Clay Bars are the secret weapon that detailers use to make your car shine again

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How long has it been since you last saw your car shine like it did when you first bought it new? No matter how many times you wash it or get it polished, it’s never quite the same. Until you take it to get a detailing and suddenly, they are able to bring back the paint’s real shine. How do they do that? Well, the answer is quite simple really; a clay bar!

A clay bar is a resin mixture that detailers use to bring the shine back to your car. It has a very specific purpose and using it properly is tricky. But if you can learn to use it, you can always keep your car shiny and give it that reflective yet cloudy look.

How does it work, though?

Clay bars are clay like substances and they are very elastic. The elasticity means that they can easily morph into any shape of form. This elasticity is exactly what enables them to do their job too.

After your car has been on the road a few times, its paint gets infested with what detailers call contaminants. These contaminants stick to the surface of your car and pollute the paint job. Common examples of contaminants include rail dust, brake dust, and industrial fallout. These pollutants stick to the car’s paint layer and make it rough at a microscopic level.

This roughness of the skin is the reason you cannot get your car’s shine back. No matter how many times you get it polished or washed, the contaminants do not leave the surface of the car. This means that the surface of the car is still rough after a wash at the microscopic level. If you run your palm against the car’s surface, you can even feel and hear the roughness.

A clay bar is the perfect solution to this problem. It’s elastic, clay-like surface is built to stick to these contaminants and never let go. Once a contaminant sticks to the clay bar’s surface, the clay quickly surrounds it and buries it into the bar’s surface. As the clay bar is pulled away, the contaminant is successfully extracted from the surface.

Clay Bar Recommendations

What’s inside a Clay Bar Kit?

If you purchase a Clay Bar Kit, you can typically find three things in it

Clay Bars

This is the actual clay bar that you will use for the cleansing process. They typically come in 2-8 oz bars. A 2 oz bar can be used on 3-4 cars and lasts you 2 – 3 years if used on the same car.

Detailer or Spray Lubricant

This lubricant is sprayed on the surface before using the clay bar. It helps reduce the friction between the clay bar and the vehicle’s surface. That helps avoid any damage caused to the paint when using the clay bar.

A Towel

A towel is also needed for the clay bar treatment. It is used to smoothly clean over the surface after applying the clay bar treatment. It helps remove any remaining contaminants or spray lubricant. Typically, towels used in any type of car detailing are microfiber towels. These are special kinds of fibers that are 1/100th the diameter of human hair and made with polyester and polyamide.

How to use a clay bar

Here are the steps to give your car a clay bar treatment

Step 1 – Wash the car

Before starting the treatment, you need to wash the car and let it dry. This helps remove any large contaminants already on the surface and reduces work that the clay bar has to do. Which helps the clay bar get to the real work and that’s micro contaminants.

Step 2 – Apply spray lubricant

Spray the lubricant on a small portion of the car’s surface. The spray should be applied on enough space that you can get to without stretching or reaching over with your hand but large enough that you don’t waste your time reapplying the spray lubricant over and over.

Step 3 – Use the Clay Bar

Cut a small piece of the clay bar that is an inch in width. Separate it from the rest of the bar with a blade or a knife (be careful). We will use this smaller piece to perform the rest of the clay bar treatment.

Glide the clay piece against the surface where you applied the spray lubricant. Always check the surface to ensure that there are no tiny rocks or hard objects that might damage the paint on the car. Initially you will feel the car’s surface pull at the clay bar. That just means that clay is doing its job and pulling out the contaminants. After a while, when you feel the clay runs along the surface smoothly, that’s when you know that part of the surface is not clean. Keep repeating the process until you’re done with a certain area.

Always use a fresh side of the clay piece i.e., a side that doesn’t already have contaminants. If you’ve used all sides of the clay, you can simply stretch it out and bring the inner side of the clay bar out just like any other clay.

Step 4 – Clean the area

After you are done, use the microfiber towel or cloth to gently wipe away the lubricant and any remaining contaminants. Make sure that you roll the towel as you are gliding it across the surface so that it does push the contaminants back in.

Run your fingers along the area you just cleaned, if it’s not smooth, you will need to re-clay it.


When done with a certain part of the area and it’s smooth, move over to the next part. Once you’re done with the whole car, you can wax it as a final step. The wax will fill any gaps left in the paint by the contaminants and give that final finish the clay bar treatment.

And voila! You now have a clean, shining car. Just like the first day you bought it!

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