Automotive detail clay aka Silly Putty


You will read a lot of comments on the use of clay.

Some actually tell you to use abrasive clay on a brand new factory paint job. Not only is that excessive it’s senseless and damaging to the original factory finish. Clay should never be used on a new car.

Some say clay is a necessary detail product and is needed from once a year to once a month. They will tell you how smooth the paint feels once you clay it. They will say, “Put a plastic sandwich bag over your hand and rub it along the car and feel the debris stuck in the paint” They will tell you that, you have to use clay or your paint will never be smooth to the touch.

The truth is that clay is for fanatics, it is a “Silly putty”, an example of excessive detailing.trans.gif Sure you can use clay, but why?

All paint jobs start out smooth, Its what happens to the paint later that creates the problem. There are three basic elements involved here.

Clay, Wax, Paint.

Listed in the order or softness, Paint is much harder than either clay or wax. Being hard by design paint will not hold anything. The painted surface once cured is not sticky nor is it malleable. Paint will chip or scratch but it won’t hold any particles that clay is needed to remove.

Wax has varying degrees of hardness. When dry wax will always be harder than clay. Many car waxes rely on carnauba for a hard lasting shine. In its pure state carnauba can be as hard as rock. It is blended with other ingredients to make it usable as a car wax. However that does not make the carnauba in the mixture any softer. Carnauba is broken down into a powder when it is formulated in to car wax. The powder retains its abrasive hardness. The rest of the wax mixture provides an adhesive base which will help the wax adhere to any surface. This adhesive quality is what traps grit and debris on your car. The wax is the problem, not the paint.

That fact becomes pretty obvious when you realize that everyone who swears how good clay is uses wax. They all use it when they are stripping old wax off their car. You will never hear of someone using clay to strip old paint off their car.

Common sense tells you that: If something is able to wedge itself in a surface as hard and thin as acrylic paint nothing as soft as putty is going to be able to grip it hard enough to pull it out. Yes the very use of wax creates an opportunity for clay to enter the automotive paint detail products arena.

What is clay? “An abrasive putty”. Used to remove old wax from paint

What about wax? It’s a plant by product……. Tree sap is also plant by product. Guess what! Carnauba comes from trees. Paint is a synthetic. Acrylic paint is unusual in that can be mixed with water but once dried, it basically becomes a water insoluble plastic. In its manufactured form plastic has a life span beyond any known organic composition. That fact makes putting an organic based wax on synthetic backwards. From start to finish wax causes problems. Clay is an abrasive treatment developed and manufactured to aid in cleaning old wax off paint. Rubbing “plant matter and putty” on your car is not beneficial to the paint.

The perfect product for acrylic paint cannot be organic as it must have as long or longer a life span than the paint it is protecting.

That is why paint is used to protect metal. Exposed to the elements,  paint has a longer life span than the metal it’s protecting. Paint never has to be removed because it’s non organic, a synthetic. Paint wears down over time, but it does not decay. Wax is organic and has a point of decay. That is why it fails and has to be removed.

The perfect product for acrylic paint should not decay or have to be removed. The perfect product for acrylic paint should enhance and preserve the original beauty of the paint. The perfect product for acrylic paint does not require the use of clay. The perfect product for acrylic paint should not require buffing, or any repetitive action that involves friction.

If you don’t pile wax upon your car you won’t have an excuse to use clay. And if you do pile wax up thick on your car, you should be aware that rolling a ball of abrasive putty on your vehicle is damaging to the paint. In most cases after a car is clayed it needs to be polished before it is waxed, This causes even more damage to the paints original shine.

The best thing to cut old wax off paint is hot water and dishwashing liquid.

Sure there are people who say “don’t use dishwashing liquid“.

You have to consider the source.

These are the same people who will tell you to use clay on a new factory paint job. Dishwashing liquid works on metal, plastic and glass It’s safe non abrasive and works equally well on all brands of wax.

What is automotive detail clay really good for?

Automotive detail fanatics like it. It provides them with another way to make money at your pocket and paint jobs expense.

However in the concept of acrylic paint preservation, automotive detail clay is a paint damaging, absolutely useless product.


Source by Jerry Pittman