Does the best clay bar really exist?
You want the best not the worst clay bar, right?!
But if you don't fully understand what the clay bar is, what it does, when to use it, or if there are reasons not to use it, then your search to find the best in detailing clay (yes; another name for the clay bar) will naturally be limited.
But fear not my friend!
On this page I am going to make all attempts to provide you with information that will make you more informed than most "professional detailers" just starting out!
All coming straight from my experience as a professional auto detailer with over 30 years of experience at the time of this writing.
Before I spend the next 3K words helping you to become a very informed car owner about the many merits and virtues of the clay bar, I am often asked by my long term followers the simple question of asking me what I would do.
"Darren, I don't want to learn all this stuff, just tell me what you would do!"
If you are one of those people I will simply lead with exactly what I would do myself if I represented what I feel is a good representation of the bulk of my audience.
I would get myself of top rated clay bar kit:
I think it is important before you go running off reading clay bar review after another, that you at least understand the clay bar process and how to clay bar your car.
So let's take a brief moment to understand the basics and allow me to "myth bust" some of the bad information that continues to circulate the Internet from people willing to repeat bad and unverified information.
The clay bar actually has a few names:
Since it comes in different forms, it is a subject that becomes instantly confusing. In the name of keeping it simple, I will just give a brief description of what is the clay bar:
A synthetic type of semi-firm clay or putty that is like very much like sculpting clay or Playdoh if you are familiar with what Playdoh is. Now there are different types of "clay bars" in the form of synthetic, rubberized material that is attached to blocks, cloths, and handles.
This means that your quest for the best clay bar is now going to become more confusing as I do my best to make it less confusing. There are various forms or types of clay bars:
Darren's Note: I know you may already feel overwhelmed and we have just begun our discussion on clay bars. But I have examples of the different clay bar options below with descriptions, so you can make the most informed decision before pulling the trigger on what you may come to the conclusion as being the best clay bar.
You will hear and read varying opinions as to the actual clay bar process based on where you gather your information. Meaning this specifically: just how does the clay bar work.
My opinion based on testing and experience says that the clay bar works by shearing any forms of surface contaminants that have stuck to your car paint. But with that said; air born pollutants/contaminants do not discriminate. This means that if your car paint has contaminants, then virtually every other component of material on your car may have the same contaminants in varying degrees based on the material.
For example: glass is a harder material than the clear coat on your paint. Some forms of air born contaminants may not attach to your car glass as easily as they do on your car paint. The critical point of this is that the clay bar (in whichever version you choose) has the ability to remove these surface contaminants on hard surfaces rather easily, but not so good when trying to use on other materials like rubber, rubberized plastics, or black vinyl trim, etc.
Whether you really can find the best clay bar or not matters not. Any form of detailing clay is used to decontaminate your car paint specifically, but can also be used to decontaminate any hard surface of your car; once again, this means materials such as paint, glass, chrome, hard plastic, etc.
You perform the clay bar process by using a lubricant of some kind (more on the example below) that allows you to rub the clay bar back and forth across the surface you are treating, which allows the clay bar to shear away these unwanted forms of contaminants.
Think of paint contaminants this way:
Everywhere in the world there is this thing called air pollution. Air pollution can be made up of endless forms of contaminants. These contaminants settle onto the surface of your car (as seen in the diagram).
Since not all air born contaminants are created equal, some of these air born contaminants can settle onto your car and etch or bond to the surface of your car paint, glass, chrome, etc.
The different types of decontamination bars, mitts, sponges, cloths, etc., are all used to remove these contaminants that will not come off during the traditional car washing, waxing, or even polishing process.
To decontaminate or remove these unwanted air born pollutants, you need to use the clay bar as a separate process. The many types of pollutants can come in the form of, but not limited to the following:
Yes! When paint is done properly, it should feel like waxed glass. Slippery smooth to your hand as you gently glide it across the surface.
The only way to create velvet smooth paint is by using a clay bar to remove all forms of paint contaminants. Once the contaminants have been removed and you apply your choice as the best car wax, then your paint will be velvety smooth and you will find yourself with a bigger smile than you probably have had in a long time!
Yes would be the simplest of answers. It is the most effective way to remove that unwanted gritty feel of your car paint that is a result of bonded paint contaminants.
The clay bar will remove these paint contaminants leaving an extremely silky smooth feel to your car paint. Depending on how neglected your paint is and the amount of accumulated paint contaminants, will determine how much rubbing you will be required to do with any clay bar.
The more rubbing you do the more chances of abrading your paint in the process. But before you go into freak-out mode, just know that everything in life comes with trade-off's.
If you find that your paint appears to have what we call micro-marring after you clay your car, some basic car polish will fix this. Once you have clayed your car and polished it, you can then apply car wax to create an amazingly smooth and shiny appearance to your car paint.
If you do not want to go through the trouble of polishing your car, an application of car wax after you clay your car will still deliver amazing results that I know will make you smile from ear to ear!
It all depends.
The simple answer is that after washing your car and you have dried it off, feel your paint by swiping the palm of your hand across the paint surface. If you can "feel" your paint and hear your paint, you will know you need to be using a clay bar on your car.
"Paint should be seen, not heard"
The unwanted "pollution" that has bonded to your car paint can be seen if you have a light colored car. The "pollution" will appear like tiny little specs of dirt and often will look like rust specs. (much of the pollution attached to your car paint will literally be ferrous in nature. Which is a glorified term for iron/metal)
As you glide your hand across the surface, you will also be able to "hear" your car paint. Which isn't actually your car paint speaking to you. It is the noise made as your hand slides over all these tiny particles that have become a semi-permanent fixture on your cars paint.
Since your car will be exposed to pollution constantly, and since not every area of the world will have the same amounts of air born pollutants, it all depends on how quickly these unwanted forms of pollution attach to your cars paint and how often you are willing to go through the process of decontaminating your cars paint and glass.
I know; shocking, right?!
But let's take a moment and define what we mean when we say "damage". Because really what is going to happen is not what I would call "traditional" damage in ways you are likely imaging.
What could happen in he way of damaging your clear coat is by putting what we call in the industry as micro-marring. This is really a glorified name for abrasions. And it can only be seen on dark colored cars and only if you have to rub long enough to put these abrasions into the paint.
And this abrading will happen at different rates based on you and your situation.
"If using a clay bar will "scratch my paint" Darren, then why would anyone use detailing clay in the first place?"
One of the many terms I have made popular thanks to my YouTube channel.
I am constantly informing people that every choice you make, in this case whether to use the best clay bar to decontaminate your car paint (or simply wash, polish, and wax directly over all these bonded contaminants; because that is what you are doing if you don't remove them) will have trade-off's.
In the case of using detailing clay to clay bar a car, you will have to accept that some amount of abrading will be taking place.
But for if you want silky smooth paint that is contaminant free, you will need to use some type of decontamination "tool" to remove these bonded contaminants.
Darren's Note: If you are really looking to take your car to the next level, using a dedicated clay bar like any of my recommendations on this page will deliver amazing results in the form of silky smooth paint. If you have never used a clay bar it is hard to describe the wonderful sensation f a freshly washed, clayed, and waxed car.
But if you have the time and dedication, I highly recommend checking out my car polishing for beginners where I explain how a complete beginner can safely use a power car buffer to take your car to an even higher level of perfection after you have used the clay bar, and prior to applying any form of car wax.
The simple answer is that 95% of you will want to choose the best clay bar as the way to decontaminate your car paint. But with that said, there are chemical products that can also help decontaminate your car paint.
These chemical products (Iron X as an example) are sprayed onto your cars paint and chemically react and "neutralize" the ferrous metal particles.
The problem with these are a few:
"So Darren, what should I do?"
I can't tell you for sure, but I can help you come to a decision as to what you might consider the best clay bar.
Most people (myself included) start off with what you have concluded as the best clay bar and perform the decontamination process using the clay bar first. Once you have clayed your car followed by your choice as the best car wax, then see what you think and move forward from there.
Most people find that the abrading caused by the clay bar process is insignificant enough after a heavy-handed application of wax, that they simply don't feel the need to over-think the moment past that.
Likely you will come to the same conclusion once you experience how silky smooth your car paint will feel once you have washed, clayed, and waxed your car.
It is a glorious fee! (trust me on this one!)
As I mentioned at the beginning; there are various types of "clay bars" you can choose from. And my types, I mean the numerous tools now available that are used just like the traditional clay bar, but come in a different form.
these are usually called cloths, towels, or vicos bars. And only you can decide what you ultimately consider the best clay bar and like so many areas of life, is simply a matter f personal preference. Just know that any choice you make from my recommendations of the best clay bar on this page will handle the needs and process of decontaminating your car.
this is a common question. Not only do people ask that question, but they also ask if you can use water as a clay lubricant. The answer to both questions is a yes!
Just know that this goes against the industry standard that says you must use a dedicated clay lubricant in order to safely clay your car. I have yet to prove that using a dedicated clay lubricant versus soapy water or water alone, will do any more damage when compared to a dedicated clay lube.
But you will find endless keyboard experts trying to prop themselves up that will tell you otherwise. You will be called a hack and all kinds of other unsavory adjectives if you decide to use water or soapy water to clay your car.
I say you use what works best for you. once you find the best clay bar for you, I do recommend using the dedicated clay lube at first until you become comfortable with the clay bar process, then moving forward you can make adjustments as you want.
If you have made it this far into this page, give yourself a big high-five!
You are now among the few. Most people simply don't have the patience to read through an entire detailing tutorial on the best clay bar to learn all the many "details" of this subject.
My goal has been to help you become a more informed car owner so that you can also make a more informed decision. I hope the time and effort I have put into this page has helped.