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Caring for vinyl and clear bra (PPF)



In some private messages with @jstaples17, the topic of clear bra and vinyl came up and how we treat each of these products in the course of our detailing. 


It can get a little confusing since ppf is vinyl, but it’s treated differently from a vinyl wrap. Clear bra (commonly referred to as PPF or paint protection film) is commonly a clear vinyl designed for the sole purpose of protecting the paint from hard impacts such as road debris or stone chips. Vinyl wraps are typically thinner and installed for the purpose of some protection along with changing the appearance of a vehicle. PPF is commonly thicker than vinyl wrap and more durable. 


Another key difference between the two products is that PPF is typically a wet installation and vinyl wraps are dry. 


When working with PPF, we tend to treat it like paint. We can wash it, wax it and even coat it without really doing anything to the film. Most modern films have a topcoat to them that makes them hydrophobic, but they still benefit from LSP.


Polishing clear bra is where it gets tricky. You can polish it, but it’s commonly done delicately. We use finishing polish at a slightly lower speed. Films are not hard, so they don’t need aggressive polishing. The slower speed helps reduce heat buildup as well. Ideally, we like to just take some revive to the films and most of the time we get satisfactory results. It’s a risk versus reward equation.


If you’re removing PPF, you’ll want steam to help loosen the adhesive and then you want to pull the film away from the vehicle causing the film to lift. Don’t fold it back on itself and cause a fold that will separate the film from the adhesive. Once that happens, you’ll be scrubbing adhesive off. Constant steam on the part being lifted helps considerably. 


Many of today’s films are “self healing.” This is more of an installers benefit since any marks we put in during installation can be removed with gentle heat from a heat gun. The same is true though of minor scratches and swirls. 


Vinyl wraps are a different creature. We don’t want to polish them, and they usually have more of a matte appearance to them, if not completely matte. You can ceramic over a vinyl wrap, but you may darken and level the colors slightly. The vinyl we’ve coated has always looked more even and better after the fact. On multi part coatings, we usually apply the base coat only to the vinyl rather than the multiple gloss layers. In a single layer coating like Adams, you can go over it.


Vinyl can be washed and clayed. We usually don’t wax over it. We will usually use a matte detailer on it waterless wash. It stops wax buildup. There are a few matte/vinyl specific waxes and detailers out there if you look. 


We also don’t take a machine polisher to a wrap. The risk of marring and heat buildup is way too high for our tolerance. Better safe than sorry. 


Hopefully this helps clear up some issues with vinyl and ppf. As always, ask questions should you have any. 



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