Slipstream - July 2017


The monthly newsletter of the Maverick Region of the Porsche Club of America

Detailing Tips: Clay Bar vs Surface Prep Mitt

By Tony “Concorso”

Images courtesy of the Author

n the course of daily


business I get a variety

of car care questions

about the best ways to

go about washing, drying, and general

prep for waxing, sealing or the

latest in coating applications.

This month’s tip is based on

the car already being washed and

dried properly, and being ready

to remove more deeply embedded


One of the universal steps in

paint surface prep is claying. This

process removes embedded debris

and particulate from the paint surface,

leaving a smooth, clean result

ready for further treatment.

Traditionally, we’ve always used

clay bars to remove those contaminants,

but it’s proved to be a bit

of a mess. You’re always having to

re-knead the clay so you can have a

clean section, and if you drop the

bar, forget it; you’ll have to toss it

and buy another.

In recent years, advancements in

the technology brought us the surface

prep (clay) mitt as an alternative

to traditional clay bar use.

One primary difference is that

clay comes in a jar and the mitt is

worn like a glove.

Quite a number of manufacturers

offer claying products of both

types and are of generally good

quality. Brands such as Eagle One,

Nanoskin, Griots, and Chemical

Guys are all widely available.

Surface prep mitts are widely available

To use clay, the product needs

to be hand warmed and softened.

It’s important to note that using

cold hard clay can mar the paint

significantly. Press the clay out in

a pad fashion in your palm. Now,

using your favorite instant detailer,

spray the painted surface liberally,

as well as the clay in your hand, and

begin cleaning, using a short backand-forth

motion with little or no


Wipe clean with a clean microfiber

towel. Repeat the process until


Surface prep (clay) mitts make the

claying process go much more

quickly with good quality results

The new clay mitts are a little

easier to use and cover much more

surface in the same time. Simply

put the mitt on your hand, spray

the painted surface and the mitt

with instant detailer, and start

cleaning. A quick note: clay mitts

come in fine, medium, and coarse

varieties. Fine and medium have

been very effective for me and

are typically what you would use

for normal surface contaminants.

The mitt offers protection for your

hand as well. Cleaning around trim

and other sharp parts of the car can

make for a painful experience with

clay if you’re not careful.

Now for the distinguishing advantages

and disadvantages. Clay

is roughly $20 for a 16 to 20 ounce

jar. A clay mitt runs about $45.

A jar of clay can do five to ten

cars, depending on how contaminated

the paint is. A mitt can do

20 to 30 cars, again, depending on

condition of the paint.

I’ve found clay for as low as

$10.00 on special discounts and

mitts for $15.00. The point is to

keep an eye out so you can save a

little money. Most all of the auto

parts stores have some variety of

clay in stock. Mitts can be a little

tougher to find, but are generally

available, especially online.

Again, a huge distinction between

the two is during the claying

process, should you happen to

drop the clay on the floor, you’re

done with that portion of clay. You

must throw it away or risk further

marring of the paint with the debris

picked up from the floor. It

happens all the time.

Clay mitts however, are forgiving.

Drop the mitt, no problem.

Simply wash the mitt with a little

soap and water, rinse, and you’re

back to work.

In the final analysis, both products

have their merits, but the

speed of application and cleanability

of the clay mitt make it my current

choice for daily work.

A quick side bar for consideration

in all aspects of cleaning your

car: safety. I recommend wearing

gloves, either nitrile or latex, as

well as eye protection. Though

most products are environmentally-friendly,

that does not mean they

won’t dry out your skin or burn like

the devil, should they get in your

eyes -- believe me.

I hope you find this discussion

of clay bars versus clay mitts useful.

Should any of you have further

questions regarding

any aspect of detailing,

please feel free to

reach out and I’ll try

to help.


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