, which is the basis for sealing, and it also improves the polishing results on the "pre-smoothed" paint. Unlike polish, car clay has the advantage of only removing contaminants without taking off paint.

What Types of Cleaning Clays Are There?

There are often three levels of cleaning clay, which are color-coded. Depending on your car's level of contamination, you can choose the right level. (Note: We consider this 3-level system to be outdated. A modern clay that is roughly equivalent to a "medium" level is usually suitable as an "all-in-one" solution).

  • Coarse (usually red/purple): for particularly heavy dirt and deposits
  • Medium (white, gray, yellow, or green): a good all-rounder
  • Mild (blue or white): gentle, but too weak for heavy contamination

In addition to traditional car clay, there are also sponges (Clay Blocks) or gloves (Clay Mitts) that have a thin special layer similar to the clay's surface. This allows them to be washable because dirt adheres less strongly. However, this is also a disadvantage because during clay use, you have to clean them repeatedly to remove the dissolved dirt particles. If you don't do this, it can potentially cause scratches in the paint.

When Should I Use It?

You can't always see whether you should clay your car with the naked eye, but you can feel it. Run your fingers over the slightly dampened paint. If it feels as smooth as glass, you don't need to clean it. However, if it feels rough, you should use car clay. Especially on light-colored vehicles, you can sometimes see so-called "rail dust particles" with the naked eye. These appear as small orange dots.


As mentioned earlier, in almost all cases, cleaning before polishing or sealing is recommended. Otherwise, you'll be working defects or contamination into the sealant and paint. You can use car clay on your car several times a year.

Where Can Clay Be Used on the Car?

Whether it's paint, windows, headlights, or rims - cleaning clay can be used on almost all surfaces of the car. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Cleaning clay can leave behind fine scratches and should not be used on delicate or soft surfaces. These include leather, rubber, and plastic. Use caution.
  • Always use a proper lubricant when working with cleaning clay to avoid scratching.
  • Don't use the same clay that you used on the paint for other surfaces, as it may contain abrasive particles.

If you're unsure whether you can use cleaning clay on a particular surface, check the manufacturer's recommendations.

How Do I Use Car Clay?

Using car clay isn't complicated, but it requires attention to detail. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Wash your car thoroughly.
  2. Dampen the surface you want to clean with water or a suitable lubricant.
  3. Tear a piece of car clay off the block or use a complete piece of a clay bar.
  4. Knead the clay in your hands until it's soft and pliable.
  5. Rub the clay gently over the surface in straight lines. Always work in small sections.
  6. Listen and feel carefully. If you encounter rough spots, that's where contaminants are being removed.
  7. Fold and knead the clay to expose a clean surface as it gets dirty.
  8. Keep the surface well-lubricated to avoid scratching.
  9. Repeat this process for the entire car.

Once you've finished claying the entire car, rinse it off thoroughly to remove any remaining clay residue. You're now ready to proceed with polishing or sealing as needed.

Can I Use Car Clay Without Polishing Afterwards?

Yes, you can use car clay without polishing afterwards. Car clay is primarily designed to remove contaminants and prepare the surface for polishing or sealing. However, if your car's paint is in relatively good condition and you don't need to address any minor imperfections, you can use car clay to achieve a smooth and clean surface without the need for further polishing.

In such cases, after claying, you can directly apply a wax or sealant to protect and enhance the appearance of your car's paint.

What Lubricant Should I Use for Cleaning Clay?

When using cleaning clay, it's essential to use a suitable lubricant to prevent scratching the paint surface. There are dedicated clay lubricants available, but you can also use a diluted car wash shampoo or a quick detailer spray as a lubricant. Just ensure that whatever you use provides enough slip to allow the clay to glide smoothly over the paint.

Apply the lubricant generously to the surface you're working on and keep it well-lubricated throughout the clay bar process. This will help the clay pick up contaminants without causing damage to your car's paint.

In conclusion, car clay is a valuable tool for achieving a clean and smooth car paint surface, whether you're preparing it for polishing or simply maintaining its appearance. With the right technique and lubrication, you can effectively use car clay to remove contaminants and enhance the overall look of your vehicle.

Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the specific car clay product you choose, and always exercise caution to prevent any potential damage to your car's surfaces.

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