How to Wash Car With Paint Protection Film (PPF)

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to wash car with paint protection film

To help keep a car in pristine condition, a paint protection film (PPF) can be used to protect it from damage from contaminants and scratches. But this durable protective film also needs proper care to enjoy its protective abilities longer.

So how to wash car with paint protection film? It’s not so different from washing a regular car. But, there are some PPF-specific principles that you must observe to prevent damage, scratches, and peeling.

Basic Principles in Car-Washing

It’s important to also be familiarized with the basics. So let’s delve into the basic car washing principles first.

1. Avoid Car Washing in Direct Sunlight and When the Paintwork is Hot


Car washing in sunlight and when the paintwork feels hot can adversely affect your car’s washing process. T

he water and soapy water can quickly dry up due to the heat, resulting in water spots. And the heat can also make chemicals in the soap less effective.

2. Thoroughly Pre-Rinse the Car

Thoroughly pre-rinse the car before wiping it with a wash mitt. This will help dislodge as many contaminants as possible to prevent swirl marks.

3. Wash Your Car With the Two-Bucket Method


The two-bucket method is the best way to wash a car because it’s the safest method that prevents cross-contamination and scratches. It’s the most widely used car wash method.

But if you have yet to learn of it, it uses two buckets, with one bucket containing the soapy water and another with water for rinsing the wash mitt.

  • In this method, you’d first dip your wash mitt into the soapy water and wipe it on the car exterior.
  • You’d then rinse the wash mitt in the bucket of water to remove the accumulated contaminants to prevent them from being reintroduced to the car and scratching the paintwork.
  • After rinsing, dip it in the soapy water again and continue wiping.

Avoid going to an automatic car wash, especially with brushes, as it can cause scratches and damage.

4. Use the Appropriate Cleaning Products and Tools

Along with the best car wash method, you must use the appropriate cleaning products and tools to have the best results without scratches and damage.

Specialized Car Wash Soap or Shampoo


A specialized car wash soap or shampoo is best for washing a car. Avoid household cleaning products, as they can damage the car’s finish.

Premium Microfiber Wash Mitt and Towel


You hould use cloths made of microfiber to wipe and wash car because they’re soft and prevent scratches.

Microfiber wash mitt for wiping with soapy water and microfiber towel for drying. And make sure they’re clean.

Car Dryer or Leaf Blower

You can also use a car dryer or leaf blower to make drying easier and prevent water spots.

5. Don’t Leave Water to Air Dry


Thoroughly dry the car after car washing using a drying towel or a car dryer. Don’t just let it air dry, as that can cause water spots.

Specific Principles in Maintaining and Caring for Paint Protection Film

Having the additional protection of a paint protection film on a car also comes with additional maintenance and care practices. You must keep these in mind and do them properly.

1. Don’t Wash Your Car Within a Week After Paint Protection Film Application

After the application of paint protection film, it would still need time to cure the paintwork, which takes seven days. Don’t wash the PPF car during the curing period, as it can interfere with the curing or cause water spots.

Only once the PPF is fully cured can you wash your car. To be safe, hand wash it in an indoor or covered area, such as a garage or under a shade, to avoid water spots.

Avoid taking it to an automatic car wash with brushes or cloth strips, as they can scratch and damage the film. But if automatic car washing is your only option due to lack of time, a touchless car wash would be safer.

2. Immediately Clean off Bug Spatter, Bird Droppings, Tree Sap, and Road Tar


Acidic contaminants, such as bug spatter, bird droppings, tree sap, and road tar, must be immediately cleaned off, as these can damage and reduce the paint protection film’s lifespan.

To address these contaminants ASAP, it’s advisable to have in your car a quick detailer as your trusty PPF maintenance spray on the go, along with a microfiber cloth. Clean these contaminants off by blotting them away and avoid wiping to prevent scratches.

3. Be Careful When Pressure Washing, Especially Around the PPF’s Edges


When you’re going to clean the protective film on a car with a pressure washer, you must be very careful, as the high pressure can potentially damage the film.

Please don’t set the pressure washer too high and keep it at a safe distance of a few feet away, especially around its edges, to prevent peeling.

4. Use the Appropriate Cleaning Products and Tools for a PPF-Covered Car


To have the best car wash results without causing scratches and damage while prolonging the paint protection film’s lifespan, you must use the right PPF cleaner and tools.

Ph-Neutral Car Soap or Shampoo

Use a pH-neutral soap or shampoo specifically for cars to maintain the PPF on the car in good condition and prevent it from wearing.

Soft Cleaning Implements

For wiping and drying, only use soft cleaning implements, such as the microfiber wash mitt and microfiber cloth, to prevent scratches and damage on the film.

Avoid using abrasive cleaning implements, such as a brush, rough sponge, terry cloth, or rough towel, as they can scratch, damage, or dull the film.

5. Avoid Aggressive Scrubbing and Chemicals


Despite being a durable car paint coating protection, the PPF still needs to be dealt with gently to prevent damage and prolong its lifespan. So avoid scrubbing aggressively. Also, keep it safe from aggressive chemicals, such as the bug and tar remover.

Although a bug and tar remover may be needed when acidic contaminants, such as bug spatter, bird droppings, tree sap, and road tar, get on your car, you must wash it off immediately to avoid damaging the film. Remove it using a spray detailer or just water.

6. Clean off Stubborn Stains With a Specialized PPF Spot Cleaner

A specialized PPF spot cleaner would work effectively in removing stubborn stains while being gentle on the film. You can also use 99% isopropyl alcohol to clean them off.

7. Don’t Point a Car Dryer Directly at the Film Edges


Pointing a car dryer too close to the film edges can cause them to peel. So dry the edges at a safe distance.

8. Apply Ceramic Coating or Sealant on the Paint Protection Film

You can give your car maximum protection by adding another protective layer of ceramic coating over the paint protection film. Or a sealant can be a good alternative. But avoid wax, which tends to form unsightly build-ups around the film edges.


If you know and observe the basic principles of car washing, then you’re on the right track toward how to wash car with paint protection film. Just remember that there are some steps in washing a PPF-covered car done differently to prevent damage, scratches, and peeling.

By observing the basic and PPF-specific principles, the PPF on your car will provide long-lasting protection and always be in excellent condition.

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