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All about Decontamination

What is Decontamination in relation to your car’s paint and when is it necessary? Decontamination is the removal of grime, tar build up and sap on your painted surface as well as the chemical removal of harsh iron deposits aka “rail dust” or other harmful contaminates that will damage your paint over time if left to dwell. Included is the removal of residue just before waxing, sealing or ceramic coating a vehicle. There are two general decontamination types. Mechanical and Chemical. Mechanical decontamination comes in the form of automotive clay bars, synthetic clay blocks and clay towels. Chemical decontamination comes in the form of bug and tar removal chemicals and fallout or iron remover.

Mechanical Decontamination What are the differences between these types and methods of the decontamination processes? We’ll note the differences starting with the more aggressive form of decontamination which is Clay Barring. Clay bars come in different grades- fine, medium and heavy. The grade used should depend mainly on how soft or hard your paints clear coat is and 2nd, how much build up there is on your paint. There are synthetic bars like Meguiars Speed Clay and others, which are growing in popularity. A third option is a clay towel, these are meant to be used with car wash soap on surfaces with very light buildup. Great care is required with all of these options. Keep in mind, all mechanical paint decontamination processes require a lubricating agent to reduce the chances of scratching your paint. A few kinds of Lubricants are detail spray, a semi thick car wash soap mixture, proper ratios of no rinse solutions… Plain water will not work as no lubricants are present. During the mechanical decontamination process, check the clay bar regularly for build up of contaminates and fold the dirty side into itself as needed. If your using synthetic clay or a clay towel be sure to wipe or rinse the surface regularly. Our goal being to remove contaminates from the paint, instead of spreading them. This same principle goes for using microfiber towels to wipe a freshly decontaminated surface, use a fresh and absorbant microfiber towel or two for each panel. An alternative option is to fold the towel into sections and turn to a clean side with each wiping pass. This about wraps up the basics for mechanical decontamination options and processes. As a rule of thumb, more product and materials are better than overuse of the clay or microfiber towels causing light or even heavy scratches to the paint.

Chemical Decontamination This process can range in purpose, so we’ll cover a few purposes for chemical decontamination. In relation to road tar and grime removal, there are very powerful solvents that can be purchased to rub onto the paint that actually dissolve the contaminates. These kinds are generally expensive, usually come in a metal container, smell similar to nail polish remover and thus have more hazards to offer. The less intense option is bug and tar remover products that can be found at most stores. They are mainly used for smaller areas in conjunction with handwashing your vehicle. Proffesional versions of these are available as well. Another process for chemical decontaminaiton specifically includes iron or falll-out removal agents. Iron deposits left to bond on the painted surface can cause damage. There are a few sources iron deposites come from, thats a seperate discusion as well. The more common reason for the iron or fall-out removal process is brake dust. Your vehcile is exposed to this day in and day out. If left on the surface and polished into the paint or covered over with a wax or sealant, this can inhibit a proper bond of the coating or wax to your paint and cause damage overtime to your clearcoat or paint since it is now more permanently attatched. Usually the final process for chemical decontamination is upon completion of the cleaning and decon phases, just before the application of wax, sealant, or ceramic coating is to do a thorough prep wipe. So.. most cleaning and decon processes even after dry, will leave a light residue or film behind. Sometimes the residue is visible, sometimes it is not. To prep the surface before application of wax, sealant or ceramic coating.. a pre-coat or coating prep wipe is performed. The importance being, wax, sealant and ceramic coatings are all meant to be applied to a clean contaminant free surface for proper adhesion and max lifespan. Residue or other cleaning/decon chemicals left on the surface are still considered contaminants. On a chemical level they can impede the wax, sealant or ceramic coating from bonding properly to your paint or clearcoat. The Take Away Just like any other process, there’s a science to decontaminating your vehicles exterior. Hopefully this article has shed some light on a few options and processes availalable for your toolbox of knowledge for auto care. -J. Nichols

2.20.22

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