Can You Pressure Wash a Wrapped Car? What About Wax and Polish?

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So, you’ve got a fresh wrap on your car and it’s looking great. But the work doesn’t stop there as you need to keep it looking clean and maintain the wrap for as long as possible.

In this guide, we’ll share our recommendations to help care for your vehicle along with some specially designed products that will make your life easier.

Washing a Wrapped Car

When washing a wrapped car, it is important to be aware of the type of vinyl your car has been wrapped with, as special washing agents should be used that cater to the needs of a vinyl wrapped vehicle.

Hand washing is the best way to care for your wrapped car. Washing by hand every 2-3 weeks will keep the wrap in tact and looking great. A standard shampoo is fine, although you should try to use a detailing sponge.

Try to avoid using the typical fluffy car washing sponges, these are not ideal for cleaning vinyl with, as the longer fibres can cause an irritance to the exterior of the vinyl, this could eventually result in splitting or tearing.

Instead, a soft detailing sponge will gently lather soap onto the surface of a vinyl and the lack of any long fibres will prevent damage.

Dodo Juice Detailing Sponge

  • Dense 110ppi
  • Small pores don’t hold dirt
  • Reasonable price

Here are some examples of car washing methods that can be adapted for safely and efficiently washing a vinyl wrapped car:

Can I Jet Wash a Wrapped Car?

Jet spraying is commonly used at various UK based petrol stations, this is a self-service feature which is ideal if you don’t have an outdoor hose or pressure washer at home. The machines will run through a series of pre-set cycles, offering hot and cold washes, soap and rinsing, plus some post-rinse cycles such as clear coat and spot free finish.

Generally speaking, it is fine to use a jet washer on your wrapped car for washing and rinsing. The temperature is usually around 40-50ºC which is suitable for vinyl. However, we’d advise against the post-rinse cycles and avoid using the sweeping brush on vinyl.

Using the jet wash and rinsing won’t cause any damage to your paintwork, you should follow the standard guidance of keeping the spray nozzle at least 1m away from your car’s surface.

However, you should avoid the sweeping brushes which are often left on the floor, this can result in them becoming infiltrated with dirt and grit which can cause rips and tears on your vinyl wrap. Instead, we recommend you take a detailing sponge, like the one mentioned above, to use on the paintwork. This is not an ideal solution but is a safe one.

Many jet washers have a few post-rinse cycles, here are our recommendations for these:

  • Clear coat: A clear coat applied incorrectly to a wrapped vehicle can affect the colours of your wrap and dull down any designs. If you wish to apply a clear coat, this is best done by hand so that you can test it on a small area first. We’d also avoid the spot free rinse at the end as well.
  • Wax: If you have a glossy finish, then applying wax is okay. However, if you have a matte finish then it’s best avoided, see more on this below. For the best finish, you’ll want to apply a wax by hand anyway.
  • Spot free rinse: The jury is well and truly out on the effectiveness of a spot free rinse on any vehicle, let alone a wrapped one. You should be focusing your attention on proper drying and waxing afterwards.

Overall, jet washing is OK for washing vinyl wrapped vehicles, as long as great care is taken to keep the distance of the nozzle and to avoid certain cycles and tools.

Can I Pressure Wash a Wrapped Car?

An alternative to using a self-serve jet wash is to use your own pressure washer at home, these commonly use cold water, but there are some hot water pressure washers too.

It is okay to use a pressure washer on your vinyl wrapped car at home. You should ensure that the nozzle is kept the right distance from the vehicle and keep at an angle no greater than 60 degrees.

Here are is a full run down of the do’s and don’ts for safely pressure washing a vinyl wrapped car:

Wash the vehicle in the shade opposed to direct sunlight, as harsh sun rays can deteriate the quality of the wash and the appearance of the vinyl.
Rinse the vehicle off using room temperature water.
Make sure nozzle pressure is never above 1300 PSI, gentler pressure is better.
Ensure the nozzle tip is at least 1m from the surface of your vehicle.
Use a fresh water rinse after washing, as it helps with the maintenance of the wrap.
The angle of the nozzle spray should not be shallower than 60 degrees.
Do not use water that is over 60 degrees Celsius.
Do not use pressure washing as a long-term cleaning solution for a wrapped vehicle, as it is something that she only be used on a vinyl wrapped car occasionally, because of the high pressure washing jets.
Do not use any petroleum or acidic based cleaning agents, as they will harm the quality of the wrap.

It is possible to safely pressure wash a wrapped vehicle, but it is not the most risk-free solution. Even pressure washing an unwrapped car still imposes its risks.

Related Post: We put together a full guide to pressure washing your vehicle safely.

Can I Snow Foam a Wrapped Car?

Yes, you can snow foam a wrapped vehicle although a pH neutral snow foam formula is recommended and you should take precautions when using the pressure washer.

If you intend to use a pressure washer to create snow foam, the same precautions need to be taken for using a pressure washer to wash a wrapped car. So, don’t use high temperature water to clean the car and make sure the jet speed is never above 1300 PSI. You should also keep the nozzle at least 1m from the surface of the car.

It is also important to use snow foam formula which is for especially designed to be used on vinyl material wraps. As some snow foam solutions may contain oils and solvents that aren’t suitable for the delicate material. Ideally, you would want a pH neutral formula like the recommendation below.

Car Gods 54 Snow Foam

  • PH Neutral
  • High performance formula
  • Wax-free formula

Can Wrapped Cars Go Through a Car Wash?

No, it’s not a good idea to take a vinyl wrapped vehicle to a drive-through car wash, as it isn’t gentle. Despite being quick and easy, the harsh texture in the bristles and the fast speed can cause scratches and tears.

There are some car washes that offer a contactless option where there are no bristles involves, so visiting one of these should be okay, although you’d probably get a better result from a jet wash or doing it by hand.

Waxing and Polishing a Wrapped Car

When it comes to waxing and polishing a wrapped car, our recommendations vary depending upon the texture of your wrap:

For gloss finishes: Gloss vinyl materials, will not be damaged by an application of a high-quality wax or sealant to them. However, as explained previously, you need to make sure that these do not contain Petroleum or solvents as they are not suitable for use on vinyl material and also remember to avoid using excessive amounts of wax or sealant near the edges to avoid potential build up.

For matte finishes: A wax or polish should never be applied to matte vinyl as it will discolour the material. Waxing a matte or satin finish will ruin the look of your wrap. When it comes to sealants, due to the variation of ingredients that they contain, it’s unlikely that they are safe for matte/satin vinyl. If you really want to use a sealant apply sealant to a matte textured piece of vinyl as a test piece and you will see if any discolouration or minor damages occur.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful, thanks for stopping by.

Image credits: Canva pro