What To Do After Claying Your Car? (Detailed Answer)

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man cleaning car, steps after claying the car,

Claying your car decontaminates the paint, leaving a smooth and clean finish. However, after claying, you should always do some additional detailing steps to keep the color clear and protected. I’ve seen many people ask this question on various forums, and I decided to answer it.

After claying your car, you should polish the paint if needed and then protect it by applying car wax or sealant. Wax or sealant will protect the paint from UV rays, heat, oxidation, rains, etc. 

That’s the short answer, but as always, I have some more information to share with you. I always want to be thorough when writing my articles, so you can know the reason for every detailing task you should do on your car. 

1. Polish Your Vehicle (Not Always)

The first step you should do after claying your car is to polish it. As you can see, I mentioned that you don’t have to polish your vehicle each time you clay it.

It depends on two things:

  1. Clear coat condition: if there are swirl marks and scratches, you should polish it
  2. How contaminated the paint was: if the paint is heavily contaminated, you’ll have to use a heavy-cut clay bar, which will leave marring on the paint. You’ll only remove marring when you polish a car.

Polishing or compounding will remove all swirl marks and scratches from your vehicle and leave the finish perfectly clean, glossy, and shiny. However, if there are no clear coat scratches, swirl marks, or marring after you clay your car, you don’t have to polish it.

Mostly, you won’t have to polish a car after claying if you clayed it to strip old waxes and sealants or to remove light paint contamination. 

If you want to learn how to polish your car, make sure to check my guide for polishing your car using a machine polisher. It’s a thorough step-by-step polishing tutorial for beginners, and it’s very easy to follow. 

2. Apply Wax or Sealant (Always)

Whenever you clay your car, it’ll strip waxes and sealants off of your car’s paint. So, that means that you’ll have to reapply them again. Even if you never had any paint protection on your car, you should apply it after claying it. 

Reasons to apply waxes or sealants after claying your car:

  1. They’ll increase the shine and gloss of the car’s paint
  2. Waxes and sealants protect your vehicle from UV rays, heat, oxidation, bird etchings, etc. 
  3. You’ll more easily wash your vehicle
  4. Car won’t need clay bar treatment so often

So, as you can see, there are many benefits of applying paint protectants to your car. 

Related: How Long Do Car Waxes Last? (Detailed Answer)

TIP: After claying your car, if you decide not to polish it, but only to apply paint protection, make sure to clean the clay bar lubricant residue before applying waxes and sealants. You can do it by doing a panel wipe or by re-washing your car. That way, you’ll prepare paint, so waxes and sealants can easily bond to it.

If you want high-end paint protection for your vehicle, you should consider applying a ceramic coating to your car. It offers better and more extended protection from waxes and sealants but is much more expensive. 

If you also clayed the glass surfaces on your vehicle, I suggest applying some water repellent coating on your windshield and windows. That way, windows will be protected too, and they’ll quickly repel water when it rains, so the driving is more effortless. 

Related: Do Car Windshield Water Repellent Coatings Work? Should You Use It?

What If You Don’t Polish and Protect Your Car After The Clay Bar Treatment?

If you decide not to polish and protect your car after claying it, it’s a job half done. You won’t fix swirl marks and scratches, and you’ll also leave the paint unprotected.

Unpolished and unprotected paint leads to this:

  • Unfixed scratches cause a car to look awful
  • Unprotected paint will get dirty much faster
  • Washing a vehicle that doesn’t have wax or sealant applied is harder since the dirt sticks to the paint a lot

Waxes and sealants aren’t expensive, and I think they’re an excellent investment for your vehicle – both for appearance and maintenance. Check my article Top 10 Reasons To Apply Paint Protection on Your Vehicle.

Honestly, I don’t see a point in claying your car, then doing nothing after it. It just doesn’t go together. You’ll remove contaminants, but they’ll appear in no time if you don’t protect your vehicle. 


Properly washing your vehicle and claying it is one of the most essential steps for keeping your car as clean as possible. If you maintain your vehicle, it’ll be in well-condition for many years to come. 

However, never finish until you’re completely done with all the steps to maintain your car’s exterior properly. That’s the reason why I decided to write this article.

Clay bar treatment is the preparing process, and it should be followed by something (polishing and protecting). That’s the only correct way, and make sure to do it. 

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