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  • Writer's pictureDave

Cleaning & Caring for Automotive Interior Vinyl

Many of the surfaces inside your vehicle are made of vinyl. Vinyl is a form of polymer that is very versatile. It can be used to create many different types of materials. Vinyl refers to polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC. The most common polymers used in plastic is vinyl.

The good news is that vinyl is a durable, easy to clean product. The bad news is that if not properly cared for the vinyl surfaces can dry out, fade and even crack. This occurs when vinyl is exposed to UV rays. Ultraviolet light is harmful to the chemical components of plastics such as PVC. Over time, ultraviolet light can evaporate oils and break down the plastic molecules.

Products to maintain your interior vinyl can be broken down into 3 areas...

  1. Protectants (often referred to as "dressings")

Interior Detailers

You can think of an interior detailer like an "all-in one". Interior detailers are designed as a maintenance product. Many people keep an interior detailer in their trunk or glove box for quick clean ups. For dust, fingerprints, light soiling etc. they work great. Many are also navigation screen safe. Most interior detailers are designed to both clean & protect (have UV blockers) but like any product that accomplishes more than one task there is a trade-off. The cleaning power is not as strong as a dedicated cleaner and the protection is not as long lasting as a stand-alone protectant. The easiest way to use an interior detailer is to apply it directly to a towel or applicator pad, wipe the surface & then wipe away any excess product. There are also interior detailing wipes that work great for those quick wipe-downs.

Sonax Dashboard Cleaner & Dashboard Sponge

Interior Cleaners

If the interior is more soiled an interior cleaner is the way to go. Interior cleaners have more cleaning power than a detailer. Some interior cleaners are also formulated for use on carpets, upholstery and leather. Many people will do a full interior detail several times a year and use their maintenance products in between. These cleaners give you the convenience of needing to purchase only one product for that complete interior deep cleaning & many come in economical gallon sizes as well. Below are 2 examples of good quality interior cleaners...

Another option for a high strength interior cleaner is using an all-purpose cleaner. All-purpose cleaners are just what the name implies; they clean multi-surfaces. A good example of a high quality all-purpose cleaner is Optimum's Power Clean. Power Clean works great on engines, as a bug remover, cleaning wheels & tires etc. And diluted 3:1 can also be used on your interior.

INTERIOR CLEANING TIP: If you get heel scuff marks on the bottom of your door panels a great way to remove them is with a melamine sponge.

Vinyl & Rubber Protectants

Dressing your dash with a vinyl dressing is a must to protect against those harmful UV rays. However, another reason to dress your dashboard is to maintain the look of your interior's vinyl. Vinyl protectants are available in either a high sheen (gloss) look or in a matte (satin) finish. High gloss dressings will add a shine to your surfaces while a satin finish just restores that "factory new" look. Most quality protectants can be used on all plastic, rubber & vinyl and many can also be used on exterior trim & even in your engine bay. Dressings are easiest applied with any type of foam or microfiber applicator pad. To prevent overspray load the applicator with the product & apply to the surface. Keep a towel handy to remove any excess and blend the product to prevent streaks. Remember to clean your vinyl before applying the protectant. How often you apply a protectant will vary based on environment (apply more frequently in summer months), how frequently is the car parked outside being exposed to UV rays and the level of "traffic" (how often the surface get touched). As a general rule apply your protectant once a month and use your interior detailer in between.

Meguiar's is a good brand to show you the different looks between high gloss & satin gloss finishes. Meguiar's offers both a Natural Shine Protectant & a Supreme Shine Protectant.

Meguiar's Natural Shine Protectant
Meguiar's Natural Shine Protectant
Meguiar's Supreme Shine Protectant
Meguiar's Supreme Shine Protectant

Vinyl Coatings

If you are looking for a bit more durability in your protectant (3-6 months) check out one of the products below: