Best clay bars: 2020 group test

Which is the best clay bar for removing invisible contaminants?

Clay bars have long gone beyond the professional world of detailers and become mainstream, but some drivers still struggle to see the point of removing grime you can’t see from bodywork.

Getting rid of contaminants such as metal particles, brake dust and tree sap is key to providing a good surface for a wax or sealant. If you’re going to the effort of applying protection, you want to give it the best chance of lasting. Not sure if your car needs claying? Slip a finger in a thin plastic bag and run it over the bonnet or roof. If it feels like sand paper, it needs claying. But which is the one that cleans up best? We tried 10 to find out.

How we tested them

The key here is how well each product cleans, so we sectioned off a long-neglected Mercedes bonnet and used each clay with limited wiping. We made two attempts, assessing progress after each one, and weighted the results towards cleaning power.

Storage for unused clay was also important, plus we wanted to see a warning to discard a dropped bar to prevent damage to the paint. The amount of clay you get for your money was factored in, and for the kits, we priced what else it comes with to work out a cost for the clay. Using water as a lubricant was also taken into account.

Verdict

Bilt-Hamber wins, but it was very close; the cost-effective Vertar almost took victory.

Top performer Paint Definition ends up in third place on the podium, but with a little refinement it would be a potential winner.

  1. Bilt-Hamber auto-clay
  2. Vertar V-Clay
  3. Pure Definition Paint Cleanser

Reviews

Bilt-Hamber auto-clay regular

There’s a new white box instead of the familiar blue version for Bilt-Hamber’s regular clay bar. We can’t help wondering if something else has changed because, for once, it was narrowly beaten on our car bonnet. It was still very effective, but Pure Definition had a slight edge. Auto-clay retained its water lubricant, though, which helped tip the balance. The bar is still stiffer than rivals and comes in a powder coating, making it notably less sticky than rivals, but it works a treat.

Vertar V-Clay Medium V

For a ‘conventional’ clay, look no further, because this pretty much ticks all the boxes. It comes in a sturdy plastic container with good instructions and our key discard- if-dropped warning. It’s great value for money and partially negates Bilt-Hamber’s water-lube advantage by coming with a small clay lubricant concentrate, which makes 500ml. There was little to choose between the two on the bonnet, but Vertar has to settle for the runner-up spot this time.

Pure Definition Paint Cleanser

Fresh from success on the BBC’s The Customer is Always Right, this is Pure Definition’s test debut with its clay bar. The brainchild of young entrepreneur James Sharp, it seriously impressed on our bonnet and was marginally the most effective. It’s part of a wider car-care range, which includes a comprehensive line-up of claying kits. While the clay scored well, we couldn’t find the drop warning, and the cellophane bag and cardboard box storage could be improved.

Meguiar’s Smooth Surface Clay Kit

You have to ask quite how long Meguiar’s can continue with this ‘improved clay’ and ‘now with 60 per cent more’ line. It’s not 60 per cent more than it was in our 2018 test, or in 2016, when we tested it for the first time. What isn’t in doubt, however, is that it remains a strong performer. Meguiar’s came close to matching our top three and is a good option if you need a cloth and lubricant. The cloth is top-quality and large, plus you get 473ml of Quick Detailer. The combined prices of these make the clay one of the most cost-effective.

Autoglym Clay Detailing Complete Kit

The clay bar in Autoglym’s kit fared better than it has done in previous tests, and proved a match for US kit rival Meguiar’s on the bonnet. The clay works out a fair bit dearer than our top four when you take into account the price of the other items in the kit. It’s a useful exercise since it helps make sense of the £32 price.  We liked the storage tin for the clay, plus you get a microfibre cloth, 500ml of Rapid Detailer and 100ml of Super Resin Polish to add a final preparation before waxing the car. The kit also comes with a drop warning.

Stjärnagloss Lera

The clay bar in Autoglym’s kit fared better than it has done in previous tests, and proved a match for US kit rival Meguiar’s on the bonnet. The clay works out a fair bit dearer than our top four when you take into account the price of the other items in the kit. It’s a useful exercise since it helps make sense of the £32 price.  We liked the storage tin for the clay, plus you get a microfibre cloth, 500ml of Rapid Detailer and 100ml of Super Resin Polish to add a final preparation before waxing the car. The kit also comes with a drop warning.

Angelwax Soft Clay Bar

It was hard to separate the performance of this clay from newcomer Stjärnagloss on the bonnet. Both products made good progress and left just a few gritty particles after our limited number of passes. There’s nothing in the price, either, but Lera just gets the nod here. The Angelwax storage is basic and lacks the snap-shut plastic box the Stjärnagloss comes in. The packing is minimalist to say the least, with no instructions provided at all, and no mention of the bar’s weight.

Alchemy Qube

This is a clay test debut for the Alchemy brand, which has impressed in other areas. It was a decent performance for a fine-grade clay that is designed for frequent use, but it was a step behind the best. Two 50g bars come in a neat snap-shut box with only minimal instructions and no drop warning.

Also tested

Car Gods 54 Morpheus Clay Bar Kit

Pinnacle UltraPoly Clay

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