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What do you guys prep surfaces with

Discussion in 'Tips & Tricks' started by TheSnowman, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

    Aug 28, 2007
    I seem to all of the sudden after almost 15 years, be getting calls back to clients that vinyl is coming off of windows that we installed last summer. I've had issues on a couple cars too. I always used Rapid Tack or Rapid Prep (which they said would remove all the grease and oil) and the tape barely sticks to the window for tacking it and measuring it.

    I don't know what's changed all the sudden in either my cleaners, or maybe what I'm removing from the windows with the 3M citrus remover, and that's leaving something that won't clean off, but either way, I'm looking for the one stop cleaner that can get a car door, or a window totally clean of anything oily, and let my tape and vinyl stick like it has the previous 12 years of doing this job.

    Someone told me brake cleaner, and that didn't really make much difference either. I'd had someone else say denatured alcohol mixed with water. I just am looking to see if you all have any suggestions that don't ever give you trouble.
  2. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    If you haven't changed your cleaning methods, have you changed the vinyl you use ?? Whether it be digitally printed or just die-cut. Finding some of the vinyl manufactures are changing their adhesive to some degree. Also, if you changed brands, that could have something to do with it.
  3. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

    Aug 28, 2007
    It just seems like it's across the board. Maybe I've got a bad batch of Rapid Tack or something. Seems more prominent on the cut vinyl stuff, but I've had regular 751 to Reflective give me the same problems...and when was the last time you had trouble getting reflective to stick to something? The stuff is crazy sticky.
  4. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

    Mar 12, 2005
    New England
    I've run into glass and vehicles that have some kind of silicone sealer/protectorant. We have an assortment of cleaners and I don't know of one that works in every circumastnace,
    but the auto body prep cleaner is a good one to have available. Then clean with alcohol.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

    Jun 7, 2006
    Well, I noticed certain brands do have a problem. Also, some window washers are using things such as 'Rain-X' type products for cleaning windows these days. That will repel just about anything, even after 1 or 2 cleanings. We wash quite extensively and give maybe 2 or 3 alcohol baths, before applying vinyl.
  6. neato

    neato Very Active Member

    May 16, 2003
    Henderson, IL
    90% Water, 10% Denatured alcohol and a drop or 3 of dish detergent. Application fluid and glass cleaner.
  7. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

    Aug 28, 2007
    Ok, so the alcohol should theoretically be one of the things I plan on that SHOULD work well. I guess I'll start keeping that with me and trying that first. I haven't always used that in recent years, because I'd never had issues with the Rapid products not doing the job, but I'll starting bringing that with me again.

    BIG EASY DOES IT Very Active Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    You said you use Rapid Tack or Rapid Prep. Which is it. Both should be used. First Rapid Prep to remove anything from the surface. Then Rapid Tack to remove any residue left from RapidPrep solution. This is in their instructions. RapidPrep can not be used by itself. It leaves residue no matter what.
  9. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

    Dec 9, 2015
    buffalo ny
    I use Sprayway glass cleaner and clean until a dry cloth gives a drag feel and I then realize it is clean. Never have use Rapid Prep to clean glass, maybe I will try it next time. Sprayway is cheaper to use than Rapid Prep.
  10. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    We use Windex. You can fell if there is Rain-X or silicone detailing spray on the glass after that--and, like you noted, the masking tape doesn't stick. If we encounter that, we scrub hard with 91% isopropyl alcohol until the stuff is gone. Acetone will also work, but it will damage the car paint as well, so there is that.
  11. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

    Jun 10, 2016
    Port Coquitlam, bc
    Co worker uses windex. Everyone says not to because of the wax in the no streak formula. I always Complain and tell him to use alcohol.... But he's been doing it for 15+ years with windex and hasn't had a problem yet... So he sees no point in changing.

    We bought a couple gallons of 99% isopropyl alcohol for $100. We water it down to about a 70/30 mixture and use it to clean everything. If it's really dirty... I'll windex it, then isopropyl it a few times.

    If we use glue remover, or know there's silicone / etc.. I become paranoid.... Wash it with alcohol...then windex.... Then alcohol... Then Alcohol a fourth time. It may waste a buck in material and take an extra few minutes.... But it beats coming back in a few months to replace the whole thing.
  12. SignosaurusRex

    SignosaurusRex Major Contributor

    Mar 7, 2007
    Washington State
    1. Go ahead and use the "Rapid Crap" as a base cleaner until it's gone. Once it's gone...leave it that way. Skip that stuff in the future. After that, skip ahead to #2.
    2. Follow up behind that other stuff with a good water-based cleaner like "Sprayway".
    3. Follow that with a straight Denatured Alcohol wipe-down. A follow-up with another round of "Sprayway" won't hurt.
    4. Give the surface a final wipe down with a clean dry cloth in order to remove any residual film left behind.
    5. Employ a "Dry" install method for all Vinyl installations. If you don't feel comfortable with "Dry"... GET Comfortable
    with it! "DRY is your friend to the end".

    You should be in good shape after that.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. signmania

    signmania Owner

    May 1, 2010
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    We've had good luck with Sparkle (purple stuff), sometimes (on glass) using it with a Magic Eraser. Then denatured alcohol and buff after (denatured can leave a residue). Years ago a 3M rep told me to never use any substance with ammonia.
  14. WhiskeyDreamer

    WhiskeyDreamer Professional Snow Ninja

    Aug 6, 2007
    It's not your vinyl or which cleaner you're using. It's a residue on the glass. Had the same thing happen here. Everyone is putting crap on their vehicles to make water just run off and that's what happened here.

    I use straight denatured alcohol to clean everything. If I go to apply to glass and the tape isn't staying stuck, then I know that there's something else on the glass. So I hit it with more denatured alcohol and this little thing called elbow grease. Works wonders.

    If all else fails, I hit it with carburetor cleaner and then thoroughly clean with denatured alcohol. For reference, carburetor cleaner will also make chalky vehicle surfaces vinyl receptive. It's a go to here at the shop.
  15. Red Ball

    Red Ball Very Active Member

    Aug 20, 2008
    Cheap glass cleaner followed by either iso alcohol or Prep-sol. Crystal vinyl is the only thing we use application fluid.
  16. MikePro

    MikePro Major Contributor

    Feb 3, 2010
    Racine, WI
    i wash everything with isopropyl alcohol, I buy it in 5gallon drums at 90% strength and have a batch of spray bottles for "strong cleaning" and a batch of bottles I've watered-down to ~60% for "general cleaning".
    For glass/acrylic/car body/polycarb surface cleaning/prep, I always just assume that everything is covered in wax or some spray-on coating or some misc. detergent....and clean as such: RapidRemover (if necessary) clean, isopropyl clean, new rag, isopropyl clean again, new rag, & isopropyl clean again just before applying.
  17. eahicks

    eahicks Magna Cum Laude - School of Hard Knocks

    Apr 17, 2012
    Iso alcohol for cars, glass, everything. I can't believe people use denatured....it leaves residue and often irritates skin. And it smells weird.
  18. Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay?

    Pixels Are Bad Mmmkay? Very Active Member

    We use 70% isopropyl alcohol here. Nothing more, nothing less.
  19. signbrad

    signbrad Member

    Jun 15, 2014
    Kansas City
    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the cleaner that we used for decades to prep glass for gold leaf—Bon Ami. Every sign guy carried a bar in his kit.
    Lather it on, let it dry, then wipe off the dried film with clean cotton rags. If it struggled to come off, the surface was not clean enough and the process was repeated. If the dried film came off easily, the surface was clean. It was great for truck doors. It actually abraded the paint surface but was unnoticeable. It allowed lettering to stick like crazy.

    I believe, though, that most of the prep methods mentioned here are fine. Much may depend on how thorough you are. Using a combination of products is probably a good thing—I believe one of the ideas behind mixing water with alcohol is that alcohol by itself doesn't always get everything off. What alcohol misses, water removes, and vice versa. As solvents, water and alcohol really complement each other well. (One of alcohol's unique chemical characteristics is that it is miscible with water). In my young days working for Trimline of America we were taught to wash dealer vehicles with water first, then use a wax and grease remover afterward before applying vinyl stripes, wheel well moldings, etc. They told me, "Always assume there is wax no matter what the dealer says." The makeup of the commercial wax and grease removers varies by brand, but they usually seem to contain an alcohol, a naphtha, and a couple of the lacquer thinners, along with other things I can't pronounce. They all seem to work well.

    I really like the Magic Erasers. They seem to have an abrasive value that is a little finer than Bon Ami. It feels like somewhere between 1000 and 1500 grit, but I don't really know this.

    Automotive glass has long been considered a problem substrate among sign people. And if manufacturers are adding something these days that they didn't before, it's probably even worse.

    It's also worth mentioning that vinyl adhesive aggressiveness probably varies with manufacturer, and even within different lines of vinyl from the same manufacturer. 3M used to make a vinyl that was aggressive enough to stick to railroad cars in temperatures well below freezing. And, of course, a vinyl film's age will affect the stick and the life of the adhesive. This is why there is a rated shelf life for vinyl films. The adhesive degrades, not because it's "drying out," as some believe, but because it is actually becoming contaminated by plasticizer migration—the plasticizer in the vinyl is saturating the adhesive. The vinyl contaminates itself, in other words! Heat accelerates this plasticizer movement, such as the summer heat in a supplier warehouse that is not temperature controlled. Also, cheaper vinyls have cheaper plasticizers. The more expensive plasticizers are often more resistant to migration.

    Plasticizer migration—

    Brad in Kansas City
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  20. SignosaurusRex

    SignosaurusRex Major Contributor

    Mar 7, 2007
    Washington State
    Bon Ami is great stuff.... if you have or can get "the Original formula" powder. It's still made but can be tough and/or expensive to get. The "Cake" form is no longer available and most guys that have it, reserve it for use in their kit for Gold Leaf work. That brings us around to the "Availability / Cost" factor. Vinyl work is nowhere in the neighborhood of your "old-school" painted or leaf work..

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