Treating the paint with fallout remover is the first step in the decontamination process. Particles of iron oxide have sharp and jagged edges compared to ordinary dirt, dust, or sand. This enables them to literally anchor over the paint surface.
Since car paint is not totally smooth when viewed under the microscope, the sharp particles of rail dust, brake dust, and industrial fallout will have little trouble embedding themselves in the clear coat.
As time passes, the iron particles will eventually oxidize when exposed to UV rays and moisture. If left unattended, the particles will eat through the clear coat and cause irreparable damage.
Difference between Clay Bars and Fallout Removers
In terms of removing industrial fallout from paint, the first line of defence is the clay bar. But this only works if removing mild traces of contaminants. If the paint job is peppered with multiple thick patches of iron oxide and fallout, the best course is to chemically remove the contaminants before finishing off with a clay bar.
Fallout removers are chemical sprays that will dissolve the iron oxide in the surface with little to no contact. In most cases, the liquid will turn red as a result of the chemical reaction with the embedded iron particles. The iron oxide is dissolved and mixed in the fallout remover as the liquid changes colour, which can be safely rinsed away with clean water.
I also want to point out that fallout removers are not just wheel cleaners, and vice-versa. Wheel cleaners are specifically formulated to remove brake dust and are safe to use on alloy wheels and exposed metal surfaces.
Fallout removers will differ in their makeup and might not be safe to use on exposed metal surfaces. To make sure, always read the instructions before proceeding.
Best Fallout Removers – Top 3
Below I’ve listed what I think are the best fallout removers on the market right now:
Bilt Hamber Korrosol is THE best iron and fallout remover on the market right now. The Bilt Hamber brand is just killing it at the minute and once again from my tests with these products, they were head and shoulders above the rest.
Korrosol has an incredible ability to remove a huge percentage of contaminants in terms of iron particles. In fact, they were able to remove more in one pass, than most with two passes.
The product is very easy to use and like most, you simply spray on, allow for it to do its work for a couple of minutes (do not let it dry!) and then just rinse off. Even though fallout removal is not necessary for each watch, it’s so easy that it takes just a few extra minutes to get an even cleaner paint surface that it becomes very tempting to use each and every time.
Another big tick that Korrosol has over the opposition is the smell. Iron fallout historically smell horrific – think rotten eggs – and whilst Korrosol is far from walking down the perfume aisle in Boots, it’s a much more acceptable chemical scent.
Finally, the product offers great value for money. A little higher than some we have tested, but you only need to use this once, whereas most will require two passes to get the same results.
Full Review: Bilt Hamber Korrosol
The Valet Pro Dragons Breath has a funny name. It reminds me of the power of a dragon’s fire-breathing abilities, which can obliterate an entire section of the woods in a single blow. But unlike the toasty breath of a dragon, this fallout remover is pH neutral and safe to use on metal, alloys, and painted surfaces.
Oh, and did I forget to mention it is one of the best fallout remover for your car? The Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath has a thicker, almost gel-like consistency. This allows the fallout remover to literally dwell on the surface to dissolve iron oxide on the paint surface, and with little to no runoff. The product causes a chemical reaction to create a bleeding effect when sprayed over heavily contaminated surfaces.
Valet Pro Dragons Breath is an essential part of my personal detailing arsenal. It makes it easier to work with older or neglected paint. It also increases the life of my clay bars!
But if there’s one thing that I don’t like about the Valet Pro is the smell. I guess this is where the ‘Dragon’s Breath’ nomenclature came from!
Despite the whiffy scent, Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath is the best fallout remover in my book. A single 500 ml spray bottle of this excellent fallout remover will cost less than ten quid, which is still great value for such an effective product.
The Auto Finesse Iron Out is one of the best in terms of removing iron, fallout, and contaminants from the paint. Like the Valet Pro Dragon’s Breath, it also stinks as it makes contact and dissolves the iron particles.
My only gripe with the Auto Finesse Iron Out is not the smell, but rather the bottle. They simply make the worst spray nozzles going, which is a real shame as the product is great.
No big deal, right? Grab a generic spray bottle, pour the contents, and spray away! If you do, you will find that Auto Finesse can make quick work of brake dust on sensitive alloy wheels and iron contaminants on the hood of your car. You will see the product working as the liquid changes colour from clear to dark purple.
But if you don’t have a spray bottle, here’s an alternative solution that applies to decontaminate alloy wheels: pour the Auto Finesse Iron Out Contaminate Remover in a small container, dip a soft wheel brush in the liquid, and apply the fallout remover liberally on the wheels. Wait for the product to stink and turn dark purple before rinsing off with water.
Auto Finesse Iron Out has a pH neutral formula that makes safe to use on paintwork, glass, and most wheel finishes. It doesn’t have the gooey consistency of the Valet Pro, but it’s just as effective in restoring the appearance and texture of pre-contaminated surfaces.
What does a fallout remover do?
A fallout remover is a chemical solution. It is formulated to chemically react with iron oxide particles. The contaminants are dissolved or loosened up by the chemical reaction, hence making them easier to remove with little or no agitation required.
The chemical reaction that takes place as the fallout remover makes contact with iron oxide particles is the change in colour, usually red or dark purple. The chemical process also releases an odd and stinky smell similar to the decaying scent of rotten eggs.
The active ingredients in a fallout remover are citric acid, ammonia, oxalic acid, and thioglycolic acid. Thioglycolic acid, in particular, has an interesting origin. It was discovered in 1930 by scientist David R. Goddard while studying how protease enzymes were not able to easily digest feathers, hair, and nails. This acid is part of the reason why the bleeding effect happens as the fallout remover makes contact with iron contaminants.
How do I use a fallout remover?
Easy. The process is nothing more than spray on, wait for the product to bleed or change colour on the surface, and rinse off with pressurised water.
However, it is better to start with a pre-cleaned surface and I prefer to decontaminate my vehicle after a thorough wash process.
If treating an entire vehicle with fallout remover, the first step is to wash the vehicle with car shampoo. After rinsing all exterior surfaces with clean water, wipe dry with a microfiber towel and prepare to decontaminate the surface.
Spray the fallout remover on all affected areas and marvel on how the product changes colour as it dissolves the contaminants in the paint. Do not wait for the product to dry before rinsing off! Make sure to rinse off the ‘bleeding effect’ while still wet!
Chemical decontamination is highly recommended before treating the surface with a clay bar. This will further reduce the chances of scratching or damaging the surface. It will also allow the polish and the wax to improve the colour, shine, and texture of the paint.
If using fallout removers on wheels, spray the product and allow to dwell/bleed for at least two minutes. Grab a soft wheel brush to agitate the product over the entire wheel surface before rinsing off with clean water.
Do I need to wash the car again with car shampoo after using a fallout remover?
If the paint is highly contaminated, performing a second wash might be necessary. But for most applications, rinsing with clean water is enough to remove all traces of contamination after using a fallout remover.
For full decontamination, the process is as follows:
- Wash, rinse, and dry the vehicle.
- Spray fallout remover and rinse with water.
- Spray tar remover, agitate and rinse with water.
- Treat the surface with a clay bar and clay lubricant. Rinse with water afterwards.
- Wash the vehicle again, rinse, and wipe dry.
- At this point, the surface is ready for polishing and waxing.
How often should I use a fallout remover in my car?
It’s not a matter of how to use a fallout remover, but rather when to use it. The rules on how often to use a fallout remover are not cast in stone.
Track day cars or racing cars will benefit from chemical decontamination after each race to preserve the look, shine, and colour of the paint. It all depends on the condition of the paint.
As a general guide, I highly recommend a complete decontamination (fallout remover > clay bar > machine polish > wax) at least twice a year, or before the start of summer and winter season. Of course, it is highly advisable to polish and wax the paint after using a clay bar and a fallout remover.