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A vinyl wrap is a great way to protect your car’s paint job while making it look unique and eye-catching. It adds an extra layer of protection that safeguards your car paint against stone chips, grime, dust, sand, tree sap, bird droppings, and more.
At the same time, it shields the car from the powerful sun’s UV rays, rain, and snow. Best of all, vinyl wraps can stay aesthetically pleasing and function for about 2- 4 years, making them a popular option among many car enthusiasts.
Similar to a regular paint job though, vinyl-wrapped cars require regular cleaning and maintenance. Not to mention that neglecting those tree saps or bird droppings will soften the vinyl wrap and ruin your car’s exterior.
However, washing a vinyl-wrapped car is a bit different from how you would wash a car with a typical paint job. More importantly, this job should be done very carefully to avoid leaving marks and scratches on the vinyl wrap.
Don’t worry though! In this article, I’ll show you how to regularly clean vinyl wrap on cars correctly. This will help you to keep your vinyl-wrapped car away from pollutants and prevent its vibrant colors from fading prematurely!
Helpful Tips for washing vinyl-wrapped cars
Never wash a vinyl wrap with an automatic car wash
While washing your car in an automatic car wash is convenient and can save you time, it’s not the best option for vinyl-wrapped cars. This is because automatic car washes use strong chemicals and brushes that will damage the vinyl wrap.
In addition, most automatic car washes use high-pressure sprays that can damage or cause the edges of the wrap to peel.
To avoid these problems, clean the vinyl wrap by hand with a soft sponge and a bucket of soapy water, instead of taking it through an automatic car wash.
Always use a clean rag/sponge to clean vinyl wrap on cars
Washing vinyl wraps on cars with a dirty rag/ sponge scratch or damage the wrap when it comes in contact with the debris or dirt on the car surface. So, make sure you always use clean sponges instead of dirty sponges when cleaning your vinyl-wrapped car.
Use the right cleaning products
Some cleaning products tend to compromise the quality of the vinyl wrap by causing it to fade or exposing it to other forms of damage. For that, it’s essential to use the right cleaning products when washing a vinyl-wrapped car.
More importantly, you should avoid oil-based cleaners, oven cleaners, solvents, kitchen & bathroom cleaners, and engine degreasers. Similarly, stay away from cutting compounds and abrasive detergents as they can scratch and damage the vinyl wrap.
Instead, use products that are recommended for cleaning vinyl wrap like warm soapy water, diluted isopropyl alcohol solution, or waterless wash products.
Moreover, you should rinse off the cleaning solutions immediately before the soak and loosen the adhesive underneath.
Don’t use high-pressure wash to clean vinyl wrap on cars
While you can use a pressure washer to clean a vinyl-wrapped car, you should exercise a lot of caution while doing so. For instance, you should ensure that the water pressure doesn’t exceed 14 MPa (2000 PSI) or 80 deg C (180 deg F).
In addition, you should keep the nozzle at least 1 ft away from the car and maintain a perpendicular angle of no more than 60 deg to reduce the risk of damage and ensure great results.
Stay away from the sun
Heat can damage your car’s vinyl wrap, and it’s even used to remove vehicle graphics. To be precise, vinyl wraps become malleable when exposed to heat, thus loosening the adhesive underneath.
Therefore, you should park a vinyl-wrapped car away from the sun’s heat, especially when you’re washing. Besides, washing vinyl wrap under the sun causes the soapy water to dry up quickly, leaving hard water sports that are difficult to clean.
On top of that, washing the car when its surface is hot can cause indents, marks, and wrinkles. To avoid these issues, park your vinyl-wrapped car in a garage or shady area when washing it.
Things you’ll need to clean vinyl wrap on cars
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to have the right cleaning products when washing a vinyl-wrapped car to avoid causing any damage. Some of these items include;
Mild car wash soap
Always use a mild soap that is recommended for cleaning vinyl wraps on your car. Specifically, you should choose a non-abrasive mild car wash soap that doesn’t contain any silicone emulsion to avoid damaging the vinyl wrap.
A pressure washer or 2 buckets with grit guards
The 2 bucket approach is the best method for washing a vinyl-wrapped car without damaging the vinyl wrap. In addition, you’ll need grit guards to remove grits that get stuck to the sponge or washcloth you’re using to hand wash the car.
However, if your vinyl-wrapped car is very dirty, you can use a pressure washer to wash it. In that regard, the best pressure washer for washing vinyl-wrapped cars should have a PSI level of below 2000 and a 40-degree nozzle.
Low-pressure water hose
If you don’t have a pressure washer, a regular garden hose will also do the trick, just make sure you do a good job.
A soft sponge or soft, non-abrasive washcloth
If you’re planning to hand-wash your vinyl-wrapped car, you’ll need a soft sponge or non-abrasive washcloth to scrub the surface without scratching the vinyl wrap.
You’ll need a squeegee that you can use to dry your vinyl-wrapped car immediately after washing it.
In addition, you’ll need the best car-drying microfiber towel you can find to thoroughly dry the car after using a squeegee.
Step by Step Guide on how to clean vinyl wraps on cars
Step 1: Preparation
Prepare the car wash solution you intend to use to clean the vinyl wrap in your car. Avoid using water that is too hot or too cold as it can damage the paint of your vinyl-wrapped car. Instead, fill up the bucket with warm water.
Step 2: Choose a safe place to wash the car
First of all, avoid washing your wrapped car in direct sunlight. The heat from the sun makes the soapy water dry out quickly, which can leave ugly spots on a freshly cleaned car.
With that in mind, a shaded area with a clean concrete floor surface is the best and safest place to wash a vinyl-wrapped car. In addition, make sure the area has proper drainage, especially if you’re planning to use a hose.
Step 3: Check for stubborn contaminants
Thoroughly inspect your car’s vinyl wrap for stubborn contaminants like bird droppings and tree sap. If you see any of these contaminants, soak them for a few minutes with hot soapy water and scrub them off with a clean washcloth.
Step 4: Pre-rinse the car using low pressure
Use the low-pressure hose nozzle and ensure the water is below 140 deg F when pre-rinsing the car to avoid causing damage to the vinyl wrap. If possible, use a water hose instead of a pressure washer since it’s gentle on the vinyl wrap. Hose down the vehicle to get rid of as much of the grit and dirt as possible to avoid scratching the car when hand washing it.
Step 5: Prepare the cleaning solution and wash the car with a soft sponge/ non-abrasive washcloth
Dilute the mild cart wash soap with cold water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then use a non-abrasive washcloth or soft sponge to gently hand wash your car.
Avoid rubbing too hard against the car as doing so can damage the vinyl wrap. Also, use the grit guards in the bucket from time to time to remove the grit from your sponge/ washcloth.
Gently scrub one section at a time with the solution, rinse the car with clean water, and dry the surface with a squeegee before you move on to another area.
This helps to prevent the cleaning solution from seeping into the vinyl wrap. Better yet, this prevents the formation of water spots on the car’s surface.
Step 6: let the freshly cleaned vinyl-wrapped car air dry or use a microfiber towel
Hand washing a vinyl-wrapped cart gives you total control over how long it takes to dry. The easiest option is to let the vinyl wrap air dry before you drive it to prevent the formation of streaks on the car’s surface.
Alternatively, you can use a car-drying microfiber towel to speed up the drying process.
Overall, learning how to wash the vinyl wrap on your car isn’t too hard, provided you’ve got all the right items and cleaning products. For instance, you should always use soft, microfiber towels instead of abrasive cloths that have cotton, 100% polyester, or terry cloth.
More importantly, you should never wash the car in direct sunlight as it will dry too fast, causing water spots to appear on the car’s surface.