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How to Wash a Vehicle With a Car Wrap – What to know

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Although a vehicle wrap is a great way to protect the paint job on your car, truck, SUV, or company car, wraps aren’t meant to be installed on your vehicle and then forgotten. Just as you care for the rest of your vehicle and any fine paint finish, your vehicle graphics require regular cleaning and maintenance. To help extend the life and good looks of your vehicle wrap, wash your wrap regularly and keep your vehicle away from possible pollutants whenever possible. This will help preserve the wrap and keep any vibrant colors from fading prematurely. Big Picture Graphics uses high quality 3M graphics for our vehicle wraps and recommends using products designed specifically for car care to help keep your 3M vehicle graphics looking their best.

How Often Should You Clean Your Vehicle Wrap?

As with any vehicle, it’s best to wash your wrapped car whenever it appears dirty, as any contaminants which are allowed to remain on the graphic will probably be more difficult to remove the longer they sit. For especially difficult items such as bird droppings, bug splatter, tree sap, and road tar, try soaking them for several minutes with very hot, soapy water. The application of some denatured alcohol may also help loosen and remove these stubborn contaminants. If they remain, special cleaning solutions may need to be applied prior to a full car wash. Do not use rough scrubbing action or abrasive tools, as this will damage the film. When finished removing any contaminants, be sure to immediately wash and rinse off any product residue.

Hand washing your vehicle is the preferred method of cleaning a car wrap. If using this method, first rinse off as much dirt and grit as possible with a spray of water before using a soft, clean cloth or sponge and a wet, non-abrasive detergent to wash the vehicle. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with clean water and reduce water spotting by using a silicone squeegee to remove excess water immediately. Finish with a clean microfiber cloth.

Wrapped vehicles can be run through a car wash, with a touchless system being the best choice. Use of brush car washes may cause damage to your vehicle graphic, including dulling, scratching, and lifting the edges of the film.

It is also possible to pressure wash a vehicle with a graphic wrap. According to 3M’s vehicle care guidelines, pressure washing may be used under these conditions:

  • Ensure the water pressure is kept below 2000 psi (14 MPa).
  • Keep water temperature below 180 °F (80 °C).
  • Use a spray nozzle with a 40-degree wide angle spray pattern.
  • Keep the nozzle at least 1 foot (300 mm) away from and perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to the graphic.
  • It is important to note that holding the nozzle of a pressure washer at an angle to graphic may lift the edges of the film.

Some other care tips to keep in mind when cleaning a vehicle with a car wrap include:

  • Wipe off any fuel spills immediately to avoid degrading the vinyl and adhesive.
  • Do no use any abrasive polishes or cutting compounds (3M does not recommend using wax or other similar coatings on vehicle graphics).
  • If there is wax or wax residue on the surface, remove with an all-purpose cleaner.
  • When using a cleaning solution, do not allow it to stand and soak; immediately rinse with clear water.
  • Store your wrapped vehicle indoors, in a shaded area, or under a cover whenever possible to preserve and protect the graphics. If storage in a garage is not available, consider using a cloth car cover at night to protect against dew or rain which may contain acidic pollutants.

At Big Picture Graphics, we design and install beautiful graphic vehicle wraps on all types of vehicles for all types of businesses. We can help you reach a broader customer base and convey your unique brand message to your customers more effectively, whether you want a single vehicle wrap, or have an entire fleet of company cars you’d like covered.

Give us a call at (720) 881-3988, drop us an email at info@bigpicturegraphics.com with any questions you have, or contact us today for a free quote. Our team will explain all available options and help determine the best way to meet your vehicle graphic needs.

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