How to Wash a Wrapped Car

Car wrapping is becoming increasingly popular, offering motorists an affordable and practical way to personalise their car with different colours, patterns and finishes. The problem is, once your car has been wrapped, how do you clean it without damaging the new vinyl coating?

That’s what this guide is here to help with. We’ve put together a no-nonsense guide to cleaning a vinyl-wrapped car, so you can continue taking care of your motor without worrying about ruining that snazzy new finish.

This guide will cover…

  • How to clean a wrapped car
  • Can you take a wrapped car through a car wash?
  • Can you jet wash a car that’s wrapped?
  • Should I wax a wrapped car?

How to clean a wrapped car

You may be cautious about washing a car that’s been wrapped but don’t worry, the vinyl coating is a lot tougher than you might think. Still, you will need to use the appropriate products to clean the surface to a high standard without compromising the overall finish.

Gentle products specifically developed for cars are the key to cleaning vinyl car wraps without causing damage. Our guide to the essential products you need to clean your car at home should give an idea of some of the safest solutions to try on a wrapped car.

Cropped image of hands washing a car window

As well as the right products, you should stick to hand washing your car from now on. This will help to extend the lifespan of your vinyl car wrap, ensuring it stays looking its best with no chance of cleaning-related abrasion and scratching.

With all that said, here’s a step-by-step guide on cleaning a wrapped car:

  1. Rinse your car with a hose or pressure washer. If using a jet washer, be sure to read our safety guidelines below before you do.
  2. Using a soft sponge and a gentle, car-safe detergent like Simoniz Car Shampoo & Wax, wash your car from boot to bonnet. Be sure to use two buckets here too, one for clean water and detergent and the other for dirty water.
  3. Re-rinse your car to remove any residue and suds. Check that all dirt and particles are completely removed before proceeding to the next step, otherwise, you could wind up dragging sharp particles across the surface when drying it, scratching the vinyl in the process.
  4. Don’t leave your wrapped car to dry naturally after washing. Instead, use a couple of microfibre cloths to remove as much moisture as possible.

Can you jet wash a car that’s wrapped?

Don’t worry – there’s no need to retire your trusty pressure washer if you’ve recently had your car wrapped. It is safe to jet wash a wrapped car, but there are a few precautions you should take to ensure you don’t inadvertently cause any damage.

Firstly, reduce the pressure on your jet washer if possible. This will make it much less likely to cause any damage or “lift” the vinyl wrap by mistake. We recommend a low-to-medium setting if your pressure washer allows for this.

Black car being jet washed

Next up, switch the nozzle to a less direct spray; anything over 40 degrees wide works best. This will help to disperse the water so that there’s less direct pressure at the point of impact, which can cause curling and lifting.

Finally, you should maintain a safe distance of around 30 centimetres away from the surface of the vinyl and avoid moving any closer, even to remove stubborn dirt like bird droppings. You should also avoid jet washing close to the edges of the vinyl car wrap, as this could easily lift the edge of the wrap and ruin the overall finish.

Can you take a wrapped car through a car wash?

While it is technically safe to take a wrapped car through an automated car wash, we wouldn’t recommend it. Although it’s unlikely that an automated car wash would cause immediate damage to your car’s new wrap, doing so repeatedly could cause premature wear, abrasion and light scratching.

Remember that most automatic car washes aren’t designed with vinyl finishes in mind, so the brush head cleaners and jet wash may be way too abrasive for your car’s surface, with no way to reduce the pressure or ensure that the brush heads are soft enough so as not cause damage.

It’s much better, therefore, to stick to washing your wrapped car by hand. That way you know exactly which products and tools are being used. Plus, you could save money to boot.

Car mechanic wiping black car with a grey cloth

Should I wax a wrapped car?

Regular Simoniz readers will know that we’re firm advocates for regular car waxing. But in the case of caring for a wrapped car, wax isn’t recommended.

Why? Well, for starters, car wax could interfere with the finish of your car’s new vinyl wrap, particularly if it’s textured or has a unique finish – like matte for example. Car wax is designed to protect paintwork and leave a deep, lasting shine, so it may not be suitable if a shiny finish isn’t what you’re going for with your new vinyl coating.

Another reason car wax isn’t recommended on waxed cars is that it’s just not needed. Vinyl is a tough, durable material in and of itself, so wax isn’t required to protect it. Applying wax will only interfere with the appearance of the wrap, without providing any real protective benefit.

With all that said, if there are any parts of your car that are free from vinyl wrapping, it’s important to ensure they remain protected with a regular coat of quality car wax. Some vinyl car wraps and decals may only appear on the bonnet and roof, for example, so it’s vital that you treat the rest of the car just as you would standard paintwork.

See – washing and caring for a wrapped car isn’t as scary or stressful as it sounds. So long as you stick to car-safe cleaning products and adjust your car wash routine slightly, you can keep that vinyl wrap looking as good as the day it was applied.

For more useful car care guides, be sure to check out the rest of the articles and features on the Simoniz blog. Alternatively, check out our full range of exterior car care products.