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Applying Auto Detail Clay

Applying Auto Detail Clay
Applying Auto Detail Clay What is Detailing Clay?

In 1990, Tadao Kadate of Japan invented clay resin. It was the first product to safely, instantly and cheaply remove airborne contaminants from delicate automotive paint. It was an instant success and proclaimed a "miracle product". To this day, Detailing Clay is the only product that takes off stubborn over spray with a single, swipe of the hand.

Clay bars are used in the detailing, automotive reconditioning and auto body shop professions to remove paint over spray, tree sap and industrial fallout from the cars painted surfaces. It also works on glass, plastics and many metals.

Automotive clay is a pliable, petroleum resin product (polybutene), containing mild abrasives. These abrasives are extremely small and mixed in with a powdered synthetic detergent. To this mixture abrasives are also added, such as, silica sand, calcium carbonate, alumina, ceramics and also Green Carborundum.

Many claim that clay bars are not abrasive but that is incorrect. They are all abrasive to a degree, some add more abrasives than others and these are usually identified as being “hot” bars. I actually removed the clear from a cars lower panel once using a “hot” bar, so be cautious!

Does the clay bar actually remove contaminates or does it just shave off the top, making the specks flush with the paint? The answer is yes and no. It depends on the contaminate. The clay bar may not totally remove rail dust, but it will shave off the protruding particles. It will, however, easily remove tree sap or paint over spray.

Working with clay is simple. There is little to no risk of you doing any damage to your vehicle using a clay bar.


  • 4oz or 8oz clay bar
  • Clay Lubricant or shampoo/water mixture
  • Several towels (preferably microfiber)
  • Plastic sandwich bag

    The lubricant is the “slip” solution you need to properly work the clay bar. Without some sort of slip agent, the clay will stick to the car's surface instead of sliding over it. My slip mixture is about 30oz of water with a few drops of car shampoo. Many manufacturers offer clay "lubricants" to be used in conjunction with their clay bars which always provide the proper lubrication.

    The sandwich bag is used to increase the sensitivity of your touch, as you inspect the surface before and after the claying process. Your paint may feel very slick to your naked fingers, but with a plastic bag over your hand, it's a different story!

    The plastic enhances your sense of touch. Suddenly that glossy, smooth paint feels coarse and is covered with specks. After the clay, you will feel nothing but glass-smooth paint.


    Thoroughly wash and dry your vehicle. (To save time, many professionals clay the paint after the final rinse, while it's still wet).

    Cut your clay bar into halves or thirds, so if you accidentally drop the bar (it will happen) you'll only lose a small portion. If a clay bar is dropped on the ground, it is contaminated and must be thrown away.

    Always work on the vehicle in the shade, and out of the wind to save on lubricant. Spray the lubricant over a 2' x 2' area. Tuck the clay bar tucked into the palm of your hand and glide it across the lubricant.

    I prefer back and forth movements to keep track of finished areas. If you are claying the entire vehicle, start from the top and work your way down to the lower sections. Use one side of the clay until it stops picking up the contaminants, and then turn it over to the fresh side.

    When the second side is full of contaminants, you can knead the clay to produce two fresh surfaces. The average clay bar should clean 5 to 10 cars, depending on the amount of contamination.

    Continue around the car until all painted surfaces have been clayed. You can also clay your glass, chrome, metal pieces and coated wheels. Your car should now be smooth and ready to be polished and waxed.

    Common Questions:

    Will claying remove my wax?

    Yes, it will. Since a clay bar contains cleaning properties/abrasives and it will remove waxes, including sealants.

    My clay seems to smear on the car. What am I doing wrong?

    Most likely you need to use more lubrication. If not properly lubricated, clay will stick to the surface, leaving residue. The clay may have also picked up a greasy substance, which it is smearing across the surface.

    Can I clay too much? Will it damage the paint?

    Not if you use clays that are "non-abrasive". Do not use a clay that contains abrasives you can feel. These clays will scratch the surface.

    I have been asked many times if the clay at the local hobby store will work the same. The answer is “No, it will not”. Those types of clay, even the poly clays, will crumble under pressure and contain no cleaning properties.

    Happy Detailing,
    Anthony Orosco
    Ultimate Reflections Auto Detail