How to Clean Vinyl Decals

Whether you’re using vinyl decals on a car, wall, or window, it’s important to know how to clean vinyl decals.

There are various dos and don’ts when cleaning decals. The materials, methods, and tools you use to do this can play an important part in the longevity of your vinyl decal.

In this article, we’ll discuss steps on how to clean vinyl decals, how to prepare your surface before cleaning, as well as special tips to follow.

What this article covers:

Steps on How to Clean Vinyl Decals

how to clean vinyl decal

Step 1: Wet a Piece of Paper Towel

The first step is to wet a piece of paper towel with water. You can then add a small amount of dishwashing liquid to the paper towel. The dishwashing liquid will effectively clean the grease and residue without causing harm or discoloration to the decal.

Step 2: Clean The Decal

Use a wet paper towel to clean the vinyl decal. You can do this by using small circular movements.

Step 3: Dry The Decal

Once you have wiped the decal down with the wet paper towel, you can now dry it. Dry the decal with a dry piece of paper towel. This will remove any leftover soap.

Step 4: Buff The Decal

Use fine-grain steel wool to buff decals. Make sure to buff in small circular motions. This will effectively buff the residue.

Step 5: Wipe Down 

Give the decal one last wipe down with a damp paper towel. This will remove any lifted residue.

How to Clean Vehicle Decals

cleaning vinyl decals

You can notice when a vinyl decal is aging. You may notice a white residue that looks similar to chalk. This is generated due to oxidation. The white residue can change the color of your decal. This can create a more bleached look. 

You’ll need to know the proper way to clean them as well as restore their color. Look at how to restore faded vinyl decals. You can also protect them from fading and damage. Look at how to protect vinyl decals.

Vehicles are one of the most popular options for decals. Vehicles often face harsh weather conditions. Because of this, it’s important to know how to properly clean vehicle decals.

Follow the steps below to correctly clean your vehicle:

Step 1: Rinse the vehicle

Gently rinse the vehicle and pay special attention to the areas where the decals and graphics are placed. Get rid of any dirt and dust that have built up on the vehicle. You can use a hose to rinse the car off.

Step 2: Add soap

After rinsing the car off, you can now mix detergent with clean water. Any non-abrasive detergent will work. It can be one that’s specifically designed for cars or a standard laundry or dishwashing soap. Make sure that the detergent has a pH between five and nine. 

This is to ensure that the detergent doesn’t damage the vehicle. You can also check the label for any alcohol or harsh ingredients. Avoid using anything except for a soft sponge or cloth to wash the areas of the car that have the decals or graphics on.

Step 3: Rinse the soap off 

cleaning vinyl decal

After finishing the cleaning process, rinse the vehicle off again. This will ensure that the detergent has been removed from the vehicle.

Step 4: Dry the vehicle

You can let the vehicle air dry. Alternatively, a faster method is to use a soft microfiber cloth to gently dry off the decal. If there is any excess water then you can use a squeegee on these areas.

How to Clean Window Decals

Vinyl window decals should only ever be hand-washed. This is because harsh tools, such as a power washer or squeegee, may end up lifting and will cause damage to the vinyl decals. 

Just as you should not use harsh chemicals to clean your vehicle, you should not do this for windows either. If you use strong cleaning products, this could damage the vinyl. The best way to clean custom vinyl window decals is by using soap, hot water, and a clean cloth.

cleaning the vinyl decal

Follow these steps to clean your window decal:

Step 1: Moisten a clean cloth

You can start by making a micro-fiber cloth moist with hot water. Then add a dash of dishwashing liquid to the cloth. Dish liquid is safe to use as it is a mild detergent. This means that it can safely clean and remove grease and residue without damaging the vinyl decal.

Step 2: Wipe down the decal with a damp cloth

Use the damp micro-fiber cloth to wipe the decal. You can wipe it down using small circular motions.

Step 3: Wipe down the decal with a dry cloth

You can use a clean, dry micro-fiber cloth to wipe the area down. This will remove any leftover soap or residue.

Step 4: Buff the decal

If the vinyl decal still has heavy residue, use your moist microfiber cloth to buff the decal. Apply a little pressure while buffing and then wipe the vinyl window decal with your clean, dry micro-fiber cloth one last time to remove any lifted residue.

You can also use a hose to clean your vinyl window decal. Just make sure that the hose is not used in full force. Ensure the hose is at least 18″ from the graphic to prevent damage or peeling.

Preparing Your Surface Before Applying Vinyl Decals

how to clean your vinyl decals

Before you install vinyl decals, you need to ensure that you thoroughly clean the surface on that you are placing your graphics. 

An unclean surface will cause the decal to not stick properly. Not only will the decal struggle to stick, but if the surface is not clean, any dirt left behind can cause the decal to have spots or bumps. These are not the same as bubbling. When installing your decal, ask yourself why your vinyl is bubbling.

During transportation and application, your vinyl can also get wrinkles. You need to know how to get wrinkles out of vinyl decals. It also helps to know how to get sticky residue off the vinyl decal. We’ve got plenty of resources to keep you informed about vinyl decal care.

You need to start with decal care during the installation process. As we now know, to effectively clean the surface, you can use a clean cloth and rubbing alcohol to wipe down the area where the decal is going to be placed.

Special Tips When Cleaning Vinyl Decals

how to clean your vinyl decal

There are a few do’s and don’ts when cleaning vinyl decals. Follow these tips to ensure your vinyl decal doesn’t get damaged.

  • Start by testing your cleaning solution and cloths on a small part of the wrap before using them on a large visible area.
  • Always read the labels on solvents and cleaners before you use them on your surface
  • Make sure the water temperature is correct. The water should not be above 75 degrees F. We recommend staying between 65 and 75 F.
  • If you are wrapping a vehicle, it’s best to store the vehicle indoors or somewhere under cover. This will prevent any harsh weather conditions from harming the vinyl decal.
  • Use a hose, but avoid pressure washers. Your hose should stay below 800 PSI
  • Wash your decal from the top down. This allows the dirty water to run down and off the surface
  • Soak your soft sponge or cloth in water and soap mixture before using it to clean.

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