Hi Gang, I see several references to an IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) wipedown. I know WHEN its needed – as another way to remove any remaining sealant/wax. But I don’t know the proper technique HOW to do it. (e.g., 1:1 dilution? 1 small bucket & a microfiber rag? Single light-pressure swipe? Water rinse/wash after?) Can you advise? Thanks! -Eric H.
This is a great question that was submitted from my fellow Columbus, OH resident Eric H…thanks for sending it in!
First let me address the “why” for those unfamiliar with using Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) in detailing.
There are actually a couple of reasons for the IPA wipedown. The first would be for stripping the surface from any remaining waxes, sealants, or polishing residue. If you want to make sure that any previous wax or sealant layers are stripped from the surface, then do an IPA wipedown to remove them. If you’ve finished your polishing process, and want to make sure all of the carrier oils in the polish is removed to ensure that you get a better bond for your wax or sealant, then do an IPA wipedown. Isopropyl Alcohol will safely and effectively break down and remove residue from the surface to prepare it for your next step.
The second reason behind the IPA wipedown is for inspection during the polishing process. Some polishes may fill-in the fine defects, and give you the false impression that they have been removed. When we use IPA to thoroughly clean the surface from any remaining polishing residue, we’re making sure that what we see is what we get!
OK, so how do we use it?
Actually it’s quite simple to use. First you’ll want to take a trip to your favorite grocery or drug store, and pick up a bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol and some distilled water. You’ll typically find a few different types of IPA (either in 70%, or in the 90-99% range), but in my experience I don’t think it matters too much for what we’re using it for. You can use it straight, or you can dilute it 50/50 with distilled water. You obviously get more stripping ability with it in full strength, but it also dries more quickly and leaves more of a residue/streaking. If you’re using it after polishing or inspecting, you may want to use it full strength. If you’re just doing a wipedown and want to go straight to a wax or sealant application, then you may want to use it 50/50 to reduce the chances of streaking.
In either ratio, get yourself an empty spray bottle to put your solution in (or you can just put a trigger sprayer right onto the IPA bottle that it came in). Now that you’ve got your IPA solution in a bottle with a trigger sprayer, arm yourslef with some soft, clean microfiber towels and you’re ready to go!
Now lightly spray down a panel at a time and gently wipe it off with your microfiber towel. Always use extremely light pressure just as you would if you were using a quick detailer or a spray wax. If you use too much, then you risk marring or scratching the paint that you just finished polishing! Also be sure to continually use a fresh side of the towel, and don’t be afraid to go through 3 or 4 different towels during the process. It’s just laundry, right? Once you’ve wiped down the surface, then you’re ready to go to your next step of applying your favorite wax or sealant. There’s no need to re-wash the car after you’ve used IPA.
That’s really all there is to it!
If you have any additional questions about how and/or when to use IPA, please put them in the comment box below.