Using a clay bar on your car’s paint is one of the most processes that professional detailers never fail to miss. It removes embedded particles that other decontamination tools simply can’t reach.
If you’ve not yet used a clay bar, then you need to listen up!
But first, the ugly truth: you MUST polish and wax the paint after treating the surface with a clay bar. You see, using a clay bar on clear coat paint can be one of the most hazardous things you can do to your car.
You are essentially rubbing the surface of the paint to pull out the contaminants embedded within the surface. Polishing will level the paint by eradicating the pits and valleys left behind by heavy contaminants. Of course, waxing will seal the finish and bring out a lustrous shine.
This is the primary reason why you need to choose the best clay bar. Right off the bat, I strongly advise against settling for cheaper, China-made, and imitation clay bars. For lack of a better word, those things are crap. They are cheap for a reason!
I specifically chose these marvellous products for two reasons:
I’ve been detailing cars for a long time, and no other product came close regarding decontamination, cleaning action, and achieving a smooth, glossy finish.
Without further ado, here are the best clay bars to help you achieve professional results!
Best Clay Bar – Top 3
Here are the best clay bars on the market right now:
There are ordinary clay bars, and there’s the Bilt Hamber Auto Clay Bar. This is the best clay bar kit you can buy today, period. For a little over a tenner each, you can choose between regular, medium, and soft.
There are many types of clay bars in the market. Choosing the best one gets tricky if you consider the many types of clay bars. While I generally recommend using the softest clay as possible, you will come across different grades of clay bar at the auto shop, which is usually classified as fine, medium, and heavy grade.
In terms of quality, the Bilt Hamber clay bar is simply the best.
It is a synthetic clay that feels soft, premium, and endlessly elastic. What I really like is that you can choose between the levels of abrasiveness within the same brand, which makes it easier for detailers, especially if you are new to the industry.
The Bilt Hamber Auto Clay Bar’s includes a regular clay bar that is ideal for heavily contaminated vehicles. If the weather is hot, or if your vehicle has never been treated with clay, this firm clay bar is perfect for the job. It also comes with a medium clay bar that is good for paint jobs in moderate condition. Finally, you also get a soft clay bar that is ideal for frequent claying jobs. The soft clay bar is also the best type if treating your vehicle in cold or icy weather.
Even though Bilt Hamber recommends only water as a lubricant, I never use plain water as a lubricant when claying my car. You’ll still need the best clay lubricant to lessen the chances of scratching, marring, or swirling the paint as you rub the clay. I talk more about this in my How To Use a Clay Bar article.
Each clay bar is 200 grams, which is enough to treat four compact sedans. A single clay bar can be divided into four smaller chunks, and each chunk can be used to treat an entire vehicle.
But it’s not only about the quality of the clay bar and the price. The Bilt Hamber Auto Clay Bar has the right consistency to remove paint contaminants with little to no damage on the paint.
Even though the regular clay bar is firmer than the medium or soft variety, it is still one of the smoothest and most elastic clay bars I’ve tried to date. It can make quick work of heavy contamination like rail dust, brake dust, and even asphalt. And it’s made in the UK!
The Autoglym Clay Detailing Kit is perfect for first-time users. It contains everything you need to quickly and safely remove surface contaminants to reveal a smoother, flawless shine.
Now, since this kit includes a clay bar, clay lubricant/instant detailer, super resin polish, and a red microfiber towel, it will inevitably cost more than the Bilt Hamber. But if you don’t have clay lubricant, this kit is a perfect choice.
The medium-grade clay bar included in the kit is perfect for removing tar, tree sap, bird poo, paint overspray, road grime, and other hard-to-remove and stubborn contaminants.
Remember when I said to always polish the surface after using a clay bar? The Autoglym Clay Detailing Kit comes with their renowned Super Resin Polish. When used in conjunction with the clay bar, the polish will bring out the depth, clarity, and shine in the paint.
The Autoglym Clay Detailing Kit is a great all-in-one starter kit. If you are new to clay bars, this is the top choice.
3) Auto Finesse Clay Bar
Sometimes you don’t want something that is too harsh and will thrash old or thin paint.
I found Auto Finesse clay to be super soft – it is easily the softest clay bars I have used and possibly the softest out there. I would class it as a ‘fine’ clay bar.
This has the downside of making it the least aggressive but is very gentle on the paint, causing very little marring. This can be an advantage when dealing with lightly contaminated paint.
Auto Finesse Clay Bar would be great for jobs where you don’t want to cause too much-marring damage. For example, this clay bar would be advantageous when working on slightly damaged paint, classic cars, exotics or cars with car with thin paint.
It will also be a great option for when you are working in icy conditions, as clay bars will tend to harden with a decrease in temperature.
To ensure even better results Auto Finesse sell a clay lubricant called Auto Finesse Glide to be used in conjunction with their clay bar. I didn’t use glide during my test, but this combo would likely be the least marring damage option of all clay bars on the market.
What does a clay bar do?
Clay bars are the easiest and least abrasive way to remove embedded contaminants on the paint, provided you’re doing it right. There are two general types of clay bars: natural and synthetic. However, most commercially-available clay bars are derived from synthetic ingredients. Synthetics are more durable and cheaper to produce as well.
Clay bar or detailing clay will literally glide on the surface of the paint. It will grab anything that protrudes from the surface to leave a smoother and finer shine. Clay bars are nonabrasive when paired with high-quality clay lubricant. The lubricant is responsible for preventing loose debris (that was picked up by the clay) from scratching or marring the paint.
What is a clay bar made of?
Back in the not so olden’ days, clay bars were manufactured from natural clay. While natural clay is pleasant to use when new, it quickly breaks apart or degrades when moderately filled with dirt and debris.
Natural clay also has a tendency to harden upon prolonged storage, which basically renders them useless the next time you need to clay your vehicle.
Modern detailing clay is manufactured from an engineered resin compound. It has the same weight and consistency of the clay you used to play with as a kid, but detailing clay is smoother and more elastic. Clay bars are not only good on paint and can also be used on glass, exposed metals, alloys, and fibreglass materials.
How do I use a clay bar?
I created a dedicated article on how to use a clay bar; however, the general procedure is to always to wash, rinse, and dry the entire vehicle before using a clay bar.
You should never, under any circumstance, use a clay bar on a dirty surface. You will not only end up with a scratched surface, but you will also prematurely degrade or waste the clay bar.
The trick to using a clay bar is to always maintain a well-lubricated surface. Never rub the clay bar on dry paint, even if the surface is clean and free of dirt. The elastic consistency of the detailing clay will pick up any form of contaminant sitting on the paint, and working on a dry surface will only serve to rub the contaminants over the paint as the clay glides on the surface. Do not scrimp on the clay and the lubricant. In most cases, car shampoo mixed with water is a good alternative to clay lubricant.
Don’t forget, if you drop the clay on the ground, throw it away and grab a fresh batch before proceeding. I can’t stress this enough. The clay is like a magnet for dirt and hard particles.
Would you risk damaging and scratching the paint for the small amount of money you spent on the clay? A little common sense will go a long way here, especially if you consider the cost of a new paint job if you eventually end up permanently damaging the paint.
How often should I clay bar my car?
The answer will depend on the condition of the paint. If your car is a daily driver, I recommend decontaminating the paint at least twice a year, or at least before the start or end of every season.
The easiest way to find out if your vehicle needs a clay bar is to perform the plastic baggie test. Grab a small plastic food bag and place your hand inside the bag. Run your hand on the surface of the paint, for exmaple, the bonnet or the roof.
Make sure the surface is clean and dry. If you feel a lot of rough spots or chips on the paint, it is probably time to use a clay bar.
Is it really necessary to polish and wax the paint after using a clay bar?
Absolutely! If you have no plans of polishing and waxing the paint, do not use a clay bar. Removing contaminants will leave microscopic pits in the paint.
If you don’t polish or wax, small particles of dirt will inevitably find their way in those numerous pits and valleys in the surface of the paint.
Combined with UV rays, rain, snow, and industrial exposure, the dirt will dig deeper into the clear coat, which will end up damaging, fading, or oxidizing the paint.
Polishing will level the surface of the clear coat and remove hairline scratches and swirls. Applying a fine coat of wax after polishing will seal the surface and protect against dirt, water spots, and UV exposure. The result is a like-new finish that will make you beam with joy!
Polishing is recommended at least twice a year. Treating the surface with a clay bar before polishing is one of the best things you can do for your vehicle. Of course, don’t forget to finish the job by applying a coat of carnauba wax or sealant.