How To Clean Plastic Interior Car Parts

How to clean plastic car parts

We've talked about how to clean the exterior of your car in the past, and even the leather seats and upholstery. But what about your plastic car parts?

Well, there is more to cleaning a car than just filling up a bucket with mild soapy water, scrubbing it down and rinsing it off. The plastic interior needs to be kept clean as well. 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 interior, you can keep it looking newer much longer, which is good for resale and good for you.

Your car has both interior and exterior plastic, which may require some different methods. You just need to make sure you are using the right products on your plastic interior.

You can keep your classic car or sports car looking this good with a little bit of TLC.

You can keep your classic car or sports car looking this good with a little bit of TLC.

What you need to clean interior plastic

Vacuum the interior first. Before you begin this project, vacuum out your car to remove any debris, dirt, and dust. Your cleaning products of choice will perform much better if you take care to vacuum before getting started. You can avoid scratching your plastic dash and other areas by using the soft brush attachment. 

  1. Remove the floor mats BEFORE your start to vacuum. 
  2. Take extra care around vents, knobs, and accessories. You can damage these easily if you're not paying attention. 
Vacuum out your car first, to remove any debris, dirt, and dust


Cleaning the interior

Dust the plastic. Use a soft damp cloth (water only) or soft hand-held dust mop (available in the car care section of any grocery or discount store) to clear away dust. Some people use a vinegar solution for this too. Generally speaking, this should be ok as vinegar is a non-abrasive natural cleaner but depending on the composition of the plastic, you may find that it leaves a residue. With today's composite materials and expensive replacement costs, sticking to water is a great option.

A small, soft-bristled paintbrush works well to clear dust from crevices around the gear shift and hand brake, the radio controls and other tight spaces where dust can settle. You can also use a soft-bristled toothbrush and Q-tips to clean crevices and hard to reach areas.

Tip. If you used a damp cloth, go back with a dry soft cloth to dry the plastic.

Photo: Your Mechanic

Photo: Your Mechanic

Treating stains on plastic

If your plastic is stained, apply a very small amount of mild soap, laundry detergent, or plastic auto cleaner to a damp cloth. If you need advice on what auto cleaner to use, just ask your local Color Glo Specialist.

Never apply any cleaning solution directly to the plastic. Wipe the area until it is clean and follow it up with a clean, dry rag. If you cloth begins to show dirt, turn it to a clean spot otherwise you'll simply be in the business of re-distributing dirt. 

Tip. Always apply any cleaner to an inconspicuous spot to test how it may react to your plastic.

Image: Wikihow

Image: Wikihow

Keeping your shine

Apply a protectant. Once your plastic is cleaned, you should apply a protectant. For DIY'rs, you can visit the automotive section of of any larger retailer or auto parts store to get some advice on what might be a good option. Always apply sprays or chemicals to your cloth or rag vs. directly on the plastic. You'll avoid spots and over-treated areas. Replace your cloth or applicator as necessary. 

Use a polish. To add some shine to your plastic, use a plastic polish. Or you can use some natural products such as olive oil or boiled linseed oil. Put some oil or polish on a soft cloth and then rub it into the plastic. Then use a clean soft cloth to rub away any excess product. Boiled linseed oil can be purchase from a hardware or paint store. You can find your favorite strength of virgin olive oil at your favorite grocer. 

Tip. If you find a good all-in-one product that you like, you can cut down the amount of products you use and potentially some cost. They are out there.

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