Car Cleaning Clay:
What's all the hype about?

Car cleaning clay has been around for decades, used by professionals, but still remains elusive to so many people. But until you have experienced the results of using detailing clay, it is a subject hard to illustrate in words.

While most people still remain in the dark about this quirky tool of detailing, even more people don't understand the reasons behind detailing clay and the amazing benefits of using this tool accordingly.

Car Cleaning Clay:
Strange tool for smooth paint

I think the best way to get you to where you need to be is a simple Q. and A. session.

Q. What is car cleaning clay?

A. Officially it is more commonly referred to as "the clay bar", detailing clay, a decontamination bar. Those are the nouns used to describe car cleaning clay. But often people will refer to the actual process with labels such as claying a car, clay barring your car, clay bar car, decontaminating your car, etc.

car cleaning clay

Q. What purpose does the clay bar serve in the detailing process?

A. Claying your car is simply the step necessary to remove the bonded paint contaminates; most specifically from the cars paint surface. There are airborne pollutants that settle onto your cars surface. And just like normal dust (not sure what normal dust is compared to abnormal) this airborne material will settle onto every surface of your cars exterior; not just the paint. This airborne pollution can come from numerous sources but not limited to natural occurring air pollutants from factory production, vehicle exhaust, rail dust (as the trains roll along steel rail lines, the steel wheels of the train create friction that will emit very tiny metal particles into the air), emissions from catalytic convertors (catalytic convertors are part of any modern day gas powered engines used to burn off un-spent gas fumes before they are emitted into the air)

Q. Doesn't traditional washing, waxing and polishing remove these bonded contaminates from your car?

A. No. These airborne pollutants will in fact bond and etch into the materials of your car: paint, glass, chrome, etc.

Q. Why is it important to remove these bonded contaminates?

A. For two reasons: they simply are not good for the materials of your car, and it creates a textured, gritty feel to the material surfaces of your car.

Q. How can I tell if my car has these pollutants?

A. There are two ways: You can feel them and you can see them on light colored cars. The simplest way is to take a plastic sandwich bag and put it over one hand. Slide this covered hand across any smooth surface of your car once it has been freshly washed. Your hand will immediately feel any pollutants present. And for most of you this will be a rude awakening as to what is going on.

Q. Is the car cleaning clay the only way to remove these bonded paint contaminates?

A. No. There are chemicals that exist that can also be used in conjunction with or used separately. For any truly hard core car guy that excepts no limitations, then ideally you would use both detailing clay and one of the products in a chemical form used for decontamination of your cars paint.Just know that the chemical liquids will only react to the ferrous bonded contaminants and will not remove any of the other forms of bonded pollutants.

Q. Do you recommend one or the other for beginners?

A. Yes. I recommend one of the clay bar kits below. This is the most simple and straight forward way for any car owner to achieve a silky smooth surface of your cars paint, glass, and chrome.

Q. How do clay bars work?

A. You start with a freshly washed car that is also dried. Spray each section with some of the included detail spray/clay lube and proceed to rub the car cleaning clay back and forth. At first you will feel resistant and "noise" that will diminish as the clay bar removes, or shears away the bonded pollutants.

Darren's Tips: There is much debate as to whether these clay bars will scratch your car paint. If you are using one for the first time, it will be disturbing as you rub these clay bars across your paint and you hear the noise that is created.

The fact is that the manufacturers of these clay bars or car cleaning clays do not tell people that your car paint will be abraded (often called micro-marring) as you clay bar your car. If you have a very light colored car you will not bee able to see this happening.

But on medium to dark colored cars, you may be able to see this micro-marring being done to your paint. This can be disturbing to many beginners. Just know that in life, everything has trade-off's, and using car cleaning clay has its own trade-off's.

  • The majority of people who clay their car for the first time, then follow up with a coat of car wax are so impressed with the feel and appearance of their car, that any of the micro-maring simply doesn't matter to them
  • The amount of rubbing required will determine how significant any micro-marring will be created. The heavier the build-up of pollutants on your cars paint, will determine how much rubbing you will have to do with the clay bar.
  • If you aren't the type to overthink things and don't have high expectations for your car, but simply want to do what is required as part of maintenance, then you only need to get one of the clay bar kits below, then wax your car and you are good to go!
  • If you are more of the perfectionist type of person, then you will want to polish your car after using car cleaning clay to decontaminate your car paint. Just know that while the thought of polishing your car with a power car buffer might scare you (yes, I strongly recommend you use a car buffer to polish your car rather than you thinking you can polish your car by hand), you need to know that you can truly polish your car with a powered machine polisher even as a complete beginner. See my buffing your car page to see how you can do this.

Clay Bar Kits

As mentioned above the first and easiest way for any car owner to decontaminate your car is with use of car cleaning clay (clay bar, detailing clay, etc).

These "tools" of the trade are simply too easy and simple to use not to default to this method first.

Meguiar's Clay Bar Kit

Meguiar's G10240 Smooth Surface XL Clay Kit, 240 grams

  • Includes (3) smaller clay bars.
  • Includes lubricant spray.
  • Includes micro fiber cloth.
  • No. 1 rated clay bar among Amazon.
  • Trusted name in cosmetic car care.

Mothers Clay Bar Kit

Mothers 07240 California Gold Clay Bar System

  • Includes two smaller clay bars.
  • Includes Showtime detailer as clay lubricant.
  • Includes micro fiber cloth.
  • Trusted name in car care.
  • Top rated clay bar kit within Amazon.

Griot's Garage Clay Bar Kit

Griot's Garage 11291 Paint Clay and Speed Shine Kit

  • Enthusiast grade clay bar kit.
  • A trusted name in cosmetic car care among enthusiasts and professionals.
  • I have come to know that Griot's produces excellent products that do perform to professional levels.
  • Comes with a single clay bar (bigger) that will last most of you years of use.
  • Also comes with their form of a spray detailer called Speed Shine. (One of their excellent products)
  • Comes with micro fiber cloths and latex gloves.

Detailing Clay Summary

Shopping for a top rated clay bar kit can get overwhelming very quickly due to the many choices, as well as the newest versions of ways to decontaminate your car paint.

Car cleaning clay is still the version I recommend most people start out with when it comes to shopping for detailing clay or the clay bar (just other names for car cleaning clay) in order to prepare your paint surface by removing the bonded contaminants prior to any car polishing or car waxing you will want to do.

best car cleaning clay kits

I hope you are now what I consider part of the informed group of car owners. If in fact you took the time to read through this page, you will now be among a small select group of people.

I wish you much success!


Darren Priest

  1. Home Page
  2. Clay Bar
  3. ››
  4. This Page