What Is This "Invisible Bra"?
Over ten years ago, 3M and maybe other companies came out with their “Invisible Bra” for automobiles and specifically for RVs.
It was hailed as the final and perfect solution for keeping bugs and small scratches and dents from rocks off of your RV front end. And honestly, it worked! Everyone in the RV industry jumped on the bandwagon to provide this product to RV owners.
The bra was a special clear plastic, in sheet form, that could be cut and glued to the front end of your RV. Since it was clear, it allowed your RV paint job to show through. It was also guaranteed to not block any UV rays from the sun. So the paint under the plastic would age and fade at the same rate as the paint that was not under the plastic. It was even argued that you could remove it later and your paint job would be unchanged, and you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was ever on your RV.
Then, if you were still unconvinced to have one of them on your RV, you would add the fact that it was guaranteed to meet these specifications for 10 years, and you would have a product everyone wanted on their RV. So, for the next five years or more, this invisible bra was even placed on the majority of new motorhomes sold.
It was great. You had your front end protected, and your paint job looked great, and it was invisible, right?
Bugs Drove People to Consider Invisible Bras
Bugs, from tiny mosquitoes to large strange things that seem to have wingspans that block out the sun, splatter onto your RV's front end. Some are just individual insects that have lost their way, I guess, while others travel in swarms that are so thick that when you drive through them it sounds like you have run into a sandstorm.
If your RV front end isn't protected, it can soon become a pock-marked surface with dried-up stains everywhere. Of course, it never helps when your RV front end is a flat surface with absolutely no aerodynamics to help some of these things slip off to the side and miss your front end.
People used different things to get the front of their RV and their windshield clean after a long day on the road: soaps, detergents, scouring rags, brushes, and more. Many RV owners installed a black vinyl "bra," custom-designed for the front end of a specific model of RV. It fit like a glove and was (supposedly) easier to clean than the front end. It usually fit and looked good, but it did distract from your fancy RV paint job.
Many RV owners were frustrated with this bug-and-rock problem and jumped on the opportunity to buy an easy-to-clean, stylish addition to an RV: the new invisible bra.
How the Invisible Bra Was Installed
The invisible bra concept was a simple one. You place some clear plastic onto the front end of an automobile or RV, and it took 99% of the abuse a bare front end would have taken from bugs, sand, and small rocks. The manufacturer had a disclaimer in case you were hit by a rock that was large enough to cut through their thin layer of plastic.
The application process was a relatively simple one.
- You cut the clear plastic to roughly fit the area of the vehicle's front end.
- You washed, cleaned, and then wet down the section of the body you wanted to protect with the plastic.
- You wet down the back side of the plastic, which had a thin coating of a glue that the water activated.
- Then you placed the wet plastic onto a wet RV front end.
- Once it was roughly in place, you just used a squeegee to push the water from under the plastic, making sure to eliminate any bubbles that might show up as you worked the plastic with the squeegee.
- Finally, since the plastic was elastic to a degree, it could be stretched and shaped as you used your squeegee.
Then you just sat back and waited for the glue to dry. Once the glue was dry, you had a piece of plastic that was a perfect fit over your RV paint job, that would be there for years.
Or so they thought.
Time and the Invisible Bra on an RV
But, after a few years, people started complaining. Their invisible bra had started to be, well, visible.
Remember, the bra didn’t get rid of bugs, and you had to clean them off yourself. The cleaning guidelines said to “use your regular RV cleaning detergents." Of course, every RV owner used whatever cleaning substance they liked to get rid of the bugs, generally the stronger the better. For those pesky stubborn areas, they often used tools (rags and brushes) that scratched the plastic layer of the bra and often went all the way through it.
Over time, these scratches allowed small amounts of water, and also mold spores, to work their way into the scratches and onto the paint itself. This trapped mold built up to the point that the typical RV front end looked like it was covered with brown “rust” under the once-clear plastic layer.
The manufacturer was safe, of course, because we RV owners had used things to clean those dead bugs off of our mont ends that were definitely NOT on any approved list of cleaners. So we all just kept on running in our RVs with their now-ugly front ends. And OK, it looked bad, but the bra was still protecting that front-end paint job. When you pulled into a campground, everyone knew what the situation was: just another bad invisible bra.
What Went Wrong With This Wonder Product?
Over time, these accumulated scratches and small holes destroyed the look of the invisible bra. I guess what was never considered is just how desperate an RV owner might be to get rid of dead bugs.
Harsh chemicals, brushes, and other tools left scratches on the plastic coating. Sand and gravel, flying at high speeds when kicked up from the road, put thousands of very small pinholes in the plastic, in addition to the scratches.
The final catastrophe for the RV owner who had used this invisible bra was the growth of mold. These pinholes and scratches allowed water to enter under the edges of the plastic, and the water became a perfect breeding ground for mold to grow, and eventually, die.
And, of course, the dead mold turned an ugly dark brown. So, the RV owner watched helplessly as his beautiful front end slowly turned into a collection of brown lines and spots.
How Do You Get Rid of This Plastic Covering?
As ugly as a mold-infested plastic invisible bra might make your front end look, the paint job under that bra is invariably in near-perfect condition. So, the goal of every RV owner is to get this ugly plastic off of the RV without harming the underlying paint job.
To get the bra off without harming the paint, the owner needs to deal with two problems: the plastic itself and then the glue holding it to the paint. Each layer requires a different approach.
Warning #1: The plastic itself generally has so many deep scratches that attempts to just peel it off will fail. As you peel it, it separates every 1/8-inch or so, and you end up removing thousands of small pieces of the plastic, because it will just not peel off in larger pieces.
Warning #2: If you try to use harsh chemicals to remove the plastic, it turns into soft sticky balls of plastic that will harden quickly, if left on the body. These can take days to dry enough for you to actually remove them. Furthermore, most of the chemicals that can remove the plastic can also damage your paint job, so you have to be careful in selecting and using chemicals.
What Are Your Removal Options?
There are only a few best methods of removing an invisible bra from the front end of an RV.
Go to a Paint Shop
You can go to a good automotive paint shop that is comfortable with painting RVs.
They will remove not only the plastic and glue, but the paint itself, and then simply repaint your RV front end. Your RV ends up looking great, but you will have shelled out several thousand dollars for your new and nice-looking front end.
Use a Hair Dryer
I know someone who used a hair dryer. The heat slowly weakens the glue under the plastic and allows you to actually peel away decent-size strips of the plastic. But, he did admit that it was a very slow process.
You have to keep the hair dryer far enough away from the paint so you don’t harm the paint itself, while at the same time staying close enough to weaken the bond of the glue. This is a tricky way to remove the plastic, but I understand that a steady hand can do it properly.
Of course, you then have to get rid of the residual glue left behind.
Probably the people I have heard from most told me they used paint scrapers. The scrapers were not made of metal but rather they were cheap one-piece plastic scrapers. They said they had “used a lot” of them to get the job done.
You see, the edge of the plastic scraper has to be straight and beveled to a sharp edge, or at least what passes for sharp when something is made of plastic. The scraper had to be sharp enough and firm enough that it could be worked under the edge of the plastic bra, while at the same time not scratching the underlying paint.
The areas with fewer scratches peel more easily. The process is labor-intensive and takes a lot of time. Most of the people who used scrapers would pick a small area at a time and not rush through getting rid of their invisible bra.
What I Did to Remove My Invisible Bra
First, I read a lot of labels on paint removers, adhesive removers, paint cleaners, and other chemicals that I found on the shelves of Home Depot. When I went home to look up the ingredients in these cleaners, the possible health effects from some of them scared me as much as the potential environmental hazards. So, I eliminated the possibility of using most of the chemicals I did find.
I decided I wasn’t going to use a heat gun or hair dryer and create a new problem (accidentally damaging my paint) while trying to solve another, so that option was eliminated.
And honestly, I simply couldn’t afford to take my RV to a paint shop and spend the kind of money the other guys told me they had spent getting their front ends redone.
Scrapers Plus Goo Gone
So, I ended up using paint scrapers. But I went one step further. On Amazon, I found some scrapers made like the ones which use old-fashioned two-sided razor-blades for scraping labels and stickers off of a windshield or paint from a newly painted window frame and glass. These were different though. The holder was the same design, but it was made of plastic, and the vendor also sold packages of two-edged blades (like razor blades) made of plastic.
They were priced right, and I ordered a few of them to try out. They worked great for me. When you take your time, you can use these to relatively easily scrape off pieces of the plastic bra,
After that, I used a not-very-powerful, but safe, cleanser called Goo-Gone. I coated the newly exposed glue-covered areas with the Goo-Gone, and then waited a few minutes for it to soak in. It softened the glue enough that I could then scrape it from the surface of the paint.
It was still a slow, manual process, and it seemed to take forever. But as I said, it’s cheap and it works. So, my recommendation is to use more elbow grease, spend less money, and get rid of that darn not-so-invisible bra on the front of your RV.
I'm nearly 2/3 done, and my RV will soon have its original front-end paint showing all over. Then with just a good washing with soapy water, followed by a good hand wax, it will look like new.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.