We Tested Chemical Guys’ Clay Bar To See If It Was up to Our Grime
It’s tedious and intensive, but oh so satisfying in the end.
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It doesn’t matter what type of car you drive or if it’s driven at all. It doesn't matter if your car is street parked or a garage hog. The paint will eventually be obscured by contaminants. To some, that’s annoying; others don't seem to notice. It’s important to consider removing this environmental detritus if you plan to keep your car for any length of time and even more important if it’s a show car. The ultimate solution to this problem is a handy tool known as the clay bar.
The use of a clay bar is important to consider whenever we deep clean the exterior of our vehicles. It’s not always necessary, and sometimes it's not even recommended. However, if it’s been a long time since a car has seen a clay bar, you probably need one. The best way to tell is to give the car a good wash and dry, look closely at the paint for contaminants, then rub your fingers over it. If the surface feels rough and gritty, it needs a clay bar.
We took a good, close look at the Chemical Guys’ OG Clay Bar to see if it’s up to the challenge of helping us clean up our car’s paint.
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Getting After It With the Chemical Guys' Clay Bar
- Good: You get a great bang for your buck.
- Bad: The included OG Clay Bar may not be sticky enough for daily drivers and street-parked cars.
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A clay bar is a resin compound mixture, either of synthetic or natural ingredients, used to remove contaminants from your paint surface. Successful use of a clay bar will give the paint a glass-like feeling and lift any harmful tar, debris, and iron-oxide stains. If you’re not sure what iron oxide stains look like, take a close glance at a car with white paint, and look for tiny orange and brown dots. Those are a result of industrial fallout, hot brake dust, rocks, and other inevitable junk that comes from driving on public roads.
This specific kit comes with six items:
- OG Clay Bar, the Chemical Guys’ general-purpose clay compound
- Synthetic clay lube spray bottle with stream and spray settings
- High quality, 70/30 microfiber towel
- Butter wax bottle
- Applicator pad for the wax
To really put this clay bar kit to the test, I decided to use my mom’s daily driver, a 2009 Nissan Murano. It’s seen its fair share of abuse throughout the years and really should have seen a car wash a lot more often. If I remember correctly, the car has only ever been treated with a clay bar once in its life. It was the perfect vehicle to test the kit as white paint shows contaminants the best. I didn't include details on the kit's other items, although they’re a great addition to the price.
I began by washing the car thoroughly to get as much dirt off as possible. I followed that up by drying it and then allowing it to sit for 20 minutes to ensure all moisture was gone. I chose the driver’s side door for this specific test. I also set a 10-minute timer.
Clay barring shouldn’t be an all-day process, and 10 minutes is more than enough to finish a single panel of a crossover. Per directions on the bottle, I began by working in a 2-foot-square section of the door, using light pressure with up and down motions to avoid swirl marks. There was also liberal use of the provided clay lube. Once the timer was up, I rinsed the car off with water and wiped it down with the provided microfiber towel.
What’s Good About Chemical Guys' Clay Bar
Most other clay-bar kits only include a clay lube and the actual clay bar. Prices vary, but on average I’ve seen these go for around $20 to $25. This kit includes wax, 70/30 microfiber towel, and an applicator pad. Items sold individually add up to about $30. Although the wax bottle isn’t massive, it’s still a nice inclusion for the money. This kit has fantastic value.
Chemical Guys are known for the scent of their products, and this one is no different. The clay-lube aroma is pleasant but not overwhelming. It made me want to use the product more. You won’t be covering your nose or worrying about smelling like harsh chemicals after the job is done.
The size of the clay bar included is nice. I can see this bar lasting a long time since you don't need much for each panel. You don't need to use the entire bar in one session. Just break off pieces for each session.
What’s Not Good About Chemical Guys Clay Bar
As soon as I started the job, I realized that the bar compound was not sticky enough for a car in this condition. Light pressure should always be applied when using a clay bar to avoid scratching. Applying more pressure can get the job done, but it’s not a great idea. Because of this, and the timer, the bar wasn’t enough to remove a majority of the iron-oxide stain dots. This technically isn’t a knock on the product because Chemical Guys carries a stickier compound.
The surface of the paint was left relatively smooth, but it was apparent that it needed more time. Spending more time on each panel would eventually get the job done, but time is money. Why spend more of it when you could just buy a stickier clay bar that will complete the task faster?
Our Verdict on Chemical Guys Clay Bar
The Chemical Guys Clay Bar kit is a great bang for your buck, as long as your car isn’t etched with tons of road junk such as my mom’s 2009 Nissan Murano. She’s an average driver with an average daily commute who washes her car “just enough.” Anyone with a regularly washed and/or garage-kept car should add this to their at-home detailing arsenal.
The problem is that most people buying this will likely use this on a daily driver similar to hers or a car regularly exposed to the elements. It’s less expensive, more accessible, and available at most retail stores. Also, the clay bar included is advertised as a middle-of-the-road, general-purpose clay bar.
If your car needs a bit more love, I’d recommend looking into a different kit.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. Can you dilute the Chemical Guys clay lube?
A. It's not recommended. The synthetic compound is formulated to provide the best amount of lubrication while still allowing the clay to do its job of lifting contaminants.
Q. Can I use soapy water with a clay bar?
A. Technically, yes, but you should be careful about the type of soap you’re using and how much. It’s generally recommended to use clay lube, however.
Q. Can you clay-bar ceramic coating?
A. No. It’s a bad idea to use a clay bar on a ceramic coated car, as the clay can break down the coating prematurely.
Q. Does a clay bar remove oxidation?
A. Yes, but only a light amount. For heavy amounts of oxidation, we recommend polishing your car.