Knowing how to use a clay bar on a car is one of the most important skills you should learn when it comes to detailing. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, using a clay bar is something that you are going to come up against if you are chasing that perfect finish.
One area of the claying process that is commonly misunderstood or not executed correctly is around using a lubricant between the cars paintwork and the clay bar.
In this post, I am going to cover the importance of using a lubricant when claying your car and give you some recommendations for what you can use to ensure you carry out the process correctly and safely.
Let’s take a look!
What is Clay Bar Lubricant?
The purpose of a clay bar lubricant is to allow the clay bar to move easily across the surface of the paintwork. If you have been around the detailing world for a while, you will already know that it is not a good idea to bring anything in contact with the paint which could potentially cause surface marring or scratches.
Rubbing a dry paint surface with a dry clay bar (or anything else for that matter) could potentially cause more harm than good.
Why You Need to Use Clay Bar Lubricant
Clay is an abrasive and will cause some marring (even with lubrication), so it is always a good idea to follow claying with some polishing. However, you can limit the amount of this marring by making sure the clay has some adequate lubrication between it and the surface of the paintwork.
As well as the issues with marring, not using lubrication can also leave small, difficult to remove, pieces of clay behind on your cars paint. This is a pain in the ass and you don’t want this to happen, trust me!
Can You Use Water as Clay Bar Lubricant?
I have seen some recommendations on some forums and other car care sites that you can use water for lubrication with your clay bar. Will it work? Not Really.
The fact of the matter is that water on its own isn’t enough to act as a lubricant for clay. As water is not “slick”, it will not allow the clay to glide over the paint with ease. As you may have gathered by what I have said already in this post, slickness is important when choosing a lubricant.
Now you know why you should be using clay bar lubricant, let’s look at some of the lube options you have when carrying out this process.
What is the Best Clay Bar Lubricant?
As far as I’m concerned there are only 3 main (off the shelf) options that I consider in my routine when it comes time to clay my car. Which one I choose depends on what I have available to me at the time, but any of the options below are suitable for the job.
Dedicated Clay Lube Products
If you didn’t already know, there are many products available in the detailing world specifically designed for this purpose. Some “Clay Kits” often come with a lubricant as part of the package, but lots stand-alone lubricant products are available.
These dedicated clay lube products contain a pretty simple list of ingredients ( water, oils, polymers, fragrance, colouring and a surfactant)
Most of these types of products are nearly identical in their performance so I wouldn’t get too hung up on which one is best, stick with a good brand and you can’t go far wrong.
Some of the ones I have used in the past are :
Chemical Guys Clay Luber
Quick Detailer Products
Most quick detailer products can provide enough lubrication for use with a clay bar. This is the most common type of lubrication method I see in the industry as most people already have a quick detailer handy in their supply.
A quick detail product has pretty much identical performance when compared against a dedicated clay lube product, so if you already have a quick detail spray of choice at your disposal, there is no need to invest in any other product.
Gyeon Quartz Quick Detailer
Note: if using CarPro Elixir as a clay lube I recommend diluting it with water
Waterless Wash Products
Waterless wash products can also be used as a clay lube as they are very slick. As with quick detailers, you can dilute them down further with water and they will still act as a great lubricant.
Adams Waterless Wash
All of the above are great off the shelf products for use with a clay bar. As a side note, you should avoid products that are designed to add protection such as spray waxes and sealants as these are not suitable for use as clay bar lubricants.
Can You Make Your Own Clay Lubricant?
If you don’t have any of these products at hand it is possible to use a DIY solution that should be available to almost everyone. One trick I have used often in the past is to put some good quality PH neutral car shampoo into an empty spray bottle (about the same amount you would put into a wash bucket when washing a car ) and top it up with water.
This provides you with a slick spray which you can use as you work your way around the car with the clay lube. You need to make sure you spray plenty of the soapy water onto the desired area, topping up as necessary before it dries onto the paintwork.
I would advise using a good quality slick shampoo ( with no added waxes or protection ) for this.
If you don’t have an empty spray bottle at hand, you can resort to using a wash bucket and mitt to spread the soapy water on the car before using the clay bar. If you are going to use this method I suggest working on one panel at a time and re-applying the soapy mixture frequently as you clay.
Also, make sure you are using a high concentration of shampoo in the water to ensure maximum slickness!
The above suggestions are all you should ever need when it comes to choosing a clay bar lubricant for your car. Do you have any tips and tricks that you use that are not listed above? Please feel free to reach out in the comments or over on the DriveDetailed Forum.
Until next time,
About the Author – Darren O Hara
Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out out new products.
Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.
You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork