Sometimes just washing your car is not enough to get a smooth contamination free surface to apply a wax or sealant to. When contaminants such as bird droppings, brake dust and environmental pollutants settle and stay on your car's surface, they become embedded in the top layer of the paint. Auto detailing clay is a natural or synthetic compound used to remove contaminants from the surface of your car’s paint, glass, fiberglass and metal.
how does auto detailing clay work?
Clay is gently moved across the surface of a vehicle and ‘lifts’ any foreign debri that protrudes from it due to the tacky surface of the clay. The particles stick to the clay and is therefore removed from your vehicle. The surface being clayed should always be wet with clay lubricant to prevent loose debris from scratching the vehicle. Clay bars range from fine to aggressive for removing heavy contaminants. Using an aggressive clay or the wrong technique on soft paint can cause micro marring(scratches) which would require machine polishing to remove. Because of this in most cases I will not clay unless I am going to polish. Can you clay without polishing? Sure! But best practice would be to polish and wax after.
How do I know If need to clay my car?
Chances are if you are reading this you have never used detailing clay on your car. Here is a trick I learned years ago from Mike Phillips at Autogeek. After you properly wash and dry your vehicle do the'' Baggy Test". Simply use a clean sandwich baggie by placing your hand inside the baggie and then feeling the horizontal surfaces like the hood, roof and trunk lid. The film of plastic acts to intensify the surface texture created by contaminants bonded to the paint making it more dramatic to your sense of touch when you feel the paint through the baggie. One last note Always follow claying with a quality car wax or sealant. Clay will remove existing wax! The paint and surfaces that you have clayed must be sealed in order to protect the paint from corrosion, UV, bird droppings etc. I hope this information has helped you understand what detailing clay is and when to use it.
Russell Benz is the owner of Devine Shine Auto Detail LLC located in Crossroads/Little Elm Texas. He is a IDA certified detailer and installer for CS-II coatings.