Best clay bars 2023

Which is the best clay bar for removing invisible contaminants?

With your bodywork clean, it’s time to remove the tiny particles that bond to paintwork and can’t be seen. The solution is a clay bar, which picks up the particles as it is moved across panels lubricated with a specialist spray, detailer or, in some cases, water. 

Not sure you need to clay your apparently clean paintwork? Slip a finger inside a thin plastic bag and run it across the roof or bonnet. If the surface feels like sandpaper, you need to clay. There are iron removers that work like ‘red’ wheel cleaners, and cloth or mitt alternatives, but here we focus on traditional clay bars, which can cope with all types of contamination.

How we tested them

We first looked at the storage provided, wanted to see a warning that a dropped clay should be binned and gave marks for bars that could be used with water. Price was also factored in, and for the kits, we calculated the cost of the other elements to get a figure for the clay. 

On our test roof, we made two attempts with limited passes, assessing progress after each. This formed the bulk of our scoring for the final result.

Verdict

  1. Bilt-Hamber auto-clay regular
  2. Mothers 3 Clay Bars
  3. Autoglym Clay Detailing Complete Kit

Reviews

Bilt-Hamber auto-clay regular

  • Price: around £12 
  • Size: 200g
  • Contact: bilthamber.com
  • Rating: 5 stars

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.

Buy now from Amazon

Mothers 3 Clay Bars

  • Price: around £25  
  • Size: 300g
  • Contact: motorgeek.co.uk
  • Rating: 4 stars

For an easy-to-use clay, look no further than this pack, with three 100g bars finished in a suitable California Gold yellow, wrapped in cellophane. That could be used for storage, but some sort of case would be better. It’s mid-table on price, but it earns its top-four place courtesy of a fine performance on our gritty roof. The packaging includes useful instructions and information, plus the drop warning.

Buy now from Amazon

Autoglym Clay Detailing Complete Kit

  • Price: around £42  
  • Contact: autoglym.com 
  • Size: 100g clay, 500ml Rapid Detailer, 100ml Super Resin Polish, microfibre cloth
  • Rating: 4 stars

Autoglym’s cost might be hefty, but you get a lot for your money, and while the bar still works out at the higher end of the price range, it’s not as bad as it might appear. The cloth is good quality, the detailer can be used for other jobs, and the veteran Super Resin Polish scored well in our colour restorer test. The kit has a handy storage tin and the clay worked well, finishing just below our top two.

Buy now from Halfords

Meguiar’s Smooth Surface Clay Kit

  • Price: around £40  
  • Contact: meguiars.co.uk
  • Size: 180g clay, 473ml Quik Detailer, microfibre cloth
  • Rating: 4 stars

Unlike its rival kit here, Meguiar’s concentrates on claying. So in the – finally updated – pack, you get three 60g clay bars, a microfibre cloth and Quik Detailer lubricant. The cloth is decent quality and the clay easy to use. It works well, too, matching Autoglym on our roof and coming in at a similar price. Less good are the cellophane packaging and the lack of a storage case, plus we couldn’t see a drop warning.

Buy now from Halfords

Alchemy Qube

This Qube put on 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.

Buy now from Alchemy Car Care

Products editor

Kim has worked for Auto Express for more than three decades and all but a year of that time in the Products section. His current role as products editor involves managing the section’s content and team of testers plus doing some of the tests himself. 

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