How to Clean Plastic Car Parts | YourMechanic Advice

How to Clean Plastic Car Parts

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

person applying cleaner the black cowl

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.

old and new black plastic cowls

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

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.

person cleaning with q tip

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.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating


YourMechanic Oil Change Service

Average Rating

4.9/5

Number of Reviews

20,442

Rating Summary
19,168
828
169
84
193
19,168
828
169
84
193

Jimmi

26 years of experience
90 reviews
Jimmi
26 years of experience
Chevrolet Venture - Oil Change - Orlando, Florida
Mr. Jimmi Phillips is a true professional. Finally, found a mechanic who is not only knowledgeable but who understands that his profession is not work but an avocation. Jimmi provides expert service that allows one to feel most confident in the work being provided. Quality, value, integrity, and service best describes Mr. Phillips.
Honda Accord - Oil Change - Orlando, Florida
Showed up a little ahead of time. Fixed my idling problem and gave advice if there were future problems with it. I'm happy.

Johnathon

8 years of experience
89 reviews
Johnathon
8 years of experience
Lexus ES350 - Oil Change - Fresno, California
We love Jonathan. He is knowledgeable, professional, trustworthy, and did a terrific job. Thank you.

Joe

14 years of experience
408 reviews
Joe
14 years of experience
Nissan Altima - Oil Change - Antioch, Tennessee
I have booked Joe several times at this point and I feel he is very knowledgeable and patient when explaining needed repairs to me. He communicates well and has a pleasant manner and disposition. I have never felt that he would suggest a service that was not needed, which has not always been the case when I used to take my car to a dealership for service.

Michael

21 years of experience
49 reviews
Michael
21 years of experience
Audi A4 - Oil Change - Las Vegas, Nevada
Michael arrived a little early and was very professional. He finished the service quickly but was unable to reset the "service due" indicator on the dash.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Make a Bad Car Look Great
As As a vehicle ages, it often loses some of its luster as the newness wears off and time takes its toll on the interior and exterior. The good news is that almost any car can be made to look...
How to Wax Your Car
As As soon as your car leaves the showroom floor, its exterior finish is exposed to a vast array of harmful substances and circumstances. Acid rain, bird droppings, dust and sand, and even sunlight can cause your paint job to...
How to Clean the Interior Roof of a Car
Car headliner fabric can absorb smells and become stained. Use a car upholstery cleaner to clean your car's interior fabric and roof.

Related questions

How do I clean the sun roof seal?

If your power sun roof is having a hard time opening or closing, or is making strange noises while doing so, it’s a good idea to clean it. This will increase the health and life of your sun roof. To...

Cleaning with laquer thinner

Sure, I do it all the time, but in your case you don't really need to put in a strong concentration of lacquer. You could use half a gallon or two quarts to a whole tank of gasoline. I do...

How do I clean the rearview mirror?

A dirty rearview mirror is not only a nuisance to drivers, but a potential hazard. Do not spray any chemicals or glass cleaner directly onto the mirror. Instead, spray a gentle glass or household cleaner onto a soft, clean, damp...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com