Removing Tough Contaminants With a Clay Bar

detailing clay bar

It’s not always possible to remove every type of contaminant from the surface of a car using only water and soap. After washing and drying your car, put a plastic sandwich bag over your hand and touch the surface of the car. If the paint feels rough, it’s because there are contaminants fused to its surface that water alone cannot remove.

To remove the more difficult class of contaminants from car surfaces, clay bars are often used. A clay bar is an engineered resin compound that can be applied to paint, glass, fiberglass or metal surfaces without causing damage to the car but effectively removes the hardiest of contaminants.

What are Automotive Clay Bars?

Automotive clay bars are a valuable tool for maintaining the surface of a car’s paint job. This product is an effective solution to help remove brake dust, tree sap, bird droppings, industrial pollution, road grime, stubborn dirt, and debris that regular washing often misses.

Traditionally, automotive clay bars consist of a clay-like material designed to pull surface contaminants such as rail dust, bug residue, loose debris, and rough spots off the clear coat of a car’s paint. Additionally, it can assist with minor swirls and slight imperfections while removing old coats of wax and acid rain residue.

Unlike other DIY detailing products – like polishes used to shine the car’s finish – an automotive clay bar will clean directly into the pores of your car’s paint without causing any damage. Clay treatments provide an accurate solution for those hard-to-remove layers of contamination, which makes it both invaluable and long-lasting for auto-detailing enthusiasts. Moreover, using a clay bar often results in a smoother application for further treatments like waxing or protecting polishes. Overall, an automotive clay bar is a part when it comes to properly caring for your car’s exterior finish, making it look better than ever!

Exploring Different Types of Clay Bars

The automotive clay block products are specially designed for deep cleaning the car surface from all the contaminants that cannot be washed or wiped away easily. Traditional clay bars can come in different colors, vary in cost, and, most importantly, have different grades for its usage. The grade is the most important factor to consider when buying a clay bar, which ranges from consumer-grade clay (medium grade) to professional grade (fine grade).

Medium-grade clay bars are gentler on the car surface and will take more time and effort to remove stubborn contaminants. Professional detailers, however, would prefer fine-grade auto-detailing clay bars due to its aggressiveness in removing deep-seated contaminants such as tar.

Let’s look at some of the properties of the clay bar that make it a popular choice for cleaning cars among auto enthusiasts:

Let’s look at some of the properties of the clay bar that make it a popular choice for cleaning cars among auto enthusiasts:


Clay bars are highly elastic, which means they carry excellent durability even while being stretched, rolled or flattened repeatedly against the car’s surface.

Removing Tough Dirt

They take care of the more difficult variety of contaminants, such as industrial debris and environmental fallout. The tiny particles stick to the surface of the clay and are thus separated from the paint.


Before being used, the clay bar is dipped in a lubricant or the lubricant is sprayed on the car’s surface. This helps ensure that the particles that stick to the clay bar do not create scratches on the surface of the car. Using fresh sides of the clay regularly through a single wash also reduces the chance of the dirtied clay spoiling the paint.

Safer Choice 

Detailing clay, as it is sometimes called, uses mild abrasives and is safe to use. Though the detailer’s clay may introduce some micro-marring, this can be easily removed with a light polish.

Easy to Use

There are no complex preparations. You can simply wash and dry your car with soapy water, spray lubricant over an area, and rub the clay bar across the area. Finally, polish off the area with a microfiber towel.

Thus detailing clay is the best choice for removing the more stubborn contaminants from car surfaces without damaging protective layers. It leaves the car looking shiny and vibrant and ensures that the presence of dirt particles does not compromise the beautiful paint job.

What are the Dangers of using a Clay Bar?

One of the most important things to remember while using a clay lubricant is to apply it to the car’s surface when it is heavily saturated with water or a lubricant. If the surface dries out while you are working with the clay bar, particles from underneath the paint of your car will pull up. In addition, if too much force is applied or used in one spot for too long, there is an increased risk of scratching and damaging your paintwork or chrome trimming. To avoid this damage, always be gentle and work in small sections at a time until you have done all areas needing attention. Use clean microfiber towels to wipe away excess lubricant.

Want a professional auto detailer to handle the job rather than DIY it? Contact Details Matter in Melbourne, FL. We offer a full range of exterior and interior detailing services, including new vehicle protection, ceramic coatings, and maintenance packages.

This article was originally published in February 2017 but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.