Proper Paint Decontamination With Griot’s Garage

I haven’t clayed a car in several years. The results are surely worth the effort, but it’s the process of devoting the better part of a day to the project is something that I just haven’t been able to budget for time-wise, or get myself in the mood for. I’ve kept up on my washing routine and have always ensured that everything is clean, shiny, and protected, but when I walk beside one of my vehicles and gently run my fingers across the paint, I know that I’ve been slacking—I’m feeling the bonded contaminants from everyday life that accumulate on the paint to give it that sort of sandpaper feel.

Using a high-quality spray wax can create slick paint that beads nicely in the rain, but all you’re really doing here is sealing environmental fallout and other debris to the surface, albeit with a thin layer of protection.

Thankfully, BMW CCA sponsor Griot’s Garage has come up with an innovative solution that allows us to quickly and safely remove these pollutants from the paint—a solution that also offers many other advantages over a conventional clay bar. I recently got a chance to use the Fine Surface Prep Mitt on the paint of my 2012 135i coupe, and the results have been a game-changer. Instead of spending a few hours painstakingly claying every panel, going through bottles of lubricant (Quick Detailer), and covering just a few inches of width during each swipe of the bar, the prep mitt from Griot’s allowed me to efficiently decontaminate my paint in less time than it took me to wash the car beforehand—and as I said, the results are stunning. It’s impossible to convey the improvement over the Internet, but my entire process is explained below.

Like any car-detailing project, the process begins with a wash. In my case, this includes using the two-bucket method and a pair of microfiber wash mitts (one for low areas, one for high) along with a wheel cleaning to start things off. Post-wash, the car is given a quick drying, although areas like the wheels and glass doesn’t necessarily need to be included, since the car will be rinsed several times before we’re done.

Next, it’s time to cover the painted body panels in Griot’s Iron & Fallout Remover. This step may not be necessary in all situations, but it can’t hurt, either. The idea here is to soak the paint in the thick formula, which should be sprayed liberally. Allow it to sit on the paint for approximately three minutes, during which time it will react with bonded ferrous contaminants, namely iron. This process is marked by a color-changing action similar to modern wheel cleaners, and the underlying chemical reaction you’re witnessing is the same.

After a few minutes, it’s time to agitate. Griot’s recommends using their Ergo Wave Foam Scrubber, which happens to be one of my favorite products in the catalog. As I’ve mentioned before, the foam scrubber is a multifaceted tool that every shade-tree detailer should have in abundance. In addition to being safe to use on wheels, they’re also effective on vinyl, plastic, leather, rubber, paint, upholstery, carpet, and more, although you probably want to have a few separate ones for those tasks. When you’re done, rinse, and throw it in the washing machine.

Once things have sat for a few minutes, the color-changing is evident in a few places. My 135i is perhaps not the best vehicle to demonstrate the full effect, since it remains garaged year-’round, but there were still a number of areas with noticeable contaminant reactions, most of which were concentrated on the trunk lid, the flattest panel on the body.

See the area near the light reflection? That’s not enough coverage, and additional product should be sprayed.

After agitating and allowing the fallout remover to dwell on the paint for a few additional moments, it’s time for a rinse. I like to use deionized water for this purpose, to ensure that I’m not introducing the contaminants that I just removed back into the paint. Once I cut through the residue of the fallout remover, water sheets off the panels nicely, and it usually isn’t necessary to do another wash.

The Fine Surface Prep Mitt uses a what Griot’s Garage refers to as a ” technologically advanced diamond-patterned polymer/clay matrix” to achieve results similar to that of a clay bar.

With the car rinsed, give the paint another gentle touch with your fingertips. You should feel an improvement, but you’re not quite there yet. It’s now time to use the Fine Surface Prep Mitt to effectively clay the paint. Beyond being faster and exceedingly more efficient than a conventional clay bar, the prep mitt is also worth its significant price premium because it lasts much longer. Not only that, but if you happen to drop it, something that is a death knell for a clay bar, you can simply rinse the mitt off using water, and continue using it.

Griot’s claims that the mitt lasts up to ten times longer than a clay bar, and can be cleaned using their Micro Fiber and Foam Pad Cleaner and water in between uses. The secret to the mitt is fairly simple: The diamond pattern doesn’t actually absorb contaminants like a clay bar, it lifts them and allows them to slide off with lubrication.

Griot’s instructions say to break the mitt in on glass before using it on paint.

Before the mitt hits your paint, Griot’s instructs to break it in on glass. I did all of my windows before starting on the hood, and the glass of my 135i now feels as slick as the paint. The mitt is seven times larger than a clay bar, according to Griot’s, which is the main factor in why it makes the process so fast and easy. The fine print also warns of potential hazing courtesy of the mitt, which can be removed via light polishing afterwards, but I experienced none of this.

As with clay, proper lubrication is necessary. I used Speed Shine, which is an excellent quick detailer that doubles as a highly effective lubricant. Griot’s Garage mentions that the mitt can also be used with car-wash soap as a lubricant. This enables another use for the mitt: You can quickly decontaminate your paint after a wash using a bucket of fresh car-washing solution into which you repeatedly submerge the mitt.

After you’ve treated an area, it’s time for a few quick passes with Griot’s PFM Detailing Towels. These towels come in a great color, and their rectangular cut makes them easy to flip.

After cleaning the Speed Shine off the paint post-decontamination, I gave the car a final rinse with the deionized water. Even at high pressure, the water hitting the raw paint, with no waxes or sealants of any kind sitting on the clear coat, caught a strong bead as it ran off the panels. The paint itself also appeared noticeably more reflective and with a deeper luster, because the gloss-robbing contaminants I had just removed no longer obscure things.

After the final rinse, it was time to dry using Griot’s PFM Terry Weave Drying Towel. This towel and others like it are another game-changer in the detailing world. While I previously relied on synthetic chamois for years, the PFM drying towel allows for single-pass drying, thus significantly cutting down time spent on the task. The towel works best when paired with a drying aid, which can come in the form of Griot’s Spray-On Wax, which I used here. My paint felt excellent and beaded very well after using the prep mitt, but drying it using the Spray-On Wax brought it to another level of slickness, and also added a layer of protection.

To cap things off, I followed up a with coat of Best of Show Spray Wax, sprayed directly onto the panels and then applied using PFM Detailing Towels. While Spray-On Wax has been a staple of the Griot’s catalog for a long time now, the Best of Show Spray wax is even better, and in my experience, can also be used as a drying aid to make waxing and drying a one-step process. Best of Show Wax also smells incredible, and takes the gloss, slickness, and hydrophobic property of paint to another level compared to Spray-On Wax.

And in one afternoon, the paint of my 135i was properly decontaminated, and protected as well. I haven’t had paint this clean in several years—and several BMWs—and can’t stop lightly touching it as I walk by and admire the newfound gloss and depth of the Space Grey finish.

Remember, BMW CCA members save 15% on all liquid car-care products from Griot’s Garage. Visit the club website to find key codes and discount links.—Alex Tock

[Photos by Alex Tock.]

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