To clay or not to clay
The most common question I receive about car detailing is, "How often should I clay my paint, "and what are the best steps to do it properly?" Here are the items you'll need for this task.
Clay only when needed
Before we get started, I wanna be very clear. The number one rule about claying your paint is to only clay your paint if it needs it. Feel the clean paint with your bare hand. Or, inside a glove for a more tactile feel. If you feel a rough or sandpaper-like texture despite the paint being clean, then you're feeling embedded paint contaminants that will require clay to be removed. Avoid claying more than is necessary.
How to get started
Now cut one-third of the clay bar off for use, and store the remaining two-thirds in a sealed jar. Knead the clay into a hamburger shape, then dunk the bar into your soap bucket used to wash your car earlier. Take the wash mitt in your left hand and squeeze out the water and soap onto the panel about to be cleaned. Immediately afterwards, spray a quick shot of spray wax or clay lube on the wet surface. Remove the clay bar from the soapy water and gently place it on the paint. Move the clay bar in short, side-to-side motions at a quick speed and very light pressure.
As the contaminants are removed, you'll feel the clay bar become easier to move from side to side. Gently feel the paint with your hand, and if the paint feels smooth as glass, move on to the next section. From time to time, look at your clay bar as it becomes full of contaminants. They'll show up as black or yellowish dots within the clay. When you see this, it's important to knead the clay again to ensure a clean surface before starting the next section.
If it hits the ground, throw it away
Please note that if you drop your clay on the ground at any time, you must throw it away as tiny rocks will get caught in the sticky surface and severely scratch your paint if used again. So, play it safe and throw it away. When you're all done, quickly re-wash or rinse the area being clayed. Dry it safely and then add your favorite sealant to protect the freshly cleaned surface.
Rinse off the bar
Likewise, rinse the clay bar in cool water while kneading to remove soap, spray wax, and clay lube residue prior to storage. The clay bar is a fantastic tool for removing embedded contaminants in your paint. The trick, however, is to only use it when you absolutely need it.