By on October 1, 2019

best clay bars

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.


Many gearheads are firm believers that a clean car runs better than a dirty one. While there is only anecdotal evidence from which to draw a conclusion about this, it cannot be denied that a clean car is worth more at trade-in time or when pulling up to the curb for your Tinder date.

If washing and waxing are the fundamentals, then a clay bar can be considered extra credit. These rectangular sticks of joy are designed to be slid along your car’s paintwork, collecting all the little particles that have accumulated on its surface over time. Particles in the air, pollution, tree sap — all these things conspire to ruin paint lacquer and make your car look like something from Mad Max.

Check out our octet of picks, but also make sure to schedule an entire afternoon if you’re planning to clay your car. Mister Miyagi might have advised us to wax on and wax off, but the professional detailers of the world will recommend you clay bar that thing as well for best results.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)


1. Editor’s Pick: Mothers California Gold Clay Bar System

mothers california gold clay bar system

There will surely be some conspiracy theorists in the comments who will cry that your author is in the pocket of Big Clay (which actually sounds like a WWF superstar from the 1980s) for having selected a product from this well-known brand as his Editor’s Pick. However, having personally used this stuff to clean cars on which I spend my own money, I am confident in my selection.

This particular kit includes a couple of clay bars, a 16 oz bottle of instant detailer, and a 16-inch square microfiber towel. It really does the trick for getting rid of embedded grains in the metal, tree sap, airborne fallout (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase in a post), and paint overspray. Fun fact: it even takes away road paint that was flicked up onto a Dodge Charger just minutes after signing the five-year note — not that I experienced that very specific example or anything. It is an excellent idea to pick up a bottle of Mother’s Showtime to act as a lubricant when using the clay.

Pros: Great brand, pair of clay bars, it simply works

Cons: Lubricant sold separately (no jokes)

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2. Interesting Alternative: Migliore Ultimo Clay Towel

migliore ultimo clay towel

Garnering an armful of positive reviews is this interesting alternative from a company called Migliore, which sounds Italian but is probably based in a Chinese industrial park. This is a clay towel, one which is allegedly good for about 50 uses before becoming a dusting rag.

Measuring a foot square, the towel is made with an advanced polymerized rubber technology to replace the traditional clay bar. Its seller says that even if a butterfingers drops the towel on terra firma, it can be washed with standard car shampoo and reused. Like the Mother’s product above, make sure to buy a bottle of spray lubricant before trying out this product.

Pros: Replaces the clay bar, reusable

Cons: Small towel size

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3. Adam’s Ultra Fine Clay Bar & Detail Spray

adam's ultra fine clay bar and detail spray

Another popular brand is this lot from Adam’s Polishes. In the combo pack shown here, buyers get two 100 g clay bars designed to seek and destroy those small paint particles that scupper your efforts to produce a mirror-like finish. A bottle of detail spray is included for lubrication, meaning one shouldn’t need any more product than what shows up in the Amazon box.

Like other clay bar products, it removes light contamination and grime, banishing the likes of brake dust and hard water spots. The bar is flexible enough for tight spots, ensuring you’ll get in tightly around that curve in the bumper or scoop on the hood. According to the ad copy, it seems like one bar is good enough for a single use.

Pros: Available in a variety of clay bar grades, trusted name

Cons: Those bars are one and done

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4. Clay Magic Blue, Fine Grade

clay magic blue fine grade

This product from Clay Magic looks like something you’d see on a late-night infomercial or as a retail item on The Price is Right, largely thanks to its mascot, which is a googly-eyed bar of clay. Touting itself as the “original seven patented clay bar,” a total of 200 g is included in the blue package, much like every other option on this list.

Despite my snide remarks about its packaging choices, Clay Magic enjoys very positive reviews from real-world customers. One chap (whose real name is surely not Bobby Knight) speaks of using it on his Ram pickup to great effect, removing the gritty material that accumulates on a car’s horizontal surface over time.

Pros: Solid reviews, reasonably priced

Cons: Not much, as description gives us pause

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5. Takavu Car Clay Bar 2 Pack

takavu car clay bar

This clay bar kit with an inscrutable and spellcheck-vexing brand name sends two clay bars in a small plastic jar in exchange for just 13 of the finest American dollars. The bars themselves are red, an aberration amongst the blues and yellows of all the other brands highlighted in this post. Both bars weight 100 g apiece, which should sound familiar to you by now.

As the kit only includes the clay bars, you’re on your own for some sort of detailing lubricant (I snicker every time I type that word because I am actually 12 years old). The seller says these bars can be reused by simply drying them and wrapping them up in the plastic packaging or a plastic shopping bag. Don’t drop it on the ground, though.

Pros: Reusable, it’s red in color, 4.9/5 rating

Cons: Detail spray not included

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6. Chemical Guys Light Duty Clay Bar and Lubricant Kit

chemical guys light duty clay bar and luber

The Chemical Guys OG Clay Bar is a light-to-medium duty clay bar that is said to make rough vehicle paintwork feel smooth as glass. Where’d the ‘OG’ name come from? The marketing copy alleges this clay bar is so good that pro detailers across the nation swear by the thing, calling it the OG. If you don’t know what those two letters mean, look it up on Google. Just be sure to clear your browser history afterwards.

Professional detailers use the OG Clay Bar to pull debris out from the paintwork that clogs buffing pads, a problem which can induce extra scratches and block fresh coats of wax from sticking to the surface. The flexible clay bar conforms to every curve and contour, easily removing the likes of paint overspray and brake dust.

Pros: Well-known brand, extensive instructional videos

Cons: Only one bar in this kit

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7. WildAuto Car Detailing Clay Bar

wildauto car detailing clay bar

For the sake of five bucks, it’s difficult not to include this option in our list today. Hailing from a brand name your author has never heard of before is this pair of 100 g clay bars, said to be reusable and very pliable.

Still, we’re not sure we’d trust out car’s paintwork to a product that costs less than a cup of good coffee. Reviews are all over the map, with some people saying it works great and others saying it ruined the finish on their vehicle. The mention of the word “bleach” in the product description gives your author much pause.

Pros: Cheaper than the dirt you’re trying to clean away

Cons: Totally unknown brand, reports of paint damage

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8. Simoniz Perfect Finish Detailing Clay Bar

simoniz s57 perfect finish detailing clay bar

Any Canadian worth their maple syrup will recognize the Simoniz brand, a name that has appeared in the venerable Canadian Tire store since approximately the dawn of time (or the birth of Don Cherry — same thing). This product provides a single bar of clay for 10 bucks.

Be sure to pick up a bottle of spray detailer to go along with the clay bar, as it will help with application of the latter. Simple soapy water isn’t the best idea, so pop for the real stuff, ya cheapskate. Real-world users report that half of this bar is good enough to clay a small car.

Pros: Provides just the clay you need and nothing more, memories of Canada

Cons: Heed our advice and stock up on lube (that’s the last joke for that word)

Shop Now


[Images provided by the manufacturer. Lead image: CK2 Connect Studio/Shutterstock.com]

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16 Comments on “Clay Time: Best Clay Bars...”


  • avatar
    C5 is Alive

    You do realize the 16 oz. Instant Detailer included in the Mother’s kit IS the lubricant, right? It’s always worked for me, anyway.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Your typical 4.99$ bottle of claybar lubricant is probably 4.75$ profit. Just use soapy water.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      +1

      I’ve used the “kit” before, now I just grab the bar and use it with soapy water. Since the clay step comes before waxing feel free to use dish soap which removes old wax.

      I like the yellow colored clay because you can easily see all the junk its pulling off your paint. You think your car is clean… then use clay for the first time and its a real eye opener.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    No Zaino or Griots?

  • avatar
    PickupMan

    Huge advantage: Clay towels or mitts can be rinsed and used again if dropped. Putty picks up and holds grit, scratching the paint. Options abound, some under $20.

  • avatar

    Since I believe that Mr. Guy is one smart cookie I am surprised he did not mention that the “Simoniz Clay Magic” and “Clay Magic” bars are most likely from the same manufacturer. There is even similar verbiage on both wrappers and the same “mascot”. The Clay Magic purchase gets you 200 grams (at $22+) compared to the Simoniz 100 grams for $10. Buy 2 Simoniz and save yourself some bucks, eh!

  • avatar
    MBella

    No Meguiar’s? I guess Barry didn’t want to write a check. I will usually pick up the cheaper if the two between mother’s and Meguiar’s. Both are pretty much the same. The expensive stuff usually isn’t worth it for anything besides dealers and waxes.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I haven’t clayed a car since my kids were born. I vaguely remember, years ago, devoting entire Saturdays to the three-step cycle of clay-polish-wax, which when done at the proper pace made both my Acura TSX (dark gray) and my G8 GXP (silver) look better than the day I drove them off the lot.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I normally clay a car every 4-5 years but when I had to live in Canada for 5 years, my white vehicle looked like crap in the spring due to rail dust. Tiny reddish specs all over the lower half of the truck. The clay bar was the only thing that would take that off. It was a whole day affair to have it cleaned . Don’t miss it.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      You’re not wrong about rail dust and white cars!

      Trix (not the cereal) or Iron-X will treat rail dust as well. Smells terrible and it’s a little expensive but it works well.

  • avatar
    don1967

    The cheaper the better, since your willingness to discard contaminated clay is the single most important variable.

    My vote is to walk right past the automotive aisle and into the nearest hobby shop for a brick of ordinary modeling clay. Then fill a spray bottle with water and Dawn and go nuts. Don’t forget to wax afterwards.

    Just don’t tell the cool kids with the PH-balanced unicorn tears that were harvested by Tibetan monks under a full moon.

  • avatar
    abqhudson

    Great review. I’ve tried several clays and Mothers is easily the best for me to use.

  • avatar
    KOKing

    This is missing the ‘clay pad’ category (NanoSkin is the brand I’ve been using) entirely. It seems similar to that ‘clay towel’ product, but is on a foam pad. It has the same advantage as the towel in that if dropped it can be rinsed off and reused, and the larger ones can be slapped on a machine polisher. Its major problem is you can’t tear off a tiny sliver to get into tiny nooks.
    I still break out the gumby on occasion, but I’m a convert.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Ok, tried this today for the first time ever (I ordered the Mothers) and I am officially a huge huge fan. Thank you for the push, Matthew. Seriously, this stuff is amazing.

    After watching some youtube, I am in the “use 20g at a time and use a weak soap solution as lubricant” camp. Fold over often. Hang on to the “dirtier” pieces to work on the rocker panels where there is more junk.

    After claying, I also tried “3M Perfect-It EX Machine Polish” with a “TOPVORK” Dual-Action Polisher (install the handle at a forward 45 degree angle; set the speed to 2) and a “TCP Global” 6.5 inch black waffle foam pad. Apply the polish sparingly to the car, not to the pad. You can basically guide the polisher without applying any additional pressure beyond the weight of the machine itself.

    I may have a new favorite hobby. It’s very Zen.


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