Can You Use Car Wax on Plastic? (Explained With Tips)


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All car lovers know that a good coat of wax will add shine and protection to our paint.

But what about black or grey plastic or rubber trim? Lots of us have large plastic fenders and we all have rubber seals around our windows.

Car wax protects paint so it should protect plastic too, right? WRONG!

Plastic that is painted the same color of the car can be waxed as normal because it has a clay of clear coat.  But regular plastic needs so extra care.

No, it is not a good idea to use car wax on plastic because it can badly stain it. The white stains left behind can leave plastic looking old and faded. And it can be difficult to remove the stains if they have dried-in.

What Type of Car Wax Stains Plastic?

Usually, if a car wax contains carnauba wax, it will stain your plastic and rubber trim.  But there are other waxes that don’t seem to carnauba that also stain plastic.  Such as almost all Chemical Guys Waxes.

Almost all cat detailing products that contain compound or polish will stain plastic and rubber.

If you get a small amount of wax or polish on your plastic it might look fine initially.  But once it dries it will start to look white.

Read the instructions on whatever car wax you bought. If they don’t say it’s safe then it’s probably not safe.

If you are not sure you can contact the manufacturer or visit their website.

You can also test the wax on a hidden area of your car.

What Type of Plastic Gets Stained?

Not all plastic on your car gets stains by wax.  

Any plastic that has been painted is safe to be waxed.

Glossy black plastic is also safe to wax but in my experience, the wax doesn’t add any shine to it so there is no need to wax it.

Plastic Chrome sections also don’t seem to get stained by wax but there is no point in waxing them as they cant absorb it.

 

How to Protect Plastic from Car Wax Stains.

The easiest way to to simply keep your car wax about an inch away from plastic when you are waxing your car. This is what I usually do if I’m waxing my car by hand.

When using a buffer or machine polisher to wax your car you should use some 3M Detailing Tape to protect the plastic.

This is because the buffer can sling wax everywhere. And it’s easier to accidentally get wax on your plastic.

The downside of this is that it will take a lot longer to apply the tape and wax your car.

But if you are super into detailing and you want to wax every inch of your car, tape is the best way to protect it.

Detailers tape is specially designed to be removed safely from your plastic trim without leaving glue stains behind.  

But if you see some light marks from the tape you can remove that with tar and glue remover or with something like CarPro Eraser when is an excellent product to have for a multitude of tasks around your car.  

What Type of Car Wax is Safe to Use on Plastic?

Luckily, not all car waxes stain plastic.

Spray Waxes are usually safe to use on plastic. Synthetic Sealants are safe to use too.

I use a spray wax almost every time I wash my car because it’s so quick and easy to apply.   And modern spray waxes are incredibly effective.

There are many car waxes out there that are actually sealants and are safe to use on plastic.

For example, Meguairs Ultimate Liquid Wax won’t stain plastic.

As mentioned above. If it doesn’t say it’s safe to use on plastic it’s probably not.

How to Remove Car Wax from Plastic

Did you get some car wax on your plastic trim? Don’t panic. 

Detailers regularly need to remove car wax stains from plastic because customers have applied wax or polish to it.

There are a few things you can try…

  • If the wax is fresh you can wash it away with some APC (All-Purpose Cleaner).
  • If you don’t have some APC you should use soapy water. Dish soap is safe to use here as it’s much stronger than car shampoo.
  • Rubbing alcohol can also remove wax.  Scrub the plastic with a soft brush or an old tooth brush.
  • If the car wax has dried onto your plastic you can try removing it with a pencil eraser. Use a soft white eraser.
  • If your plastic still looks stained or discolored you can use a product like Carpro Perl to make it look a lot better. Carpro Perl can be diluted with water and used regularly to boost the look of plastic on your car.
  • You apply Carpro Perl all over your plastic and not just on the area with the stains.
  • Carpro Perl is a plastic and rubber dressing so it’s not designed to be a permanent solution. But it’s a quick, easy and cheap way to add UV protection to your plastic and make it look great for a while.
  • A longer-lasting product I like to use is Solution Finish. It will last way longer than Carpro Perl but costs more and you cant dilute it.
  • Solution Finish is designed to restore plastic. Your plastic looks much darker. You need to clean your plastic with rubbing alcohol for best results.

Final Words

I hope this information helped you.

  • Basically, you should keep most liquid and paste car waxes away from plastic trim unless you are 100% sure it won’t stain it.
  • If you accidentally get some wax on your plastic you should try to remove it before it dries in.
  • If you already have some dried car wax or polish stains you can use a pencil eraser or an All-Purpose Cleaner.
  • For badly stained plastic you can restore it with Solution Finish.

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