So, what are the do’s and don’ts of vehicle graphics maintenance? To begin with, keep it clean. If your wrapped vehicle looks dirty – wash it. Don’t wait until someone writes “wash me” with their index finger on the hood of your car. Yes, your wrap looks better when it’s clean but what’s more important is that dirt and debris contain contaminants that can damage your wrap. Some pollutants directly affect the adhesive vinyl while others become difficult to remove the longer they’re attached to the wrap. In either case, it’s important to clean away the dirt, debris, and contaminants ASAP. Here are a few do’s and don’ts of vehicle graphics maintenance.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Vehicle Graphics Maintenance

How to Clean Your Wrap

Use non-abrasive cleaning solutions, good old-fashioned soap and water works as well as anything. Stay away from brushes, scrubbing sponges, and abrasive cloths. You can’t go wrong with microfiber. After cleaning thoroughly, rinse with a hose at low pressure, and then wipe dry with a microfiber cloth. You can also use a silicon squeegee to dry the vehicle.

“Soften difficult contaminants such as bug splatter, bird droppings, tree sap, and similar contaminants by soaking them for several minutes with hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry. If further cleaning is needed, test one of these products in an inconspicuous area to ensure no damage to the graphics: Meguiar’s Gold Class™ Bug and Tar Remover or 3M™ Citrus Base Cleaner. Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) (two parts IPA to 1-part water) or denatured alcohol may also help. Spot clean the contaminants. Do not use rough scrubbing or abrasive tools, which will scratch the film. Wash and rinse off all residue immediately.” — 3M Caring for your Vehicle Graphics.

What About Automated Car Washes?

Do NOT use automated car washes with brushes as they may damage the wrap. Most brushless car washes are acceptable. When hand washing, use a non-abrasive soft liquid soap and rinse thoroughly. Here’s more, FAQ: Can I take my Wrapped Vehicle Through a Car Wash?

Should I Wax My Wrap?

Probably not, there are waxes created specifically for wraps. However, there is very little advantage to applying wax to a vinyl wrap, and a waxy build-up can create problems.

Adding a protective wax finish to paint may protect it from exposure, but it doesn’t help vinyl — it may even damage it. In this PDF, Caring For Your Vehicle Graphics and Wraps, 3M explains:

  • Do not use abrasive polishes or cutting compounds.
    • Do not use any polishing or wax products on matte or textured films.
    • If there is wax or waxy residue on the surface, remove with an all-purpose cleaner.

If your vehicle is a partial wrap or has decals, you’ll want to wax the exposed painted surfaces, but be careful to keep the wax away from the graphics and remove any build up from the edges.

Two reasons to wrap a vehicle are to protect the surface and to make it look its best. Both of these are accomplished without wax, so relax and enjoy your ride. Save the wax-on, wax-off routine for others.

What Message Are Your Fleet Vehicles Sending?

Vehicular cleanliness is good business. The other day I saw a food trucked parked in a lot. It was open for business, but no one was in line. It could have been the time of day, or it could have been that the truck was dirty. What kind of a message does a filthy food truck send? However, it’s not only unwashed food trucks that send a bad message but also any dirt stained branded company vehicle. Regardless of your business, a dirty fleet is not a good message to send. Here’s another example, A Bad Message is Worse Than no Message.

What about Cleaning Window Graphics?

Window graphics should be handled with great care. The best way to clean window graphics is with a squeegee. With rear window graphics avoid or limit the use of a rear wiper. The wiper blades can eventually damage the vinyl. Also, limit the use of the rear defroster, the heat against the cold glass can lead to delamination and separation of the adhesive from the glass. Never, ever, never use an ice scraper on window graphics. And as far as side windows, keep in mind continued opening and closing of windows can lead the vinyl graphics to become frayed at the edges.

More Do’s and Don’ts of Vehicle Graphics Maintenance

  • Always read labels on solvents and cleaners before using them on your wrapped vehicle
  • It’s best to test any cleaning solution as well as cloths on a small part of the wrap, preferably a spot that’s out of sight
  • If you have time after washing your vehicle, let it air dry
  • Do not leave fuel spills on your wrap. It’s best to clean them immediately rather than let them go and then forget about it
  • Do not use water above 75 degrees F. It’s best to stay between 65 and 75 F.
  • Avoid pressure washers and with any hose stay below 800 PSI
  • Do spot clean difficult areas with isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth
  • Do clean from the top down allowing the dirty water to run down and away
  • Before using a soft sponge or cloth to clean the wrap soak it in a water and soap mixture
  • Never use cutting compounds
  • Whenever possible store your vehicle indoors or if the vehicle is stored outdoors place a protective covering over it.

Keeping your wrapped vehicles clean not only sends a positive message about your brand and business, but it also protects them from UV damage, environmental pollutants such as smog and acidic rain, as well as petroleum products that when left to fester can eat away vinyl graphics.

If you’d like to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of vehicle graphics maintenance we recommend this from 3M, Caring for Vehicle Graphic Wraps.

TKO Graphix is a national fleet and vehicle graphics company helping customers since 1985. We provide full-service graphics solutions such as design, digital printing, screen printing, installation and removal of fleet graphics, vehicle graphics, and commercial graphics. If we can be of any assistance, answer your questions about vehicle graphics maintenance, or help with your fleet graphics needs, Contact Us. online, give us a call today at 888-544-8051, or Request a Quote.