How To Detail Clay Your Car

How To Detail Clay Your Car

Detail Clay is one of the most innovative and effective product introductions to the car care industry. Invented in Japan in the late 1980’s, Automotive Detail Clay is a paint cleaning system developed to safely and effectively remove bonded surface contamination that is not removed with your normal car wash process.

Claying your car with a detail clay is not a substitute for polishing your paint, it is a process to be done prior to the polishing process. The detail clay removes contaminants that have bonded to your paint. The polishing process removes paint defects such as scratches, swirl, oxidation and staining, while improving overall paint clarity to enhance gloss. Both the claying and polishing steps are necessary to prepare your paint for the best adhesion of your car wax, paint sealant or protectant.

For those who have never done clayed, rubbing a detail clay bar on your car does sound a little strange but it is actually very effective, quick, super easy and very safe! If you have never clayed your paint you will see what you have been missing within the first few passes with the clay bar. It’s actually fun!

This article will walk you through the claying process step-by-step to remove bonded surface contamination on your car and prepare your car for the polishing process.

Does My Car Need to be Clayed?

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Factory, Factory Lot, Transport, Dealership

The first thing you need to remember is that, age doesn’t matter! Many people think that a new car doesn’t need to be clayed. This is not true! If your car is subjected to airborne contamination and it has bonded to your paint surface it needs to be clayed.

Just remember, even a new car has been subjected to many types environments prior to the salesperson handing you the keys. Your car was built at the factory, sat on a lot waiting for transport via ship, train or truck or a combination of transports, then it sat on the lot waiting to be bought. Who knows what was floating around the air on the long journey between the factory and your driveway???

Surface Contamination Test

New or old, there is a way to tell if it is time to clay your car.

  • Wash your car to make sure the surface is clean and free of any loose dirt, then feel the surface with the back of your hand for obvious contamination. Sometimes you can feel it right away but you may need to go one step further with your contamination test.
  • Bonded Surface Contamination Test

  • Take a plastic baggie and place your hand inside the bag.
  • Run the bag over the same area of your paint that you felt with your bare hand.

Do you feel the difference? The plastic bag basically amplifies the surface contamination bonded to your car. Even if you don’t feel much, it is best to remove it before moving on to your polishing and protecting processes.

Types of Bonded Surface Contamination

Bonded surface contaminants make your paint feel rough leaving your paint more prone to oxidation and premature aging. If your paint is not slick and smooth, dirt and grime tend to be stick to the surface of your car which can lead to instilling that dreaded swirl during your car wash process.

  • Paint Overspray
  • Industrial Pollution
  • Road Grime
  • Brake Dust
  • Bugs Remains
  • Pollen
  • Specs from Tree Sap or Tar
  • Many other contaminants that float around the air and attach themselves to your paint’s surface.

How Does Detailing Clay Work

Paint Contamination Removed by Detail Clay
Surface contamination, as shown by this magnified illustration, won’t budge when you wash the surface through your normal car wash procedure. The contamination is even difficult to polish off. Detail clay will quickly, and easily grab this contamination as it glides across your paint surface without the worry of damaging your paint.

Detail clay works by hydroplaning (gliding) over the surface of the paint on a thin layer of detailing clay lubricant. The clay lubricant helps keep the clay from sticking to the surface of the paint while the clay removes the bonded contamination. Many fear that they will harm their car’s paint as detailing clay is an abrasive but it is actually only abrasive to the contamination, not your paint. The detail clay actually safely sheers the bonded surface contamination without the fear of harming your paint.

Types of Detail Clay

Sonus SFX Ultra-Fine Detail Clay Bar

There are many brands of clay with different levels of aggressiveness. The more aggressive detailing clays are used in body shops to remove more difficult contaminants like heavy paint overspray. The medium to ultra-fine grade detailing clays are formulated for the professional detailers, serious enthusiasts and average consumer. The medium grade detailing clay is best for cars that have contamination you can feel easily with your bare hand. A mild to ultra-fine grade detailing clay like the Sonus SFX Ultra-Fine Detailing Clay is an excellent choice for those with normal to mild contamination.

Clay Lubrication

Sonus Glyde Clay Lubricant

Without proper clay lubrication the detail clay simply will not work, instead the clay would stick or skip across the paint. Lubrication such as a detail spray, the Sonus Glyde Clay Lubricant will help clay bar properly glide across the paint surface.

Detail Claying Procedure

Now that we’ve discussed the types of detail clay products, let me just give you a rundown on how to detail clay your car to achieve that super slick surface.

  • Always work in a shaded area and on a cool surface. Claying your car on a warm or hot surface will tend to make the clay stick to the surface and will not be effective to remove the bonded surface contamination.
  • Washing Car

  • Thoroughly wash and dry your car or truck. For more information on properly wash your car read our How To Wash Your Car Article.
  • Cut your detailing clay in half or quarters and form a round flat wafer.
  • Spray your detail clay lubricant onto about a 2’ by 2’ area. IMPORTANT! If you drop your detail clay bar on the ground you MUST throw it away as it will pick up dirt from the ground which will scratch your car!
  • Detail Clay

  • Gently with slight pressure glide the detailing clay bar over the surface of the paint in a back and forth motion. Do not apply excessive pressure; remember you are only hydroplaning over the surface to remove bonded contaminants. The clay may tend to grab at first, then you will feel it break free and easily glide as the contaminants are removed. IMPORTANT! Keep your clay and surface well lubricated with your detailing clay lubricant.
  • Wipe clay lubricant from the surface with a quality microfiber towel.
  • Claying Paint

  • Fold over your clay and knead to reshape often to expose a clean clay surface.
  • Feel the area that has been cleaned. It should feel slick and smooth. If not, you will need to repeat the process until all of the surface contamination has been removed.
  • Continue this process over the entire car and remember that detail clay works great on glass, chrome and wheels too.
  • As a precaution when claying wheels be sure to use a dedicated clay bar that will not ever be used on your car’s paint.

Storage: Be sure to lubricate your detail clay bar with your clay lubricant to keep it from sticking and store it in it’s original box or plastic bag. Do not let your detail clay freeze or reach temperatures above 120 degrees.

As you can see, claying is well worth the effort when it comes to properly caring for your car. Hopefully some of the tips here will help you achieve the results you are looking for as well as help keep your investment looking great for years to come.

Lynn Matthews

“The Car Girl”

Product Technical Support and Training Specialist

Premium Finish Care

Copyright 2010 by Lynn Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

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