How to clean your car interior plastic and vinyl parts.

Best and cheapest way to clean your car interior plastics and vinyls

Updated on 04/18/20
10 minute read

Disclosure

Webquestions.co is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In this article, I will share my best and cheapest way to clean your car interior plastic and vinyl

I use this method for years now, it has never disappointed me. 

My way of cleaning doesn't involve any chemicals or substances.

This method is not my discovery, many people know it. I would like to share it here for those who choose different ways of cleaning.

Read more to learn the best and cheapest way to clean your interior plastic and vinyl.

 

Before and after

Right off the bat, let me show you a "before" and "after" pictures.

Here is an example of car plastic dashboard top "before" picture:

car interior plastic dashboard before cleaning with chamois cloth.

Here is the same plastic part, after cleaning. 

No oily residue, no dust or lint.

car interior plastic after cleaning with chamois cloth.

 

The old way

My old way was to buy and use many kinds of car plastic cleaners, chemicals, designated for car cleaning, and regularly using them to clean my car interior plastic. 

I used to have a container for cleaning plastics, a container for cleaning leather, windshield, side windows and more. You got the deal.

That used to work, no doubt. BUT it cost me a fair amount of money and all the containers took space in my trunk. long story short, I didn't like it. 

Another thing that I kind of didn't like all the amount of chemicals that I breathe and touch in my car, left by the cleaning products.

 

My new way of cleaning interior car plastic parts

Today, for cleaning the plastic and vinyl parts, I use only water and a synthetic chamois cloth

Car plastic cleaner - synthetic chamois cloth

Why I like so much:

  1. Does a GREAT work.
  2. Fewer chemicals.
  3. Save a lot of money on cleaning products.
  4. Fast - no need to apply materials, wait for them to cure/dry or whatever. 
  5. Less equipment and cleaning containers. Saves room in my trunk/garage. 
  6. For the odor intolerant, less fake "summer" smells you need to breathe.

 

How does it work?

Pretty simple and standard.

Here is the deal:

  1. With damp synthetic chamois cloth, wipe the plastic surface you want to clean.
    Wipe well, until stains and dirt are removed. It should not take any special effort.
    This will leave some streaks, no worries. 
  2. Wring the cloth, until no water drips out of it. 
  3. Wipe the plastic surface again. This will dry any access water. 
    After this stage, you will see a clean and shiny area.
  4. Need more cleaning? Repeat the process.

I know it sounds like a little, but believe me, it takes care of 99% percent of the dust, oily hand residues, stains, etc.

It is fast, leaves clean surfaces and a chemical-less way.

Later I will address what I am doing with tougher stains. 

 

Related: Tires lifespan: Step by step explanation to how long do tires last and what you can do to prolong lifespan.

 

Synthetic chamois cloth

Also widely known as 'Drying chamois' or 'Drying cloth'.

It is used to dry the exterior of the car, without leaving any streak and lint. It does great work drying things.

Synthetic chamois cloth comes in many sizes, colors, and containers. They are usually not expensive and wear out after many uses. 

It is all considering the nature of usage and duration.

There are small differences in the quality but most of them, as far as I can tell, perform well. Find synthetic chamois cloth on Amazon (paid link) for around 10$. 

 

Usage

On first use or after not using the chamois cloth for a while, it may be stiff to the touch. This is normal.

Just soak it in water for a couple of minutes until it is completely soft and ready for use. 

Soaking a chamois cloth before use - clean car interior plastic parts.

When you finish cleaning your car interiors, just put the cloth back in its container, while still damp. When dry, the cloth is stiff and will not fit easily in its container.

 

Cleaning the chamois cloth

That is easy. 

While cleaning your car, the cloth will catch the dirt. To keep it clean for the next wipe, just wash it by hand in a bucket of clean water. 

for storage, most synthetic chamois cloths are washing machine safe. 

Throw it in a washing machine, following the manufacturer's instructions, and it will be as clean as new.

If you still see some stains on the cloth, after washing it, don't throw it yet. It is still usable. Those stains are not likely to stain your car.

Dirty and used synthetic chamois cloth. Still usable even is stained.

 

How to clean inside the car dashboard and more

Easy with a synthetic chamois cloth. No need for chemical products of any kind. 

Here is a "before" dashboard image. 

Car interior plastic - inside of dashboard picture.

Following the way I suggest above, here is the result. 

Inside of car dashboard, cleaned with synthetic chamois cloth.

 

Here are some more pictures for you to compare.

Removing fingers oils from the signal stick:

Clean car interior plastic - before image for signal stick

Here is the same signal stick, cleaned using synthetic chamois cloth:

Car signal stick cleaned with chamois cloth - after

 

Here I cleaned my leather steering wheel. It had some finger oils and stains on it.

Cleaned only with Synthetic chamois cloth and water. Chamois cloth works well also for leathers. 

clean car leather steering wheel with chamois cloth - before picture

Notice the palm oils left on the leather. 

Here is the clean version of the steering wheel, cleaned using water. 

Clean leather steering wheel with chamois cloth and water.

 

Plastic gear stick - oily residue on top of it.

Clean plastic car parts - gear stick before image

And the gear stick cleaned with water and synthetic chamois cloth and water:

Clean car plastic - Gear stick, cleaned using synthetic chamois cloth.

 

The benefits of chemical-free car cleaning with a chamois cloth

Here are a few of the benefits:

  1. Reducing exposure to chemicals. Even for the "safe" ones.
  2. The cloth is cheaper than most chemicals.
  3. The cloth is reusable and lasts for a long time
  4. less garbage - better for the environment.
  5. Saves you a lot of space in the trunk or garage.
  6. Can handle most stains and dust.
  7. more...

This method is so simple yet powerful. 

Not only for interior plastics and vinyl parts

What I like about this way of cleaning, that it can practically clean anything in your car, interior and exterior. 

I don't mean just dry car's exterior as the purpose of the cloth is widely known for, but CLEAN.

Here are some examples:

Rearview mirror - removing fingerprints and dust. You can spot in the middle of the mirror, the marks left by my hands. 

Rear view mirror oily fingerprints - the before picture

 

Rearview mirror cleaned with no chemicals or special mirror cleaning product:

car plastic cleaner - rear view mirror, cleaned only with water and chamois dryer.

 

Clean the wing mirrors for a clean and wing mirrors view. Here is the result:

car plastic cleaner - wing view mirror cleaned - the before picture

And "after":

car plastic cleaner - wing view mirror cleaned with synthetic chamois and water.

The same method works perfectly well for your car windows and windshields. 

 

how to clean the inside of your windshield?

No need to buy any glass or windows cleaning products.  Here is an example showing how easy it is to clean car windows with synthetic chamois and water only.

This method will remove all grease marks, dust and dirt and most importantly, will not leave any residue that can obscure your view when driving. 

The cloth is soft and gentle and will not leave scrape marks and scratches on the windshield. It is safe for cleaning any surface.

Car plastic cleaner - cleaning car windows with synthetic chamois and water - before picture

And After:

Car plastic cleaner - cleaning windows and exterior car plastic.

 

What if Stains are persistent?

For persistent stains, I do use a commercial product. A good old chemical solution. 

Sometimes it is necessary.

I think it is not so bad to have a container of plastic interior cleaner for tough cases. I barely use it. It lasts for a long time so I don't spend too much on those solutions. 

Here is a link to a product that can handle stains and works with plastic and vinyl. Check out the price of plastic cleaner on Amazon

 

Cleaning Vs. Restoring

It is not the same. 

Even after rigorous cleaning, old plastic parts may still look old and have the look of sun-damaged plastic due to long exposure to sunlight. 

The older the car is, cleaning it will work, but the plastic and vinyl will or may look old. 

The way to make them look new is by using a restorer product such as this plastic restorer product on Amazon.

 

To Conclude 

Cleaning your car plastic parts, vinyl, and even leather is extremely easy using only synthetic chamois and water. 

It is cheap, requires less equipment and chemical containers, handles almost any stain, dust, and lint-free.

This is why I think it is the best way to clean your car plastic parts and more.

Other covered topics:

When should you replace your car battery?

How long do tires last on my car?