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What are paint contaminates and why they should be removed prior to ceramic coating your vehicle.

--Understanding Contaminants: Iron vs. Organic

Maintaining the pristine appearance of your vehicle goes beyond regular washing and waxing. Over time, your car's paint can accumulate contaminants that aren’t always visible to the naked eye. Two major types of contaminants are iron and organic matter, each requiring specific treatments to ensure your paint remains flawless.

Iron Contaminants:

Iron contaminants are tiny iron particles that embed themselves in your vehicle's paint surface. These particles usually come from brake dust, railway dust, and industrial fallout. When exposed to moisture in the air, such as rain or dew, these particles oxidize and can cause visible rust spots over time. The presence of iron contaminants not only dulls your car’s finish but can also lead to long-term damage if left untreated.

Organic Contaminants:

Organic contaminants, on the other hand, include substances like tree sap, pollen, bird droppings, and other residues from natural sources. These substances can adhere to your vehicle’s paint and, if not removed promptly, may etch into the clear coat, causing stains and potentially permanent damage to the paint surface.

The Benefits of Clay Bars and Iron Washes

To effectively remove these contaminants and restore your vehicle’s paint to its original luster, automotive detailing experts recommend using clay bars and iron washes as part of a thorough cleaning regimen.

Clay Bars:

A clay bar showing what dirt and contaminates it has pulled from the vehicles paint.

Clay bars are pliable, resin-based products designed to safely lift and remove embedded contaminants from your car’s paintwork. By gently gliding the clay bar over the surface with a lubricant, such as detailing spray or water, you can effectively pull out dirt, tar, and other stubborn residues that regular washing can’t eliminate. This process not only improves the smoothness of the paint but also prepares it for waxing and sealing, enhancing the depth and gloss of your vehicle’s finish.

Iron Washes:

The iron wash breaking down the iron contaminates in the vehicles paint turns purple.

Iron washes, also known as iron removers or decontaminants, specifically target iron particles embedded in the paint. These products chemically dissolve the iron particles, turning them into a water-soluble solution that can be rinsed away. Iron washes are particularly effective on brake dust and other ferrous contaminants that contribute to rust spots and paint deterioration. Regular use of iron washes helps maintain the integrity of your car’s paint by preventing oxidation and corrosion from iron particles.

Why Decontaminate Before Applying a Ceramic Coating

Before applying a ceramic coating or sealant to your vehicle’s paint, it’s crucial to ensure the surface is thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated. Here’s why:

1. Improved Adhesion: Ceramic coatings and sealants adhere better to a clean, smooth surface. By removing contaminants with clay bars and iron washes, you eliminate barriers that could prevent the sealant from bonding effectively to the paint.

2. Enhanced Durability: A properly decontaminated surface ensures that the ceramic coating or sealant forms a strong and durable layer of protection. This layer not only enhances the gloss and depth of your vehicle’s finish but also shields it from UV rays, environmental pollutants, and road grime.


In conclusion, understanding and addressing both iron and organic contaminants is essential for preserving your vehicle’s paintwork. Incorporating clay bars and iron washes into your detailing routine not only removes embedded particles but also safeguards against long-term damage and preserves the aesthetic appeal of your car. By investing in these specialized products and techniques, you can ensure that your vehicle maintains a showroom-worthy finish for years to come.

For the best results, consider consulting with a professional detailer who can recommend specific products and techniques tailored to your vehicle’s needs. With proper care and attention, your car’s paint will not only look great but will also be protected against the elements and everyday wear and tear. Remember, a little extra effort in decontaminating your paint before sealing it can make a significant difference in maintaining its beauty and resilience.

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