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How to Polish Plastic Trim on Cars?

Posted by CleanTools on

How to Polish Plastic Trim on Cars

You know that washing, polishing, and waxing your car is key to keeping it looking brand new, but so is maintaining your car’s plastic trim. 

Plastic trim can become damaged, faded, and oxidized, making your car look older. When it’s time for your car care routine, be sure to give your plastic trim some attention.

All you need for a sparkly clean car from top to bottom is a car plastic polish, a foam pad, a rotary polisher, and a few soft cloths.

Here’s how to polish plastic trim.

Steps to Polish Plastic Car Trim

Wash Your Car

    Just like when you’re polishing and waxing the rest of your car, you should start by washing your trim for the best results. A quick wash with mild liquid soap and water will work.

    1) Tape Around the Trim

    Next, use masking tape to cover all areas surrounding the trim, including glass, paint, metal, and any other surfaces. You don’t want your plastic polishing compound or rotary polisher to touch anything other than the trim.

    Place the tape as close to the edge of the trim as possible. Make sure it’s thick enough to provide enough space between the trim and the surface you are protecting, in case the rotary polisher pad slips.

    2) Install the Pad

    You should use a small foam pad attachment that is two or three inches in diameter to polish your trim since trim is typically narrow.

    Using a small pad will make the polisher easier to handle and less likely to disturb the masking tape.

    3) Prepare the Polisher

    Once you’ve attached the foam pad to your rotary polisher, you can apply the polishing compound to the pad. The best plastic polish is one with a light grit that will not damage the trim or leave a chalky finish.

    Protect your hands with gloves, and apply a thin layer of the polish onto the foam pad—you don’t need a lot of product.

    4) Apply the Polishing Compound

    Using a low to medium speed, apply the plastic polishing compound by placing the foam pad on the plastic trim while the rotary polisher is spinning.

    You may need to tilt the pad so it only touches the trim and not the other areas of your car’s exterior. 

    Use light pressure to slowly cover the entire surface of the trim with the compound. Repeat the application twice.

    5) Buff the Polish

    Use a soft cloth to remove any excess polishing compound from the trim. If you still see scratches or marks, use the rotary polisher to apply more compound.

    Once you’ve checked again and you’re happy with how the trim looks, it’s time to buff off the polish. Run a clean foam pad across the trim a few times to do this, using the same technique you used to apply it.

    6) Remove the Tape and Wipe

    Remove the masking tape and use another clean, soft cloth to wipe down the trim and the surrounding area. This will remove any remaining polishing compound, tape residue, and dust or dirt.

    7) Apply a Plastic Restorer

    To really make your trim shine and increase the time between cleanings, apply a plastic restorer or “trim restorer.” Plastic restorer also forms a protective layer from UV rays to prevent damage.


    What Is Plastic Polish?

    Plastic polish is a substance that cleans and removes scratches from plastic and similar surfaces, like acrylic. Plastic polish can also be called polishing compound or polishing paste.

    Plastic polish is generally gentler and has a lighter grit than polishing compounds intended to smooth out a car’s paint job.

    How Does Plastic Polish Work?

    The lightest grit plastic polish gently cleans plastic and leaves a nice sheen. A heavier grit plastic polish removes scratches, haziness, and abrasions. The heaviest grit plastic polish, usually in the form of a paste, removes more severe scratches and abrasions.

    How Do I Remove Buffing Compound From Plastic?

    The best way to avoid residue from plastic polish is to use a light grit polish intended for plastic that won’t leave a chalky finish.

    Once you’re done polishing, you should immediately wipe off any excess compound with a clean, soft cloth. If you notice any dried compound residue later, you should first try to remove it with mild soap and water. You can also use a toothbrush or a magic eraser. Wipe the plastic clean with a clean cloth.

    If you get paint buffing compound on plastic trim, you can follow these same methods to remove it.

    What Are Rubbing Compounds vs. Buffing Compounds For Plastic Polishing?

    Rubbing compound has a stronger grit to correct uneven surfaces from scratches. Buffing compound is less abrasive and commonly used to remove superficial streaks left by polishing compound.

    When you’re caring for plastic trim, be sure to use products that are designed for plastic surfaces.

    Make Your Car Shine With CleanTools

    When you have the right tools for the job, car maintenance is a breeze. Whether you’re washing, buffing, or waxing, you always need a soft, high-quality cloth like The Absorber. When you’re polishing, make sure you have the right product for the surface you’re working on and your desired results, and then bust out a buffing ball for that shiny finish.

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