Chemical Contamination Removal

The blog entries recently have been focusing on surface contamination on vehicle paint.  This refers to all the stuff that won’t come off with normal washing.  For example, that gritty, rough feeling that the paint may have after a complete wash and dry is from environmental fallout like iron particles, paint droplets, insect poop, and other tiny particles that float around in the air and come to rest on the vehicle.

The causes of surface contamination are covered in depth in the blog entry “Surface Contamination!”.  To remove surface contamination, we can use detailer’s clay or, better yet, the Proje’ Clay Mitt.  The appropriate procedure for doing so is outlined in the blog entry entitled “Surface Contamination Removal”.

When a vehicle is properly washed, clayed, and protected with wax, sealant, or ceramic coating, the paint surface has a super-smooth and slick feel that makes the car look great, feel great and is easier to keep clean.

There are some surface contaminants, however, that will not come off with standard clay products.  We will go over the common “un-clayable” surface contaminants next.

Iron Particles

Heavy concentrations of iron particles on the paint may require a chemical treatment before even using clay.  Iron particles float in the air from industrial operations like railroads, shipyards, and anywhere grinding on steel occurs.  When they rest on the vehicle surface, they can rust into the paint with any moisture like rain or morning dew.

Ferrous oxide particles look like tiny brown dots on light colored paints.  On darker colors, you may not be able to see the actual particle, but there may be an iridescent ring around the particle. The ring has the same colors as a drop of oil in a puddle.

Detailer’s clay or the Proje Clay Mitt will help to remove these, but if the iron particles are embedded to deep into the paint surface, the clay product will simply snap off the top of the particle, leaving the bottom still in the paint.

In this case, it is recommended to first use a chemical treatment on the vehicle that will loosen the iron particles so that they come out of the paint much easier.  Enter Proje’s Decon Iron Remover.  The process is simple (but should be performed in the shade).  Wash the car like you normally would.  Then spray the contaminated area thoroughly with Decon Iron Remover.  Allow to dwell for a few moments.

Proje’ Decon Iron Remover is a sulfur-based chemical that is pH neutral and safe to use on virtually any vehicle painted surface.  It does have a strong sulfur odor, so be prepared for that.  It is also recommended that you wear disposable glove while using this product, as with any strong chemical.  You will notice as the Iron Remover sits on the surface that it changes to a purple color as it reacts with the iron particles.  This means the product is working!

Once the product has been sitting on the surface for a few moments, rinse it off thoroughly, then check the surface to see if there are still a lot of iron particles remaining, in which case, repeat the process.  You can agitate the sprayed surface with a Proje’ Microfiber Car Wash Mitt if you like.  Just make sure to thoroughly rinse out the mitt after using to remove iron as it may contain iron particles.

Some folks prefer to remove as much of the Iron Remover residue by washing the car one more time with car wash soap and a mitt before continuing.  After the treatment, the Proje’ Clay Mitt and appropriate lubricant should work wonders to remove any remaining surface contamination!

Hopefully this is a one-time necessity that returns the vehicle paint back to uncontaminated condition that will be easy to maintain with regular clay and wax treatments.  The frequency of these treatments (annually, semi-annually, quarterly, monthly) will depend on the vehicle’s continued exposure to iron fallout.

Tree Sap

Tree sap can be quite difficult to remove.  It is always recommended to remove it as soon as possible after it falls on the paint.  Fresh tree sap is relatively gooey and easily diluted with acetone (nail polish remover) or isopropyl alcohol (“rubbing” alcohol).  Both of those products are readily available at your local drug store.

As tree sap remains on the paint surface, it dries out, developing an outer crust.  It can also react chemically with clearcoat, which will result in a permanent ring shaped like the droplet, even after the droplet is removed.  On certain paints, the sap may even discolor or stain the paint if left on too long.

Acetone or isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is the consumer’s best bet as a solvent to dissolve tree sap.  If possible, place a few drops directly onto the sap globule and let it sit for about a minute.  This will allow the acetone or IPA to begin to soften the sap.  Then come back with an old but clean towel (one that you can throw away!) and gently work the tree sap droplet, trying to break the top of it off.  Don’t rub the area too long with the towel so as to avoid scratching the paint.  Instead repeat the process of applying acetone/IPA, waiting a moment, and then wiping it off, until the tree sap drop is completely removed.

As mentioned earlier, if the sap has been on the surface for some time, you may notice discoloration or a ring in the outline of the sap.  Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about this.  You can try rubbing the area gently with Proje’s Revive Final Polish and a clean towel, but typically this does little or nothing.

After dealing with any type of surface contamination on your vehicle, make sure to follow up with a protective product like Proje’s Hybrid Wax Sealant or Express Spray Wax on the areas treated.

You’re NOT Done Yet!

Once your vehicle is free of surface contamination, regardless of the type and method used to remove, you must come back and protect the treated area with one of Proje’s paint protection products like Hybrid Wax Sealant or Express Spray Wax


Tree sap and heavy concentrations of iron particles will likely require specialized surface contamination procedures beyond a simple clay step.  Removing surface contamination, however, is a task that is rewarded with a vehicle that has a deeper shine and silky soft feel.