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How to Clay Bar a CarYou’ve probably experienced the frustration of painstakingly washing your car by hand, only for it to come out looking like it’s been through a mediocre dishwasher.

The problem is that microscopic particles from things like dust, dirt, road tar, and errant insects can embed themselves in your car’s clear coat over time.

The Solution: Clay Barring Your Car

Think of a clay bar as an exfoliator for your car. It’s the ticket to a smooth, factory-fresh finish.

What You Need

Here are the essential supplies you’ll need to clay bar your car:

  • Gloves (waterproof) and safety goggles
  • Garden hose
  • Bucket(s)
  • Microfiber towels
  • Car wash soap or shampoo
  • Car wash mitt
  • Clay bar
  • Clay lubricant spray (make sure it matches the clay bar)

Clay bars come in various grades of abrasion. If it’s your first time working with a clay bar, avoid the “medium” grade, as it will be too rough. Instead, look for “fine” or even “ultra fine.”

The Steps

Now it’s time to create the perfect shiny paint job. Here’s how.

Wash Your Car By Hand

Use a car wash mitt and car wash soap or shampoo to scrub the vehicle's exterior. Make sure all stains and discolorations are gone before proceeding.

Dry Your Car Thoroughly

Use fresh microfiber towels to dry your vehicle. As one becomes saturated, move on to another.

Prepare the Clay

Pull the clay bar in half and mold it into a flat oval shape.

Note: Once it’s out of the package, the clay must only touch your hand and the car. If it picks up contaminants from the ground, it’ll just make the paint worse.

Spray the Lubricant

Spray a few drops of lubricant on the clay. Then, spray a four-square-foot section of your car. Make sure it’s thoroughly covered.

Work the Clay

Rub the clay onto the lubricated area using side-to-side or up-and-down motions. Rub lightly, applying just enough pressure to keep the clay in your hand.

Check Your Progress

After a few rubs, check the clay. If it’s picked up some gunk, fold it over and flatten it again to create a new cleaning surface. Spray some more lubricant on it and continue. 

Once you no longer feel or hear the bar picking up dirt, you’re done. 

Wipe the Surface with a Microfiber Towel

Wipe the section you just cleaned with a fresh microfiber towel. It should look and feel smooth. If not, go over it again.

Repeat over the Rest of the Car

Continue to another section, making sure it overlaps the first. Once you can no longer fold the clay bar to find clean spots anymore, pull off a new piece.

Seal the Car

Lastly, wax or seal the car to protect the paint from future contamination. You can also polish it if you desire.

When to Clay Bar Your Car

If you’re considering clay barring your car, make sure you’re comfortable performing the process yourself. It’s probably best to take it to a professional if you’re wary about clay barring an irreplaceable classic, a six- or seven-figure vehicle, or an older car with worn paint.

Clay barring can even be beneficial for new cars, as they often pick up contaminants from precipitation or test drives.

Vehicle owners can use the clay bar treatment method to eliminate swirl marks and stains from their cars’ paint. All it takes is a little time and effort.