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How to Mix IPA Spray for Ceramic Coating Prep

How to Mix IPA Spray for Ceramic Coating Prep

Black Friday has come and gone – and boy howdy were we busy! Our big sale on DIY Ceramic Coating Kits was a huge success – and we thank everyone for taking advantage of this deal. During the day, I hopped on with Dale and Eric to answer some questions many of you submitted through our online chat and support portal.

And without question, one of the most popular inquiries was about using IPA spray as a prep for our ceramic coating. What amazed me was how many of our potential customers had been told that applying Isopropyl Alcohol or IPA to their clear coats was a bad idea.

Well, as Obi-Wan Kanobi said best, “what they said is true – from a certain point of view.” This inspired me to write today’s AvalonKing blog addressing how to correctly mix IPA spray when using it as the final step before applying Armor Shield IX DIY nano-ceramic coating.

In the information below, we’ll explain what Isopropyl Alcohol is, the different percentages of store-purchased rubbing alcohol, how IPA Spray is made, and why it’s CRUCIAL to make sure you’re using the right concentration of distilled water and Isopropyl Alcohol.

What is IPA Spray?

IPA stands for Isopropyl Alcohol or what is commonly known as rubbing alcohol that you’ll find at your corner grocery store. It is sold to consumers in different concentration percentages; including 91%, 70%, and 50%.

Basically, consider these percentages like alcohol “proof” or strength. And NO, you don’t drink this alcohol – that would be very bad.

Now, here is where the confusion comes. It’s assumed by many people that IPA and IPA spray for prep work or removing wax or oils are the same thing. That’s just not accurate. IPA Spray is diluted IPA to eventually become a 10 to 25 percent IPA solution. It’s best to mix your isopropyl alcohol with distilled water and mixed into a BPA-free plastic spray bottle.

Why is IPA Spray Used as a Prep for DIY Nano Ceramic Coating?

So – BIG TIME DISCLAIMER HERE – This video talks about using IPA as a panel wipe down for detailing work. That is different than using IPA Spray as a PREP for Ceramic Coating. But, the video is informative – and the dude is cool – so watch it.

The prep process for applying a ceramic coating like Armor Shield IX is not that complex. Once you complete paint correction, and debris the surface of contaminants and waxes, there will be residual oils and other materials on the surface.

Since the intent of a nano-ceramic coating is to penetrate deep into the surface, you want to have a completely clean canvass to work with for optimal results. To accomplish this, you need to use a product that is good at removing oils and residue but won’t damage the clear coat or raw surface. A diluted isopropyl alcohol solution has been shown to be the best option in this case.

Polishes and cutting compounds contain carrier oils that allow the material to grasp onto the surface. Isopropyl Alcohol works to break down these oils and other surface contaminants and leaves a completely clean area to apply the ceramic coating.

Factoring the Correct IPA Ratio

There are different schools of thought when it comes to formulating the best IPA Spray concentration. And, quite frankly, there is some science that goes into perfecting the right formula. Now, let’s get something very clear – I’m not going to disclose anyone’s factory secret formulation here.

What I am going to do is help explain the importance of getting to a final Isopropyl percentage – or a goal number that works best as that final step prior to applying Armor Shield IX.

That magic number range we’re shooting for is 10 to 25 percent Isopropyl Alcohol.

So – you’ll buy a big bottle of IPA or rubbing alcohol at the store. What do you do with the rest of it after mixing for your prep work? Well, here is a hottie introducing some hacks.

But this introduces a problem that most automotive blogs – even the expert detailers that use it simply don’t consider. Not all store-bought isopropyl alcohol is the same percentage. As we indicated above, there are generally three grades or percentages of isopropyl alcohol – 91 percent, 70 percent, and 50 percent.

If you read several automotive blogs, they’ll swear that it doesn’t matter which one you use, just mix it at a 50/50 ratio with tap water. As Luke Skywalker said in The Last Jedi, “Everything you said in that sentence is wrong.”

First off, if you mix a 91% IPA with distilled water at a ratio of 50% IPA and 50% water, you’ll get a final IPA dilution of roughly 45 percent. That’s too high – and will cause streaking and might even lead to damage of clear coats or unprotected surfaces like headlight covers.

Now, let’s dive down to the 70% IPA. Same 50/50 blend and you’ll get about 35 percent isopropyl alcohol. Again – too strong.

Finally, when you do the half-and-half blend with the 50% store-purchased IPA bottle, you achieve a total blend of 25%. That’s on the top of our range, but still a bit too high for my taste. Especially if you did not use cutting compound or complete paint correction. I’ll explain below in detail.

The magic number we’re looking for is between 10 and 25. So, here is how you accomplish this optimal percentage.

Step One – Purchase the Right Supplies

If you want to achieve the best results with your IPA spray for prepping prior to ceramic coating application, you want to start with the best supplies. Here is what you should purchase at the local grocery store:

  • (1) 32-ounce BPA-Free Plastic Spray bottle. BPA-Free is best to reduce the spread of bacteria and is eco-friendly. It also resists corrosion of the rubbing alcohol.
  • Purchase the right Isopropyl Alcohol. With regards to brands, it really doesn’t matter. The key is to purchase one that is the best formulation. Since you’re looking for an effective solution for prepping the vehicle, I’d recommend purchasing a 91% IPA bottle. However, if you can only find 70 or 50% bottles, I’ll include the dilution steps below.
  • Purchase distilled water. Why distilled water? Well, water that has been distilled is pure, clean and free of minerals or contaminants. If water is not distilled, it contains calcium, sodium, and other impurities that can leave water spots, and other debris. That kind of defeats the purpose of prepping to result in a perfectly clean surface – huh? So, use distilled water. Plus, it will ‘keep’ longer in the bottle.

Step Two – Mix it Correctly Based on the IPA Bottle Percentage

Just so we’re clear, there are three options of IPA bought at the store – 91, 70, and 50 percent. Our goal is to achieve a percentage of 10 to 25 percent. Here is how you accomplish this goal.

The 91 Percent IPA

You’ll be mixing 32 ounces of IPA Spray. Start by pouring four ounces of 91 percent IPA into that 32-ounce spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water. At this point, you’ll achieve a total IPA percentage of around 11%. That’s good enough to prep for our DIY Nano Coating – especially if you skipped the paint correction step.  

If you want a slightly higher percentage (like if you use a lot of polishing compound for paint correction), then up the IPA percentage to 6 ounces. This will get you to about 17%. If you want to up it to 7 or 8 ounces, that should be done – only if you used some heavy cutting compound for your paint correction.

The 70 Percent IPA

*Editors Note – Save the Wintergreen for your favorite DIP. Go Unflavored for your IPA Spray.

Obviously, if you’re using a more-diluted IPA – you need to revise the blend to achieve that 10 to 20 percent level. In this case, we’ll start with 8-ounces of 70% IPA in that 32-ounce spray bottle. Fill the rest with distilled water. This will give you a percentage of 17.5% total IPA spray solution. That’s a good happy medium as they say. Tipping the can to 9-ounces (bonus points for those old-school nitro fans who got that reference) would put you below that 25 percent threshold.

If you did not complete paint correction, you might want to reduce that initial blend to 6-ounces – which will put you around 13 percent IPA Spray.

The 50 Percent IPA

The final option is blending 50 percent IPA with distilled water. To achieve that happy balance, you’ll mix 8 ounces of 50% IPA in that 32-ounce bottle. Fill the rest with distilled water, and you’ll achieve a 12.5 percentage IPA Spray.

Again, this is a good percentage if you did not use cutting compounds or polishes. If you did, up that IPA to 10 ounces, and you’ll get to 15.5 percent IPA Spray. Turn it up to 11 for a bit higher, but don’t exceed 14-ounces of the 50% stuff.  

How to Apply IPA Spray

So – when he says the 50/50 solution – keep in mind – he’s a detailer looking to STRIP WAX. That’s not what you are doing with PREP work. Good info regardless. Oh – when he says the percent doesn’t matter – well, just read above – I think I PROVED him wrong with our application.

The key to using IPA Spray as a prep for your ceramic coating is to spray and wipe. You don’t want to leave the spray on the surface for extended periods. The best way to use the IPA spray is to spray the solution on the surface. Set the spray bottle to the highest “misting” setting prior to use.

When you spray the IPA solution, focus on one panel at a time. Wipe clean with a dry microfiber towel. When the towel gets moist, use a clean and dry towel. One thing you want to avoid is any streaks. Using multiple microfiber towels during this final prep process is a good way to accomplish this goal.

Wrapping it Up

The thing to remember when using an IPA spray as the final step before applying a DIY ceramic coating is that this is your final opportunity to remove debris and leave a clean surface. However, more is not necessarily better in this case.

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Mix the solution between 10 to 25 percent – with higher percentages up to 20 percent if you use the polishing compound in the prep work. Spray and remove quickly and use multiple clean and dry microfiber towels to leave the car as clean as possible.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.

Tim Charlet

Tim is part of the AvalonKing team as a content editor. A 30-year automotive guru, marketing super freak, and accomplished publicist & columnist, “Timmah” is also a licensed NHRA Drag Racer, a proud dad of two, and loves a good Guinness two-part pour.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I’m in the same boat as Maha (above)….the guy skimped on the ceramic and it needs another bottle to go over again (and hit places he missed)…..alcohol clean again or ok to wash, dry and add ceramic ?

    Thanks

    1. Hey Bobby:

      Thanks for the question. Here is what I told Maha – First, nano-ceramic coatings don’t ‘layer’ on top of each other. This means if you currently have one applied – it’s really best to remove it, then correctly apply the new product. One ‘workaround’ of this is to start with the basic prep process – so, hand wash, clay bar, then apply the IPA solution as directed in this article before applying the new product (TWICE).

      This is why we recommend 2 coats of Armor Shield IX, to avoid problems like you’re describing.

  2. Well do I need to use IPA if the vehicle already has one layer of Nano ceramic or only clean and re install the new Avalon ceramic

    1. Hi Maha. Thanks for the question.

      So, a couple of problems here. First, nano-ceramic coatings don’t ‘layer’ on top of each other. This means if you currently have one applied – it’s really best to remove it, then correctly apply the new product. One ‘workaround’ of this is to start with the basic prep process – so, hand wash, clay bar, then apply the IPA solution as directed in this article before applying the new product (TWICE).

  3. A couple of conflicts between your text and Wilson video is.. as you say.. adding the chemical to the water. He does the reverse, second also.. as you said is he does misinforms on the dilution percentage. Some people may not read in enough detail to catch it and pick up some bad habits. Maybe a text overlay at those points saying “remember what I said about…”. Overall very informative and much appreciated!

    1. Thanks, Brian. That video is a ‘filler’ for right now, as I’m thinking about making one myself to replace it. The point of this was to show that not all IPA sprays are identical. There are multiple applications, and it’s important to follow specific steps for ceramic coating prep vs. stripping wax. Thanks for the comment and for reading.

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These are our recommended quantities for the respective type of vehicle. The Volume Savings can be seen besides/below.

Type of Vehicle Recommended Quantity Volume Savings
motorcycle   Motorcycle 1 bottle*
small car   Small car 1 bottle*
sedan   Sedan 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
pick-up truck   Pick-up 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
jeep   Jeep 2 bottles* Save $35 (25%)
suv   SUV 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
van   VAN 3 bottles* Save $70 (33%)
boat   Boat 4 bottles+* Save $110 (39%)

*Please note that it may be a good idea getting an extra bottle, ensuring you don't run out when doing an application.

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