Best Clay Bars: Clay Time

Vivek Nayyar
by Vivek Nayyar

Top 8 Best Clay Bars

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.

Table of Contents

1. Editor’s Pick: 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)

2. Interesting Alternative: 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

3. Adam's Ultra Fine Clay Bar & 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

4. 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

5. Takavu Car Clay Bar 2 Pack

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

6. Chemical Guys Light Duty Clay Bar and Lubricant Kit

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

7. 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

8. Simoniz 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)

FAQs

Which clay bar is the best?

Depending on the type and stubbornness of the contaminants, the definition of ‘the best’ may vary. Nevertheless, for most domestic users, a Medium or Fine grade clay bar from a reputed brand serves the purpose well. In this context, some of the mention-worthy options are as follows:

Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG ( Buy here!)

With a decent number of positive reviews and star ratings on Amazon, this is a complete kit of two items that includes a synthetic clay bar and a compatible lubricant.

IPELY 4 Pack ( Buy here!)

This clay bar is quite easy to use and is soft on your vehicle’s surface. Because of this, you don’t need a special lubricant while using IPELY, and merely a solution of water, detergent, and cleaning agent should do the job.

Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze ( Buy here!)

This one also has some good reviews on Amazon. Being quite aggressive, the clay bar is suggested to be used by professionals or those who have some prior experience in the same field.

Is there a difference in clay bars?

Yes, three grades of clay bars are available in the market. Their types along with a brief introduction are given below:

Heavy

Contaminants that are embedded pretty deep in the clear coat require a clay bar of Heavy grade for cleaning. However, because such bars are highly abrasive, the surface needs to be polished post-application.

Medium

These are comparatively less abrasive and are used to get rid of particles that are not that stubbornly embedded. As it is with the Heavy grade, light polish is required to be applied after using these clay bars.

Fine

Fine grade clay bars are easy to use, are extremely light abrasive, and do not leave any hazing. Therefore, no polishing is needed, and you can directly install your preferred protection after application.

How do I know what clay bar to use?

It depends on the type and stubbornness of the contaminants that the paint of your vehicle has. If the particles are embedded pretty deep inside, you may want to use a Heavy grade clay bar that is more aggressive. However, make sure to use a good quality lubricant and apply polish after application.

Similarly, if the contaminants are not that stubborn, a Medium grade clay bar should do the job. Nevertheless, you may still need to apply light polish after cleaning to give the surface a finished look.

As for the light contaminants, a Fine grade clay bar is perfect as it is the least abrasive and does not leave any hazing after application. Because of this, no polishing is needed and you can directly start working on the protection part after its application.

It is also noteworthy that most home users prefer Fine or Medium grade clay bars as they are easy to use and do not need much afterwork.

Are synthetic clay bars good for cars?

Yes, they are as good as traditional clay bars. In addition, you can use a good-quality synthetic clay bar with a car washing solution without damaging the paint of your vehicle. As for durability, synthetic clay bars can provide up to 20 to 25 decontaminations as compared to regular clay bars that can give merely 7 to 8 decontaminations before they need to be replaced.

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.

(Editor’s note: 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.)

[Main photo credit: CK2 Connect Studio / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

Vivek Nayyar
Vivek Nayyar

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  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Mar 07, 2022

    Clay bars work and work well. It doesn't take long to clay bar all the paint, and you can watch it working. (You can also use them on glass, which surprises some people.) I use soapy water as clay bar lubricant, because it works and it's cheap. My favorite clay bars (of the ones I have right now) are the orange ones that I got in a 10-pack (100 gram weight each) for around twenty bucks [the specific brand is no longer available - much like many other good things]. (The blue ones I got in a 7-pack for 14 bucks, I don't like so much.) Use half or less of one bar at a time - then when you drop it on the driveway you won't be tempted to keep using it. Fun fact: Clay bars are shipped in Polypropylene bags (I think) because they will stick horribly to regular Polyethylene (zipper-style) bags. I've tried the little storage jars and I've tried little airtight plastic boxes (storage is an issue). [I have been told that plumber's putty works as a clay bar too, but I haven't gotten quite that desperate - yet. (Update: Just ordered 14 ounces for 3 bucks to try it.)]

  • Arthur Dailey 'The capitalists will sell use the very rope that we use to hang them.' In our household we have cut down our shopping/spending and pay more to purchase products from 1st world nations or 2nd world nations that are our 'allies'. That also means quite often only buying and eating fruit and vegetables that are in season. Just like our parents and grandparents did.At least TTAC published an article on May 21st regarding LAN transformers that contravene the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act being used in some BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and VW products?
  • ToolGuy I wouldn't buy any old Chinese brand of vehicle, but the right EV at the right price, maybe possibly yes. If you told me this would alarm Ford and torque off FreedMike, all the better. 😉P.S. I would *definitely* consider an EV made in Taiwan. Take that, paramount leader!P.P.S. China batteries/components to convert one of my ICE vehicles to EV? Yes.
  • Wolfwagen I expect Renault to be less popular than Fiat
  • ToolGuy Helium-3, baby!
  • Roman Our 1999 Pontiac Sunfire Gt is still running without any issues. 25 years and counting.
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