How to polish plastic trim on cars

Image Credit: DetailDIY

Image Credit: DetailDIY

  • Will
  • January 27, 2020

The problem with wax on rubber or plastic trim, especially textured plastic trim, is that the wax can embed itself into the pores of the plastic and cause it to discolor and look old and faded.

Soap and water won’t remove waxes and paint sealants. They are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water which is why soap and water won’t do much to help remedy the situation.

Some people will attempt to cover up the problem by applying a product such as rubber or trim restorer. This will work for a time but most of these products are not permanent solutions and wear away over time, revealing the wax or sealant that is still embedded in the plastic or rubber.

Another solution you may come across as a recommendation is using peanut butter or peanut oil. This sounds pretty far out there and ultimately it won’t remedy the problem. Peanut oil, whether from peanut butter or pure peanut oil, will work similar to how a plastic restorer or tire dressing would. Advertisements

The proper way to handle this is fix the source problem and not just treat the symptom. What needs to be done is to actually remove the wax that is embedded in the plastic or rubber.

There are several solutions to removing wax from plastic, rubber, or vinyl trim. Some more effective than others. We’ve found two solutions to be the best and most effective to use. These solutions are the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and Mothers Back-to-Black Heavy Duty Trim Cleaner.

Continue reading to learn more about how to remove wax from plastic trim on cars and trucks. Advertisements

Erasers

When I first heard about using a Magic Eraser to remove wax from plastic trim I was skeptical to say the least. I had to give it a shot and find out for myself. I’d recently applied a fresh coat of paint sealant and got some on the rear lower valence. I hadn’t cleaned it off yet so I grabbed a Magic Eraser from the household cleaning supply stash and gave it a shot.

My expectation was that it would improve the look by removing some of the wax but that it certainly couldn’t remove it all and bring it back to pristine like-new condition.

Not only was it easy to do but it did so surprisingly quickly. Plus, it surprised me and COMPLETELY removed the wax. It was astounding.

If you have a Magic Eraser on hand definitely give this a shot.

If you don’t have a Magic Eraser you could try a simple eraser. Like you would find on the end of a pencil. The actual eraser of a pencil won’t get you very far though. You’ll need something larger like a large art eraser. If you have one of those available that should work similarly well. I haven’t personally tried that trick but I suspect it’ll work pretty good though. Probably as good as a Magic Eraser.

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Mothers Back-to-Black Heavy Duty Trim Cleaner

A more purpose-specific solution that has great reviews is Mothers Back-to-Black Trim Cleaner. Mothers is a very well-known company that produces high quality products and Mothers trim cleaner is no exception.

It is specifically designed to not only remove oxidation from sun damage but to also remove wax and other contaminants that build up in the pores of plastic trim.

It doesn’t contain any oils or glosses that cover up the problem. It’s specifically designed to attack the problem of stained and discolored plastic trim and remove the discoloration and restore the plastic to its natural, like-new state.

It’s fairly straight-forward to use. Apply to the plastic trim you’re looking to clean. Make sure the area being cleaned is dry and cool. Use the included brush to scrub the area thoroughly. Buff dry when you’re satisfied with the scrubbing effort.

If you’re going to be purchasing a cleaner specifically for tackling this job, this is the one you want. If you only have a minor spot or two that you’re looking to touch up on your trim you may want to go with a generic all purpose cleaner so you can use it for tasks other than cleaning plastic trim.

Most people know that you should avoid getting car wax (specifically that yellow carnauba paste) on any type of trim, but why? The answer really comes down to the fact that dried on wax can be super difficult to remove when it dries.

Why Wax Is Hard to Remove From Plastic

A lot of plastic trim pieces are textured to the touched and pretty porous, which allows wax particles to get lodged inside these pores. This is the main reason this type of wax is so hard to remove, since water and soap alone are unable to lift the particles out.

This causes the appearance of a white haze that can make it look like the plastic itself is fading when it’s really just trapped wax.

Below are a few products I have come across that do a pretty good job at this task. Most of these spray-on products are ideal for detailers that deal with removing wax from plastic on a regular basis.

However if you are just looking for a simple inexpensive solution for your personal vehicle, there are other options if you don’t want to purchase a more expensive spray or cleaner.

Option 1: Magic Rub White Pencil Erasers

Square white pencil erasers are one of the most effective ways I’ve seen to remove wax from black trim or plastic. Many people will use heat guns or other methods that tend to discolor or fade the plastic, but this is a safe method you can try that should do the trick.

You can try a pink gummy eraser if you already have one, I just prefer these white erasers since I think they work just a little bit better.

After trying this on my truck, I can say firsthand that it definitely does a great job in hard to reach areas and doesn’t require any chemicals or liquids.

Trim Clean by Chemical Guys

This product by Chemical Guys is one of the more expensive options I’ve seen for removing wax that can remove wax or oils from trim (depending on which one you have). This product I found on Amazon for 17 bucks, which was a little expensive for a spray on trim cleaner.

If you are careful, you shouldn’t really ever need to use much of this stuff, but is nice to have in your toolbox of supplies.

Option 2: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

This product does a great job at helping to remove paint transfer from car bumpers, and is also pretty effective at removing wax on plastic trim. It is slightly abrasive, so it can help remove wax lodged in porous plastic trim pieces.

You want to avoid making contact with your vehicle’s paint, as it’s can potentially mar the paint and remove any wax or sealant you have (which you obviously don’t want). A great product, just not for painted surfaces.

Option 3: McKee’s 37 Wax Remover

This product does exactly what it’s formulated to do by dissolving wax that has dried on black trim. It really works for any surface, and it’s spray-on application makes it a little more convenient than other methods.

This product comes with a nylon brush for areas where a lot of old wax has built up, and is a top choice for detailers. It is also effective at removing polish or compound residue that may also be left behind.

Option 4: Meguiar’s M39 Mirror Glaze Heavy Duty Vinyl Cleaner

This is one product that does a good job at removing wax, and is a cleaner that works great on all vinyl, plastic, or rubber surfaces. This is really ideal for heavily soiled trim, since it will take everything off with a little scrubbing.

You can also follow this up with a the M40 Mirror Glaze product Meguiar’s makes, which is a dressing to enhance the shine of your trim or molding.

When using a detailing brush, this product is probably the best I’ve used. Check out this post where I clean my Jeep’s vinyl interior to see how the technique works.

Will Trim Restorers or Trim Detailers Work?

Many of the trim restoration products you typically will find on store shelves are really not effective at removing wax from black trim areas of your vehicle.

What they do is restore the appearance of this white or faded looking plastic, and basically just covers it up temporarily by applying an oil of some sort.

I have witnessed this problem firsthand after applying these ‘trim restore’ products, and while they definitely make everything look brand new for a few days, the dried white wax will begin to reappear.

Before applying these a trim restorer or any type of polisher, it’s best to remove any trapped wax, pollen, or other particles from plastic before protecting them. There are certain spray waxes that you can apply to trim that won’t leave behind this white discoloration. Most go on clear, and offer a basic level of protection since they are waxes.

For more information on car care products used to protect your car (or remove scratches) check out my post: Compound vs Clay, Polish & Glaze! 7 Products to Understand.

The Bottom Line

Overall, it really depends on what type of products you use on your paint, but wax is really nothing to worry about on trim since it won’t damage it. Synthetic waxes (as opposed or organic carnauba waxes) are generally safe for trim, so you don’t have much to worry about with those.

Nowadays, many waxes are formulated not to dry white, but if you prefer using paste waxes from time to time (like I do), it’s good to know what you can use to remove wax from these problem areas.

Some people choose to use painter’s tape when waxing (which you can certainly do depending on your vehicle), but for most people it’s just a good idea to be careful. Just keep one of these cleaning products on hand throughout the waxing process.

Have any other products that you recommend for removing wax from trim? Leave a comment below.

Your car is made of several types of materials, though most of the parts that are for aesthetics are plastic. Plastic is used because it is easily molded to a desired shape and can be tinted to match the vehicle’s color. It can also be painted to match. Plastic parts range in purpose including:

  • Close-out panels that block unsightly mechanical parts
  • Molded plastic parts such as door panels for ease of assembly
  • Smooth, painted components such as bumpers covers and interior trim
  • Soft-touch plastics for attractive interior finishing
  • Textured plastic parts

Plastic components can get dirty just like the rest of your vehicle. It could be dust, oils, or even food or drink that gets on the plastic. Plastic may need to be treated in a different way than other parts, depending on its composition and finish.

A general rule of thumb is painted plastic on the exterior of your car can be cleaned in the same fashion as the rest of your paint.

Textured plastic and interior plastic components need to be cleaned in a different way.

Method 1 of 2: Clean the textured plastic exterior parts

Textured black plastic parts on the exterior of your car can fade from their rich color, whether that is black, grey, or a tinted color to match your car’s paint. They often look cloudy or whitish, or a faded resemblance of the color they used to be. You can restore them to their original appearance easily.

Textured black plastic is used for parts such as:

  • Mud guards
  • Unpainted bumpers
  • Windshield wiper cowls

Materials Needed

  • Clean lint-free cloth
  • Plastic trim cleaner (recommended: Mothers Back-to-Black Heavy Duty Trim Cleaner)
  • Trim brush or toothbrush

Step 1: Apply the cleaner. Apply a quarter-sized drop of trim cleaner directly to the plastic part.

Work in small sections, so don’t use a spot of cleaner larger than a quarter.

Step 2: Brush in the cleaner. Brush the cleaner into the trim with a small, plastic-bristled brush or toothbrush.

First spread the cleaner thinly over as large a section as you can with the brush.

Then, brush the wetted spot with the brush until the plastic underneath appears unfaded and even.

Step 3: Wipe the area dry. Wipe the spot dry with a clean, lint-free cloth, removing any remaining cleaner and dirt.

Step 4: Repeat until component is clean. Completely clean the textured plastic component using the same process over the whole part.

The end result will be a rich, deep-looking part, the same as when it was new.

Method 2 of 2: Clean interior plastic parts

The interior of your car is significantly more sheltered from the environment than the exterior. Typical problems that occur with interior plastic are:

  • Cracks
  • Dust buildup
  • Soiling

Once a part is cracked, you are unable to restore it to its previous condition. You can, however, treat your interior plastic to prevent the majority of cracking and deterioration while you clean your car’s interior plastic. Look for a high-quality cleaner that also conditions the plastic.

  • Tip: Car cleaners that leave an oily shine may look good initially but collect dust and dirt quickly. Use a cleaner that doesn’t have an oily feel or shine after use.

Materials Needed

  • Interior plastic cleaner (recommended: Kevian Clean Interior Defense Car Cleaner)
  • Detailing brush or toothbrush
  • Foam applicator pads
  • Lint-free cloths or microfiber cloths
  • Q-Tips

Step 1: Wipe down dusty surfaces. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe down all your car’s interior parts.

You’re looking to remove the bulk of the loose dust and dirt so your end result will be cleaner and streak-free.

  • If the surfaces are heavily soiled, you may want to use a damp cloth to pick up more of the dirt initially.

Step 2: Spray plastic cleaner onto a foam applicator pad. If you spray directly onto parts like the dashboard or door panel, the mist will settle on your windows, making more work for you to clean your car later on.

  • Get the applicator pad damp with cleaner.

Step 3: Wipe the interior plastic with the dampened applicator pad. Re-wet the applicator when you notice is doesn’t leave cleaner on the plastic.

Work with one area at a time. If you’re cleaning the dashboard, wipe it completely with cleaner, then proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Wipe the plastic trim dry with a lint-free cloth. This will remove the bulk of the moisture and leave a clean, dust-free surface.

Repeat for each area of plastic.

Step 5: Clean soiled crevices. There are seams and crevices wherever plastic parts meet up with another surface. Dirt collects in these areas frequently, making an otherwise clean car look a little shoddy.

Dip your detailing brush in the plastic cleaner or spray the brush with your cleaner.

Work the bristles of the brush or a Q-Tip into the crevice in a back and forth motion.

Catch the dirt and cleaner that you brush out with a cloth.

Wipe as deeply into the crevice with your cloth to absorb any remaining cleaner.

  • Tip: Clear plastic parts such as the instrument cluster or the radio display are best cleaned with glass cleaner just like you would for your windows.

Keeping the plastic parts of your car clean should be a part of your regular car maintenance routine. The better care you take of all the parts of your car, the better all the parts work together, and the longer they’ll last.

As a vehicle starts to age, continued exposure to the sun can start to have a major impact on the various pieces of black exterior plastic trim. A typical vehicle may have black plastic trim on the front and rear bumpers, on the doors, around the side windows, and also around the front and rear glass.

If the black plastic trim on your car is no longer looking black, it’ll really start to bring down the whole look of the vehicle. Thankfully, bringing back the blackness to your black plastic trim isn’t really that difficult – as there are many permanent and non-permanent options available.

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Today we’re looking at a 1994 Ford Fairlane sedan which we purchased for a few thousand dollars. While it might be in excellent condition for a 23-year-old vehicle, exposure to the harsh Australian sun over a great many years has meant that some of the black plastic trim, around the C-pillar windows in particular, are quite faded. So, how can we fix it?

Luckily, there are products on the market specifically for the job – and the one we’re looking at here is a dye/pigment based option, which you apply to the plastics directly using the built-in applicator pad. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Clean the vehicle

How to polish plastic trim on cars

First, we need to clean the areas of the vehicle which we’re going to be working on. We’re using a quick detailer cleaning product and then wiping the area down with a microfibre cloth. But if you’ve got a lot of faded plastic trim to repair, you may as well wash the whole car.

Step 2: Mask off surrounding areas

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Next, we need to mask off any areas of the car which we don’t want to treat – this includes any nearby paintwork and the window glass. The product we’re using today is essentially black die, so it is important to keep it off any surfaces which aren’t black. We’re keeping things simple here and using packing tape, but you can also pick up specialised painters tape from your local hardware store.

Step 3: Degrease the plastic trim

How to polish plastic trim on cars

The kit we purchased works using a two-stage process – the first of which is a degreasing spray to clean the plastic trim and remove and contaminants. Take the time to clean the trim properly as this will help you obtain a smoother, more even finish.

Step 4: Applying the black dressing

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Next up is the fun part – applying the black dressing. Now there are many products on the market which promise to restore faded trim, and this one in particular is essentially black dye which is applied to the vehicle’s trim directly using a built-in applicator pad. So, here we go!

Now, if the trim piece you’re working on is badly faded, you’ll need to apply multiple coats of the product in order to achieve a nice even finish without streaks. For the first coat, don’t be afraid to apply the product quite liberally, because if the applicator pad is too dry you’ll end up with a lot of streaks in the finish. Wait for the product to dry before continuing.

Step 5: Apply additional coats as required

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Continue applying coats of the product until you end up with a beautiful black finish with no streaks. As you can see, we’re laying the product on quite thickly as we found this achieved the best results.

Step 6: Remove the masking and admire!

How to polish plastic trim on cars

All you need to do now is remove the masking and admire your newly restored newly restored trim. It really is that easy, and when compared side by side with the existing trim the difference is remarkable.

I guess the saying is true – once you go black, you’ll never go back.

Your car is made of several types of materials, though most of the parts that are for aesthetics are plastic. Plastic is used because it is easily molded to a desired shape and can be tinted to match the vehicle’s color. It can also be painted to match. Plastic parts range in purpose including:

  • Close-out panels that block unsightly mechanical parts
  • Molded plastic parts such as door panels for ease of assembly
  • Smooth, painted components such as bumpers covers and interior trim
  • Soft-touch plastics for attractive interior finishing
  • Textured plastic parts

Plastic components can get dirty just like the rest of your vehicle. It could be dust, oils, or even food or drink that gets on the plastic. Plastic may need to be treated in a different way than other parts, depending on its composition and finish.

A general rule of thumb is painted plastic on the exterior of your car can be cleaned in the same fashion as the rest of your paint.

Textured plastic and interior plastic components need to be cleaned in a different way.

Method 1 of 2: Clean the textured plastic exterior parts

Textured black plastic parts on the exterior of your car can fade from their rich color, whether that is black, grey, or a tinted color to match your car’s paint. They often look cloudy or whitish, or a faded resemblance of the color they used to be. You can restore them to their original appearance easily.

Textured black plastic is used for parts such as:

  • Mud guards
  • Unpainted bumpers
  • Windshield wiper cowls

Materials Needed

  • Clean lint-free cloth
  • Plastic trim cleaner (recommended: Mothers Back-to-Black Heavy Duty Trim Cleaner)
  • Trim brush or toothbrush

Step 1: Apply the cleaner. Apply a quarter-sized drop of trim cleaner directly to the plastic part.

Work in small sections, so don’t use a spot of cleaner larger than a quarter.

Step 2: Brush in the cleaner. Brush the cleaner into the trim with a small, plastic-bristled brush or toothbrush.

First spread the cleaner thinly over as large a section as you can with the brush.

Then, brush the wetted spot with the brush until the plastic underneath appears unfaded and even.

Step 3: Wipe the area dry. Wipe the spot dry with a clean, lint-free cloth, removing any remaining cleaner and dirt.

Step 4: Repeat until component is clean. Completely clean the textured plastic component using the same process over the whole part.

The end result will be a rich, deep-looking part, the same as when it was new.

Method 2 of 2: Clean interior plastic parts

The interior of your car is significantly more sheltered from the environment than the exterior. Typical problems that occur with interior plastic are:

  • Cracks
  • Dust buildup
  • Soiling

Once a part is cracked, you are unable to restore it to its previous condition. You can, however, treat your interior plastic to prevent the majority of cracking and deterioration while you clean your car’s interior plastic. Look for a high-quality cleaner that also conditions the plastic.

  • Tip: Car cleaners that leave an oily shine may look good initially but collect dust and dirt quickly. Use a cleaner that doesn’t have an oily feel or shine after use.

Materials Needed

  • Interior plastic cleaner (recommended: Kevian Clean Interior Defense Car Cleaner)
  • Detailing brush or toothbrush
  • Foam applicator pads
  • Lint-free cloths or microfiber cloths
  • Q-Tips

Step 1: Wipe down dusty surfaces. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe down all your car’s interior parts.

You’re looking to remove the bulk of the loose dust and dirt so your end result will be cleaner and streak-free.

  • If the surfaces are heavily soiled, you may want to use a damp cloth to pick up more of the dirt initially.

Step 2: Spray plastic cleaner onto a foam applicator pad. If you spray directly onto parts like the dashboard or door panel, the mist will settle on your windows, making more work for you to clean your car later on.

  • Get the applicator pad damp with cleaner.

Step 3: Wipe the interior plastic with the dampened applicator pad. Re-wet the applicator when you notice is doesn’t leave cleaner on the plastic.

Work with one area at a time. If you’re cleaning the dashboard, wipe it completely with cleaner, then proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Wipe the plastic trim dry with a lint-free cloth. This will remove the bulk of the moisture and leave a clean, dust-free surface.

Repeat for each area of plastic.

Step 5: Clean soiled crevices. There are seams and crevices wherever plastic parts meet up with another surface. Dirt collects in these areas frequently, making an otherwise clean car look a little shoddy.

Dip your detailing brush in the plastic cleaner or spray the brush with your cleaner.

Work the bristles of the brush or a Q-Tip into the crevice in a back and forth motion.

Catch the dirt and cleaner that you brush out with a cloth.

Wipe as deeply into the crevice with your cloth to absorb any remaining cleaner.

  • Tip: Clear plastic parts such as the instrument cluster or the radio display are best cleaned with glass cleaner just like you would for your windows.

Keeping the plastic parts of your car clean should be a part of your regular car maintenance routine. The better care you take of all the parts of your car, the better all the parts work together, and the longer they’ll last.

How to polish plastic trim on carsIf you ever notice a chalky, ‘film’ like substance on your plastic trim, you have experienced a car wax spill. These white blotches are a time sensitive issue, since the longer the wax rests, the more stubborn it will be to remove. Luckily there are a few inexpensive ways to eradicate this substance from affected areas to make sure the plastic does not fade or lose its smoothness. But first it is necessary to mention a few solutions to avoid in this process.

“Buffing over car wax that has rested will solve nothing, and in fact can damage your clear coat. The white marks will remain and all that will have been accomplished is weakening the protective layer on your car’s body”

Do Not Go Through A Car Wash

The second we see anything on our vehicle that does not belong there, our gut instinct as an owner is to get the car rinsed. The same is true of trim, but it is a feeling that should be ignored. Spraying water on a sealant will do very little to compromise its integrity, since one of its primary purposes is to fight moisture. Even if you power wash wax, white residue is still present afterward.

Do Not Add A Heat Component

Since wax can disperse using a hair dryer on items indoors, most think the same action can be used on plastic trim. This is not the case whatsoever because the plastic will melt, especially with powerful heat sources. Additionally, trim is fragile and should not have its surface manipulated by unpredictable temperatures.

Do Not Buff The Problem

Buffing over car wax that has rested will solve nothing, and in fact can damage your clear coat. The white marks will remain and all that will have been accomplished is weakening the protective layer on your car’s body.

Methylated Spirit Is Strong

Methylated spirit is denatured alcohol that is an ingredient in several over the counter cleaners. Only a few drops are needed on a soft applicator pad to rid your trim of wax. If you choose to use this poisonous solution, it is essential that you clean your hands with soap and water right after you are done with it.

Rubber To The Rescue!

One of the most talked about auto detailing urban legends on the internet, rubber has the incredible capability of making wax disintegrate on plastic trim. It is also easy to handle since it fits snugly between two fingers.

Brushes With Gentle Bristles

If you have a larger than usual car wax spill, a soft bristled brush is your ticket to resolving the issue. Rub the brush in calculated circles, being careful not to move the wax to unaffected areas of the trim. If the wax has sealed in hard to reach places, a toothbrush can work quickly to disrupt its components.

Conclusion

The best way to remove car wax from plastic trim is to have an auto body trained professional treat it with attention and care. It is a worthy investment to use detailing because these experts are exceptionally trained and knowledgeable on how to service other areas of your car to promise it is running on all cylinders, while maintaining a new car aesthetic.

Original Poster

On my wife’s XC90 it has more than its fair share of (now) grey exterior trim.

I have used Autoglym bumpercare in the past and that looks ok for a few days but then fades.

Following advice I tried boot polish and that looked good for 5 mins but as the sun dried it out its gone very patchy.

Apart from re painting it is there anything else I can try ?

I’ve heard heating up witha good hairdryer or V carefully with a heat gun does it. It brings teh oils back to teh surface making it black again.

Obviously, you undertake at own risk but some googling should find teh article I saw it on.

If it’s black plastic, ie no paint then try a hot air gun.

It doesn’t work on all plastics but it does work on a lot. Don’t melt the plastic, just heat it, it’ll sweat and come up looking like new.

Try it on a small area and see if it works. As I said it’s hit and miss on what plastics it works on though.

Original Poster

I think I’ll give used engine oil a miss. 4 kids milling around something covered in engine oil seems like a recipe for disaster.

I’ll get my wife to dig her hairdrier out. the neighbours will think she’s gone potty !

I think I’ll give used engine oil a miss. 4 kids milling around something covered in engine oil seems like a recipe for disaster.

I’ll get my wife to dig her hairdrier out. the neighbours will think she’s gone potty !

You can give it a go, but I don’t think a hair dryer will get hot enough, you really need a proper hot air gun, same as you’d use for paint stripping.

Just be careful when using it, you don’t want to melt the plastic or damage anything else, but you’ll need to get it fairly hot. It should then look like its damp/sweating. Wiping over with a rag (once you’ve moved the hot air gun out of the way. ) will remove any residue.

Try it on a small bit first, some plastics it does nothing on and you’ll only blister it. But on others it really really transforms them.

We found it worked wonders on older Rover 200/400’s with the black or grey/brown plastic bumpers. These would go very white and powdery looking. After a going over with the hot air gun you’d swear it was a replacement bumper just been fitted. I was quite staggered first time I saw it.

Original Poster

We’ve talked about how to clean the exterior of your car in the past, and even the leather seats and upholstery. We also covered how to clean your car’s interior plastic parts. But what about all the exterior plastic parts that weather the elements?

Your car’s plastic will build up dirt and dust naturally just by moving and operating or even sitting there. Your clean natural clean tendencies are simply not enough. By cleaning your car’s exterior as well as the interior, you can keep it looking newer much longer. Very good for resale and very good for you as you cruise the strip.

Your car has a lot of exterior plastic (believe it or not), which may require a different approach than the interior of your car. Knowing what to use is key, as plastic can be discolored or adopt a permanent haze if you’re not real careful. Many years ago, we had to be careful not to confuse rubbing compound for turtle wax. Well, with today’s chemicals and endless options, you’ll want to excercise the same caution when clean your car’s plastic parts.

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Your potential for failure 🙂

Your car is made of several types of materials, though most of the parts that are for aesthetics or looks are plastic. Plastic is used because it is easily molded to a desired shape and can be tinted to match the vehicle’s color. It can also be painted to match. Plastic parts range in purpose including:

  • Molded plastic parts for door panels or quarter panels.
  • Close-out panels designed to block mechanical parts from view.
  • Smooth, painted components such as bumper covers and trim areas.
  • Textured plastic parts.
  • Soft-touch plastics for attractive interior/exterior finishing.

“ A general rule of thumb is painted plastic on the exterior of your car can be cleaned in the same fashion as the rest of your paint. ”

Plastic components can (and do) get dirty just like the rest of your vehicle. Common offenders are oil from the road, dust, and debris, and potentially even food, beverages, bugs and more. Plastic may need to be treated differently than the rest of your car depending on its composition and finish.

Clean the textured plastic exterior parts

Textured black plastic on the exterior of your car is typically very rich in color. And whether they are black, grey, or tinted to match the rest of your auto’s paint job, they can fade from the sun. Textured black plastic is typically used for parts such as mud guards, unpainted bumpers, windshield wiper cowls and other similar accessories.

You’ll notice when this fading has happened because what used to be deep and rich will now appear to have a white tinge or cloudiness to it.

Your plastic can be restored.

Materials Needed

  • Clean lint-free cloth
  • Plastic trim cleaner (we recommend a Color Glo product that your local color restoration specialist will use when working on your project).
  • Trim brush or toothbrush

How to polish plastic trim on cars

Image: Your Mechanic

Step 1:

Apply the cleaner. Apply a quarter-sized drop of trim cleaner directly to the plastic part. Work in small sections just like when you’re washing your car. So don’t use a spot of cleaner larger than a quarter and keep your work area tight and controlled.

Step 2:

Brush in the cleaner. Brush the cleaner into the trim with a small, plastic-bristled brush or toothbrush – everybody keeps these around for just this purpose. First spread the cleaner thinly over as large a section as you can with the brush. Then, brush the wetted spot with the brush until the plastic underneath appears un-faded and even. You’ll be surprised.. it will come right out.

Step 3:

Wipe the area dry. Wipe the spot dry with a clean, lint-free cloth, removing any remaining cleaner and dirt. And that’s it! From here you can read up on how to clean the exterior of your car to bring the entire vehicle back to new.