Everything you'll need to clean and restore plastic trim

·5-min read

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If your car is often exposed to the sun, there's a good chance you'll notice some degradation of your plastic trim over time no matter how well you take care of it. Cleaning and restoring this trim can be annoying, but with a little knowledge and the right tools, you can get it looking like new again. The video above features AMMONYC's Larry Kosilla as he goes through the step-by-step process for properly cleaning and restoring your exterior trim, addressing common mistakes and detailing exactly what you'll need to take the project from start to finish. We've listed everything you might need for the project just below. Always remember, each car is different, which means the process may vary slightly from vehicle to vehicle.

Mothers Premium Lambswool Car Wash Mitt - $14.99

This will be used to thoroughly clean your plastic trim to remove any loose debris before continuing. Lambswool mitts lift dirt away from the surface of your vehicle rather than dragging it across, minimizing scratches that might occur by using a standard sponge or rag. Keep in mind, even though this mitt was made to get soaked, you'll always want to air dry this product.

CarGuys Super Cleaner - $16.99 at Amazon.com

This multi-purpose cleaner works on all interior and exterior surfaces of your vehicle, except for glass or instrument panel screens. It's a great choice for getting rid of any wax residue left on your trim and it's even mixed and bottled in the USA!

Amazer Stiff Bristles Heavy Duty Brush (2 pack) - $8.49

A thick-bristle brush will be needed after the cleaning spray to help remove any of the more stubborn wax residue on your trim. These brushes feature an ergonomic, comfortable grip and stiff, durable bristles to help you do just that. At 2 for under $10, they're a solid deal if you don't already have one of these around the house.

SIN SHINE Compressed Air 3.0 Multi-Use Electric Air Duster - $51.59

Before getting into the restoration part of this project, you'll want to make sure your trim is 100% dry to ensure proper effectiveness of the dye. Using compressed air or an electric air duster like this is a great way to make sure your surface area isn't damp. This air duster can blow at 67.5 mph, has a 10-foot long power cord and only weighs 1.9 lbs.

Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth 12"x16" (Pack of 24) - $12.53

Of course, if you're doing any work at all on your car or in the garage, it's probably a good idea to have a few microfiber towels around. In this case, you can use the towels to help make sure your trim is completely dry. These Amazon Basics microfiber towels are always a solid value for the price.

ScotchBlue Original Multi-Surface Painter’s Tape, 3 rolls - $11.49

Before dyeing your trim, you'll definitely want to use some kind of masking tape to protect the areas surrounding the plastic. If you need to pick up a new roll of tape for this purpose, this one is as good as any.

Industrial Black Nitrile Gloves, Box of 100 - $29.99

It's definitely a good idea to have some disposable gloves for this project, since you'll be using dye. There's nothing super specific you should be looking for here, the gloves are just to keep your hands clean. If you need a new box, this is a solid choice.

Forever Black Bumper & Trim Kit - $16.99

Last but not least, this Forever Black trim dye not only includes the dye you'll need and a cleaning solution, but also a disposable foam brush to use for application. The dye should work on all textured plastic, vinyl, and rubber surfaces.

Video Instructions:

Know your enemy

The most common form of plastic degradation, or fading, is caused by UV exposure. UV light breaks down the polymer bonds within the plastic causing a slow deterioration of its flexibility and color retention.

First, wash the plastic to remove any loose debris and road grime. Next, spray all-purpose cleaner liberally on the plastic to remove any remaining oils that will prevent the dye from sticking. Allow the cleaner to sit for two to three minutes. Then scrub the plastic with a stiff bristle brush. Use circular motions with medium downward pressure. This process may need to be repeated several times if leftover wax residue is reluctant to be removed.

Rinse and dry

Afterwards, rinse the area thoroughly and dry with compressed air or a vac and blow machine. It's imperative the plastic be 100 percent dry in order for the dye to penetrate the pores of the trim. Next, tape off the surrounding areas with masking tape to avoid cleaning up splatter or drip stains later.

Apply the dye

With gloves on, and making sure the cap is tight, shake the dye bottle for 20 seconds for consistent color mixing. Out of direct sunlight, apply a few drops at a time to a disposable foam paintbrush. Wipe in overlapping crosshatch motions to ensure every direction is evenly covered. Then allow 15 to 20 minutes for the dye to dry.

Recoat and let dry

Avoid moisture or excess wiping until then and add a second coat by repeating the same process. Once completed, remove the masking tape and discard the paintbrush. This process can be done once or twice a year depending on the level of damage at the time of first installation, and how much UV radiation the vehicle was exposed to on a regular basis.

Remember, once your trim begins to fade, the chemical breakdown process within the plastic has begun and cannot be reversed, much the same as hair turning grey with age. The only remedy is dying the plastic on a regular maintenance schedule.

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