In a nutshell:
No complete detail is complete unless you have "clayed" your vehicles surface. Kind of a strange name for a product, but I assure you its completely safe when used as directed. It can be rather intimidating if you have never used before, but once you have, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. Clay is designed to pull contaminants away or simply sheer them from your paint surface, safely, and this is accomplished with ease.
So what equipment or materials is needed? There’s no equipment needed at all! All you need is clay, and a lubricant, and a micro fiber towel for wiping upon completion. Now you can skip the towel if you elect to clay while washing.
There are many brands of clay available, and at least two are usually available at your local auto paint supply store or Automotive parts store (Kragen, Pep Boys). Meguiars makes a new version, better than its preceding version, Mothers makes a nice kit, comes with the clay, a lubricant (Showtime QD), and a small sample of Pre Wax Cleaner. The original Clay Magic I believe still comes with a lubricant as well. Make sure you buy or are using “Fine grade” in the beginning stages.
So lets get started !
Lets assume, it’s the beginning of summer, and you want your ride looking the ultimate! You begin with your normal wash routine (see Proper washing techniques), you’ve removed any tar, gum, and assorted crap stuck to the lower panels with a citrus cleaner or tar/adhesive remover (3M comes to mind). Now you have dried the surfaces with a waffle weave drying towel, and "she" looks good, you rub your hand along the top of the hood, and you feel what seems like specs of sand (If you think it feels good at this point, put your hand in a sandwich baggy)..... Close analysis, its actually tiny bits of metal (Brake linings, rail dust), or just normal industrial fallout. Its inescapable, pollutants happen to everyone, and the reason we need to remove these pollutants is, metal contributes to rust, and once rust starts, it’s usually not good! Not to mention physical appearance anyway.
Make sure your working in a shaded area, on a cool surface. Once you get started, the whole process can be completed in about ½ hr. Lets start with the hood. Unwrap your clay product, and take about 1/3 to ½ of it in the palm of your hand. Place the other portion back in the wrapper it came in, you may need this in case you drop the 1st half. If you do drop it, discard it. Spray the lubricant on about ½ to 1/3 of the surface, just as you would while quick detailing it. Take the clay in your hand and knead it until its somewhat soft. Mold to about the size of a small pancake, and place at your fingertips for easy control. Gently place the clay on the surface and glide it back in a front to back motion (grill to window). Use about 10-12 inch passes and overlap each pass. Fold the clay after each area has been cleaned. You will feel some resistance at first, but with passing motions, you’ll be able to tell the clay is removing pollutants! If you feel too much resistance, your either not using enough lubricant or your surface is REAL dirty. A good way to tell you’re not using enough lube or if your surface is too warm, is the clay is leaving product on the surface. This can be removed, with a micro fiber towel. After each area has been clayed, wipe and buff dry with a micro fiber towel.
Clay will remove a portion of wax or sealant protection, so you should follow up with polishing and sealing/waxing. Clay is not a polish! It will remove contaminants, small areas of road tar, road paint, over spray, fallout, and light oxidation. Any areas larger than an eraser tip should be cleaned with a cleaner prior to using clay, otherwise you will end up polluting your clay for future use. You should be able to clay your surface half a dozen times, depending on the quantity of contaminants.
If anyone has additional comments or concerns, feel free to post, or PM me !