Carbon fiber has developed a great deal of recognition for the fact that it is so strong and so durable; since it’s effectively impervious to corrosion, extremely durable, and resistant to UV light, it might be tempting to assume that it’s effectively maintenance-free.
High gloss carbon fiber may be low maintenance, but it’s not maintenance-free. While you don’t need to be an exotic material expert armed with an esoteric repertoire of specialty tools, you do need to care for your carbon fiber from time to time.
Here are some best practices and pointers for basic high gloss carbon fiber care.
- Preventing scratches and swirl marks: You’ll want to keep your carbon fiber surfaces clear to protect the clear coat and the fibers underneath. Allowing dust or pollen to accumulate on the surface can result in swirls or scratches when you remove them. These scratches or swirls will be even more evident on high-gloss carbon fiber.
Luckily, cleaning off many carbon fiber surfaces doesn’t require too much special knowledge or special tools. You can clean off most carbon fiber surfaces with gentle soap and warm water. If it’s safe for a vehicle’s painted surface, it’s likely safe for the clear coat on carbon fiber.
- Cleaning with water and soap or a mild cleanser: If the carbon fiber surface is not particularly dirty, a simple rinse with warm water may suffice to remove any film or residue from its surface. However, it is important never to allow water to dry on the surface of carbon fiber.
If you allow water to dry on the surface, it may result in spotting or hard water staining that will then be difficult to remove; it will also be highly noticeable on carbon fiber. Also, allowing water to dry on any carbon fiber product can damage the carbon fiber’s clear coat, especially under hot and sunny conditions.
- Do not wash in direct sunlight: Whether you’re washing your carbon fiber with warm water or using soap or some other type of cleaning compound, avoid washing it in direct sunlight, which will likely cause water to dry before you can remove it.
- Use a microfiber towel to remove water: Be sure to remove all water and residual moisture from high gloss carbon fiber with a soft microfiber towel; microfiber is recommended because it will help prevent scratches and swirls.
- Avoid acids and harsh solvents: If you choose to use a soap or cleaning agent, be sure to avoid any products with harsh acids, as these can damage the clear coat finish of your high gloss carbon fiber. This will ruin the finish and over time will hasten the carbon fiber’s susceptibility to UV degradation. You can use acetone and a soft cloth to remove stubborn pen or tape marks, etc.
- NEVER use abrasives: It is also critical to avoid abrasive polishes and paste wax. These may not only ruin the finish of high gloss carbon fiber but if used repeatedly will damage or strip the epoxy resin coating from the carbon fiber.
- Wax may be used to protect the finish: If you are going to use a wax product to seal your carbon fiber products, be sure to use either a spray-on wax or another wax that is rated as carbon-fiber appropriate. Some waxes can effectively preserve the clear coating of carbon fiber and protect fading, yellowing, or breaking down as a result of harsh chemicals or exposure to sunlight.
- Store your carbon fiber products out of direct sunlight: While some carbon fiber matrices are UV resistant, it’s best to store your products out of direct sunlight. Keeping them protected from the sun will extend the life of the UV-resistant agents in the epoxy resin finish.
- Restoring fading or yellowing: If your high glass carbon fiber has faded, yellowed, or suffered swirl damage, then you may want to polish the top layer of the clear coat to reveal the undamaged layer underneath. Apply a carbon fiber-appropriate glaze or polishing compound in a cool, shaded area; work it onto the surface of the carbon fiber, allow it to sit for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a microfiber towel
- Carnauba wax as a protectant: Waxes like carnauba wax can be applied to heighten the luster of your gloss carbon fiber, provided they are formulated without abrasive additives. Products like Scratch Doctor are ideal for cleaning and maintaining carbon fiber surfaces.
Applying carnauba wax may deepen the shine of your carbon fiber’s clear coat and will add an additional layer of protection against sunlight and other elements. Also, some formulas are hydrophobic and even repel dust and pollen, so they can simply be hosed off if and when they get dirty.
High Gloss Carbon Fiber Questions? Call Us!
Failing to properly care for your carbon fiber, especially after allowing contact with materials such as oils and road salts, can hasten the decay of the protective clear coat or cause discoloration. However, following these tips for high gloss carbon fiber care should keep your carbon fiber products bright and glossy for years to come.
We know carbon fiber! If you have any questions at all about any of our products or would like more detailed suggestions for care and maintenance, please feel free to get in touch with us at 360-573-7800!