Saturday, 17 January 2015

Paint Surface Wipedown Process

Paint Surface Wipedown Process (the polished surface lie detector)
The term "rubbing alcohol" has become a general non-specific term for either isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or ethyl alcohol (ethanol) Rubbing-alcohol products can leave a residue behind It is prepared from a special denatured alcohol solution and contains 97.5-100% by volume of pure, concentrated ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA)

Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is a highly concentrated chemical cleaning agent, and in almost all cases should be diluted to an appropriate strength before use. For use on soft paint finishes and other potentially sensitive surfaces it should be diluted 4:1 (distilled water / product), while for use on intermediate to hard paint finishes this can be decreased to 1:1. For use on glass, (IPA) can safely be used without dilution

The wipe down process should be carried out both before to ensure a surface that is free of any debris and after to ensure that defects have been removed as opposed to masked by any lubrication oils or fillers left behind after the polishing process. The wipe-down process may need to be repeated to ensure a perfectly ‘clean’, debris free surface
Wiping the finish with a micro fibre cloth you may feel that the swirls have been removed, only to have them reappear after the surface has been washed. After polishing a section, mist and wipe to fully remove residues and reveal the true paint finish. Nothing worse than a client having paid for paint renovation to wash the paint surface and then have paint marring reappear

·         Polymer sealants will not form a proper monocular bond with a paint surface if there are any silicone or synthetic oils present, they will also negatively affect durability if not removed

        ·         Silicone will cause surface smearing and will affect abrasives effectiveness, product  bonding and
                durability          (See also Silicone Removal

Water-based polishes tend to fill far less than oil-based; but they both contain silicone resins and polymer or wax lubricants. A wipe down after polishing or compounding is used to remove the carrier oils and wax used for surface lubrication and allows you to inspect the surface to determine if the surface is defect free or if further work is required.
When polishing or compounding to remove fine swirls or holograms, it's easy for residues and / or waxes or oils to settle in the swirls, hiding the true paint finish (drop back).

Prior to the application of a paint protection coating it is absolutely necessary to remove any (mostly invisible to the naked eye) fillers and oils; if they are allowed to remain a white or grey hazing will appear on the paint once the coating is applied.

It’s the one thing that keeps those who practice paint correction honest. Paint enhancement (glaze or an oil-based wax) anybody can do. But paint correction is a lot harder and Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) (or equivalent) is a liquid lie detector
                  Evaporation [: vaporization of a liquid that occurs from the surface of a liquid into a gaseous phase]

Isopropyl alcohol
                 [Anhydrous Isopropyl alcohol [Molecular formula C3H8O] for all-purpose cleaning, isopropyl alcohol, is a colourless liquid with a pleasant odour, and is highly flammable. A miscible clear fluid, Flash point 53.0F (12.0C) closed cup]

Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) whether a technical, surgical or analytical grade will be X % isopropanol alcohol, the remaining percentage will be made up with water and is available as a 70 to 99 percent % solution.
The term "rubbing alcohol" has become a general non-specific term for either isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or ethyl alcohol (ethanol) Rubbing-alcohol products can leave a residue behind It is prepared from a special denatured alcohol solution and contains 97.5-100% by volume of pure, concentrated ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA)

Be cognizant that modern paint systems are porous, so be cautious as to what solvents you use. Dependent upon the particulate size, some chemicals penetrate easily, only liquids that are smaller on a molecular level than the cross-linked paint can be absorbed; solvents and alcohol can permeate the paint causing the paint to temporarily swell hiding surface scratches and marring

Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and or other solvents will permeate the paint, causing both temporary softening and some swelling. Depending on the solvent (strength) used and the amount of ambient heat, the amount of swelling varies. (See also “Paint (Solvent / Alcohol) Swelling”)
Using undiluted reagent isopropyl alcohol is fine when cleaning a glass surface, but even 70% IPA can soften the paint excessively, but as you increase the dilution, the softening drops exponentially, this softening effect is temporary. Using an abrasive polish on solvent softened or ‘swollen’ paint may cause the paint film to wrinkle or delaminate (tear or separate)

For less dense (soft) clear coat, the lower rate of dilution (1:10) is recommended; conversely denser (dense) clear coat should use a higher dilution (1:25); as you increase the dilution rate of reagent isopropyl alcohol its paint softening effect drops exponentially. The reason for this wide range is due to the variations in clear coat paint systems

Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is a fast evaporating solvent, which usually fully evaporate at temperatures above 80.OF, whereas, slower evaporating solvents like mineral spirits may take several days before they reach levels below 1%.

Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is readily available and like acetone, it dissolves a wide range of non-polar compounds. It is also relatively non-toxic and evaporates quickly. Thus it is used widely as a solvent and as a cleaning fluid Due to the nature of the product it will strip oil, wax and fillers; revealing any imperfections in the paint surface
Mineral oil can be used to clean heavier oil stains by diluting and liquefying the other oils, rendering the oils more accessible to detergents. Likewise, it can be employed to de-gum, to remove adhesive residue left by adhesive tape. Be cognizant that while it can be used as a solvent cleaner it can leave a residue, which is undesirable for paint cleaning applications.

Denatured alcohol (or Methylated spirits) - is ethanol that has additives to make it more poisonous or unpalatable, and thus, undrinkable. Do not use denatured alcohol as a substitute for reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA)
Use caution if using paint thinner / strong solvent as there is a possibility that it can have detrimental long term effects, which cause the paint matrix to fail over time leaving a dull area that has a similar appearance to strikethrough, which cannot be corrected

                                      MSDS -

Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and or other solvents will suspend waxes and silicones, and then re-depositing them, this can be avoided by adding 10% d-limonene (P21S Total Auto Wash) to the dilute IPA solution and wiping the surface with a clean, dry micro fibre towel.  (TAW will provide surface lubrication to minimise surface marring on less dense (softer) paints)
Distilled water

Potable water usually contains a number of microscopic contaminants (turbidity) along with dissolved minerals such as calcium and iron. Distilled water should ideally be nothing but hydrogen and oxygen molecules and virtually all of its impurities are removed through distillation, which involves boiling the water and re-condensing the steam into a clean container (pH 6.0 – 7.5)

Any dissolved solids such as salt, bacteria, calcium or iron remain solid while the pure water converts to a much lighter steam and is drawn out for condensation, leaving most if not all solid contaminants behind. Distilled water is preferred for dilution as it’s a ‘known’ quality, unlike domestic potable water

 In larger chemical and biological laboratories, as well as industry, cheaper alternatives such as deionised water are preferred over distilled water.

 Wipe down Application Process

                 Application - fill a fine misting spray bottle with a dilute solution of reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) / distilled water Spray the surface you have just polished and allow the solution sit for approximately 15 seconds. If it flashes too quickly (hot surface or environment) use further dilution

For best results, lightly mist a suitably diluted solution over the work area and immediately wipe the area down using a Micro fibre Towel. Then refold your towel and agitate the area with a clean panel wipe or a  soft 100% cotton micro fibre towel (you may need to repeat this process) change the towel to a fresh quarter after each panel to ensure oil and debris are not re-deposited and observe. The paint surface can then be properly assessed with high intensity lighting to determine if the desired level of correction has been achieved

If a diluted Reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution doesn’t remove the surface oils perhaps a specific paint preparation product, i.e.  CarPro Intense Oil & Polish Cleanser or DuPont PrepSol II™ may be more suitable

 Now using your surface inspection light, shine the light directly on the panel and look for fine swirls. If they are still present, you should be able to see them. If not you will see a clear bright reflection from the panel with a great shine, and clarity

These fast acting solvent cleaners will not leave a film residue

·         CarPro Intense Oil & Polish Cleanser

·         DuPont PrepSol II™

·         Menzerna Top Inspection

·         Wurth Clean Solve

 Mineral Spirits (White Spirit) are a petrochemical based product (Stoddard solvent) it also contains oils, so its use in a paint wipedown process is self-defeating as you’ll need to remove the oils from the surface


1.       For dense (hard) clear coat use a very light dilution rate, for less dense(soft)clear coats use a more diluted solution, as  use too much alcohol will cause a micro fibre to offer more surface resistance and may cause surface marring.

2.       After the paint surface has been subjected to a chemical cleaning its protective layer (s)  have been removed and the paint surface left without protection, so it is very important that a wax or polymer protection  be applied immediately.
Alternative products

·         3M™ Prep Solvent-70 (#08983) is a low VOC, water- based solvent used to remove oils, wax, grease, and silicone from surfaces prior to the application of a coating. Effectively cleans metal, primed metal and painted surfaces. Use with 3M™ Panel Wipes (#4567) the Panel Wipes have excellent absorbency and are super strength when wet or dry. They are easy to carry and are supplied in an easy to dispense box.

·         CarPro Intense Oil & Polish Cleanser - is anti-static, reagent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) based cleaner designed to dissolve oil particles and remove polish residue to inspect the surface after polishing or to prepare the paintwork for the application of a coating product. Its intense cleaner dissolves oils and it also attracts the dust left by compounding. When you wipe down your vehicle with Eraser, you’re removing oils, fillers, and dust completely. Enabling a coating to form a stronger bond and create an even, long-lasting shine with a more durable protection.

·         DuPont PrepSol II™ - spray onto a 100% cotton or a micro fibre towel and clean the surface

·         Groit’s Paint Prep - to remove wax, silicone polymers and oil from painted surfaces so products can properly bond to the surface. Paint Prep is easy to use and is safe for vinyl and rubber (not for use on glass)

·         Hi-Temp's H-23 Prep Wash - to prepare a paint surface for polishing, compounding, wax and / or polymer sealant application (especially if changing from a wax to a polymer product) this is a water-based paint cleaner designed to remove all traces of silicone, oil, and buffing residue from any exterior paint surface

·         Menzerna Top Inspection (PP95) – use to inspect your work, use this water-based cleaner that removes dust left by compounding and any lubricating oils so you can see the real results of your work. There are no silicones or fillers, just cleaning agents to uncover the real condition of your vehicle’s paint

·         Optimum Power Clean - Optimum Power Clean™ is an environmentally friendly, all surface-safe cleaner, used for paint dilute it 2:1

·         Wurth Clean Solve - is a fast acting cleaner and solvent that will not leave a film residue. It will quickly remove wax, tar, gum, grease, paint overspray, adhesive, oil, and silicone. It can be used on a variety of surfaces including: base coat, clear coat, aluminium, fibreglass, glass, fabrics and vinyl.

Relevant Articles

1.       “IPA Wipe down”,  David Ghodoussi -



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