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How to Properly Wash Vehicle Wraps and Graphics to Maximize their Longevity

 

the clean surface of a wet car

Here are three simple things you can do to keep your vehile wraps and printed graphics vibrant for as long as possible:

One: Use Appropriate Cleaning Solutions

Wash applied vinyl graphics with a blend of clean water and mild (standard) car-wash detergent.  Be sure to read the warning labels on purchased cleaners to be aware of any precautions and safety advice from the manufacturer.  When unsure of the effects a specialty cleaner might produce, test-wash (then dry) a small section of the vinyl graphic before applying to the entire surface.  If the shine and other observable properties of the graphic remain unchanged, you may proceed to wash the entire vehicle.  Do not apply carnauba-based wax over vinyl graphics.

When normal cleaning procedures don’t work to remove difficult debris from your applied vehicle graphics, try spot cleaning the area with Isopropyl Alcohol and a microfiber rag.  If further assistance is needed to loosen dirt or contamination, you can moisten a rag with a citrus based cleaner and naphtha, then wipe down the problem areas. It is important to immediately rinse the area with water and soap, after using citrus cleaner and naphtha.

Once dry, for added protection, you may apply a silicone or Teflon based polish designed for vinyl vehicle graphics. (Read and follow product manufactures directions and suggestions for frequency.)

Two: Use Proper Tools and Technique

Hand-washing is the recommended way to clean vehicle wraps and printed graphics.  Pressure washing should only be used when all other cleaning methods have been exhausted.  And under no circumstances should a turbo pressure nozzle be used when pressure washing applied vehicle graphics.  Frequent pressure washing can cause the vinyl graphics to lift around the edges and peel away from the vehicle.  Over time, pressure washing can degrade the face film causing the graphic to lose its luster, fade, or crack.

When choosing to pressure wash, use extreme care when aiming the water spray toward the edge of the vinyl graphic. Avoid sharp spray angles, and observe the following guidelines:

  • Ensure water temperature is no more than 5° higher or lower than 72°F
  • Open the sparay nozzle to 40° wide pattern
  • Do not bring the spray nozzle more than 15" from the graphic
  • Water pressure should be equal to (or less than) 800psi
  • Water should strike the printed surface at a 45-65° angle, and never "against" a seam
  • Continuous spray duration should not exceed 30 seconds in any one location

Finally, do not use mechanical brush washing. Brushes can cause vinyl graphics to chip or peel around the edges or scratch the surface. They can also cause the graphic to fade, and dull the appearance of the over laminate.

Three: Minimize Contamination

Do not allow fuels to stay in contact with the vinyl for extended periods of time. Clean all spills as soon as possible.  Taking proper precautions to limit abrasive dirt contact will go a long way to keeping your graphics vibrant for many years.  Pre-rinse the graphic with water to wash away any loose sediments, dust, or dirt using your garden hose with spray nozzle attachment.  Make sure the water-buckets are free of dirt and small rocks as these will scratch your car and or vinyl graphics.  And Once the graphic is rinsed off with water, allow it to air dry or use a clean microfiber cloth to dry the surface.