Cleaning your vinyl wrap properly is important when it comes to how long your wrap will last. Wraps typically last 5-7 years, especially from big brands like 3m and Avery Dennison. They may only last 1-3 however if you don’t take care of it. Let’s talk about proper wash technique, how to avoid water spots and permanent etchings, and ultimately make your wrap last every bit of those 7 precious years.
In the video above, we use a Model Y wrapped in Avery Satin Khaki Green for demonstration purposes. It’s been wrapped for a few months now, and it still looks great. I just want to start off by emphasizing that vinyl doesn’t protect like PPF does. They are made different and have different purposes. Vinyl’s purpose is to change the color.
Does it offer some protection? Sure. It’s still a barrier between the elements, but it doesn’t protect from rock chips or deep scratches. It’s about 1/3 of the thickness of PPF. Vinyl does have some self-healing abilities, but it’s limited to very minor scratches and swirl marks; they heal over a period of time with heat from the sun. You could also pour warm water over the area to accelerate the process.
How To Wash Vinyl Wraps
Let’s start with the proper wash technique. Use pH neutral products on your vinyl wrap, like our car wash shampoo. The two bucket method is the most recommended and the most popular way to wash your car. It’s best to wash your car every 2-3 weeks depending on how often you drive and what kind of road conditions you encounter. This method includes 2 buckets of course, one for wash and one for rinse. Using these two buckets instead of one avoids putting debris back on your car. To go even further, having a grit guard in your rinse bucket will help keep the dirt in the bottom of the bucket. Dunk your mitt in the wash, carefully glide over the surface of your car, and then dunk in the rinse bucket before repeating. I like to flip my mitt half way through the panel, and rinse after every panel. Wash top to bottom in this order so you go from least dirty to most dirty:
- Roof and rear windshield
- Side glass, pillar and mirror
- Front windshield
- Hood and fender
- Rear quarter panel and trunk
- Rear Bumper
- Front Bumper
Disclaimer: I recommend NOT washing your car the first 7 days after installation or leaving it out in the rain. These things can contribute to the edges failing.
If you do use a foam cannon and/or pressure washer, make sure to keep it 12-18 inches away while spraying. Don’t spray into the edges either. This could cause the edges to peel prematurely.
Avoid Water Spots
Drying your car is crucial to avoid those pesky water spots. Most people don’t have deionized water, but if you do have access to that, it’s really nice to have. That just means that your water has little to no minerals in it. Minerals in the water are what causes the water spots. So technically if you have “clean” water, you don’t have to dry it. Either way, it’s good practice. Here are the two ways I recommend drying your car:
- Big plush microfiber drying towel. Simply run it across your car gently as demonstrated in the video instead of rough scrubbing.
- Leaf blower. I like to use EGO. This is an easy and satisfying way to blow the water off your car. It’s especially easy if ceramic coated.
For on-the-go and in-between regular washes, you might get bugs, bird droppings or tree sap on your wrap. It happens! It’s best to get those things off right away instead of waiting for your regular wash every few weeks. I keep a waterless wash (aka quick detailer) in my car with a microfiber so I can grab those things easily when I’m out and about before they stain or etch. If they stay there too long and end up etching in the film, there’s no way to get that out unfortunately. Waterless is also an easy way to clean door and trunk sills!
Ultimate Protection = PPF or Ceramic Coating
Like I said earlier, vinyl wraps don’t protect like PPF does. To have the ultimate protection, you can put PPF over the vinyl. PPF is meant to protect your paint, but it can do the same thing to your vinyl. Its scratch resistant, self healing, and has hydrophobic properties to make it easy to keep your vinyl wrap underneath in good shape. I recommend only covering the front end (bumper, hood, mirrors, fenders, headlights) since that’s the highest impact areas, but you can do the whole car of course.
You can also put ceramic coating over your PPF or vinyl. This would give it hydrophobic properties, making it easier to clean and harder for stains to set in. It would really bring out the shine of your wrap too. Keep in mind that ceramic coating always goes last; Nothing adheres to ceramic coating, so it can’t go under vinyl or PPF.
Both of these would be ways to go above and beyond to make sure your vinyl is in tip top shape.
- You can remove it without damage to the paint.
- A lot of wrap shops will have a warranty that I recommend asking about when you’re inquiring. For us, we offer a 1 year warranty for defects or failures due to installation, and we’ll replace damaged panels at cost if you’re in an accident.
- You can DIY wrap! At TESBROS, we have vinyl wraps for exterior and interior that are pre-cut and come with everything you need to wrap. Currently we only offer accents like the pillar delete or center console wrap, but we will offer full body wraps in the near future for the Cybertruck and hopefully other models to come! Stay tuned on our social channels for more.