How to Decontaminate Paint
Safely Remove Bonded and Embedded Paint Contamination
Decontaminating a car’s paint requires the use of both chemical and mechanical cleaning to remove all contamination. It’s important to determine what types of contamination are present and choose the right car care product for the job. Having an iron remover, tar remover, and water spot removal product is recommended. After the paint has been chemically decontaminated the mechanical decontamination stage can begin. Whether you’re using detailing clay or a decontamination towel it’s important to pick the right grade. More aggressive clay bars towels will remove contamination faster but the risk of paint marring significantly rises. There is a fine line between spending too much time on the decontamination stage and creating extra work for during the correction stage.
Chemical and Mechanical Paint Decontamination Process
Embedded brake dust requires the use of an iron remover to dissolve the metal particles that have worked their way below the clear coat’s surface. Every time the brakes are applied microscopic pieces of hot metal are shaved off the rotors and a small potion becomes embedded in the paint. Over time these particles begin to oxidize and cause unsightly orange spots known as “rust blooms” which are highly noticeable on white and silver colored paint. Iron removal products pack a punch and have the ability to start dissolving even deepest rust blooms in a matter of seconds. When the iron removal product comes into contact with embedded brake dust it turns purple. It’s important to only decontaminate a portion of the vehicle at a time to prevent the product from drying and temporarily staining the paint.
While road tar is a less widespread form of contamination it can be one of the toughest to remove. The longer the road tar has been on the paint the harder it becomes to remove. Once the road tar begins to solidify tar removal products will have a harder time dissolving the deposits. Tar removal products typically are formulated using either petroleum or citrus based solvents. Petroleum based tar removers are often more available and less expensive than citrus based tar removers. Both types of tar removers are highly effective and determining factors are largely cost and environmental impact. Tar removers much like iron removes should be applied to a portion of the car at a time. If a car is driven over fleshly paved road and tar is deposited on the paint it’s crucial that it be removed as soon as possible.
Water spots are caused by mineral deposits left behind once the water droplets have evaporated from the paint. The quantity of “Total Dissolved Solids” in the rinse water being used will determine your risk for water spots. Fortunately these superficial water spots can be easily removed with the use of a quick detailer and a micro fiber towel. However If you have the unfortunate luck of encountering high TDS water from a sprinkler on your way to work the removal will not be quite as easy. When this mineral rich water is dried from the sun’s heat, the water spots left behind will require the use of a dedicated water spot remover. Unlike quick detailers, water spot removal products should only be used on affected areas and not applied to all of the car’s paint.
Decontaminating a car's paint is a two stage process and after the chemical paint decontamination process is complete it's time to begin the mechanical paint decontamination process. During this stage of the paint cleansing process either detailing clay or decontamination towel can be used. Detailing clay is available in light, medium, and heavy grades depending on how much bonded paint contamination needs to be removed. On a daily driven car, a medium clay bar is the preferred grade of detailing clay as it will remove the contamination in a timely manner without causing noticeable paint marring in the process. Using a light grade clay bar would increase the time required to remove the same contamination and the heavy grade clay bar would require a paint correction to remove the marring left behind.
Decontamination towels typically are available in fine and medium grades. A fine grade paint decontamination towel is going to have a comparable level of aggressiveness as a medium grade clay bar. Unlike clay bars decontamination towels don’t require kneading after each panel to reveal clean material. This can save quite a bit of time and help reduce finger fatigue during the detail. While a medium grade is going to have the decontamination removal power of an aggressive grade clay bar. Paint decontamination towels should always be used on the cars glass prior using on the paint each time to help soften up the rubber. When storing the decontamination towels it’s a good idea to roll it up so that the rubber coating doesn’t stick together.
Step 1 – Unless there is a significant accumulation of road tar on the paint, the decontamination process should start with rust bloom removal. If there is a lot of road tar on the paint then the rust bloom removal should be performed second. Apply an iron removal product to a few panels of the car at a time and let it dwell for up to five minutes. Reapplication of the product may be required to prevent it from drying on the paint. Once all of the iron particles have been dissolved, rinse the paint with water while being careful to minimize getting the untreated panels excessively wet. Applying iron or tar removal products to wet panels will reduce their effectiveness and increase the product usage. Thoroughly rinse the car with water before beginning stage two of the decontamination process.
Step 2 – Use either a clay bar or decontamination towel of the appropriate grade to begin to remove bonded contamination. It’s important to use an adequate quantity of clay lube during this process to help prevent paint marring. On an average sized car expect to use a liter of clay lube and the use of a compression spray can also be quite helpful. One of the most cost effective clay lubes is going to be a diluted rinsless car wash product used at a quick detailer dilution ratio. Using light downward pressure move the clay bar or decontamination towel in straight lines. It's importatnt to utilize both horizontal and vertical arm movements to ensure all of the bonded contamination is removed from the paint. Thoroughly rinse the car with water before beginning stage three of the decontamination process.
Step 3 – An additional hand car wash should be performed to ensure all the loose contamination is removed from the paint. It’s critical to ensure that the paint is completely clean before the correction stage of the detail starts. Any leftover abrasive contamination can quickly install deep scratches that will require the use of more aggressive compounds or polishes to remove.