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Answered: Can You Clay a Ceramic Coated Car?

Is your ceramic coating looking rough…or feeling rough? I recently received an email about using clay on ceramic coatings, so I want to provide some helpful advice on this topic.

Ceramic coatings can last a couple of years if taken care of, so always proceed with caution when cleaning to protect your investment!

Can you use clay on a ceramic-coated vehicle?

It’s not a good idea to use a clay bar if your vehicle has a ceramic coating because it can and will remove the coating or mar the coating. Most consumer-grade clay bars are medium-grade and pretty abrasive, which means the clay can remove bits of the ceramic coating; clay also can cut swirl marks into the coating itself if a circular motion is used.

Quick Tip

Only use clay to remove contaminants from the clear coat, not from coatings; only after any waxes, sealants, or ceramic coatings have been removed does clay make sense.

In theory, if you want to remove the ceramic coating from your vehicle altogether, you can technically use clay if you have nothing else. However, there are better products to remove protectants from a vehicle, like Clean Slate by Chemical Guys.

Some people argue that fine-grade detailing clay won’t ruin a ceramic coating, but it all depends on the clay and the coating. Simply put, you’re taking a risk of damaging an expensive ceramic coating if you clay it; any damage will be particularly noticeable on dark cars.

How to remove defects from ceramic-coated car without clay

If your ceramic coating feels rough or looks dirty after washing, use a ceramic-safe decontamination product to remove any stuck-on substances. Most all decontamination products like iron/fallout removers or bug and tar removers are safe on waxed or ceramic-coated vehicles.

Iron Remover Spray

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Spray-on products are ideal if you have some traffic film or deposits on the lower vehicle panels, but not everywhere.

If you simply have a thin layer of traffic film everywhere, try pre-treating your vehicle with a ceramic-safe wash product like Malco CW-37. This product foams up nicely and chemically removes a good amount of traffic film without having to touch the paint.

Malco CW-37 Foaming Car Wash Concentrate

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You can also mix in this pre-wash with your normal car soap if hand washing (since you’ll want the lubrication of normal car soap). To remove this black dust completely, you’ll typically need to make contact with the paint.

Check out our post on how to remove traffic film to learn why some particles stick to your clear coat and can’t be removed by soap alone.

Wash your vehicle every couple of weeks to prevent contaminant buildup. Ceramic coatings generally repel contaminants and dirt pretty well…unless these contaminants stay long enough to etch into the coating itself. Good luck and hope it helps!

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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