Clean Sticky Car Vinyl

by Corey M. Mackenzie
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Car interior image by mashe from

Vinyl is a type of plastic, and like most plastics, it can degrade over time. Exposed to strong sunlight and the intense heat reflecting into many cars, this process can be sped up if the vinyl isn't cared for properly. If the stickiness of your car vinyl is not due to an outside source, such as spilled foods or liquids, then natural degrading is probably the cause. This can be accelerated if you've used cleaners, such as harsh detergents, which are unsuitable for vinyl. In either case, you can use an auto vinyl cleaner and conditioner to restore this material.

Step 1

Move the car into the shade (so you will stay cooler and so the cleaning products won't be cooked into the vinyl by the sun). Dust off all vinyl interior surfaces with dry microfiber cloths. This will remove some loose surface dirt, which makes the rest of the cleaning process go a little faster.

Step 2

Spray an auto vinyl cleaner on one section of the vinyl, but don't spray it all at once because you should wipe it in before it dries. For example, if you are doing all of the vinyl interior, start with one interior door, then move to the next.

Step 3

Use a lightly damp microfiber cloth to work the cleaner into the vinyl. If a lot of visible dirt is coming off onto the cloth, switch sides or get a new cloth so you don't smear the dirt around. Rinse the cleaner with a damp cloth, if this is required. Many products do not require rinsing, according to but you need to check the label to make sure. (See Reference 1) If you leave a product on that should have been rinsed off, you'll make the problem worse.

Step 4

Follow with a vinyl conditioner, unless you used a cleaner containing a conditioner. Conditioning vinyl is very important to keep it flexible and to keep it from releasing polymers, which causes the sticky feel. Spray on the conditioner (many come in a spray bottle) and use clean microfiber cloths to work it in, using circular buffing motions.

Step 5

Take a break for five minutes then return to buff the vinyl again with microfiber cloths, removing any excess conditioner. Then, do a touch test. If any stickiness remains, apply more conditioner. Keep your car in the shade, with the windows down, until the vinyl has a chance to dry thoroughly for at least an hour.

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