This month's tip is provided courtesy of MACtac's technical department which puts together the performance guides, and application guides for all of our products. The basics of cleaning are different for each surface, and often vary depending on the media, or adhesive. We'll just look at a few to make sure you're up to speed.

For a basic plastic sign board, installation is pretty straight forward. You can generally wipe it down with a damp clean towel being sure not to leave any towel lint, or wetness behind. For a glass or plexiglass surface an ammonia based product is ok to remove the hard dirt but we recommend an isopropyl alcohol rinse after all major dirt has been removed.

Vehicle wraps can be a bit trickier. With all of the contaminates from the roads attacking the paint and the different finishes and waxes out there, vehicles can require a few more steps. You'll want to first wash the car with soap and water, any good automotive soap will do. This next step sometimes can be skipped if the vehicle is brand new, but for well used and abused vehicles we then recommend a solvent scrub to remove the grease, tar, brake dust, oils, soot, and any other hard-to-remove filth. For this step a liberal amount of xylene works best, but be sure to work in a well ventilated area with gloves. Finally, wipe down every surface with the isopropyl alcohol to remove any dust, solvent or detergent residue left on the surface.

When you are in the alcohol cleaning stage be sure to remove all of the hidden dirt from the window, door, and body seams. Our good friend Rob Ivers taught us that in order to get into the tight areas, you can use an alcohol soaked rag and wrap it around your squeegee to remove that stubborn grime from where fingers can't reach.

Alcohol is good for most applications, but it's important to use 70-90% isopropyl alcohol rather than denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol can be useful to remove dirt and adhesives, but it tends to leave behind an oily film, which could affect your adhesive's performance. Only isopropyl will ensure you have no contaminates left behind.

When prepping larger areas with isopropyl make sure to use two clean towels with a Mr. Miyagi approach (Karate Kid - "wax on wax off'),  soaking one towel with alcohol to wipe with, and follow immediately behind with the dry towel, being sure to turn the surface every few strokes. Be sure to change out those dirty towels frequently!

Obviously there are other methods out there that work, but one thing is certain, cleaning is the most important step when applying vinyl. If you have any other recommendations, or feedback regarding cleaning, please email me at jdyard@mactac.com. Or visit www.mactac.com and download the Technical Assistance bulleting on Surface prep TA 1023.