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Taking It Up a Notch – Exterior Vinyl


In this piece, we will see how some extra time spent on your exterior vinyl will bring added value to your auto details. My clients in Atlanta, GA. have really appreciated the time we put into properly cleaning exterior vinyl and I am sure either you, or your own clients will too!

A lot of detail shops will throw any petroleum based goo they can on exterior vinyl. It’s also not uncommon for them to use the same oily tire “dressing” on your vinyl. Whether you’re cleaning that nightmare off your vinyl or you just want a thorough cleaning, this guide will provide you with some steps you may find valuable.

When and how?

If you wash the car/paint and then move forward with the exterior vinyl care, you may introduce water spots from the water drying while you work. What we need to do is focus on the vinyl first and then move forward on the wash.

One of my favorite cleaners for exterior vinyl is the 1z Einszett Deep Plastic Cleaner and when paired with some brushes and microfiber towels, you can make a real impact on any vinyl filth you encounter. Your goal in this project should be to get that stuff that has been there a long time; the grime between gaps and junk that has been built up on the vinyl. “Wait, there’s a TON of vinyl on my car!! How am I supposed to get this done?!? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You need to break the areas up into manageable areas. I like to work about two feet at a time.

Begin with rinsing the area and areas below it with water. If you do not rinse below the area you’re working, you will battle with filming from the product drying on the paint.

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Pre-rinse before deep cleaning vinyl

In most cases, I will spray the cleaner onto a gentle boar’s hair brush. Approaching this task with precision and purpose will minimize runoff/potential filming. Using a brush means you know where you have chemical and where you don’t.

Throughout the process you should keep an eye on the time frame you’re working within. If you leave your cleaner on too long, you may end up with discoloration or some other type of issue. Every cleaner has limitations and you should be aware of them by following the manufacturer’s directions as listed on the bottle.

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Use a gentle boar’s hair brush along with your cleaner to agitate

Once you feel the product is done working its magic, rinse with water being sure to rinse below the area you worked thoroughly. Follow up with wiping down the vinyl with a microfiber towel.

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Use a microfiber towel to wipe away excess dirt before rinsing

Like anything detail related, you may need to make multiple applications of this method to get the desired results. Don’t attack this with a heavy-fisted approach. It’s better to make multiple cleaning passes than to be too aggressive and generate damage through neglect. After washing and drying the body of the car, feel free to condition the vinyl with your favorite non-petroleum based conditioner.

Exterior vinyl is an area that is overlooked by many and has an impact on how new your pride and joy looks. By investing some time in your exterior vinyl surfaces you will have a better looking exterior as well as having provided a few more years of life to these surfaces.

Jean-Claude Corcoran
Jean-Claude Corcoran
Detailed Designs Auto Spa
Atlanta, GA

1 comment on Taking It Up a Notch – Exterior Vinyl

  1. Tim Berlin says:

    The black vinyl trim around the wheel wells on my wife’s Volvo seems impossible to get entirely clean. I use Optimum APC and work it with a sponge or even one of those white scrub sponges and it really doesn’t come clean. If I clean it then use 303 or Perl, it looks good for a while but just doesn’t seem to last. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Tim

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