How To Clean Car Interior Plastic Trim? (Little Known Tips)

How do you treat plastic trim on a car?

Your car interior plastic trim is susceptible to dirt for a number of reasons. Sticky fingers, muddy shoes, and dust all contribute to that lack lustre appearance your plastic trim starts to get. 

But with just a few quick steps, you can get the interior looking better than ever.

To get started you’ll need:

  • Clean microfibre cloths
  • Interior Cleaner – King of Sheen Vinyl Shine is highly rated and comes with a handy interior brush for hard to reach places.
  • Plastic Protectant – Armor All Protectant Semi-Matt can be used on all your vinyl, rubber and plastic interior.
  • Polish – Polish is often combined with your plastic protectant, but if not, any car cleaning polish will work.

With all your products to hand, follow these five steps: 

  1. Vacuum – Vacuuming your floor mats and the inside of your car thoroughly can help your clean last as long as possible as a lot of the grime or dirt you see on your plastic is likely made up of dust particles.
  2. Dust – Wipe away dust with a damp microfibre cloth. For small crevices or your steering wheel, a soft bristled toothbrush or paintbrush can come in handy.
  3. Clean – If your plastic is stained or has visible dirt, use an automotive plastic cleaner on a clean, damp microfibre cloth. Wipe the area until it comes clean, then dry with a microfibre towel. 
  4. Protect – With all of your interior plastic parts cleaned and dry, apply a plastic protectant with a satin or matte finish, following directions according to your chosen product. Just remember that in most cases products should be applied directly to your applicator pad or cloth. 
  5. Polish – If you’re looking to bring some shine back to your interior, you can finish off with an automotive plastic polish. Apply to a soft microfibre cloth and rub into your plastic in small circles.

If you’ve cleaned up your plastic but it’s still looking worse for wear due to scratches or marks, you can get a trim restorer or plastic scratch kit like Quixx Scratch Remover from online retailers like Amazon, or most large automotive shops or garages. This comes with everything you need to repair the scratches on your door panels and interior plastics, including the polish, cloth and sandpaper. 

Just be careful not to get this (or other cleaning products) on your car seats or upholstery, as black plastic restorers in particular can prove difficult to get out. If you do get anything on the seats, you can learn how to clean cloth car seats or how to clean leather car seats.

This should work well on minor scratches and marks, but if you have deeper pitted scratches, you may want to see a professional detailer to have them repaired.


Modern Day Wax Formulations

I have to admit, when I was first introduced to th

I have to admit, when I was first introduced to these marvels of the car care world, I was completely blown away; it was such a contradiction!

I had been taught initially, confirmed through first hand experience as time went on, that once you got wax on your cars black trim it was going to be stained forever.

The thought of applying a wax directly onto any black trim pieces regardless of whether it was 100% plastic or rubber, or some hybrid of both, was completely counter to what I had been taught.

But the reality is that through chemical engineering, we now have spray waxes along with a few paste waxes that are not only non-staining formulations, but can actually be used directly on black trim to keep it healthy and add some visual enhancement at the same time.

Other trim materials

Anodized aluminum must be treated with great care. The coating is very thin. Even the mildest abrasives (polish and cleaners) will quickly scuff or remove the coating. The sun is a problem, too, as exposure to UV rays will fade black anodized trim.

Painted black trim is often difficult to maintain properly. If you wax it, the original satin finish will begin to take on gloss. If you don’t treat it, the trim will fade and become flat.

The best solution I’ve found is to treat with satin black trim protectant (windshield wipers are a good example). These types of products are amazing on these trim areas, offering a natural satin finish. It also wipes off to a greaseless finish and won’t soften the black paint. To use, simply spray on applicator and apply thoroughly; buff dry after applying.

Tip #1: Always Clean Before You Restore

Lots of people purchase a trim restorer product and begin applying the solution to the surface of their vehicle before removing dirt, stains and other abrasive contaminants. Not only does this seal the filth into your finish, but you also risk scratching your car trim from rubbing loose soils and grime into your delicate plastics.

Always clean your trim thoroughly before applying your trim restorer and protectant, even if your car looks clean at first glance! Many sharp contaminants are invisible to the naked eye, but they can still be detrimental to your rubber and plastic interior. We recommend that you use an interior detailer like Turtle Wax Dash & Glass, or a multipurpose cleaner and disinfectant like Multipurpose Cleaner & Disinfectant, to quickly spray and wipe down your car before you restore.

As you clean, be careful not to overlook the more intricate spaces inside your vehicle, such as your air vents and the cracks and crevices of your dashboard. You may need to use a cotton swab or a small detailing brush to remove stains and soil buildup from these hard-to-reach locations before treating your plastic or rubber trim.


What Is a Touchless Car Wash and Is It Safe?

A touchless car wash, like any typically automated car wash, will require you to select how you want your car to be washed and make your payment in a machine. But unlike other automated car wash types, particularly the traditional automatic car wash and the brushless automatic car wash, an automatic touchless car wash doesn’t make use of any spinning brushes or cloth strips.

How to Use a Self Service Car Wash?

The steps that you need to take are: 1. Park the vehicle to be cleaned 2. Remove the interior floor mats 3. Locate the sprayer wand 4. Learn the sprayer settings 5. Familiarize yourself with the payment options 6. Wash the vehicle with water to remove loose contaminants 7. Add soap and cover the vehicle in suds 8. Rinse off all the soap and suds from the vehicle 9. Scrub the vehicle thoroughly 10. Rinse again and dry

How Much Does a Car Wash Cost?

It depends because there are different car wash types. It may cost as low as approximately $10 for an automatic car wash or as high as approximately $100 for a full-service car wash.

Cleaning Restoring Black Car Trim that is faded or stained

While it is possible to prevent the black trim on your car from ever aging or getting stained, I will address how to restore faded and stained black trim first as that is when most people go looking for black trim restoration products.

Darren’s Professional Tips:

When it comes to cleaning restoring black car trim you have choices. The first choice is what I call the “Band-Aid” solution which is a semi-permanent “enhancement” versus a permanent restoration solution. The Black Wow is a great product, but officially, it is more of a band-aid solution as it is more about covering up the faded black trim versus truly restoring it like the Solution Finish product.

So based on your budget and desired results, you can choose which product fits best. The reality is that there are professional detailers that actually use the Solution Finish to restore the black trim, then use the Black Wow to add a higher level of shine as an on-going basis.

Darren’s Top Pick for Black Trim Restorer

Since I know both the creators of “Solution Finish” and “Black Wow”, I have had the privilege of discussing both products at length with both of the creators. Now depending on who you ask, will determine the answer you get.

I am convinced that Solutions Finish, which is a silicone free product, is your answer for true black trim restoration which is different than what I call a black trim enhancement product.

Darren’s Professional Assessment:

Solution Finish

  • True restoration product
  • Silicone free
  • For a more original like appearance; not overly-glossy
  • Consider it like you would a permanent dye for your cars black trim
  • Formulated with chemistry with the ability to actually penetrate into the black porous material of black trim pieces on your car
  • Good for 6-12 months depending on conditions

Black Wow

  • What I would label as a semi-permanent enhancement product
  • Silicone based
  • For a more glossy finish
  • Good for 4-6 months depending on conditions
  • Can be used over Solutions Finish for a higher gloss appearance and for on-going maintenance if you prefer

Solution Finish Trim Restorer

Solution Finish – Black Plastic & Vinyl Restorer – Use for Car and Truck Detailing – 12 oz.

  • Will return black trim to a more original state of “black” versus a high gloss effect created by the Black Wow.
  • A product I recommend and use professionally.
  • Officially I carry and use all products on this page and pick and choose based on the actual specifics of the moment. Any of the products on this page will deliver professional results.

Black Wow Trim Restorer

Black Wow 4oz

  • Not a superficial dressing that will wash off.
  • It is what I call semi-permanent. (No black trim restorer is truly permanent as mass produced plastics will always leach out the additives and impurities despite what you use for cleaning restoring car black trim.
  • Will last months and months with a single application.
  • Black Wow and Solution Finish are the only trim restorer products I use professionally.


It’s important to remember though, that a lot of protecting your plastics comes with the cleaning.

Once you’ve washed your vehicle, clean all plastic trims using an all-purpose cleaner, such as a 1:5 dilution of Verso All-purpose Cleaner. This will help to remove any old dressings you may have applied, as well as remove any grime or oils that weren’t removed at the wash stage.

Removing these will equate to more staying power from the dressing that you apply next. Once you’re happy that the trims are clean, dry them with a microfibre drying towel or air-blower, removing as much moisture from the panel gaps as possible.


Most unpainted trim is plastic or rubber; it includes decorative side panel trim, window seals, and the housings on many side view mirrors. If the vehicle is a newer, well-maintained vehicle, no extra cleaning of these surfaces is necessary aside from the general wash.

If the car is older or not well maintained however, clean the trim using a scrub sponge or a soft-bristled brush with a mild-to-medium-strength citrus-based all-purpose cleaner. You can usually dilute 40 parts cleaner to 60 parts water. Be aware that strong or under diluted cleaners can stain the painted panels that surround the trim being cleaned.

Step by Step Instructions

Now that you know the tools and products needed, let’s move on to the proper cleaning process. Carefully follow these steps to achieve a spotless, damage-free textured plastic interior.

Step 1: Vacuum Clean the Plastic Interior

Remove the things that can get in the way of clean

Remove the things that can get in the way of cleaning the plastic interior like the floor mats, seat covers, etc.

When cleaning corners and all the nooks and crannies of your car, you can attach the soft brush attachment to the vacuum cleaner nozzle. This will allow you to remove all debris and things like food crumbs and help prevent scratching the plastic interior.

Step 2: Wipe the Plastic Interior Using a Damp Microfiber Towel

Dampen a microfiber towel and use it to wipe the p

Dampen a microfiber towel and use it to wipe the plastic interior. It will help remove any contaminants the vacuum hasn’t picked up and allow the cleaning solution to work better.

Continue wiping until the fabric could absorb no more dirt. Use cotton buds to bring out grime from small corners; alternatively, use a brush with soft bristles.

It’s a bad idea to let the moisture from the towel sit on the car, so take a dry towel and wipe dry the areas you have already cleaned.

Step 3: Clean the Plastic Interior With Your Desired Cleaning Solution

   Using an All-Purpose Cleaner

  • Using an All-Purpose Cleaner

If you choose to use an all-purpose detailing cleaner, the best way to clean car interior plastic would be to apply it with a microfiber towel or soft-bristled brush and not directly on the plastic surface to prevent any adverse reaction or damage.

This would also allow better control over the amount of solution used and prevent the cleaner from running down the electronics and vents.

After you scrubbed the surface of the plastic interior, take a microfiber towel, and wipe away the cleaner and all the contaminants it had lifted off the plastic interior.

  • Using a Mild Soap or Laundry Detergent

If you’re looking for a cheap way to clean a car interior, you can use a mild soap or detergent. For this method, it would be advisable to test it on an inconspicuous spot first.

Testing it first will help check for adverse effects on your plastic interior. If no serious damage occurs, apply a quarter-sized amount of it on a microfiber towel.

Remember to work on one plastic part at a time and add detergent to the fabric only when necessary. Less is more in this case.

Then with the microfiber towel with the cleaning solution, rub the plastic interior to clean off the contaminants. Areas that are hard to reach can be scrubbed with a soft toothbrush.

Finally, dampen a microfiber towel and wipe off the solution and contaminants. Make sure to get rid of all the soapy water, for if not, it will leave spots that are hard to remove.

Tip: If There is Mud on the Plastic Interior

When you clean mud off car interior plastic, it would be best to let the mud dry first because working on wet mud would only cause it to spread. Once it’s dry, brush it off with a soft-bristled brush.

After brushing off the mud, wash the affected area using a towel and one of the solutions mentioned above.

Step 4: Apply a Plastic Interior Protectant

Maintain the cleanliness of your plastic interior with a plastic protectant. It will prevent dirt, dust, and oils from adhering to it and protect the plastic interior from UV damage. It can also add shine and make car interior plastic look new.

On a microfiber towel, apply a few sprays of the protectant and spread the protectant on the plastic interior sparingly and evenly. Let the protectant sit on the surface for about one to three minutes, then buff the surface with another microfiber towel.


Cleaning your car interior trim not only keeps your car clean and fresh for you and your passengers, but protects the resale value should you decide to sell down the line (or helps you avoid lease car return charges if you lease). 

For our top car cleaning tips, check out our posts on how to wash a car and how often you should wash your car

Alternatively, our car maintenance checklist provides all the details on the regular maintenance you can do to keep your car running smoothly.


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