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Can you wax a wrapped car?

Top tips for vehicle wrap aftercare

Hand washing sports car as part of vehicle wrap aftercare - credit Brad Starkey from Unsplash

A car or van that has been transformed professionally with a vinyl wrap is a joy to behold, and after making such an investment in your vehicle, you want it to look fabulous for as long as possible. Without proper vehicle wrap aftercare, the wrap will eventually deteriorate, but with the correct TLC, you can ensure the wrap stays firmly in place and looks pristine for up to five years.

We understand that even with the best intentions, mistakes can happen without clear guidance. Deciding on which products to use can be a minefield, as well as the dos and don’ts of using car washes and pressure washers. But fear not! Help is at hand with our useful guide on how to care for your new vehicle wrap where we’ll run through:

  • How to clean a vehicle wrap
  • Dealing with difficult contaminants
  • Should you wax a vehicle wrap?
  • Caring for a vehicle wrap with a special finish
  • How to store a wrapped vehicle
  • How much does a vehicle wrap cost?

How often should you wash a car wrap?

It is essential to wash your vehicle whenever it appears dirty to protect the vinyl from degrading over time. It’s particularly important to take care of wraps that have been applied for the purpose of protecting the paintwork for resale, as any weakening of the wrap can then start to affect the paintwork.

A vehicle that is kept inside, away from dust and particulate matter will need cleaning less frequently than a vehicle that is kept outside, exposed to pollution and other contaminants.

Vehicle wrap aftercare: Handwashing sports car wrap - credit Andre Tan from Unsplash

Hand Washing

The best way to clean a vehicle wrap is by hand. Use a spray of water first to rinse off excess dirt, then wash with a soft, clean sponge. Rinse the car thoroughly with cold water, then wipe with a chamois leather to prevent water spots. If your vehicle has been soiled by bugs, bird droppings or other hard-to-shift dirt, see “How to remove difficult contaminants” below.

PLEASE NOTE: For best results, we recommend the use of a wet, non-abrasive detergent such as Meguiar’s NXT Generation® Car Wash or Deep Crystal® Car Wash when washing your vehicle by hand.

What About Automatic Car Washes?

It is best to avoid taking your vehicle through a car wash that uses brushes as they can scratch the vinyl and make it dull over time. Not only that, the brushes can get under the edges of the wrap, causing it to lift and peel away. Touchless car washes that only use water spray should be safe for most wraps if you do not have time to hand wash.

Pressure Washers

We are sometimes asked the question “Can you pressure wash a wrapped car?” as it’s often seen as a quick and easy way to remove dirt without the elbow grease of handwashing.

Unfortunately, pressure washing can also damage the vehicle wrap. It is also not necessary, as dirt and grime will not stick to a good quality wrap that is protected by PVC-based-over-laminates, and will come off easily when washed by hand. However, if time is of the essence and you have to use a pressure washer to clean your vehicle, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Ensure the water pressure is kept below 2000 psi (14MPa).
  • 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 1ft (300mm) away from and at 90 degrees to the wrap.

How to remove difficult contaminants

Contaminants such as bird droppings, dead bugs, tree sap and tar should be soaked first with hot, soapy water and left for several minutes to loosen the dirt. You can then hand-wash the vehicle. Whatever you do, don’t scrub or use abrasive materials as this will damage the film. Any stubborn areas can be spot-cleaned with products such as Meguiar’s Gold Class™ Bug and Tar Remover or 3M™ Citrus Base Cleaner. Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) (2 parts IPA to 1 part water) or denatured alcohol may also help.

Be sure to test the product on an inconspicuous area before applying to the rest of the vehicle. Wipe off any fuel spills immediately to avoid degrading the vinyl and adhesive, then wash, rinse and dry as in “ Hand Washing ” above.

To wax or not to wax a premium wrap ?

If you have invested in a premium wrap for your vehicle you will want to keep it gleaming like new for as long as possible. Therefore, y ou can wax if cleaning by hand, but check that the product you use does not contain petroleum distillates. Do not select a wax option if you use a touch-free automated car wash, as the wax may be at a high temperature that can damage the graphic film.

Cash and Rocket graphical luxury car wrap

Caring for a special finish

Matte vinyl wrap care

It is best to use a waterless wash on a matte finish as water will fill in the texture that gives the matte effect, and cause spotting. If you have to hand wash with water, use as little soap as possible.

Chrome and metallic wrap care

These require very delicate cleaning as they are easily damaged, so speak to the installer about the specific instructions.

To read more about preparing a car for a vinyl wrap click here.

Storing your newly-wrapped vehicle

Ideally, your vehicle should be stored under cover once it has been wrapped , especially if it is your personal pride and joy . If you do not have a garage or anywhere else to keep your vehicle under cover, then a car cover or tarpaulin will offer protection. When you are out on the road, be mindful of where you park. For example, tr y to avoid parking underneath lime trees when they are shedding their sticky sap, or on roads that have been freshly resurfaced. You do not want your beautiful new wrap to be damaged by grit thrown up by speeding traffic!

How much does a vehicle wrap cost?

The cost can vary depending on the type of wrapping service, such as:

  • Full van wraps — the cost will depend on the size of van and type of graphic used in the wrap and if a fleet of vehicles is being wrapped at the same time, the cost per vehicle will be cheaper.
  • Smaller wrapping projects — branding work such as signwriting and graphics costs much less than a full vehicle wrap.

Applying decals to a vehicle for FoodBusker project

For more detail about how much a vehicle wrap costs, click here


Caring for a vehicle wrap isn’t difficult but it is important to get it right to get the best from your investment. Taking a little extra care of your vehicle’s bodywork will pay you dividends in the long run and will certainly have your vehicle turning heads, long after the initial “big reveal”!

If you are considering a wrap for your luxury car or planning stand-out branding for your business vehicles, visit the Raccoon website for more information about our vehicle wrapping services .

For more detail on the vehicle wrap process, download our Ultimate Guide to Vehicle Wrapping .

How To Detail A Wrapped Car

You’ve just had your car wrapped, and it looks amazing, but how do you keep it looking amazing? Detailing a wrapped car isn’t that different from detailing a normal car, but there are some key differences. Our guide on how to detail a wrapped car will ensure you keep your wrap looking its best and that you don’t damage it.

To learn more about what’s involved with the wrapping process, check out our guide here. And if you want to up your cleaning game, be sure to read out Ultimate Detailing Guide.

Before You Start

The main thing you need to keep in mind is that vinyl is softer than paint, so you have to be gentle with it. This means you need to stay away from harsh cleaning products and abrasives to help keep your vinyl wrap in the best shape possible.

1. Pre-Wash

How To Detail A Wrapped Car rinsing

The first thing you’ll want to do is to rinse off any dirt on your car. You can use snow foam on a wrapped car, but avoid anything too harsh. Pick a pH-neutral foam, and make sure you don’t let it dwell any longer than the instructions tell you to.

How To Detail A Wrapped Car snow foam

You can use a pressure washer throughout the whole washing process, but there are rules you have to follow. First of all, ensure the water temperature is below 80°C, which won’t be a problem for anyone using a pressure washer at home. Secondly, make sure the pressure is below 2000 psi. Again, this won’t be an issue for anyone using an average home pressure washer.

Make sure that you keep the nozzle at least 30cm/12” away from the surface of your car. And make sure you keep the nozzle perpendicular (at 90°) to the bodywork. This will ensure you don’t accidentally get the water jet beneath the edge of the wrap. This can cause the wrap to lift, which you definitely don’t want.

2. Washing

As with any car, washing a wrapped car requires you to use the correct equipment and procedure. We don’t want to see any sponges, for starters and make sure you’re not washing in direct sun.

How To Detail A Wrapped Car washing

You want to use the two-bucket method, with at least one bucket equipped with a grit guard. Next, you want a super-soft microfibre wash mitt or pad. For the shampoo, you want a pH-neutral one that’s not got any wax or gloss enhancers in it. Check out our list of the best pure shampoos here. Now you can simply wash your car as you would normally.

3. Drying And Protecting

How To Detail A Wrapped Car drying

It is recommended to let the car air dry, but you can dry it gently by hand. Use a large, ultra-plush drying towel, and pat the car dry. Avoid the edges of the wrap, as you don’t want to catch it and cause it to lift.

You can now apply a wax to protect the vinyl and enhance the gloss. Stay away from paste waxes, as application and removal will be problematic. Instead, opt for a spray wax or sealant, which will be much easier to use on vinyl and will give great results.

4. Maintenance

The most important thing with a vinyl wrap is to remove bird poo as soon as possible. Left for any length of time, it can cause damage to the vinyl wrap. Soak stains like this in hot, soapy water and then wipe them away gently.

How to wash a vehicle with a car wrap

car wrap, matte, vehicle

Car wraps are a popular trend among car owners. They are an easy solution to upgrading a car surface. Instead of the cumbersome job of repainting a car, wrapping it is a much easier and faster option. It also gives it a great look. Several options are available, including a matte, metallic or glossy look.

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Car wrapping is often used by businesses to put advertising on vehicles, because it’s easy to put on and remove in case there is a need to change. For regular car owners that love a stylish look, wrapping is a great way to customize a vehicle with a unique design or color. With all these benefits, you will find many car owners choosing to wrap their cars.

While a car wrap looks trendy, taking care of the car and maintaining the excellent finish is a sensitive matter. You cannot afford to treat a wrapped vehicle like you do one with a paint job. It is harmful to wash a car wrap with strong soap and vigorous scrubbing. It also needs delicate care when wiping, washing and anything else you do to the surface.

However, the fact that car wrapping needs gentle care does not mean that it has to be a dirty car. It only means that whenever you clean a wrapped vehicle, you should be very careful to maintain the integrity of the wrap.

What to avoid when cleaning a car wrap vehicle

Harsh cleaners

Before we give you suggestions on how to wash a wrapped vehicle, it’s best to start with what you should not do to it. First, avoid the regular carwash soaps. Using traditional car soap, for instance, on the wrap will likely fade it.

Instead, use a soap that is specifically made for wrapped cars to maintain the beauty, design and texture of the surface. These car wrap cleaners will cleanse the vehicle thoroughly and still keep the brightness and strength of the material so the car can continue to look great for a long time.

Another effective way to avoid using harsh soaps on the car is to use waterless car wrap wash liquid. It eliminates the danger of leaving watermarks on the vehicle or harming the surface using high water pressure. It also makes it easy to clean away dirt and grime, because it breaks the dirt down, and all you have to do is wipe it off gently. Lastly, it leaves a protective shine on the car that keeps the car cleaner for longer by keeping off dust.


Secondly, you must avoid buffing. Of course, you may ask, where is the harm? It’s just a cloth shine job. While it seems harmless, buffing a car wrap surface is not. The thing to note is the car surface is rarely free of small debris. You may not see it, but it’s there.

When you buff, you run the risk of scratching the surface of the wrap with small but gritty dirt particles, leaving unsightly marks. These marks will interfere with your car’s aesthetics and are, at times, hard to get off. So, buffing should be left out.

Rough cloths

When it comes to cloths, the softer, the better. Rough cloths may scratch the vehicle and leave unsightly marks. Stay away from rough brushes, even if you are going for the sparkling clean look. The bristles will likely harm the car’s surface, leaving scratches that are difficult to get out.

Harsh stain removal

Sometimes, you will come out and find bird droppings on your customer’s car or some tree debris on it. When driving around, no matter how careful they are, customers could pick up dust, and if it’s raining, some mud. Also, wrapped cars look great, and people may want to touch them, leaving oily and dirty fingerprints.

The reflex reaction to such stains on car wrap vehicles is to buff or scrape away the dirt. Avoid doing this, as it will only harm the car’s surface. Instead, work on such problems using the right cleaning procedure that we will detail later on.

For stains, you can purchase stain removers for car wrap vehicles. Alternatively, a good trick is to use an isopropyl in water solution in a 2:1 ratio to clean out stains. Remember to test any cleaner or stain remover on a small hidden area of the car first before using it on a large surface to see how it reacts with the car surface. It will save you from damaging the vehicle while trying to clean it.

Waxes or polishes

Also, avoid using regular wax or polish on a car wrap. It seems like a beautiful thing to do to keep a car looking glossy or protect the surface, but many of these waxes and polishes harm the wrap and cause it to age faster. By nature of the wrap material, it is made to look glossy or matte or metallic without any extra work, so a wash and dry will do just fine to keep it looking its best.

Avoid heat and rough pressure

Since the car wrap heats up from heat exposure, it’s not a good idea to wipe it or put pressure on it when it’s hot. You will end up with unsightly indents and marks. Worse, you can wrinkle the car wrap, because at such times, it’s quite malleable. Make sure to park it in a cool, shady spot for cleaning.

Correct wrap cleaning procedures

If you are a carwash owner and want to cater to vehicles with a wrap finish, this is for you. For starters, you cannot use the automatic wash for car wrap vehicles. Invest in car wrap care training for staff so they can treat the cars with the delicate treatment necessary to avoid damage.

Many car wrap vehicle owners are sensitive about their cars, so they need experts with training that will wash them with care. Customer care training on how to handle clients will also come in handy. They need to explain to the car wrap vehicle customers the do’s and don’ts of car wrap vehicle maintenance. Many clients feel better leaving their vehicles in the hands of staff who are knowledgeable and good at taking care of car wrap vehicles.

Generally, there are a few things your staff should do when washing a car wrap vehicle. For example, have your employees use pressure washers or spray nozzles with very mild pressure. The pressure washers and nozzles should always be used at least 12 inches away from the car to avoid making indentations. Alternatively, let them pour the water on manually.

Also, make sure that anyone washing car wrap vehicles uses lukewarm water and avoids hot water altogether, because heat affects the material. Invest in mild and non-abrasive soaps that are made to clean car wraps to prevent bleaching or fading.

It’s a good idea to purchase specific stain removers for car wrap surfaces. Avoid oil- or solvent-based products, as they will affect the wrap, and invest in microfiber cloths that are soft on the car surface.

In case of an accidental scratch, there is a trick you can use to fix the problem. Car wraps adhere to the surface using heat. By directing a hair dryer on a scratch or dent from 12 inches away, you can warm it up. When the wrap warms up, the dent or scratch will fade out, resulting in a smooth surface that looks as good as new.

Sometimes, accidents happen, and one of your staff may damage a client’s car wrap vehicle. If this happens, insurance can help. Your carwash must be insured for accidental damages to customers’ cars. However, you will find that it’s better to settle the matter amicably and pay for the repairs yourself to avoid hiking your premiums. Therefore, it’s a good idea to liaise with a reliable car wrap repair expert to help whenever such matters arise.

More and more people are using car wrap vehicles and will appreciate a carwash that will preserve the delicate exterior of the vehicle while cleaning it thoroughly. This is a boost to your business, as it opens up a new revenue stream.

There are a lot of people with car wrap vehicles looking for a trusted place to take their cars for cleaning, but it is up to you to attract and keep them coming back. One great idea is to put up a visible sign advertising your special car wrap vehicle detailing services. You may have advertising campaigns once in a while offering some free detailing service for car wrap vehicles to bring them in.

Ensure that all car wrap vehicle owners who come to your carwash are handled by experts to give them confidence in your services. Using these tips and suggestions, you will find that car wrap vehicle detailing can bring you a lot of income. Try it out.

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