Plastic and rubber can be found all over a car’s exterior — the trim, molding, bumpers, even the brackets that hold wiper blades. We’ve got the tips you need on cleaning these items as well as how to clean black plastic trim on a car and washing a convertible’s canvas.

Cleaning exterior plastic and rubber

A mild soap, such as car wash soap, is typically used to clean automotive trim. You can also use protectant to clean the trim if it’s plastic, rubber, or vinyl. Some newer cars use black trim, usually made of plastic, but it also can be rubber, vinyl or anodized aluminum. Check your Owner’s Manual if you are unsure what the trim is made of, as that will determine the best product to use to clean black plastic on a car’s exterior.

When cleaning your car’s trim, here are some helpful tips & tricks:

  • Start with a protectant to maintain and protect the color and quality of plastic trim and rubber.
  • A protectant can also restore the look of faded and discolored plastic and rubber, which can help protect them from damaging UV rays.
  • Use a small brush, like a toothbrush, soaked in protectant to clean faded plastic parts.
  • To avoid overspray, spray the dressing on a rag before applying, or consider using a gel or wipes.

For best results, let the protectant penetrate the plastic or rubber material before wiping clear, but follow the label instructions.

How to wash a convertible top

Over time, sunlight and heat can damage a vinyl or canvas convertible top, so it helps to know how to wash a convertible car the right way to maintain its overall look and condition. If you have a cabriolet, make sure you know if it’s made of canvas or vinyl, as each requires a different treatment. Check with your Owner’s Manual, if you are unsure.

After washing, protectants are the most effective way to treat vinyl tops as they contain surfactants to remove dirt, silicone oil for lubrication, and UV protection agents.

Cleaning canvas on a car

Use a gentle soap, like car wash soap, and scrub the canvas with a soft, bristle brush.

Let a gentle stream of water from the hose fall on the roof directly. Avoid the windows. Be careful cleaning the plastic window on the back of your soft top roof, as it scratches easily. Use a soft cloth.

Cleaning vinyl soft tops

Vinyl soft tops can be washed with a regular car wash soap. If the dirt is ground in, use a bristle brush to scrub it. Sun damages vinyl, so dress with a vinyl protectant after washing.