4 Important Tips for Detailing Trim & Plastic


In this article, you will learn:

  • Where you should and shouldn’t use trim restoration products

  • The best products to deliver UV protection for your plastic and trim

  • The order to follow when detailing exterior plastic, vinyl and rubber parts

Most drivers never give a second thought to the exterior plastic and trim on their cars. They may wash and wax all the painted surfaces regularly but never do anything to help condition or protect their uncoated plastic parts. We’re talking about parts like trim on fenders, sideview mirrors or bumper covers on many of today’s cars and trucks. Over time, when left unprotected, these surfaces take a beating from the sun’s harsh UV rays, road salts, bugs and other oxidizing contaminants. Slowly, black plastic dries out and begins to look cloudy, faded and aged. The good news is you can restore and protect these surfaces with some simple, targeted care and easy to apply sprays.

Spray here, not there

In general, you can use car trim products on any uncoated plastic surface on your car, but don’t stop there. The label may say “plastic and trim,” but you should use these restoration products on plastic, rubber and vinyl alike, not just to beautify but to maintain and protect them from cracking and becoming brittle. In particular, protectants work great on all the rubber seals around your car doors, trunk and hood and even the rubber hoses in your engine compartment. We recommend conditioning and protecting all of these parts to help preserve the proper working order of your car or truck.

The areas we urge you to avoid with all trim restoration products are any surfaces where you need grip or traction, like running boards, rocker panels or steps. Trim restoration will leave any trim piece slicker than it was before treatment, and that’s the last thing you want when it comes to these areas of your car.

car trim

Should I use specialty products or not?

You can find a number of high-quality products specially formulated for detailing your exterior plastic and rubber trim, and most perform as advertised. For example, our own Trim Restorer is a powerful, silicon-infused formula that breathes new life into plastic and trim and leaves a nice, shiny gloss of protection against future damage from UV rays. That said, a number of other types of products can be used to restore your car’s exterior plastic, vinyl and rubber and leave a protective coating. For instance, our polymer-infused Hybrid Solutions Pro Graphene Flex Wax and Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Spray Coating both work great on plastic and trim just the same as they do on your car’s paint! If you go with a wax, just make sure it doesn’t have any polishing agents. Those will scratch soft plastics and trim. Or look into something like Turtle Wax Inside and Out Protectant, which you can use to detail plastics seamlessly inside and outside your car. This is a great choice if you want a little less gloss on your plastic and trim.

Pro Tip:

Using an interior and exterior protectant is a convenient way to restore and protect all the uncoated plastic inside and outside your car. Immediately after you finish detailing all the interior plastics, simply switch to the exterior plastics using the same microfiber cloth. It will already be saturated with protectant. Put it to good use!

ceramic spray coating spray

The process matters

If you haven’t already adopted the practice, start using dedicated microfiber cloths for different jobs. Buy your cloths in a variety of colors and code them for separate applications. You want to use one microfiber for protectants like plastic trim restorers and a different microfiber to clean your glass and yet another microfiber to clean areas like your kickplates. This will help you avoid cross-contaminating products on the wrong surfaces.

Relative to other automotive surfaces, plastic, vinyl and rubber are soft materials. They can scratch easily, so, if you intend to use a product that’s not designated specifically for plastic trim, just make sure it contains no polishing agents. Likewise, to help prevent scratching, you should detail plastic, trim, vinyl and rubber in the order of cleanest to dirtiest. For instance, your entire car exterior should be washed and dried before you begin detailing areas such as plastic bumper molding, fender flares, sideview mirrors and other trim.

Once you’ve finished all the trim, move on to the rubber seals around your car doors, trunk and hood. And finally, once your hood is up, go ahead and treat any and all accessible rubber hoses in the engine compartment. Once you’re done with the entire car, wash and dry your protectant-specific microfiber cloth and store it neatly with the rest of your detailing supplies.

With these four simple tips, a plastic trim restorer and a microfiber cloth, you’re all set to rejuvenate and protect the plastic and vinyl trim and rubber hoses and seals throughout your car.

using dedicated microfiber cloths


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