Car Paint Decontamination Guide: How To Do It Properly

black lamborghini paint decontamination

Here’s how I do paint decontamination on cars. The process involves both chemical paint decontamination (using iron removers), and mechanical paint decontamination (using clay bars). I hope you’ll like my process and be able to learn everything through this post.

Key Takeaways:

  • Car paint decontamination helps to remove contaminants from the paint.
  • Two types of decontamination are mechanical and chemical paint decontamination.
  • You should do chemical decontamination first, followed by mechanical decontamination for the best results.
  • Chemical decontamination is done by using iron removers.
  • Mechanical decontamination is done by using a clay bar.

How To Decontaminate The Car Paint

Here’s a quick guide on car paint decontamination. I’ll try to make it as simple as possible so it’s suitable for both beginners and more advanced auto detailers.

1. Give Your Car a Good Wash

pressure washing a car

You can’t do paint decontamination while the car is dirty. It needs to be clean from all the dirt, grime, and dust particles.

Park the car somewhere in the shade and wash it properly. When you’re finished washing your vehicle, you can continue to the next step.

2. Do Chemical Decontamination

spraying iron remover on a car

Chemical decontamination of the paint on the vehicle involves the use of special agents that help remove bonded contaminants from the paint. It’s hard to make an all-in-one paint decontamination spray, so I highly suggest you use some iron remover or wheel cleaner that’s also safe on the car’s paint.

For this purpose, you can use fallout and iron removers or even wheel cleaners if they’re safe for the car’s paint. I prefer using Gtechniq - W6 Iron & Fallout Remover. It’s safe on the paint, and I find it fantastic for removing fallout, brake dust, and iron particles.

Steps I do when performing chemical decontamination:

  1. Shake the bottle well
  2. Spray the cleaner on the car’s paint
  3. Let it dwell for 3-5 minutes
  4. Rinse residue with a power washer

While doing this, make sure to stay away from direct sunlight during hot summer days. The product shouldn’t dry on the paint.

3. Do Mechanical Decontamination

guy using a clay bar on car

Chemical decontamination removes most of the contaminants from the car’s paint, but it can’t clean them entirely. That’s where mechanical decontamination comes to work. Mechanical or physical decontamination is a process that utilizes the use of a clay bar to remove contaminants that are strongly bonded to the car’s paint.

Using a clay bar will remove all the contaminants from the paint, making the paint look and feel extremely smooth to the touch, which is exactly what you want to achieve when doing car paint decontamination.

How I do mechanical decontamination with a clay bar:

  1. I break off a small piece of clay and flatten it a bit to make it wider.
  2. Spray the area with a clay bar lubricant or a quick detailer. This helps the clay to glide smoothly and prevent scratching.
  3. Rub the clay bar over the lubricated surface in a back-and-forth motion. Don’t press too hard, be gentle.
  4. Continue working the clay bar over the surface until it glides smoothly. Also, keep the area lubricated all the time.
  5. After each panel, wipe the panel with a microfiber cloth to pick up any residue left from the lubricants.
  6. Repeat the process on the rest of the vehicle. Just make sure to fold the clay bar after each panel so you always work with a clean product.

When you finish clay barring your car, it should be perfectly clean from any contaminants.

Why It’s Important To Do Both Options

Even though using only the chemical decontamination method will work fine, you will not be able to remove 100% of paint contaminants. On the other hand, if you go straight to mechanical decontamination, the car paint will be too dirty, and you’ll need to spend a lot of clay bars, which can get expensive. Also, some of those contaminants may even scratch the paint if you rub them all over the car with a clay bar.

If you want to take it a step further, I highly suggest you do chemical decontamination followed by mechanical decontamination. That’s the only way to remove 100% of contaminants from your car’s body. I have been doing that for years, and I see other detailers do that the same way.

There are two cases when you shouldn’t do mechanical decontamination:

  1. If you don’t have a car polisher to fix all the marring, swirl marks, and scratches.
  2. If you regularly detail your car and the paint isn’t contaminated a lot.

In those situations, you should only opt for chemical decontamination.

What To Do After Paint Decontamination

As I said above, mechanical decon leaves marring on the paint, which should be fixed if you want to achieve the best shine of your vehicle. You can do it by machine polishing your car. While polishing isn’t a must, it’s beneficial to polish a car after clay bar treatment.

I already wrote an article on what to do after claying your car, so make sure to check it out for a more detailed answer on this topic.

Long story short, paint decontamination will make the clear coat smooth, but it won’t remove scratches or largely improve the car’s shine. That’s why you need to opt for paint correction.

Of course, after polishing your vehicle, it would be a shame not to protect it. You can apply:

  • Waxes
  • Sealants
  • Ceramic coatings
  • Paint protection films

How Does Car Paint Become Contaminated?

When you’re driving, your car comes in contact with various particles, such as road tar, road paint, iron deposits, brake dust, tree sap, and other similar contaminants.

Unfortunately, these contaminants tend to bond to the paint, making them impossible to remove without utilizing special auto-detailing techniques, such as paint decontamination.

People who often wash their cars will usually have less contaminated paint, but it’s impossible to avoid the contaminant buildup altogether. Sooner or later, the car’s paint will require a thorough and detailed paint decontamination procedure to be done.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you decontaminate car paint?

If the car paint doesn’t feel smooth when you slide your finger over it, that’s a sign that it needs decontamination. Contaminants can lead to scratches, rusting, and decreased car shine, and it’s important to perform paint decontamination to remove all the particles bonded to the clear coat.

How often should you decontaminate your car?

It depends on how much you drive your vehicle, where you drive it, but also how often you wash it. Most cars require basic chemical decontamination once every three months, and you should do full detailed paint decontamination every 1-2 years.

Is there any alternative to a clay bar?

Clay bar is the best product for physical paint decontamination, but you can also use clay towels, clay pads, and clay mitts.

Bottom Line

By regularly decontaminating your car’s paint, you can help maintain its shine and protect it from harmful elements. Your car will not only look better, but it will also retain its value for longer.

I hope that this guide will help you with your car paint decontamination needs and that you found it helpful and informative.