How to remove “Rail Dust” and other paint contaminants using Adam’s Polishes Iron Remover & VISCO Clay Bar: The complete guide
Rail Dust. It’s pesky, it’s nasty, it’s gross…it makes me cringe even thinking about it.
I first discovered rail dust about a month after purchasing a 2-year-old new-to-me white 5th Gen 4Runner. I immediately called the Dealer in a light panic wondering why my 2-year-old vehicle suddenly had rust spots all over certain areas.
Fortunate for me the service manager was very kind and had a history in auto-detailing.
He reassured me that the 4Runner body panels weren’t actually rusting and he caught me up-to-speed on what these tiny rust spots actually were: Rail Dust.
If you own or have ever owned a white or light-colored vehicle you may have come across this problem too.
What is Rail Dust and Where Does it Come From?
Rail Dust occurs when hot metal brake dust contacts and embeds itself into the top coat of your paint and then oxidizes into what looks like dozens and dozens of tiny rust spots.
The term “Rail Dust” actually refers to the hot dust emitting from the “rails” of train tracks, and the brake dust from the trains themselves.
Many new cars are transported by freight train for days or even weeks at a time and can acquire rail dust problems along the journey.
Rail dust can also be a problem for vehicles parked or frequently driven near train tracks and industrial areas where train or freight traffic is common.
For most of us, rail dust problems are not caused by trains but actually by hot brake dust coming from our own vehicles or the cars/trucks traveling next to us.
What does rail dust look like?
Rail Dust is easy to spot and most commonly collects just behind the wheel wells and around your rocker trim…sometimes on rear fenders and lift gates too.
Naturally, the hot brake dust exits out of the wheel wells of traveling vehicles and some will find a home in the top-coat of your paint.
It will commonly look like little pin dots of rust and/or little black dots that refuse to come off the paint during a normal car wash.
The good news is that most light to moderate rail dust issues can be removed using some great products from Adam’s Polishes such as their Iron Remover and VISCO Clay Bar.
The bad news is that it will take some good effort, elbow grease, and anywhere between 1-4 hours of your time to treat the problem DIY style.
DISCLAIMER: Severe and extreme cases of rail dust and paint contaminant removal should be handled by a detailing professional or a paint correction facility.
What you’ll need for how to remove rail dust:
- Adams Polishes Iron Remover: Check Today’s Price
- Adams Polishes Clay Bar: Check Today’s Price
- Adams Polishes Detail Spray: Check Today’s Price
- A freshly washed car
- 1-4 hours of time
- Adams Polishes Foam Gun: Check Price
- Adams Polishes Foam Soap: Check Price
Also, check out the guide to foam cannons and foam soap. In that article, you will see multiple foam cannons in action along with a wide variety of foam soaps.
The 2 Key Ingredient:
#1 – Adam’s Polishes Iron Remover
The Iron Remover by Adam’s Polishes is a spray-on chemical and a very good first step at removing rail dust from your vehicle.
This solution is a spray on, iron-iron-activated, and actually soften and dissolves oxidized metal contaminants from the top coat.
You will actually be able to see this product at work when it begins to “bleed” purple.
From Adam’s Polishes:
- Safe on Clear Coat and Single Stage Paint
- Ready-to-Use, No Diluting Necessary
- Dissolves Iron Particles Embedded into Paint Surfaces
- Changes Color to Purple as it Works
- Great for Deep-Clean Prep Before Claying or Polishing Surfaces
Be sure to follow all instructions on the product’s labeling.
If you can, I recommend avoiding contacting plastic trim with this product.
If that’s not possible, be very careful to not allow the product to dry or bake on plastic trim as its hard at work!
During my first application of this product, I did observe some chem stains on some of my black plastic trim.
This could have been my fault by allowing the product to sit too long on the vehicle, however, I will not be casually applying this product “all over” any longer.
#2 – Adams Polishes VISCO Clay Bar
Clay Bars have been around for decades and their use on painted surfaces may seem counterintuitive at first.
Why would anyone rub a dry piece of clay across the paint of their car in an effort to clean it?
However, when used properly with a proper lubricant, a clay bar (essentially just a piece of clean good quality clay) does an excellent job at picking up and removing bonded contaminants from your vehicle’s top-coat and paint!
This can include rail dust, bugs, and other dirt contaminants that regular washing simply will not remove.
From Adam’s Polishes:
- Removes contamination without causing damage
- Geoimpressions – work more effectively, faster and safe
- Geoimpression Tool for even force and enhanced grip
- Use on paint, glass, wheels, and more
- Safe for even the most delicate clear coat
- Made in the USA
When used together the Iron Remover and Clay Bar should be able to remove the majority of Rail Dust and other contaminants from your vehicle’s paint.
After application and use, it is wise to apply a wax, polish, or coating as a final step in the detailing process.
Let’s remove some rail dust, shall we?!
Step 1: Wash Your Car
Prep your vehicle with a good car wash to remove all surface dirt and debris from your vehicle.
Don’t skip this step, you will have far better results with the iron remover and clay bar with a clean car free from loose surface dirt and contaminants.
Step 2: Apply Iron Remover
Now that your vehicle is clean, apply the Adam’s Polishes Iron Remover to the trouble spots.
Follow all instructions on the labeling and do not allow this product to dry onto your vehicle.
I recommend using this product in the shade while also avoiding hot parts of the day.
Again, the product states its safe, but I do not recommend spraying your whole vehicle with Iron Remover, focus on the trouble spots and avoid back plastic trim if you’re able.
If you have plastic trim around your wheel wells, just take extra care to prevent the product from drying onto the plastic or chem staining could occur.
Step 3: Let It Bleed Purple & Then Rinse!
Wait and watch the Iron Remover make a meal of the metal contaminants.
The magic is that the Iron Remover will show you it’s working by streaking and changing color from orange to bright purple as it dissolves and eats away the oxidization.
Give it 3-5 mins to work, however, do not let the product dry or bake in the sun or dry at all costs! This could damage your vehicle.
Step 4: Time to use the Clay Bar!
Time to use your Clay Bar!
Using a Clay Bar is simple, but if you’re a first timer I highly recommend watching Adam’s Polishes How-To video which can be found on their website.
Step 5: Lubricate Clay Bar w/ Detail Spray
Here’s how it works….a Clay Bar first needs a lubricant to work properly.
Spray a few Adam’s Polishes Detail Spray on the area you want to treat and start gently rubbing the clay bar over the area increasing pressure only as needed and being careful not to apply too much pressure.
Most of the orange colored rust dots will come off from the Iron Remover leaving a lot of little black dots on your paint.
Step 6: Re-wash & Apply Wax, Coating or Sealant
Using the clay bar, all of these back (and orange) dots should come right off with ease especially after an application of Iron Remover.
Re-wash your car and apply any wax, coating, or sealant of your choice to further protect your paint!
Before Iron Removal & Clay Bay
…And After: Final Thoughts & Conclusion
Rail Dust is treatable in most cases and Adam’s Polishes Iron Remover combined with their Clay Bar tool does a really great job of cleaning up the problem.
Full paint correction and regular application of high-quality wax, sealant, and/or ceramic coatings most likely will help limit future contamination as well.
I have gone through this process twice now and Iron Remover and Clay Bar really do work.
After you use these products your paint will be clean and will have a very slick feel.
If you really want to go all out, Clay Bar your whole car (including glass and wheels) and apply a wax or sealant for added protection!