Decontaminating your vehicle: Clay Bars vs Clay Alternatives


Detailing clay is traditionally used to remove bonded contamination from a vehicle, however with the increase in synthetic clay substitutes, there are now many more options that perform the same type of function. Such products include the SM Arnold Speedy Surface Prep Towel, Optimum Opti-Eraser, Cobra Clay Mitt and the NanoSkin AutoScrub Wash Mitt.

Since all of these products are designed to remove contamination much faster and easier than a clay bar – can we therefore say goodbye to the old, trusty clay bars?



In my opinion, these new clay alternatives are vastly superior to traditional clay bars, and in most cases, can easily replace clay as your go-to decontamination tool in your detailing arsenal. I’ll explain to you all the reasons why.

First, clay alternatives cover a much larger surface area than any clay bar can. This means that you can remove contaminates from a vehicle much faster using a clay alternative. For example, using a clay mitt most people can decontaminate a regular sized vehicle in 15-20 minutes, which is less than half the time it takes to do the same job with a clay bar. Clay bars also require the user to knead (fold) the clay after each panel to expose a clean side. With a clay alternative you simply rinse the mitt or towel in a bucket of clean water and you are ready to go. If you detail cars for a living, or if you own multiple vehicles and just don’t want to spend all day cleaning your cars, clay alternatives are the obvious choice.


Another benefit of clay alternatives is that they can be used over and over again, where a traditional clay bar will get dirty and may need to be discarded after just a few uses. Typically, clay alternatives have a life span of 50 to 100 uses, which means that most enthusiasts or weekend warriors will get years of use out of them before they need to replaced. If you drop a clay bar on the ground it must be discarded as rocks and other debris can embed itself into the clay and potentially scratch the paint on your vehicle. If you drop a clay mitt or towel, simply rinse it out with soap and water and it’s ready to use again.

Clay alternatives, however, are not without their downsides. These clay alternatives can be quite aggressive and may leave behind light marring that is especially noticeable on darker paint colours. Of course, if you plan on polishing your vehicle after this isn’t going to be much of a concern.

The other drawback is of course the cost – these synthetic pads and mitts can run upwards of $50 which might be a bit pricey for the guy just maintaining his own vehicle on the weekend.

However for most people, the time savings and ease of use is going to far outweigh the  higher initial cost and potential risk of marring.




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