Do I Need to Clay My Car?
These embedded dots cannot be removed by washing alone. This contamination can only be removed using a Clay Bar.
What Exactly is Detail Clay?
Put that Play-Doh down! Despite the misleading name, detailing clay only LOOKS like a bar of clay. In fact it is a synthetic poly-elastic resin material specifically made to remove embedded surface contaminants from your surface. Washing alone will not remove all these particles, nor will polishing. By using detailing clay along with the proper lubricant, pulling these contaminants from the surface will yield a butter smooth surface ready for further steps such as swirl removal, polishing and waxing.
What will clay removal do that washing will not?
Light coloured cars tend to show the necessity of claying more than darker colors. I am referring to those small brown "rust" spots that just seem to get larger and larger.
Rail Dust: From the day a new car is shipped its surface is under attack! The railcar it is sitting on is showered with airborne metal particles from the rails. These metal particles embed themselves into the paint and will eventually oxidize and form rust growth under the clear coat.
Brake Dust: Brake Dust Particles from your own and passing vehicles will also get embedded in your paint.
Industrial Fallout: Industrial fallout is simply a product of factories, traffic, and pollution. These airborne particles settle on your paints surface causing contamination.
Overspray: The excess spray material that is not deposited on the part being sprayed. This is common when touching up one area of the paint.
Natural Stains: Insect stains, bird droppings, tree sap, and acid rain spots are amongst the contaminants detailing clay will remove.
Do I need to Clay my Surface?
Claying is not always necessary. However, chances are if you need to ask that question, your vehicle has never been clayed and you will likely have to take action. To verify if your vehicle is in need of claying conduct the following test:
After washing and drying your vehicle:
- Place a plastic sandwich bag over your hand or fingers.
- Gently pass over the surface.
Did the surface feel silky smooth or rough and gritty? If you felt roughness and/or grit, your surface is contaminated.
How often do I need to Clay?
On a daily driven vehicle with average exposure to airborne contamination, twice a year will suffice. On a weekend pleasure vehicle claying once a year will be sufficient.
Proper use of Detailing Clay
Claying requires two products, The Clay itself and a Clay Lubricant. A clay lubricant is a blend of lubricants and wetting agents that enables the clay to glide over the paint surface without scratching.
CAUTION: If a clay-bar is dropped on the floor at any time, discard it immediately! If not, you WILL scratch/scuff your surface.
Clay bars come in various sizes. Because the clay bar will eventually become embedded with the removed contaminants it is best to use the clay bar in sections and discard pieces as they become excessively contaminated. A 2-3 oz. section is a great size to start with. If you have an 8 oz. bar simply cut a third off to use and store the rest in its original container or in a sealed plastic bag.
Spray the area you are working on with a clay lubricant. Clay lubricants are designed to allow the clay to slide over the surface. If no lubricant is used, the clay will smudge and catch the surface. Make sure you use a clay lubricant and not a soapy water solution mixture. Soapy mixtures will deteriorate the clay and render a reduced lifespan. Riccardo Clay Lubricant is a great choice.
Knead the clay into a flat pancake shape. This will allow the clay to take the form of the surfaces and curves you are using it on. We are using a clay bar.
Gently rub the clay back and forth on the surface. At first it will grab and not move freely, this is normal as it is now removing contaminants. When the clay slides freely, the surface is decontaminated.
The surface should now feel silky smooth. If not, repeat the process until it is. Fold the clay every few passes or when it visually becomes contaminated. This will bury the contaminants into the clay and expose a fresh layer of clay to be used. When the clay becomes excessively contaminated, simply discard and cut off a new piece.
Because the contamination was removed there will be tiny spots of unprotected paint vulnerable to damage. The entire vehicle will have to have a coat of protective wax or sealant applied to fill in these vulnerable areas. If your car is in need of swirl removal prior to Wax/Sealant then continue to the swirl removal process instead.