Isopropyl Alcohol Car Detailing Use Cases and Why You Should Use It Before Ceramic Coating Application!

You may have a large variety of car care products, but isopropyl alcohol is not commonly one of them. You may find Isopropanol or rubbing alcohol for first aid medical urgencies. Isopropyl Alcohol is a versatile product in the detailing world. Isopropyl Alcohol helps you retain the original surface of your vehicle when used with clays. Here, I’ll list a number of reasons why you would love to use this product.

Common uses of IPA that you may not know!

IPA is most commonly used to remove non-polar compounds, which are anything from fats to oils to gasoline, as opposed to nonpolar compounds like water or ammonia. And because of these properties, it is often used as a household cleaner ( cleaning grease clothes). It also removes the odour. Likewise, most detailers tend to use this product due to its cleaning properties to remove substances like wax or sealants.


This is the most common use of IPA when you want to remove the wax or sealant from the surface of your vehicle prior to polishing and compounding. It’s very necessary for any paint correction you may do since the surface of your vehicle should not have any oils, waxes, or residues.

You might also want to keep in mind that most car wash soaps do a good job at removing waxes every time you wash your vehicle, so using an IPA wipedown every time won’t be suggested.  An IPA wash is necessary only before you apply the polish or ceramic coating. While you remove the scratches in certain parts of the vehicle, make sure that the products aren’t interacting with anything other than the clear coat. ( eg. Leftover waxes). 


When you detail a vehicle with an old bumper sticker or decal on the back glass, try to use the IPA. Other products like Goo-Gone also work well, but IPA is excellent for such applications. It’s being discovered that IPA helps the alcohol to penetrate into the pores of the paper, and it will naturally come off. Other products like Goof off contain acetone in them and are very strong too, it will strip the paint off from non-clear coated surfaces or rubber or vinyl surfaces. IPA is the safest option here


This is another good use of IPA. For example, once the polish is applied after compounding to remove a white scratch, the surface may appear blemish-free if the polish hides the scratch.  When you use the IPA you can have a better estimation of what exactly is the final result. When using alcohol on counter polishes like Scratch Doctor, the scratches tend to disappear, but after a few weeks, the polish begins to wear off.  You can check with one or two drops of the IPA solution to see that your compounding and polishing indeed remove the scratches


IPA can be used between stages to eliminate dust particles for most headlight restoration kits or DIY sandpaper alternatives. You can start with 300-400grit sandpaper, dried on UV costing, it’ll begin to come off and also leaves back dusty white chalk on the lens 

 IPA is mostly used as the last step to remove any compound or polish or dust that may be present on the headlight lens. It proves as a cleaning agent once the lens is clear before a UV coating is applied. 


This is the safest and most effective use of IPA for nondetailers, as it is a very good method for clearing off an oily or waxy windshield without applying any products. Many detailing sprays just leave behind streaks, which could be due to oil residue present on the windshield. IPA is just great for clearing off all the oil that you may have failed to remove with other products  Since you aren’t dealing with a clear coat, using IPA on clear surfaces like headlight and lens is not much big deal. You can mix it with little water to make it easy to apply. 


IPA solutions are safe for vehicles as long as they’re used properly with a proper ratio of water. Many people believe that IPA shouldn’t be applied on to freshly painted surfaces or on those with no clear coat, they believe it may cause the softening or swelling of the coat.  When it’s diluted with water, all the risks are reduced significantly. It’s not big a deal as people think. Buy 100% pure IPA solution from your nearest Medical store and add 40% water to it. Your IPA solution to use on your vehicle is ready! If you couldn’t find a 100% IPA solution buy available rubbing alcahol and make sure that it contains only IPA and water (Preferably 60% IPA and 40% Water)

You’ll find out that IPA evaporate quite early and they do not contain any surfactant, it reduces the drag while applying it. That’s why you may also use water plus surfactant with their IPA mixtures. Water produces lubrication. 


First of all, IPA isn’t a bad product, especially for beginners, it’s quite inexpensive and gives wonderful results as compared to other products. 

Make sure you dilute it properly.

  • The softer the clearcoat, the lower the percentage you should use 
  •  Use it only on an as-needed basis in sections
  • There’s no need to apply pressure to painted surfaces 
  • The alcohol percentage doesn’t matter if you dilute it correctly 
  • Do purchase a spray bottle and distilled water to use with the alcohol. 
  • Do not use undiluted IPA, as it’ll begin to eat off the clear coat over time. 

Basically, thousands of people use the IPA in many ways. It serves a purpose for many detailers and car enthusiasts in one or another way.

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5 thoughts on “Isopropyl Alcohol Car Detailing Use Cases and Why You Should Use It Before Ceramic Coating Application!”

  1. Yes, some dealerships polish and wax your vehicle prior to delivery. IPA assists in removing polishing residue and preparing the surface for ceramic coating.

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