How to Clay Bar a Black Car (No Scratches)

How to Clay Bar a Black Car

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Claying is something that will help clean your car before polishing or applying sealant or wax.  Using a clay bar kit on your paint will remove contaminants from the paint that were not removed by washing.

These contaminants are little pieces of grit and sand and brake dust and bugs that could become loose when you apply wax or sealant and scratch your paint.  

Usually you will clay before polishing.

Read : How to Polish a Black Car.

Best clay products on Amazon.

  1. Adams Fine Grade Clay Bar Combo
  2. Chemical Guys Medium Duty Clay Bar and Luber
  3. Carpro TRIX, Tar and Iron Remover

Clay Bar Tips

  • Wash your car first.
  • Don’t buy a cheap clay bar. Buy a well-known brand only.
  • Always use plenty of Clay Bar Lubrication.
  • Claying will almost always result in some marring of paint.
  • Read my list of the best clay bars for detailing.
  • You can also use your clay bar on glass.
  • Consider using a clay mitt instead (read more below).
  • Use Carpro TRIX to remove the majority of contaminants before using a clay bar or mitt.

Once your black car has been clayed and sealed or waxed it will have a much better shine.  Sealants and waxes will bond better and last longer too.

Clay Bar Vs Clay Mitt

I’ve started to use Clay mitts more often then using a clay bar. This is because dark paint is so easy to scratch.

A clay bar mitt can be just as effective and cause much less marring of paint. You can also get the job done in half the time.

I highly recommend that you try Adams Premium Clay Bar Mitt. Its unbelievably effective at safely removing bonded contaminants from all types of car paint. You can get the Adams Clay Mitt with the superb Adams Detail Spray to use as a lubricant.

Professionals detailers are now switching to clay mitts too. For me this is a sure sign that a mitt is the best way to go.

Types of Clay Lubrication

Your clay should move easily over your paint. If it feels like its sticking or dragging, it will cause scratching and marring.

You may not see the scratches but that is because the paint is wet.

To protect your paint a lubricant is needed. If you are planning to machine compound/polish your car after you clay it then it will be sufficient to just use soapy water. I like to use a car shampoo like Meguiars Gold Class because of its slickness.

Using a car shampoo is cheap but you will probably end up with some marring. But as you are planning to polish your car it’s going to buffed out again.

If you don’t want to polish your car afterward I suggest you use a detailer spray to minimize marring. Also, consider using a Clay Mitt instead of a Clay Bar.

Using a product like Optimum No Rinse (ONR) is also a popular way of lubricating your paint.

I’ve recently become a fan of using a dedicated clay lubricant like Chemical Guys Luber or Dodo Juice Born Slippy Clay Lubricant.

READ MORE : Best Clay Bar Lubricant

DoDo Juice Born Slippy Clay Lube


DoDo Juice Born Slippy Clay Lube

What does Clay do to Car Paint?

If your paint feels rough to the touch you might be tempted to try to scrub the roughness off or use a powerful power washer but that would be a mistake.  The best way to remove the roughness is with a clay bar as it will protect your paint while it cleans it.

Using a clay bar is an important step to getting that show car finish.  The effect on your paint’s reflection will be obvious on a sunny day or under a bright light.  The dirt particles cause light to diffuse and dull your car’s shine so that’s another great reason to get a clay bar kit.

Please check out my Clay Bar FAQ if you are new to clay bars

Clay will not remove scratches or oxidization.

Clay Bar Myths

Myth 1 : Clay bars are just for detailing professionals.
Truth : Once you learn to do it properly it its actually quite easy.

Myth 2 : Clay bars will remove scratches.
Truth : Unfortunately this is not true.  Compound and Polish can remove scratches though.

Myth 3 : Clay bars will remove oxidization.
Truth : Compound and Polish are the best way.  Clay bars wont help here.

Myth 4 : You can use a clay bar every weekend
Truth : Not a good idea.  Clay bars are a little abrasive so only use them when needed.

Myth 5 : Clay bars are safe to use on black cars
Truth : Extra care is needed when claying black cars because you can cause scuffing or marring.

Does my car need to be clayed?

The clay bar is quite abrasive so don’t use it unless you really need to.  To check if claying your vehicle will be beneficial, rub your fingers along the wet paint of the car after you wash it.  Does it feel rough to the touch?  If the answer is yes then you need to use a clay bar to remove that roughness.

Using Carpro TRIX to dissolve tar and iron particles is a highly effective way to clean your paint too. You may find that you don’t even need to clay your car after you use it. The product is just sprayed on to a washed car and allowed to dwell for a few minutes. Then rinse off. Carpro TRIX is a great product but you can get separate iron remover like Carpro Iron-X and tar remover like Carpro Tar-X. Some detailers say you get better results when you use these.

Some enthusiast clay their car every weekend.  This is probably bad for the paint as it might strip away the clear coat the was applied in the factory when it was painted. 

I might clay may car once or twice a year. I will only clay the sections that need it.

How often should you clay a black car?

Its possible to go a few years without claying your car but it will depend on the environment and how protected the paint already is.  Brake dust and tar will probably build up on most cars but will wash off more easily from a cleaned and protected car.  

If you haven’t washed properly and topped up your protection then it might need a clay bar before you apply polish or wax.  And if you have recently parked under a tree you many need to give the car a good claying because sap may not come off with washing.  But best not to park under a tree if you have a black car.

So the general rule is, if you are planning on correcting(polishing) or waxing with a paste wax, you’ll need to use a clay bar if the paint feels rough when you rub your fingertips over the paint.  

READ MORE : How to Wax Your Car by Hand or Buffer.

If you are just washing and applying a quick spray wax you may not need to use the clay bar.  If your paint feels smooth and clean you definitely don’t need to use it.  

How to prepare a car for a clay bar.

The car must be properly washed first. If you’re planning on applying a new coat of wax or sealant then consider using a soap designed to strip away existing wax.  These are called strip washes.  Some people use dish soap for this task but it might discolor plastic and rubber over time.

Another popular step is to use an iron remover such as CarPro Iron-X as I mentioned above.  This will dissolve bonded iron from your paint.  Just spray it on and wash it off after a few minutes.  It will turn iron spots on your car purple where the iron dissolves but it doesn’t stain paint. It could stain plastic if allowed to dry. So try to do it in the shade.

They also have a tar remover called Tar-X for removing tar if you feel you needed it,  CarPro also sell a product called TRIX which is a combination of Tar-X and Iron-X.

Many black car detailing enthusiasts say using these products greatly reduces the chance of scratching when using a clay bar and when waxing.

Read my blog post on how to properly wash a black car.

How to Clay Bar a Black Car.

Its a good idea to wear gloves for this task.  The clay and lubrication spray can stain your skin and also the abrasive materials can can damage some sensitive skin types.

Break off about one quarter of the clay bar and flatten it out in your hand.  Some clay bars are softer than others.  The clay is also softer in warm weather and can be rock hard in cold weather.  Flatten out the clay in your hand.  I also wear gloves for this task.  

It’s actually quite easy to use a clay bar and it can be done in 15 minutes once you’ve had some practice.  

If you drop the clay on the ground it can no longer be used because it will almost certainly pick up little stones and destroy your paint.  So if you drop it toss it.  Place a clean towel on the ground around where you are claying just in case.

The paint surface should be well lubricated.  You can use a soapy mitt to wet the surface as you go around.  If the paint is dry the clay bar wont work. I like to use a clay bar lubricant on a wet car to allow the clay to move smoothly over the paint.  Its very important to keep it well lubricated.  The clay should move easily with little or no pressure.  Many clay bar kits come with a microfibre towel and a lubrication spray.  You can also use some quick detailer spray as the lubrication.

Some experts say water is enough lubrication, but others say you should never touch a car with a clay bar unless you use a lubrication or detailer spray.  I would agree with that.

Move the clay from side to side and not in circles and don’t spend too long on one area.  It the clay is sticking to the car its because you haven’t used enough lube.  

As the clay bar gets dirty fold it over and knead it to reveal a clean side.  You will be surprised about how much grime the clay can collect.  I usually find a quarter or a third of a bar is enough for one car.  The piece of clay should not be used again once done.  Store the unused pieces carefully to keep them clean and dry.

When you are done you can wash and dry the car again to remove any residue from the lubricant.  Its a good idea to fully remove the lubricant residue because it can prevent the sealant or wax from bonding properly.  But if you are planning on using a compound or polish this will also remove residue.

Now you can compound or polish the car or you can move straight to the final step and apply a wax or sealant.  

Adams Strip Wash is another great product for use before applying a new coat of wax and after claying.

Whats the worst that can happen when claying?

If you use too much pressure and not enough lubrication you could end up with marring on the paint.  Marring is where the clearcoat takes on a foggy or scuffed appearance and loses its shine. 

This is mostly visible if you had a very shiny car when you started.  But don’t panic if this happens.  You can usually fix this by using some compound or polish.

Marring can be corrected by hand, unless your entire car needs to be polished in which case a polishing machine will make things a lot easier.  Some Meguiars Ultimate Polish and a foam polishing pad is usually all it takes.

Some enthusiast claim that using a clay glove instead of a clay bar will reduce the amount of marring.

Best clay bar for a black car.

Clay comes in different grades.  I have used fine and medium grade clays in the past.  Medium grade clay can damage the paint but gets more contaminant off.  If you are cleaning a 5 year old car that has never been clayed then you may want to use the medium clay.  But I have only ever used fine grade clay on my current car and it does a great job.  

I’m extremely happy with Adams Fine Clay (Amazon Link). You can clay your car without scratching it if you use plenty of the supplied Adams Detail Spray.

I have mentioned to Chemical Guys Clay bar above but there are plenty of others. Clay bars are usually quite cheap and there may not seem to be much difference between manufacturers.

But I will always go with a trusted brand such as Meguiars because their reputation is so important to them.  Meguiar’s G1016 Smooth Surface Clay Kit comes with two bars and a lubricant spray as well as a microfiber towel.

Professional detailers prefer the pro version of this which is simply called Meguiar’s Professional Detailing Clay.  You don’t need to be a professional to buy and use these. Its available in Mild and Aggressive versions.

The Mild version description..”Quickly and easily removes bonded surface contaminants like over-spray, bug debris, road tar, rail dust and fresh water spots”

The Aggressive version description … “Quickly and easily removes stubborn or severe bonded surface contaminants including over-spray, bug debris, road tar, rail dust and fresh water spots”

Do new cars need to be clayed?

It’s possible you need to clay a new car.  This might seem counter-intuitive because you might think the paint is new it hardly needs to be cleaned.   But the car could be sitting in a parking lot for months before it gets sold.  It probably gets washed by the dealer before getting sold.  Test the surface buy rubbing your hand over it as explained above.

Clay Bar alternatives

Adams Clay Bar Mitt. It seems everyone knew about this product before I did. But now I can see why everyone loves it so much. Especially if you get it with Adams Detail Spray. Its my favorite way to remove bugs.

Nanoskin AutoScrub Fine Grade Sponge is a popular alternative to a clay bar.  You simply wash the sponge to clean.  Its does sound great and probably works our cheaper then a clay bar but I haven’t tried it myself. The sponge is available in fine grade (blue) and medium grade (red).   They also sell a a lubrication liquid called Nanoskin (NA-GLI16) Glide Instant Detail Spray Lubricant.  Read the reviews on Amazon and make up your own mind.

ABN Clay Bar Mitt Fine Grade Towel Mitt Detailing Clay Bar Cloth is another alternative to a clay bar.  The surface of the car should be lubricated with soapy water or a lucubration spray.  This product has great reviews on Amazon.  ABN claim the towel can be used over 40 times.

Nanoskin AutiScrub Foam Pad.  These pads are for use with a dual action polisher.  If you have a DA polisher these are a super fast way to remove contaminants form your cars surface.  You don’t need to be a professional to use these, just remember to use plenty of lube.

Next steps : How to Polish a black Car

Recommended products

  1. Adams Fine Grade Clay Bar Combo
  2. Chemical Guys Medium Duty Clay Bar and Luber
  3. Carpro TRIX, Tar and Iron Remover


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