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Detailing Essentials #7 | IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol)


Over the past six articles, we have talked about products and techniques that have changed the game and helped me raise the bar. One of the most essential tools, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with, is isopropyl alcohol. IPA does a great job of removing polishing oils and leftover residues prior to any protective product application. However, IPA can also be used in a variety of other ways to maximize its versatility. Listed below are my top 3 additional uses for IPA in a typical detailing regiment.

1. I have found a lot of value in a pre-correction IPA wipe down  This wipe down after the wash process ensures no leftover soap/cleaner residue or contaminants that could affect the polishing process. In the last article, we talked about residue management, which is a significant component of this wipe down. The more residue leftover, the faster the pad could get congested, reducing its effectiveness. This wipe down is that little bit of extra insurance. If something was missed during the wash, this procedure ensures a completely clean surface.

2. The next additional use for IPA is using it as a drying aid. Now- this usage only works if the wash you are performing is a pre detail/correction decontamination wash. You wouldn’t want to use IPA as a drying aid if you had a fresh layer of wax or sealant on your paint, this wipe down would only remove or weaken these protective layers. But, if you are preparing the vehicle for a detail/correction an IPA wipe can help reduce time in drying the vehicle. We have utilized this technique in the shop prior to getting out the Master Blaster air dryer. IPA helps accelerate water removal on the surface and makes the air-drying portion much quicker. As a bonus, this process will also pick up any leftover dirt potentially missed in the wash. I simply spray diluted IPA onto the paint and wipe with several microfiber towels. You will go through a decent amount of towels but the time reduction is worth it in my opinion.

3. Glass cleaning is a common area of frustration for a lot of car care enthusiasts. When the interior glass has a substantial amount of film, it can be difficult not to have remaining residue left over, leading to streaks. IPA can be a great tool in place of glass cleaner to cut the dirt film off the glass, followed up by a traditional cleaning method.  A full-strength IPA solution can be used with a glass cleaning towel as the first wipe to remove the majority of the dirt. Then follow up with your typical glass cleaning method for optimal results. Refer to this video on proper glass cleaning methods.

James Melfi
Holliston, MA
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10 comments on Detailing Essentials #7 | IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol)

  1. Jimmy Barnett says:

    Will IPA hurt tinted window film?

  2. Ed says:

    What dilution ratio would you recommend for IPA for paint and glass
    Thanks !

  3. Francis Decrescenzo says:

    What method do you use to apply?

  4. Same question as others – what do you dilute to for use as a drying aid?

  5. Jeffrey says:

    I have been reading DI for several years and have seen IPA used prior to coatings. So I tried it on my 1989 tail light after wet sanding and polishing only to discover that IPA cracks acrylic plastics! The instant I touched the tail light with the wetted cloth, I hear cracking and then saw the damage. To be safe, NEVER use it on colored transparent plastics.

    • james melfi says:

      Hey Jeffrey,

      Great tip! I’ve also experienced a similar situation with alcohol and certain taillights.

  6. Waynew says:

    I have ALWAYS been told
    …it will cause streaking
    And dull it’s clarity PERMANENTLY…WORD TO THE WISE..dont find out the hard way .

  7. Wayne says:

    I have ALWAYS been told
    …it will cause streaking
    And dull it’s clarity PERMANENTLY…WORD TO THE WISE..dont find out the hard way .

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