What is a Clay Bar? And How Do I Use It For Detailing?

What is a Clay Bar? And How Do I Use It For Detailing?

As we saw in our last post, exposure to contaminants can wreak havoc on the body of your car.

While washing your car will get rid of large particles of dirt, soap and water cannot fully eliminate contaminants.

That’s where a clay bar comes in. What is a clay bar you ask? Well, I’ve outlined all the information you need to know below.

What Is A Clay Bar?

A clay bar (also known as detailing clay) is an auto detailing tool used in the repair and maintenance of car surfaces. Whether you’re a professional detailer or an amateur, a clay bar will help your car’s finish look as good as new.

Clay bars work to remove the contaminants that normal washing misses, and they are effective on your car’s paint, metal, glass, and fiberglass surfaces. The consistency of a clay bar is elastic, which allows you to flatten it, stretch it, roll it, and generally mold it to your liking.

What Is A Clay Bar

Image: detailedimage.com

Why Should You Use A Clay Bar?

As a car owner, you are probably peppered with numerous products that you ‘must’ use to maintain the integrity your car. Don’t worry; this is not the case here.

Clay bars are not all flash and little substance, they are vital in the fight against contaminants such as tree sap, bugs, bird droppings, tar, paint overspray, air pollutants, industrial fallout, brake dust, and rail dust.

The aforementioned contaminants adhere to your car’s surfaces despite washing and polishing, and they are often invisible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, these contaminants can cause serious damage such as discoloration and rusting.

A clay bar will not only get rid of these contaminants, it will ensure that your car’s surfaces (paint, glass, lights, wheels, metal) are smooth and shiny.

PRO TIP: If you park your car in a garage use a clay bar at least twice a year, if it is parked outdoors then use the clay bar at least 4 times a year.

What Is A Clay Bar

How Does a Clay Bar Work?

How does a clay bar manage to get rid of the contaminants that car shampoo and polish cannot eliminate?

Well, when you run your clay bar across the surface of your car, the particles of contaminants attach to the clay. The only thing you need to do is add lubrication beforehand (more on that below) in order to prevent scratching.

The non abrasive clay bar manages to remove the tiniest particles without causing further damage to your surfaces. Isn’t that amazing?

How to Use a Clay Bar

What to Consider Before Choosing a Clay Bar

If you head over to Amazon or your local auto parts store, you’ll find plenty of clay bar brands to choose from. So how do you make your final decision?

Firstly, clay bars will differ in color, price, purpose, and elasticity, but the most important factor for you to consider is aggressiveness. Some clay bars are consumer grade (medium grade) while others are professional grade (fine grade).

how to use a clay bar on paint

Image: meguiarsonline.com

Consumer grade bars are mild and will require extra effort when cleaning highly contaminated surfaces, while professional grade bars are aggressive and will quickly clear up contaminants.

Due to the aggressive nature of professional grade bars, they pose a threat to your car paint and should therefore be left to those with experience. Consumer grade bars are the best option if you are new to claying.

What is Clay Bar Lubricant?

As I mentioned before, you will need to spray lubricant on your car’s surfaces before you rub them down with the clay bar, to ensure easy gliding and safe claying (you don’t want any scratches). This lubricant can come in the form of:

1. Quick detailer- a gentle cleaner and lubricating agent

2. Mixture of water and car shampoo

PRO TIP: If you buy a clay bar kit, the detailer will come as part of the package; otherwise you can buy it separately. If you cannot afford to, then a water and shampoo mixture will work just as effectively.

How to Use a Clay Bar

Now that you know everything there is to know about clay bars, it’s time for a quick tutorial.

What You Need

1. Bars of clay (a 2oz bar of clay can last between 18-24 months if used twice a year on the same car)

2. Lubricant

3. Microfiber towel

4. Quick wax

These items can be found in the standard clay bar kit, and they can also be purchased individually.

Clay Bar Tutorial

STEP 1: Wash your vehicle and then dry it. You NEVER start claying with a dirty vehicle!

STEP 2: Spray a good amount of lubricant on a small area of your car (no more than 2 square feet).

STEP 3: Gently run your clay along the lubricated area in a back and forth motion- the bar will grab the surface of your car as it picks up contaminants, and it will make noise.

Image: shop.autofinesse.co.uk

STEP 4: When the clay bar starts to glide smoothly, this indicates that the surface is clean (you might need to make several passes before you achieve this). You can then use your microfiber towel to wipe off any bits of clay and lubricant that remain. Afterwards, run your fingers along the surface you have just cleaned to ensure all contaminants have been removed.

If the surface is as smooth as glass, move on to step 5, if not, repeat the claying process.

STEP 5: Mold your clay so that clean bits of clay are exposed and repeat steps 2-4 on a new surface.

Image: pro-wax.co.uk

STEP 6: Repeat the claying process until your entire car is clean.

STEP 7: Once you’re done claying your car, apply wax or sealant to finish the maintenance job.

For more tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your claying experience, read this excellent guide.


As you can see, using a clay bar on your car is essential to maintain a quality finish. Using the tutorial above you can now restore the aesthetics of your car.

We’d love to know, have you tried the claying process before? Share your experience in the comments below.


1. A clay bar removes all contaminants from your car surfaces

2. Always use a wax or sealant once you are done claying

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