Vinyl Wrap Care
RULES FOR ALL VINYL
There are some basic rules that apply no matter what type of vinyl you're working on (gloss, satin, or matte). Following these basics will prevent damage and make sure you don't leave yourself with an issue that can't be fixed.
- Never spray anything onto vinyl while its hot. If the car has been recently driven or has sat in direct sunlight for an extended period of time be sure to let the surface cool down sufficiently before performing any cleaning or dressing of the surface.
- Avoid crossing over edges with polishes or waxes. Its very easy to create a buildup of product along the edges of the graphics and this buildup then becomes unsightly and easy to remove. Additionally working across edges can lead to premature lifting of the vinyl from the surface.
- Whenever possible mask the edges of vinyl graphics to protect them while you treat adjacent painted surfaces.
- Never use heavy abrasives like cutting polishes, compounds, or similar products as they can change the level of gloss on some vinyls or discolour others. This includes the use of polishing tools with abrasive pads.
- Avoid all strong solvents or products that contain solvents unless absolutely necessary for cleaning purposes. Solvents can cause discoloration, bubbling, cracking, and other issues and should be used only as a method of last resort.
- Petroleum distillates, like solvents, should be avoided - specifically those found in bug & tar removers and similar cleaners as they have the potential to damage vinyl surfaces quickly with minimal exposure.
- Always test any new product in a small, inconspicuous area before treating the entire surface just to be sure there are no issues or undesired changes in appearance.
GLOSS VINYL CARE
Out of the potential finish types featured in vehicle graphics packages gloss is the easiest to care for as it does behave very similarly to paint. As such you can use many of the same products you use on your paint to care for and maintain gloss vinyl stripes, with some exceptions as outlined above.
REGULAR CLEANING - Stick to mild cleaners and car washes general cleaning needs. A pH Neutral automotive car shampoo like Aquamarina Vehicle Shampoo is always perfectly safe for regular use.
WAXES & SEALANTS - Gloss vinyl materials, while not required, will not be effected by an application of your preferred wax or sealant to them. Do check that these do not contain Petroleum Distillates or solvents though and avoid piling on excessive amounts near the edges to avoid unsightly buildup.
CLAYING - In most cases the use of clay or decontamination should be avoided as these can potentially cause marring or scuffing which cannot be corrected without replacing the vinyl. Should you encounter a situation where overspray or other contamination cannot be removed by regular cleaning then a fine grade clay cloth can be used. Be sure to use generous amounts of lubrication and/or increase your dilution of pH Neutral Car Shampoo lubrication to help avoid potential issues.
POLISHES & COMPOUNDS - Universally all the vinyl manufactures discourage the use of any abrasives on vinyl wraps, because vinyl is a resilient elastic surface that generates a ton of friction. The use of polishes or compounds, especially by machine, can overheat and damage the surface easily. If a gloss vinyl accent has a scratch or other damage an extremely light polishing compound applied by hand with a microfiber towel can be used, but should be only used as a last resort in cases where replacement may be the other option.
PROTECTION / MAINTENANCE - As mentioned above, overall gloss stripes can be treated very much the same as paint. Keep them clean and apply a regular coating of your preferred wax or sealant anytime you treat your paint and they should stay looking great for years to come.
MATTE/FLAT/SATIN VINYL CARE
Matte vinyl presents a very unique set of challenges for care due to its overall higher porous composition. Its that composition that makes it highly susceptible from damage by improper care as well as neglect so it becomes even more important to follow the rules for care and cleaning to prevent an ugly situation.
REGULAR CLEANING - Soaps should be wax and gloss enhancer free. Wash and wax type products can lead to a buildup on the vinyl’s surface that will make it appear cloudy, blotchy or uneven. Stick to a pH neutral car shampoo product like Aquamarina Car Shampooh for regular washes. The occasional use of an alkaline wash, like Surface Prep Wash, can actually be beneficial to matte vinyl as it removes unwanted waxes and oils from the finish.
WAXES & SEALANTS - Absolutely under no circumstances should a wax of any kind be applied to matte vinyl as it will discolour the material. The only exception to this being tinted waxes, like Black Edge, as the pigmentation will prevent the carnauba (white to yellow in colour naturally) from showing stains. Waxing a matte or satin finish will ruin the look of your wrap.
Sealants, due to the variation in composition and ingredients vary in whether they are safe for matte vinyl or not. If attempting to apply a sealant to matte vinyl be sure to test in a small area before proceeding over the entire surface.
CLAYING - because of the high level of friction and porous nature of matte vinyl claying is not recommended. The action of decontaminating the surface can introduce 'shine spots' from friction that will leave the surface appearing scuffed.
POLISHES & COMPOUNDS - Abrasives are not recommended for use on matte vinyl due to their tendency to leave a discoloring stain or at the very minimum change the appearance of the vinyl. In some cases, where damage is present and no other solution works polishing the entire surface can return the vinyl to one consistent appearance, albeit one that will have a potentially different sheen than the factory appearance.
PROTECTION / MAINTENANCE - Matte and satin vinyl surfaces should be treated very similarly to your exterior rubber or plastic trim. A regular application of a high quality, water based vinyl dressing will keep them looking like new.
TIPS, TRICKS, AND OTHER SOLUTIONS
One big benefit to a vinyl appearance package is that it costs a fraction of the painted equivalent, and should it become damaged you can replace only a section of the graphic unlike paint which would require more substantial work to repair. Below are some additional approaches to cleaning or repairing specific types of issues.
WHITE STAINS ON MATTE VINYL - Typically white or white-ish coloured staining is a sign of a wax or polish coming into contact with the material. To remove this a highly diluted mixture of a degreaser is recommended. All Purpose Cleaner Concentrate, Surface Prep Wash, or even original blue Dawn dish soap mixed with water can be used to remove the staining. Be sure to flush the area extremely well with water after cleaning to remove any chemical residues.
WATER STAINS ON GLOSS VINYL - Treating water stains or rings on vinyl as soon as possible will make removal much easier so address them as soon as you notice them. Start with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water to remove any mineral contamination and flush well with water.
If the spots remain using a damp microfibre towel, apply a few small drops of a mild polish and gently rub the area effected by the water stains, remove residues with a separate microfibre towel. Repeat as needed.
SAP OR OVERSPRAY - Use a mixture of warm (not hot) soapy water to gently wipe down the effected surfaces. Repeat as needed to soften the sap until it is able to wiped away. If the residues are more stubborn or do not improve use a 1:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber towel.
Note - Always consult the manufactorer who applied the vinyl for their expert advice on maintenance and care as your particular type of vinyl wrap may be different in a way that is not compatible with generic vinyl wrap care advise. The Clay Cloth Company accept no liabilty for any damage caused as a result of using their products.