How to clean plastic auto trim

Updated February 21, 2017

Vinyl and rubber trim have special cleaning needs because they get hazy films of oxidation and can have wax build-up, especially in the seams. Follow these steps to keep your plastic auto trim in top condition.

Remove surface dirt from the whole vehicle with a car wash solution or a gentle detergent solution, using a large sponge or a sheepskin wash mitt. Textured vinyl trim can be scrubbed with a plastic brush to remove stubborn grime. Rinse vehicle thoroughly with a hose.

Use a specifically designed product for cleaning vinyl and rubber trim, like GR-40 Trim Cleaner or Vinylex, to remove wax residue and oxidation. For clear plastic trim pieces, use a product like Meguiar’s PlastX Clear Plastic Cleaner. Clean wax and grime out of seams with a soft toothbrush.

Treat faded black trim with a product like Forever Black or Mother’s Back-to-Black. These products contain rubber conditioners that keep trim dark for many months.

Protect plastic and vinyl trim with a protectant like Meguiar’s Gold Class Trim Detailer, Turtle Wax Protectant or 303 Aerospace Protectant. Most of these products spray on and are then wiped dry with a soft cloth.


Many vinyl and rubber cleaning products are dual-purpose, cleaning and protecting trim in one application. Choose one of these products to make the job easier.

Things You'll Need

  • Car wash or mild detergent
  • Water hose
  • Bucket
  • Sponges or cleaning mitt
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Vinyl cleaner
  • Vinyl protectant
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