Can You Use Clay Bars To Remove Car Wax?

If you are like me, you want your car’s paint looking the best it can, meaning that you have likely already used a clay bar on your car. But how exactly does a clay bar work with your paint? Is there a chance that it will remove the wax layer, or will it leave your protection intact?

Using a clay bar on a car’s paint job will remove any sealant, like car wax. They remove anything bonded to a surface, no matter if it is a harmful material (like dust particles, industrial particulates, and insects) or beneficial layer, like car wax and spray sealants.

Therefore, the use of a clay bar is a simple way to remove old wax from your car. But that does not explain how you actually use a clay bar to remove car wax, or how a clay bar even works. Continue reading to find out!

How A Clay Bar Works

The clay used to treat car paint, or really any other smooth surface on your car, is a resin mixture which is designed to remove bonded contaminants.

Examples of such contaminants are brake dust particles, tree wax, industrial particulates, or insects: so basically anything that is bonded to your car’s paint and not just laying on top of it. The image below shows this key difference. (the image is a bit misleading because it seems the bonded contaminant is bonded to the clay bar rather than the clear coat).

As you can see, the bonded contaminant is resides inside the clear coat, which has been colored light grey for illustration purposes. This also means that it cannot be washed off, unlike the surface contaminant, which lies on top of the paint without fully bonding.

The use of a clay car on paint, along with sufficient lubrication, leads to the bonded contaminants being stripped from the clear coat by the bar. This leaves a near-invisible hole in the clear coat.

Important to understand is that, even though paint looks very smooth, at the microscopic level it in fact resembles a very fine sandpaper-like surface. Even with a coat of wax, paint is never perfectly smooth, which is another reason why using a clay bar removes any form of sealant.

The sealant you use on your car, such as car wax, fills up these microscopic  scratches and holes inside the clear coat. It simultaneously acts to smooth the paint, leaving a nearly perfectly smooth finish.

The back and forth motion of claying a car will start to wear down and remove the wax from the car’s surface, leaving it “naked” due to the removal of the sealant.

How To Use A Clay Bar To Remove Car Wax

So now you have decided to use a clay bar to remove old wax that is stuck on your car. How exactly do you do it?

It is important to note, that you should only clay a car that was thoroughly washed with a hand wash and car shampoo. Otherwise there could be too much debris on the car, wearing down the bar and potentially leading to scratches in the paint.

You want your car to be as clean as possible before you start claying, with just the bonded contaminants in the paint left!

Firstly, you will need to buy both the clay bar and some clay lubricant. You can actually make a lubricant yourself with just some car shampoo and water.

Thoroughly spray the area you want to clay with your lubricant, then spray the clay bar in your hand and start moving it over the paint in straight lines with a back and forth motion, applying moderate pressure.

After a while, you will notice how your clay bar starts to slide across the paint with ease. Moreover, any sound you might have heard in the beginning will be gone. This is when you have removed all bonded contaminants from the car’s paint and it is time to start claying a new part of the car.

Just make sure to always lubricate the paint and the clay bar. You can never use too much lubrication, but not using enough can cause scratches in the paint.

Furthermore, this can cause the clay bar to break apart, leaving pieces of clay behind that are extremely difficult to remove.

If the whole process seems to compilcated for you, you might consider removing car wax with car shampoo. But is this even possible? I have checked it out and written an article about it here.

Waxing Your Car After Using A Clay Bar – Is It Necessary?

Given that anything bonded to the paint of your car is removed after claying, you might wonder if you should wax it again.

The answer is pretty simple: To protect your car from harmful substances, such as water.

Waxing a car after using a clay bar is recommended, as any kind of sealant will be removed after claying. Without the sealant, the paint remains unprotected from harmful substances and can lead to rust over time.

The idea behind car wax, or any kind of sealant, is that it sacrifices itself to protect the paint. Anything that would normally touch your paint, like insects, industrial particulates, rain, etc. now comes in contact with the sealant before the paint. So, instead of rubbing on the paint itself and scratching it, it removes the sealant first.

So, if you do not apply new car wax after claying your car, you leave the paint unprotected, which will cause scratches, swirl marks, and in, the worst case, even rust.

Does it have to be wax? Definitely not. There are a variety of different paint protections available, from car wax to spray sealants to ceramic coatings. You have to decide for yourself which one you want to use. Just make sure that you do not leave your paint unprotected after claying.

Polishing After Claying – Is It Necessary?

It is not necessary to polish the paint after using a clay bar. It is enough to wash off the lubricant used and to apply some sort of sealant to the paint. Nevertheless, car paint can and should be polished after claying.

Even though it is not mandatory to polish the paint after claying, clay is slightly abrasive and will mar the surface. If you clay your car’s paint too often, even with enough lubrication, you will start to see swirl marks and scratches. These can only be removed by polishing the paint.

On the other hand, if you plan to polish your paint, you have to use a clay bar as a pre-treatment, combined with a thorough wash, in order to get rid of all contaminants.

Key Takeaways

  • Claying removes everything on your paint, including car wax
  • Use enough lubrication when you clay your car
  • Wash your car thoroughly before claying
  • Add a new layer of protection to the paint after claying
  • You don’t have to polish your car after claying, but you do have to clay your car before polishing
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge