Containtment ZoneMarch 29th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs
Battling Installation Bay Contamination
By Chris Collier
Tiny pieces of dirt, lint, dust and debris float through our world freely, but how many people notice these minor nuisances? Not many. It’s a different story for car enthusiasts, who have keen sight built to detect even the most minor contaminants crammed between film and their vehicles.
The Cleaning Crew
“When I first started my own business, I co-rented a building with a friend who owned a landscaping company,” says Craig Holko, owner of Holko’s Tint Shop in Youngstown, Ohio. “He brought in landscaping equipment, grass clippings, dirt and mulch. It took a lot of cleaning. I’d sweep the shop in the morning and night. I’d even spray it with a water hose to hold down dirt and dust. But there was no air conditioner. When the doors were up, and the wind was whipping in, you had to learn how to stick film to the glass quickly.”
Holko is in his ninth year of business ownership and 20th year of window tinting experience. He says sharing a workspace with someone who deals with dirt for a living pushed him further and taught him how to fight debris.
“I’m onto my third shop, and I now have a climate-controlled air conditioner,” Holko says. “I always tint with the shop door down, so there’s no wind. If I’m giving tips, you definitely have to decrease the airflow. I’m not a fan of having fans on, other than the air conditioner.”
Today, Holko uses his shop exclusively for window tinting and vinyl projects. He avoids oil changes and other automotive work. “I have the utmost respect for my tint outcome and what comes in there,” Holko says. “Granted, you have people who take their vehicles off-road and bring dirt into the shop. I also have to educate the customer—‘If you want the best outcome for your vehicle, you need to bring it as clean as possible.’”
Holko, who uses a Pioneer Mini Split for air conditioning, shared some other tips for newcomers.
“A big thing I learned early on is cleaning out the seals in the cars,” Holko says. “Getting a wet microfiber towel and a hard card and cleaning around the seals and the edges. I think that’s a pivotal point to putting out a clean job … If you’re tinting with a door open, a hose is pivotal; spray the floor to hold down dust.”
Sean Hutchisson founded Taurus Auto Detailing in Austin, Texas, in 2016. He initially fulfilled all of his detailing and PPF projects from the same building. Today, he operates in two separate buildings in one business complex to disconnect the two services and sideline debris-packed paint protection film (PPF) installations.
“We eventually separated the shops,” Hutchisson says. “We have a detail shop and a PPF shop. All of the cleaning is done in the detail shop, and then we move the car to the PPF shop. When the car is driven into the PPF shop, it drives across some mats that help get debris off of the tires.”
Hutchisson cites lint, fibers and hairs as common contaminants and steers clear of traditional cotton T-shirts and polos to avoid potential problems. His team also uses a lint roller on their shirts and arms. Taurus Auto Detailing’s PPF installations generally include a full exterior detail. “We’ll go the extra mile and de-badge a vehicle because the badges are generally held on by
adhesive, and those edges trap dirt and other contaminants,” Hutchisson says. “It’s saved us by removing those and re-installing them after the [PPF installation].”
A Group Effort
Dan Nava owns Travel Wraps Graphics and International Brotherhood of Wrappers (IBOW) Training in Greenwood, Ind. Nava completed his first vehicle wrap installation 22 years ago.
“[Contamination] has been a huge problem over the years, but I’ve gotten better about dialing customers in,” Nava says. “What that means is setting the expectation for the client as to how they are to bring the vehicle to us. Get a good wash on the top side and the underside (no wax). Outside of our building, we will use our air compressor to blow out any general contamination.”
Nava uses a nearby janitorial supply company for floor and wall cleaning supplies.
“Most people run to Lowe’s, but you’d be surprised,” he says. “People come to us for wraps and PPF. You go to the janitorial supply—they’ll tell you what
you need; instead of wasting money on [ineffective] products.”
He adds that PPF clients typically bring a clean vehicle for reasons you might expect.
“They’re car enthusiasts, and they want their car to be beautiful for as long as possible,” Nava adds. “[With tint], you want to get out of the sunlight. You want some shade.”
The IBOW Training program works with vocational schools and programs in underprivileged communities to help offer opportunities to children who may not be able to afford college. Cleanliness is one crucial element taught in Nava’s classes.
“Don’t just focus on the [sections] you’re doing—focus on the entire vehicle,” Nava advises. “If you’re doing a full hood wrap or PPF, you must clean the windshield and the A-pillars. You want to get down in between those rubber seals.”
Application bay contaminants are nightmares, as Eddie Blanco knows all too well. A PPF and vinyl wrap industry veteran of 18 years, Blanco was fed up
with fighting for clean installations. He started brainstorming solutions in January 2022.
“I’m a very particular wrapper,” Blanco says. “I like to keep projects clean for clients. You think you can clean everything, but there’s always [debris] flying around … I have industry friends that I help out. That motivated me to pursue a solution. Not just for me, but for my friends who could use one.”
Blanco set out to create a shirt built for him and his fellow wrappers; a line of defense against contaminants that trap themselves between the vehicle and the film during an application. He researched fabrics and materials, and found a textile manufacturer that could accommodate his specifications and goals.
Just a few months after conceptualizing the idea, Blanco founded The Wrap Shirt in March 2022. The end result was a lint-free, anti-static shirt constructed with polyester and carbon fiber. The installer-tailored shirt was ready for production. A year later, multiple variations of the shirt are for sale.
“I was wrapping, and I’m like, ‘The shirt is meant for wrapping, so I’ll call it The Wrap Shirt,’” Blanco says of the product’s name.
“The shirt will constantly evolve as time goes by,” Blanco says. “It’s something fun to create. I use it as an installer. I try to make it functional for myself—fashionable and functional apparel unique to us installers and artists.”
Blanco, who also owns Alive Wraps in Corona, Calif., adds, “The whole purpose was to share this with everyone, not just myself. It’s a little piece of myself and the passion I have for the industry.”
Chris Collier is the editor for Window Film magazine.
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