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How to Get Perfectly Smooth Paint

In this installment of our weekly informational series on “How to do a full detail job” we are covering paint decontamination.

Paint decontamination is a crucial step for two very important reasons:

1. To remove extremely harmful imbedded contaminants that are doing their best to eat away at your clear coat.
2. To create a smooth and even surface that will maximize clarity, gloss, and slickness.

This step goes by many names, “Claying”, “Clay Barring”, “Iron-Xing”, etc., but they all mean essentially the same thing. It is the process of removing imbedded contaminants from your paint using both mechanical and chemical removal methods.


contaminated paint vs non-contaminated paint



Looking at the graphic above, you can see a nice side view of how contaminated paint looks and how it will look after the decontamination process.

As we mentioned above, these imbedded contaminants are extremely harmful to not only your gloss, but also to your paint itself! These contaminants are not as easily motivated to leave as the dirt and road grime that is removed during a wash. No, these contaminants are a pestilence that require much harsher methods of “motivation”.

Step 1: Testing the surface

We already know for a fact that this car will need the whole 9 yards considering it hasn’t ever been detailed. However, if you are unsure just how badly your car is contaminated, there is a way to check. Feel it!

If your contamination is EXTREMELY bad, you’ll be able to feel it with your bare hand. The surface will feel rough and coarse, almost like sandpaper.

Even if the surface feels smooth to your hand, it may still need to be decontaminated, it’s just not as bad as it could be. To see if this is the case, grab a thin plastic bag (like a sandwich bag), place it over your hand, and then feel it again.
To see if this is the case, grab a thin plastic bag (like a sandwich bag), place it over your hand, and then feel it again.

If the surface still feels smooth, you can move right on to polishing!

If not, strap in and get ready to get that grit out!

Step 2: Chemical Decontamination

The whole point of the Chemical Decontamination process is to remove the iron particles from your paint surfaces. These particles can come from a multitude of different sources, most of which are completely unavoidable. Brake dust, rail-road dust, industrial fallout, and other sources will all implant iron particles into your clear coat.

These particles look like microscopic shards of iron that stab into the surface of your clear coat and stay stuck in there until they are properly removed. Your clear coat is not a fan of these iron particles as they will gradually eat away at the surface of your clear coat. So, removing them from your paint regularly is PARAMOUNT!

Removing these particles using a mechanical approach is a bit riskier because they are likely to be dragged across the paint in the process, causing more marring. That is why we are going to remove as much of them as possible with the chemical decontamination process.

The chemical decontamination process is fairly easy and really won’t take much time! However, it should be done outside, out of direct sunlight, and on a cool vehicle. If you are unsure whether the car is too hot, place your hand on the surface. If it is too hot for you to hold it there for longer than 5 seconds, it’s too hot to decontaminate.

For this process, we will be using our BLACKFIRE Iron Remover. This product is formulated with a special chemical that reacts only to the iron particles on your paint. The Iron Remover will dissolve and break-down any iron particles it comes into contact with and allow you to easily rinse or wash them off the surface without scratching it!

We are going to start by thoroughly spraying the entire paint surface with our Iron Remover. We want to make sure we don’t miss a single spot, so we are going to give it a bit more than is absolutely necessary.
We are going to start by thoroughly spraying the entire paint surface with our Iron Remover.

Now, we are going to give the product a few minutes to go to work and chemically break-down all the iron particles that are resting on the paint. You will notice that as the Iron Remover reacts with the iron particles, it begins to change colors. Otherwise known as “Bleeding Out”.
ou will notice that as the Iron Remover reacts with the iron particles, it begins to change colors.

(It can be a bit difficult to see the "bleeding" on black paint, but you can tell how bad this car was just looking at the run-off!)

Once the Iron Remover has had ample time to dissolve all the iron particles, we are simply going to rinse all of it off the surface. We are making sure to rinse it thoroughly because any that is left to dry on the surface may cause some unwanted staining.
We are making sure to rinse it thoroughly because any that is left to dry on the surface may cause some unwanted staining.

Once we have finished rinsing the surface, we are going to dry off the whole vehicle.
Once we have finished rinsing the surface, we are going to dry off the whole vehicle.

Step 3: Mechanical Decontamination

The mechanical decontamination step is going to remove the vast majority of the contaminants that are on your paint. Unfortunately, there is no special chemical out there that is able to break-down and dissolve every contaminant on your paint like there is for iron. (Well, there is literal acid, but that would dissolve your whole car as well and then your chances of winning a car show are slim at best!)
No, we will have to pull these contaminants out of the paint with an appliance, not science. And that appliance is the BLACKFIRE Clay Mitt! a BLACKFIRE Clay Mitt

One side of this mitt is covered in a sticky media that feels and acts similarly to a standard clay bar. As this media is rubbed across the surface, the imbedded contamination will stick to the gummy media on the mitt more strongly than it is stuck to the paint, effectively pulling it out of your clear coat!

The BLACKFIRE Clay Mitt also has an advantage over traditional clay bars. It does not need to be molded constantly and can simply be rinsed off after each panel or if it is dropped on the ground.

The BLACKFIRE Clay Mitt will also stay firmly on our hand during the claying process, giving us one less thing to distract us from the task at hand. (Excuse the pun!)

Along-side the BLACKFIRE Clay Mitt, we will need also need our BLACKFIRE Clay Lubricant. This product will prevent too much marring and scratching from occurring while you clay by reducing the amount of friction on the paint surface. If we did not use the Clay Lubricant, not only would the Clay Mitt not slide very easily, but it would also drag all those contaminants across the surface, instilling some very serious scratches and swirls.

We are going to work one panel at a time to ensure that the clay lubricant doesn’t dry on the surface by the time we make it all the way around the car.
We will sufficiently coat both the panel surface a and the Clay Mitt with our Clay Lubricant to ensure that we have more than enough lubrication to do the job.
We will sufficiently coat both the panel surface and the Clay Mitt with our Clay Lubricant to ensure that we have more than enough lubrication to do the job.

Now, we are going to gently rub the Clay Mitt across the panel. We are going to first move our Clay Mitt left to right, and then up and down. This will ensure that no spots or angles are missed during the process.
Now, we are going to gently rub the Clay Mitt across the panel.

We will continue to do this until we feel that the Clay Mitt has stopped “grabbing” and glides smoothly across the surface.

Once we have finished that panel, we want to rinse any lingering contamination off of our clay mitt with a strong jet of water.

Once we have finished that panel, we want to rinse any lingering contamination off of our clay mitt with a strong jet of water.

We will continue this process over the rest of the car until the entire paint surface has been decontaminated.
BLACKFIRE Synthetic Clay Mitt Cleaner a Horse Hair Scrub Brush
After we are finished with our Clay Mitt, we will give it a thorough cleaning with our BLACKFIRE Synthetic Clay Mitt Cleaner and a Horse Hair Scrub Brush to make sure it is clean and ready for the next time we need it.

Step 4: Final Check
We will sufficiently coat both the panel surface
Now that we have finished decontaminating our whole car, we will check the results. Once more, will test the surface with our plastic bag. If we find any rough spots, we will spot clay those areas.

Now that we have finished decontaminating our whole car, we will check the results. Once more, will test the surface with our plastic bag. If we find any rough spots, we will spot clay those areas.

Once we are confident that every inch of this paint is clear and free of all imbedded contaminants, we will thoroughly rinse the lubricant and any loose, lingering contamination off the surface with water.

Now we will grab our Guzzler Microfiber Towels and dry the entire surface of the vehicle.

After the car is dry and contaminant-free, we are ready to move on to the paint correction step!

Closing

Be sure to join us next week when we go over Paint Correction! We will be covering how to compound, polish, and perfect a car’s paint using a machine polisher to maximize gloss and depth!