Skip to Content

Can You Clay a Car With Water?

Claying your car means removing any dirt or debris that stubbornly sticks to your vehicle’s clear coat. If you don’t have any special chemicals on hand or a clay bar, you may be tempted to make do with only water as a way to clay your car.

Car wet with water

You cannot clay a car with water alone. It should be used in conjunction with a clay bar or similar materials to create slickness and remove contaminants embedded into your paint. It is better to use lubes, detailers, waterless wash products, or soapy water instead.

In this article, I will explain why you shouldn’t clay your car with water alone. I’ll also get into alternatives you can use to clay your car and make the most of the claying process.

Why You Shouldn’t Clay a Car With Water

Car with droplets of water

Before getting into why you shouldn’t clay your car with water, you must first understand what a clay bar is, how it works, and what role a lubricant plays when you clay a vehicle.

The Role of a Clay Bar

A clay bar is an industrial-grade clay-like substance you can mold into any shape. That comes in handy when you need to get it onto the trickier bits of your vehicle. They’re highly abrasive cleaners designed to remove contaminants from your car’s surface.

Because a car is constantly exposed to the elements, contaminants tend to bond to its surface. These contaminants include dirt, debris, mineral deposits, road grit, industrial pollution, metal dust, brake dust, and similar particles.

A clay bar helps remove most of these, and when used with a lubricant, the contaminants’ hold on the surface becomes weaker, causing them to adhere to the clay and away from your car.

Clay bars are available in many forms: clay blocks, clay sponges, clay mitts, clay layers integrated into wash mitts, and several other variants. If you’re new to claying your car, I recommend using a traditional clay bar because it’s reliable and economical compared to other options.

The Role of Lubricants in Claying Cars

Since the hardness of a clay bar doesn’t make it useful for claying a car on its own, you have to use a lubricant with it. A lubricant softens the clay bar and helps it glide across a car’s surface. Ideally, you should use a lubricant that doesn’t damage the car’s paint by causing marring or scratches.

CarCareReport dot com is owner of this article and was first posted on Sep 16, 2022 and was updated on ..

For example, there’s the Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG Clay Bar. It comes with a lubricant kit, so you don’t have to worry about buying a lubricating product separately. It’s relatively easy to use even if you’ve never clayed a car before, and it has a smooth feel.

After using the clay bar and lubricant combination on your car, it’s a good idea to polish your vehicle afterward. Otherwise, the claying process may leave unsightly marks on your car.

Why Water Doesn’t Work as a Lubricant for Claying

Although water can provide friction, that’s not enough to lubricate the clay bar and allow it to do its work on the car’s surface. For starters, the clay bar won’t glide like it should if you use water. Also, if you’re using water alone to clay a car, you’ll find that putting pressure will cause micro-marring and scratches on your vehicle.

Some clay bars advertise that they only require water as a lubricant. However, I advise against it for the reasons I’ve already mentioned above.

Alternatives to Water for Claying Your Car

Black car with droplets

Now that we’ve established that water and clay bar alone won’t give you the results you need, what should you use instead? Here are a few ideas.

Car Shampoo

If you don’t want to splurge on claying your car, you can opt for car shampoo. Not only is it budget-friendly, but it’s also quick and effective.

When using car shampoo, keep the following tips in mind.:

  • Get a wax-free product. For example, you can use the Chemical Guys Car Wash Soap. Even beginners can use it, and it smells fresh to boot.
  • Use a clean bucket to mix the shampoo and water.
  • Keep the car’s surface well-lubricated to avoid scratching and marring.
  • Avoid getting soap stains by rinsing the area instantly after claying.

Clay Lube Products

Clay lube products are tried-and-tested lubricants. They usually come with claying kits, making them perfect for use with clay bars. Most of them contain the same ingredients, so it won’t matter too much if you pick any brand. That said, I suggest choosing a well-known name for the best results.

Quick Detailer Products

You’ll find plenty of quick detailer products online. Although they can work well as lubricants, you have to be aware of the following:

  • Not all detailer sprays can be used with clay bars. You should use one specifically designed to be a claying lubricant. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with plenty of marring.
  • These products tend to be costly, and you have to use a lot of them to clay your whole car.
  • Quick detailers usually come in spray form, and it’s very time-consuming to spray each part of the car.
  • High temperatures don’t work well with detailer sprays and cause them to dry quickly, leaving marks on your car.
  • Depending on the brand of detailer spray, it might leave a sticky residue that you’ll need to wash away separately.

Waterless Wash Products

Waterless wash products are also excellent as lubricants. Most of them can be diluted and work well for their intended purpose. You can spray them onto the wet surface of your car or put them into a bucket before pouring them all over your vehicle. The best part about using waterless wash products is they cost less than detailer sprays and do the job equally well.

First published on Sep 16, 2022 by


If you plan to use water to clay your water, you should at the very least use it in conjunction with soap. It’s better to use a clay bar and compatible products instead to remove all those pesky contaminants from your beloved vehicle.

Related Articles

Can You Clay a Car in the Sun?

Do You Need To Use a Clay Bar on a New Car?

Does Claying a Car Remove a Clear Coat?

How To Shine a Car Without Wax (5 Methods)

CarCareReport dot com first published this article on Sep 16, 2022..

How To Polish a Car Without Clear Coat