So, you’ve tried cleaning your car over and over, but those pesky stains won’t go away! Do you want to get your car looking as good as new? Or, want to prep it before a new coat of wax?
Traditional polishing works by removing a layer of paint from your car to expose the cleaner layer below. This, over time, makes the paint on your car thinner and prone to damage. Too much polishing may even reveal the primer or the undercoat.
In these situations, clay bars have your back. These are, as the name suggests, bars of clay that are used to clean the painted surfaces of vehicles.
To work, they require a lubricant that helps it smoothly glide on the paint. If the lubricant weren’t there, the bar would stick to the paint and chip it off. Many bars come with lubricants in the kit.
Clay bars can easily remove contaminants like tree saps, bug residue, or road tar. However, unlike a proper polish, they cannot remove oxidized paint. That is because oxidized paint isn’t a “thing” on the surface of the paint; it is the paint. To get rid of it, you’ll need to get rid of the layer of paint. It might remove some mild oxidation but don’t expect great results.
On a similar note, clay bars cannot remove scratches. Following the same principle, clay bars are used to remove those kinds of debris that make the surface rough. Debris that could be knocked off by a gliding lump of clay.
With that in mind, a clay bar can be great when trying to get back that old shine. While polishing can take an entire day, cleaning your car with a clay bar takes mere hours. Clay bars can get your cars shining as good as new. It is recommended to get a coat of wax to seal up the paint.
Alright, let’s get right into it! Below we have a list of the best clay bars for exterior car care.
Top 8 Best Clay Bars 2021
Chemical Guys is one of the best name brands in clay bars. With decades of experience, they have been providing consistently great products for car maintenance.
They provide four choices when it comes to the strength of the bar. Each delightfully color-coded for easy distinction. The original strength is colored yellow. It sits somewhere between light and medium-duty strengths and is perfect for regular upkeep.
Medium-duty is gray, light is colored blue, and heavy-duty is black. As must be evident from their names, they are designed for different workloads. The medium-duty bar is a versatile choice. It can get things done for most people, even if it is the first time using a clay bar on their vehicle.
The light is a better choice for someone with an older model. The light clay bar will go much easier on an old coat of paint, which can be ruined by a medium bar.
The heavy-duty bar is one to be used with utmost caution. If used by an inexperienced person, the paint on the car might be ruined.
If this is your first time purchasing a clay bar, then you will need to make an additional investment for lubricants. Thankfully, Chemical guys already provides that option. Along with all the strength options, you can also choose if you’d also like a lubricant with it. Else, if you just want a simple bar of clay, you have that option as well.
These are 100-gram bars which can get you 5-10 uses depending on the level of contamination. It’s effortlessly pliable and easy to work with. It can safely work on any part of the car. Meaning, you can easily clean the grill or the windows of your car without worrying about damage.
However, this does not come in a reusable container. If you don’t keep your clay bar in an air-tight container, it will dry out. Make sure you have a proper container to store it in after use.
Chemical Guys clay bar provides a professional-looking finish and is one of the best clay bar kits.
Mothers is another brilliant brand that has made a name for itself in the clay bar market. They provide high standard material that gives you professional results at home.
Their speed clay is one of the more innovative products in the market. Rather than being a normal bar of clay, this is a synthetic polymer clay attached to a handy grip.
What sets synthetic polymers apart from clay is their resilience. If you drop a clay bar mid-use, you would need to discard the entire bar. The bar gets embedded with impurities that could scratch your car. However, if you drop the polymer clay, you can pick it up, wash it, and reuse it- which is fortunate because customers have complained that it does slip a lot.
The polymer works especially well with contaminants, which may be hard to remove. It can easily remove fresh tree sap, brake dust, paint overspray, rail dust, water spots, light oxidation, and bird droppings. It is non-abrasive, meaning you can use it on windows and chrome. You can give your entire car that new look without worrying about any sort of damage.
Mothers claims that it can be used for up to 20 vehicles. Keep in mind that is a theoretical maximum. It is likely that the adhesive between the clay and the handle will erode before the end of its life.
The handle is another brilliant addition to the whole ensemble. Normally, clays are pretty hard to work with. They tend to stick to your hand or slip too much. But here, Mothers has provided a sturdy little handle for that extra stability. It is made of firm foam. The foam is soft enough that you won’t have a hard time gripping it, while it isn’t so soft that it might fall apart under significant pressure.
However, if you intend to use it on a vehicle that might require heavy-duty work, this might fall short. Although it works well as a regular upkeep material, it lacks the strength to remove some harder stains.
Make sure that the lubricant you use is enough for this to work on. If the lubricant isn’t enough, you risk scratching your car severely.
Mothers Speed clay is not only one of the best clay bars but also one of the most innovative ones.
When it comes to clay bars, this is the real professional-grade clay bar. Meguiar’s clay bar is meant for people who truly know what they are doing. It is a very high-quality product, and its intricacies will be lost on inexperienced hands.
When used correctly, the product will give a glass-like finish. It can easily remove overspray, bug debris, road tar, rail dust, and freshwater spots.
However, the packaging in quite deceiving. The fact that it comes in a tub might make some people think that the tub is full. That is not the case. Within the tub is a typical bar of clay weighing 200 grams. The product’s price might seem more, but it also provides double the amount of its competitors.
The bar doesn’t come with a lubricant. You have to make sure that you either already have a lubricant or buy one.
It is available in two strengths – mild and aggressive.
The mild variant, as must be evident, is used in cases where the car isn’t in much of a bad shape. It can also be used for regular upkeep.
In contrast to that is the aggressive variant. This bar is used for hard-to-remove stains. Be careful while using this particular variant. Ensure you use lubricants liberally because the hard variant has been described as “grabby.” It is very sticky and hard to work with.
Both variants aren’t very pliable, which could make the experience of working with it a poor one. The fact that it comes with its own container means you won’t have to worry about storage.
You can use it on glass and chrome surfaces without worrying about any kind of damage. This is because the clay used is non-abrasive.
The bar can be used on 7-10 vehicles depending on the level of contamination. It also depends on the type of bar you used. Once again, it should be stated to use the aggressive bar only if you’re confident of what you’re doing. There have been cases of people ruining their car paint by not using it properly.
Meguiar’s clay is one of, if not the best clay bar. Though it requires some know-how, it will give you results like no other product.
IPELY clay bar is one of the best clay bars on budget. With a great bang-for-a-buck price, it comes with four 100-gram bars. The cost per gram far exceeds the competition.
It is a soft, pliable bar that is easy to use. However, they do tend to stiffen up in closer climates.
The bars aren’t as strong as one would like them to be. The strength of these can be characterized as somewhere between light and medium. If you need to get work done on a highly contaminated surface, this might not be for you. This product is ideal for upkeep. The bars can keep off impurities well up to a certain limit. So, as long as you don’t allow too much grime to build up, you’ll be good to go.
The bars do not come with a lubricator, which might be a turn off for first-time buyers. Once you’ve bought the bar, you’ll have to invest in lubricators as well.
The bar has been defined as sticky by the customers. Use the lubricator liberally, else you risk the chance of ripping the paint.
The bar is non-abrasive. It can be easily used on other components of the car as well. You won’t have to worry about multiple products for the up-keep of each part because one will do the trick.
The product is synthetic. It isn’t ‘synthetic’ like the Mothers product, yet it is. If you drop this bar, you’ll certainly have to discard the bar. However, the fact that its ‘synthetic’ gives it this ‘plastic-y’ feel. This might be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your taste.
It works great when you need to remove more ‘protruded’ debris like tree sap, bird dropping, or tar. Although IPELY recommends using detergent and water, make sure you follow the instructions properly. Water is a bad lubricant, and improper use might leave you with deep scars in your car.
All in all, IPELY clay bars are an excellent choice if you’re on a budget. It won’t be recommended for novice users. Furthermore, it isn’t a good idea to have this be the first clay you use on your car. But for later up-keep tasks, this would be a great choice.
Griot’s Garage is another well-established brand that deals in clay bars. They have been a market leader in car detailing and do-it-yourself products for decades, and their clay bars are some of the best available and give their competitors a good chase for their money.
The product comes in a 226-gram bar. This size is double the market’s standard for bars. With this product, you get quantity as well as a great deal. However, its large size might be unwieldy for some individuals. It is recommended to tear a manageable piece of the clay to use so that you won’t have a problem. Also, it isn’t synthetic polymer, so if you drop it, then you will have to discard that bar.
When you buy this clay bar, you have three choices. The first being only the bar itself. You might have lube at hand already. Maybe you’re buying a bar for upkeep and don’t need most of the stuff present in a kit. Then, you can just straight-up buy a clay bar—a no-fuss purchase.
But if you’re looking to get started into clay buffing, Griot’s Garage has got your back. They provide an entire set, complete with microfiber cloth and gloves, so you have everything you’ll need. They also provide their own lubricant, so you won’t have to go scrounging around for one.
The third option is simply the clay bar and the lubricant. It is a classic combination and one that works.
The product is very pliable and easy to work with. Unfortunately, this also means that its functionality is compromised in hotter climates. Some customers have complained that the clay has a slime-like consistency.
The bar sits somewhere between light and medium, leaning much towards the medium. It can easily remove contaminants like tree-sap and bird dropping; it will not affect the wax coat. However, tougher stains will defeat the bar in its purpose. Make sure to buy a heavy-duty bar if you intend to work on a heavily contaminated car.
The clay is safe to use on glass- meaning you can get a smooth, professional finish on your entire vehicle at home.
The bar can work on 7- 10 vehicles, depending on size and contamination. It is a brilliant product for experienced users and novices alike. The comprehensive kit Griot’s Garage provides the best clay bar kit available.
Mothers has secured yet another position on our list. While their speed clay 2.0 is more innovative, this product is more rooted. This is a high-quality professional-grade product is designed to get you the best while being accessible to everyday users.
You get to pick from three variants.
Firstly, the original kit. This kit includes two clay bars 100-gram each. They also come along with an instant detailer, which works as a lubricant in this case. The original kit also comes with a microfiber cloth so that you can wipe down the car after you’re done. The microfiber cloth also comes in handy when you need to grip the bar. The bar could often be slippery and could end up getting ruined if it lands on the floor. But with the microfiber cloth, you get this extra grip that provides stability.
Secondly, we have the express kit. This is the quintessential kit for anyone starting out. It has everything you might need at the most basic level. It comes with one 100-gram, medium-strength bar. The well-balanced strength of the bar ensures that it will work well on the contaminants without ruining the paint.
Along with that, you get an instant detailer. You can get to work on your car as soon as you open the package. Once you’re done with cleaning it properly, you can use the instant detailer for up-keep.
Lastly, we have the premium option, the deluxe kit. This kit comes with three 100-gram, medium-strength bars. Each of these bars could last up to 8 cars with heavy contamination. It also comes with two microfiber cloth so that you have one for gripping and one for wiping. As with the other two options, this also comes with an instant detailer.
What sets this apart from the other options is the container that is provided with this kit. When you’re done with a clay bar, you’d need to store it somewhere safe. If it is stored in an open area, you risk drying it out. With the other two bars you would have to hunt for a proper container. However, here you get a container that you can safely store your bars in.
Mothers clay bars provide a smooth and professional look that elevates the look of your car. Their bars glide smoothly across the paint knocking off debris all the while keeping the paint safe. Still, be extremely careful while using the product. There have been customer complaints which could be boiled down to proper use.
The clay bar works on glass as well as plastic surfaces, so you could get your entire car done at once.
Mothers Clay Bar is undoubtedly one of the best clay bars for people looking to start out with clay buffing.
If you are a new car owner and are looking to up-keep your car, then Adam’s fine grade clay bar is for you. Fine strength is one of the lighter strengths in clay bars. These bars aren’t meant for cleaning off excessively contaminated surfaces. These are meant for use in newer cars without much debris on them.
Adam’s fine clay bars are pliable and easy to work with. With these, you know you can get your work done faster without worrying about damage.
These bars come alone as well as a combo with a lubricant. Their tube packaging makes it a suitable container after use. These bars come in a pair of 100-gram bars- its competition merely provides a 100-gram piece at this price tag!
The bars work well on plastic and glass surfaces. You can easily clean your car’s windows, windshield, and headlights without worrying about damage.
For light and simple work on a new model, Adam’s fine clay is definitely the way to go.
Lastly, we have once again the delightfully professional Meguiar’s clay kit. This kit contains two 80-gram, medium-strength bars. Keeping it medium-strength keeps it well-balanced and creates a versatile product.
The kit also includes an instant detailer that works as a lubricant. When you feel like using a clay bar might overkill, you can use the instant detailer instead. The box included in the kit makes for a handy container. Clay bars are prone to drying out after use, and including a box to save that from happening is a brilliant move.
The clay is non-abrasive; so it can work on any paint-surface, including a clear coat. With the clay in proper hands, the surface of the paint could be glass-like smooth.
Meguiar’s, as always, provides a professional-grade finish at home.
Best Clay Bars – Conclusion
Although a clay bar might seem an excellent choice, it should be your choice only when you’ve exhausted all other options. Clay bars work particularly well, but that performance comes at a price. Clay bars could easily harm your vehicle’s look. Their harsh mechanism is prone to damaging the paint of your car.
When choosing a clay bar, make sure you make the right choice for you. They come in varying strengths with varying applicability. Only you can judge what fits best in your situation. Ask around on online forums, read proper blog posts, and make an informed decision.
Things To Consider When Buying The Best Clay Bar
The strength is the central feature of any clay bar. The strengths will mostly be some kind of variation of fine, medium, and heavy-duty. Each defines the level to which the bar could work well.
If you’re looking to clean a comparatively clean car, light/fine is a good option. It is also ideal in vehicles with delicate paint. Light/fine ones, however, could end up not being enough when it comes to removing debris.
Medium quality is the most versatile bar available. If you are unsure of which kind of bar to buy, the medium is the best bet. This lies comfortably in the middle and works well in most conditions without being too harsh. It can easily remove contaminants and debris.
Heavy-duty, as the name suggests, is meant for the toughest of the stains. These kinds of bars could end up damaging the paint. If you are inexperienced with clay bars, do not go for heavy-duty options.
All clay bars need lubrication. If you do not lubricate the bar, it will erode the paint. Every bar company sells its brands lube as well.
As a rule of hand, keep this in mind, water is not a good lubricant under any circumstance. If you use water to help glide your bar, it will leave weird smudges that will look disastrously bad.
After using the clay bars, they require proper storage. You need to put your clay bar in an air-tight container else your bar will dry up. If the bar ends up dried, then your bar is essentially ruined.
FAQs on Clay Bars
Do Clay Bars Really Work?
It depends on what you define as the ‘work’ of a clay bar. Many people believe that clay bars could help them get rid of scratches and fully oxidized paint. That is simply not the case. Clay works by knocking off surface contaminants rather than work on the paint layer itself.
How Often Should You Clay Bar Your Car?
You should not clay bar your car anywhere as often as you wash it. At most 3-4 times a year. Clay bars can easily damage the paint layer of your car. Extensive use will lead to expensive disasters.
Should I Clay Bar My Car Before Waxing?
Claying your car will most certainly mess with the wax layer. If you intend to get a new coat of wax, using a clay bar to prepare the car might be a good idea. The clay will remove all the contaminants and make the surface smoother, hence a better finish.