Detailing Clays & Lubricants – For The Smoothest of Finish

For car care enthusiasts, there can be a degree of loyalty to ‘tried and tested’ techniques or products which make up the weekly routine. That is of course all well and good, but generally there comes a time when surfaces might not be feeling at their smoothest, even after a good pre-wash and wash routine.

If your surfaces are still harbouring stubbornly bonded contaminants this can of course have implications for the cosmetic wellbeing of your vehicle when you move on to later processes. So what can you do?

Fortunately, there are now several clay & lubricant products which can be used to safely remove such contaminants and they’ll leave your surfaces feeling as smooth as glass.

Clays & Lubricants

In this blog we are going to run through some of the options you have, together with the recommended processes to ensure the clay is put to good use.

What Is Detailing Clay For?

Despite being labelled ‘clay’, detailing clay is actually a man made combination of polybutene resin and abrasive particles, designed to remove bonded contamination from the surface of paintwork, wheels and glass. It was originally used in the body shop industry as a tool to remove over-spray from cars which had been freshly painted, but as with so many products which were once seen as ‘trade only’, clay has now become an essential tool for many a car care enthusiast whose desire is a super-smooth finish.

Clays & Lubricants

If you have ever conducted what you thought was a thorough pre-wash and wash process, only to then gently run your hand over a surface to feel it is still disappointingly ‘rough’, then this would obviously be a good indication that a clay bar should be introduced. However, even if the paintwork does feel a whole lot smoother and irrespective of whether you can feel any contamination or not, claying surfaces will still likely show removal of bonded, coloured contaminants in the fresh white clay.

Before starting any claying process, it’s advisable to have decontaminated, washed and rinsed the car in subject very throughly, just as you normally would. Our suggested process as a minimum would always be a pre-wash featuring an iron fallout remover and snow foam, following up with the wash process using the Two Bucket Method.

It would be easy enough to suggest diving straight in with the clay bar at an earlier stage, but the key to claying and more broadly speaking, the key to a safer car care process is to remove larger fragments of dirt with the above methods first.

In doing this you can then ensure that when it is time to put the clay into action, you are only going to be targeting the most stubborn of contaminants which are firmly bonded, rather than moving around the bigger pieces of dirt on the surface which can often end up inflicting scratches or swirls into paintwork.

Whereabouts On The Vehicle Can Clay Be Used?

One of the great advantages of clay is its versatility of where it can be put to good use. It can be used to excellent effectiveness on most surfaces, including paintwork (as already mentioned), glass, metal and alloys, although it is best avoided on any kind of textured trim.

Clays & Lubricants

So, if you are entering the world of clay for the first time, which part of the vehicle should you focus on? The whole thing, or sections? This decision depends on a few factors. If you have never clayed your vehicle before, then the chances are it would certainly be beneficial to do so, however if you know the vehicle has been clayed more recently and having washed it you think there are only certain panels or area that should be treated, that will be fine.

Generally, the areas where the clays and lubricants will come into their own are the lower quarters of a vehicle, most notably around wheel arches. With the hard working brake pads shredding when the brakes are applied, hot tiny particles of metal bond with the first substrate they come into contact with, so commonly the worst of this type of contamination is found in these areas. As mentioned earlier, it is recommended to used an iron fallout remover first to remove the bigger particles, then it will be safer for clay to be used.

You can also use the clay anywhere else you feel necessary – ideal for removing stubborn marring caused by bird droppings, bug splatter, grime and tree sap often found etched into roofs or glass.

Clays & Lubricants

Choosing a Grade of Clay & Lubricant

Clay bars are generally available in blocks of 50, 100 or 200 grams and a top tip to make the most of the product is to cut the block into several segments – this will make the clay more manageable to work with, plus you will also have the added security that should you drop a piece on the floor you will still have some spare and will not have wasted the entire bar!

Generally a Fine Grade of clay is usually enough to treat most cars, but where heavy contamination is evident, a harder grade can be put to good use. For softer paints – especially such as those found on vehicles manufactured in japan – it would be advisable to lead with the softer option, whereas a medium to hard clay will work safely on thicker paints as found on many German produced vehicles.

The key to success with clays and lubricants is the necessity to use plenty of lubricant. Some use a standard quick detailer, some use tap water. Whichever you opt for it is important to ensure the surface you are working on is always adequately lubricated in order to ensure the clay slides easily over the panel. This allows the clay to work on the contaminants without causing damage to paintwork.

There are also lubricants such as ValetPRO’s Citrus Bling which will provide an excellent platform for the clay to glide over – although products like this aren’t specifically labelled as a ‘clay lubricant’ they provide the ample lubrication for a safer clay application and at the same time provide an excellent gloss enhanced wax finish for those users who perhaps do not have the time to enter a full protection stage afterwards.

How To Use Clays & Lubricants

The good thing about clays and lubricants is they are extremely easy to use! When using a dedicated spray lubricant such as Meguiar’s Quik Detailer, simply spray on to the first panel to be treated, then using light finger tip pressure only, (remember, too much pressure could damage the surface) rub the clay over the panel. The combination should produce a grabby feeling, if too grabby then more lubricant can be applied.

Clays & Lubricants

When using a snow foam as the lubricant, it’s key to ensure the car is freshly covered in the thick blanket of foam (the clingy nature of the foam means it will hang around) and similarly if you are using water/shampoo, have your wash bucket to hand with a wash mitt to ensure you can freshly lube the area up as and when needed. Using water or foam will tend to produce a less grabby sensation when compared to that of a dedicated clay lubricant, but is equally effective and comes recommended as a lubricant with Bilt-Hamber’s Auto-Clay range.

Clays & Lubricants

Once you have worked the clay thoroughly over the area being treated, the clay should run nice and smooth over the surface. The treated area will now be contamination-free.

With the surface of the clay now full of the contamination collected, it is essential to manipulate the clay by folding the outside face to the inside. In doing this, the fresh clay will be safely prepared for use on the next desired panel. This process can then be repeated over the entire vehicle until super-smooth to touch all over, but remember, if you happen to drop the clay on the floor – throw it into the bin!

Clays & Lubricants

Providing the same results as a clay bar, but coming in a slightly different form, there is also the Clay Mitt option. This works in exactly the same way as that of the bar, but has the added advantage of covering a greater surface area and being fully reusable once carefully washed through. The Flexipads Clay Mitt (Fine Grade) gives you the ability to wear it on your hand which some people prefer as you can directly lubricate the mitt by submerging into a wash bucket – there is also no chance of accidentally dropping it on the floor this way either!

Clays & Lubricants

Clay – A Great Way to Clean & Prepare

The results that follow the use of clays and lubricants mean surfaces are just that little bit smoother then before and crucially, prepared for the next stage of the detailing process. The importance in readying a surface in this way for either machine polishing or a protective ceramic/wax coating are imperative in achieving the best possible end finish as such coatings will be able to bond to surfaces to the fullest. And, for those that are just looking for an ultra clean finish after their wash process, the dedicated detailing lubricants can often provide their very own impressive level or results.

Detailing Clays & Lubricants Product Picks


Bilt-Hamber Auto-Clay Original £10.95

  • Removes potentially harmful bonded contaminants
  • Prepares paintwork for polishing & wax layers
  • Uses tap water as a lubricant
  • Does not contain detergents or soaps
  • Large Size – 7cm x 2.6cm x 7cm
  • Provided with plastic protective case

Meguiar’s Quik Clay Kit £22.50

  • Removes tree sap, over-spray, tar & fallout
  • Quickly and safely restores a smooth-as-glass finish
  • Makes waxing process faster with longer durability
  • Dedicated Detailer Spray specifically designed to work with Meguiar’s Clay

ValetPRO Citrus Bling £9.00

  • Excellent clay lubricant providing the right amount of slickness to help the clay slide over the paintwork
  • Traps bonded contaminants to clay
  • Adds a shine to the process, enhancing the final waxed appearance.

Flexipads Clay Mitt £25.00

  • A reusable mitt with polymer clay face
  • Fine grade clay – removes tar deposits, tree sap residue & brake dust build-up
  • Use in conjunction with lubricating pre-wash or shampoo

View our wide range of Detailing Clays & Lubricants here.

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