Car Care / Tech

How To Beat The Challenges Of Surface Decontamination

Decontamination is a buzz word of sorts in the car care world. Creating the purist, deepest clean possible is at its root. Contaminants can be as simple as dust, dirt, and bird droppings or as complex as embedded or sub-surface impurities including tree sap, water spots, bug jerky, and fallout.

Fallout is made up of airborne contaminants that settle on your paint. It can be derived from pollen, kicked up road grime, and ferrous or iron particles. A traditional name for ferrous contaminants is rail dust which occurs when cars are shipped in the open air on trains. The cars arrive with considerable ferrous contamination caused by the friction between the train track rails and the train’s wheels. It used to be more common but automakers started wrapping their cars in plastic prior to shipment to lessen the effect.

Still, iron particles are constantly bombarding our vehicles. They not only collect on the surface but can penetrate into the finish. The most common source of these stubborn contaminants are brakes. And the growing popularity of semi metallic brake pads mean there are more second-hand sources of contamination coming from the vehicles around you. Generally, the highest concentrations of these contaminants can be found on the rear bumper, trunk, the trailing edge of the roof, rocker panels, and door jambs… especially the jambs in the rear hatches of SUVs.

There are two types of contamination, surface and sub-surface. Surface contamination includes typical embedded particles while sub-surface contamination goes beyond embedded as the particles have a deeper foothold in the paint. Consequently, there are two methods to eliminate iron particles and fallout, mechanical and chemical. Both are necessary to ensure a truly clean slate and a surface that will properly accept waxes and sealants.

The mechanical method is familiar to most. It’s Paint Cleaning Clay. Clay sheers iron particles or pulls them from the surface. A traditional clay bar is more likely to absorb ferrous particles where the diamond-patterned polymer/clay matrix design of our Surface Prep Mitt and 6″ Surface Prep Pad channels out the particles or allows them to be flushed out by the lubricant, be it Speed Shine® or car wash water. The sheering action of clay often leaves micro particles of ferrous material behind in the sub-surface. These pose a threat due to the corrosive compound’s ability to attack the paint’s sub-layers. This gradually deteriorates the surface, potentially leading to sub-surface panel corrosion and potential paint coating failure.

The other step of this two-stage decontamination approach uses a chemical product, Iron & Fallout Remover. It dissolves ferrous particles from paint as well as wheels, glass, and chrome. Iron & Fallout Remover’s pH balanced formula is safe for all surfaces and we have formulated it thicker than competing products so it clings better and works better. It is also formulated to change to a deep purple as it works. The sooner it changes color, the more contamination you have. Another Iron & Fallout Remover advantage is how it reaches between intricate emblems, grille work, wheel spokes, and other areas where clay can’t because Iron & Fallout Remover is a liquid.

It’s easy to use. After washing and drying your car spray on Iron & Fallout Remover and let it soak for 3 to 4 minutes. Employ some light agitation with an Ergo Wave Foam Scrubber, a Four-Finger Mesh Mittens, or Microfiber Wash & Scrub Mitt. An additional dwell time of 3 to 4 minutes may be needed, just be sure the product doesn’t dry. Look for the color change. Agitate as needed then thoroughly rinse the vehicle. Next surface prep with your choice of clay product. Since the paint is smoother after using Iron & Fallout Remover your clay products will last longer. It should be noted that claying diminishes wax and sealant effectiveness while Iron & Fallout Remover greatly diminishes or removes waxes and sealants. So a follow-up with a wax or sealant should be part of your game plan. As you can see, Iron & Fallout Remover can be used on severely neglected wheels and brake calipers to great effect.

If you have our BOSS Foaming System you can use Foaming Surface Prep for decontamination. It is especially helpful if you want to wash your vehicle at the same time… a 2 for 1 if you will. With a higher pH value than Foaming Surface Wash, Foaming Surface Prep breaks down the existing wax or sealant basecoat where Foaming Surface Wash retains the layers of wax or sealant on your paint. You can spray it on and let the dual-layer foam go solo or augment the process with bucket and more traditional wash mitt car wash to maximize the cleaning effect. Dry your paint as normal and you’re ready for correction.

The goal of any surface prep endeavor is to get the best possible result and proper decontamination plays a key role in the intensity of the shine at the end on the line. Take your surface prep to the next level by incorporating Griot’s Garage Iron & Fallout Remover into your paint care regime.

Have fun in your garage!


  1. Tom Dietz says:

    Great video,very helpful in understanding surface prep

  2. Tom Dietz says:

    Great video..very helpful in understanding surface prep

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