How to Clean Vinyl Graphics

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Posted by Nekoosa on 10/14/20 8:00 AM

Many sign makers will tell you that it’s not uncommon for one of their customers to make an error during the cleaning process of their graphics. For this reason they must provide the end user with instruction covering proper cleaning and care of any and all graphics. 

Do's and Don'ts of Cleaning Vinyl Graphics:

  1. Take extra care when cleaning graphics with a pressure sprayer. This powerful equipment has been known to literally blow a baked on factory finish off of the metal. Excessive pressure typically does not bode well for a graphic. When using a high pressure sprayer, keep the nozzle at least 12" from the vehicle surface. Also, keep pressures low to moderate, and if you are using the type of sprayer that heats the fluid, use moderate temperatures.
  2. Always use a non-abrasive detergent to clean the graphics.
  3. Always mix cleaning chemicals according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Before using the cleaning chemicals, read the MSDS sheet. Some cleaners used for vehicle cleaning contain mild concentrations of acids (for example, some of the cleaners used by the railroads contained 1% to 3% hydrochloric or some other heavy-duty acid).
  4. When using a brush to clean graphics, use a soft bristle brush rather than a hard bristle brush. Best practices include as light of a touch as necessary to get the job done and some good ol’ fashioned “T.L.C.”
  5. Graphics that are cleaned regularly in car wash systems utilizing nylon bristle brushes, must be overlaminated and, of course, edge sealed. Failure to address this important step will likely lead to damaged graphics. Municipal buses, for example, are usually washed in these systems daily. Without an overlaminate, the brushes can abrade through a clear coat and ink system, right down to the vinyl.  It is the responsibility of the sign maker, not the vinyl manufacturer, to ask their customer how they are cleaning the graphics; how often the graphics are cleaned and what chemicals/cleaning methods are used. Sign makers have the additional responsibility of providing adequate customer instruction.