Car Dashboard Cleaning Tutorial (Ultimate Guide For 2021)

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Ah, yes! Nothing impresses your date more than fingerprints on the dashboard and ketchup stains on the steering wheel! Bonus points if there’s a layer of dust gracefully coating your AC air vents!

We’re assuming that you’re dating an ogre.

If not, you might want to do something about your dirty dashboard, because no self-respecting adult would want to be caught dead driving a car that looks like a teenager’s bedroom.

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Table of Contents

Why Should You Clean Your Dashboard?

For obvious reasons, a clean dashboard is always good to look at and allows you to keep your pride as a responsible owner. Beyond aesthetics, the gunk that’s festering in your car’s interior can be a petri dish for all kinds of germs and bacteria. This is especially important if you have family or friends with compromised immune systems—you never want to be responsible for spreading bad health just because you were too lazy to keep your car environment in good condition. Furthermore, those who have allergies or asthma can have an attack if they accidentally inhale any of the dust into their lungs.

Types Of Dashboard Cleaning Brushes

Before you get too excited and start wiping your dashboard with a rag, it’s important to note that there are many brushes out there that are specially created to handle this job. The problem with using an ordinary cloth is that the material is often coarse, which might lead to damage or accidental scratches on the dashboard’s sensitive surfaces, especially if you use too much force.

To prevent this, you’ll want to buy a special dashboard cleaning brush. These are light, gentle, and versatile enough to allow you to access hard-to-reach places.

Here are some types of brushes you may encounter:

  1. Soft brush – this is a general, all-purpose brush that resembles the kind a makeup artist uses. It generally has a short handle and soft, rounded bristles made of animal hair such as boar or horse, allowing you to clean dirty surfaces and get into tight crevices without risking any abrasions.
  2. AC brush – this brush is specifically designed to get inside the narrow vents of your air conditioner. Its bristles are flat, and it has a very long handle that’s perfect for cleaning tight spaces.
  3. Thick brush – this is similar in size and shape to the soft brush, but the bristles are thicker and normally made of nylon. It exerts more force and allows you to remove substances that have stuck tenaciously to the dashboard such as wax and food products.
  4. Rubber brush – this is a brush with rubber bristles that become magnetized when they encounter friction, thus pulling material toward it. Getting rid of pet hair is the most common use of this brush, which makes it a necessity for car owners who have dogs or cats riding around with them.
  5. Specialized brush – if none of the above brushes work, you can get specialized brushes that are custom-made to clean out grooves and cracks that are normally unreachable. This is a rare case, however, because most dashboard designs are fairly straightforward and standardized.

Lastly, you may be tempted to use an old toothbrush. This is fine as long as the toothbrush has soft bristles.

Types Of Dashboard Cleaner Products To Use (And Avoid!)

Not just any cleaning product can be used on your dashboard. Dashboards are typically made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane foam, and thermoplastic, and these materials can react negatively when exposed to certain chemicals.

Here is a typical list of what cleaning products to use and what to avoid:

  1. Mild soap vs. dish soap – steer clear of dish soap that’s used to wash plates because they tend to strip off the wax lining of your car. Special car cleaners often have a very mild soap formula or none at all.
  2. Non-ammonia vs. ammonia – the glass on your car’s dashboard, windows, and mirrors aren’t pure glass, but plastic. Household cleaners like Windex use ammonia, which can discolor the material and even cause it to crack.
  3. Microfiber towel vs. paper towel – paper towels are not only an ineffective way of wiping your car, but are also fairly abrasive and will leave behind tiny shredded clumps that only add to your cleaning time. Use a soft microfiber cloth/towel instead.
  4. Gentle vs. abrasive – PVC coating is especially sensitive to heat and harsh chemicals. Bleach-based products and cleansers are therefore big no-nos. Use gentle car cleaners, since these are specially formulated to strengthen your car’s protection instead of breaking it down.
  5. Non-toxic vs. toxic – while using toxic sprays on your kitchen floors is fine provided you don’t ingest them, remember that you’ll be sitting in your car for a prolonged period of time and may inhale these substances for far longer than is recommended. Avoid items that are irritating to the skin or eyes.

When in doubt, always consult the brand manufacturer. If you really want to stay on the safe side though, it’s much better to just buy a cleaner that’s specifically made for cars instead of playing roulette with whatever’s underneath the sink cabinet.

Cleaning Your Dashboard: The Torque Method

Now that we have the essentials out of the way, it’s time to learn how to clean your dashboard. Of course, if you’re in a hurry, you can simply give it a once-over with a microfiber towel or brush, but most dirt and debris will not be removed in this fashion. Show your dashboard a little effort and it will return the investment someday.

Restoring Plastic, Removing Scratches, And Blackening

There are different levels of cleaning that might be necessary depending on your car. If you have a vehicle that’s already more than five years or even a decade old, the plastic on the dashboard might be extremely degraded by now. This is even truer if you live in a place where the climate is hot and humid, since the ultraviolet radiation in the sun’s rays can break down the interior over time.

If this is the case for you, we recommend using something that’s specially formulated to take care of hard cases. Our own Torque Detail Plastic Restore was built for such an emergency. You can obviously apply it on newer cars with less damage, but its effects are really noticeable when dealing with badly faded dashboards.

Materials Needed

Step 1.) Spray the formula on the plastic surface

Each bottle of Torque Detail Plastic Restore contains 8 ounces of formula that you can spray directly from its nozzle. Apply a couple of pumps until there’s a generous coating on your dashboard.

Step 2.) Wait for 30 to 60 seconds

Let the formula soak in for about a minute. This will allow the components to interact with the plastic and change it on a molecular level, bringing the material back to its original state.

Step 3.) Wipe it off with a clean microfiber towel

After waiting for a minute, simply wipe off the excess formula with a clean microfiber towel. You don’t have to worry about any oily residue or skin irritation due to its eco-friendly and non-toxic nature.

The beautiful thing about Torque Detail’s Plastic Restore is that it not only reconditions the material, but also protects it from future wear and tear by creating a defensive layer that shields your dashboard from harmful ultraviolet radiation or rain minerals. Furthermore, it leaves a long-lasting, glossy shine that lasts for several months, meaning you don’t have to keep reapplying it.

Torque Detail’s Plastic Restore also works on trim, rubber, vinyl, polypropylene, and rubberized plastics, making it ideal for both interior and exterior car parts.

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★★★★★ "I have a 2020 Cadillac XT6 with pearl white exterior and light oyster color interior your new interior kit is fantastic it is easy to work and the results are incredible. This product is just like all your other products I purchased from you to keep my car looking better than new.." - Lillian M.

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Cleaning GPS/Touchscreen Glass

It’s a lot harder to clean modern car dashboards, especially because of their sensitive electrical components. If you want to restore your GPS or entertainment system, you can’t just pour any liquid into them, since this might short the circuits. You also don’t want to scrub the screen with too much force, as the touchscreen glass might break or stop working.

Although this area of the dashboard is harder to restore, it’s not impossible, and once you get the hang of it, it becomes fairly easy to do.

Materials Needed

  • 1 brush with soft bristles
  • 1 microfiber towel (optional)
  • 1 non-alcohol/non-ammonia-based glass cleaner (optional)

Step 1.) Gently work over the surface with a soft brush

This is really all you need, assuming the GPS or entertainment system is not heavily soiled. A brush with soft bristles will get rid of any dirt clinging to the surface. Best of all, it doesn’t pose any risk to the sensitive components.

Step 2.) Apply some glass cleaner to a clean microfiber towel (optional)

If there are visible fingerprint stains on the GPS, you’ll need something more than a brush. In this case, apply a small amount of glass cleaner onto a microfiber towel. Make sure the glass cleaner formula does not contain any ammonia or alcohol, as this will seriously damage the touchscreen—this is true for the vast majority of household brands like Windex, which are dangerous to use on sensitive items. There are many companies out there that cater specifically to electrical products, so always read the label first before use.

Step 3.) Gently wipe the microfiber towel over the screen (optional)

Once the glass cleaner has been applied to the microfiber towel, use it to wipe the touchscreen using long, gentle strokes. Any remaining dirt or residue should come right off.

Cleaning Vinyl, Plastic, And Rubber

(NOTE: This section was merged with the “Restoring plastic, removing scratches, blackening” section since your product does all of these things already)

Cleaning Leather Upholstery

Finally, leather upholstery is normally the last part of your dashboard that needs some love. Just like vinyl and plastic, it has a tendency to turn dull over time. Cracking and splitting is particularly a problem, especially if exposed to the sun for too long.

Cleaning follows the same pattern as the other car surfaces, but because leather has a different chemical composition than plastic or glass, you’ll also need a different product to restore it.

Materials Needed:

Finally, leather upholstery is normally the last part of your dashboard that needs some love. Just like vinyl and plastic, it has a tendency to turn dull over time. Cracking and splitting is particularly a problem, especially if exposed to the sun for too long.

Cleaning follows the same pattern as the other car surfaces, but because leather has a different chemical composition than plastic or glass, you’ll also need a different product to restore it.

Step 1.) Spray the formula on your leather upholstery

Torque Detail’s Leather Restore Ceramic Conditioner / Protectant contains 16 ounces, and each application lasts for up to 6 months. Spray each section of the leather until you get a nice coating over it. A product like this even helps with UV protection from the sun’s rays.

Step 2.) Wait for 30 to 60 seconds

Allow the formula to sit for about a minute. The mixture contains Vitamin E, which helps keep the freshness and prolongs the lifespan of the leather.

Step 3.) Wipe it off with a clean microfiber towel

Once the 60 seconds are over, wipe off any excess moisture with a clean microfiber towel. It’s non-greasy, so there shouldn’t be any leftover oil on the leather.

Another advantage of using Torque Detail’s Leather Restore Ceramic Conditioner is that, similar to Torque Detail’s Plastic Restore, the formula bonds with the molecular structure of the leather and creates a layer of protection. This will shield the upholstery from harmful UV rays and direct heat, providing not only restoration but also prevention of future drying and cracking.

Tips For Cleaning Your Center Console And Removing Odor

Some might not consider the center console as part of the dashboard, and others might even ignore this area altogether. This is a huge mistake, because the center console often contains the brunt of stains, being used to hold drinks, food, cigarette butts, coins, and your sweaty arm whenever you lean on it while driving. It collects a lot of grime. This can cause a buildup of bacteria and bad odor after a while.

To remove any dirt, you should once again take hold of a brush. It’s more preferable to use one with thicker bristles such as nylon, since the center console is sturdier compared to other parts of your dashboard. However, it’s still recommended that you refrain from applying too much force to avoid scratching the material. If there are stains, pour or spray a small amount of cleaner to the surface as you brush, then wipe off the excess moisture with a clean microfiber towel.

Just in case there’s a stench emanating from the center console, make sure to check every crevasse to find any stray food items rotting inside it. Sucking these up with a vacuum cleaner might be needed if an item is beyond your reach or vision. Vacuuming alone can make a big difference. Once every foreign object has been removed, you can disinfect the console by misting it with a high-intensity steamer—the heat will kill any bacteria that remain (just make absolutely sure there are no electrical components nearby, or else they’ll be fried!). If all else fails, purchase or rent an ozone generator and sanitize the entire car with it. Ozone is an oxidizing agent that basically speeds up the chemical reactions of whatever is causing the smell, making it run out of material faster so that it’s rendered impotent.

For preventative measures, place a compound such as activated charcoal or baking soda underneath your car seats. This will absorb all future odors and make the car more bearable in case your kids decide to bring their pet skunk to school.

Testing The Odd Methods: Dashboard Cleaning With Household Products

If you’re on a tight budget and prefer to use household products to clean your dashboard, no problem! There are a variety of handy, biodegradable materials that come cheap and will do the job in a pinch. Here they are in no particular order:

Olive Oil

Olive oil (or any kind of cooking oil, really) can do wonders for your dashboard. The oil’s components will prevent cracking and fading by giving it protection against UV rays. It also has a natural sheen that will bring out the former luster of your car’s interior. To use this, simply brush off any dirt or debris, then dab a small amount of oil on the dashboard and buff it with a clean microfiber towel. Just be careful not to use too much, as this will leave a slippery and sticky coating on your dashboard.

Furniture Cleaner

Another good and inexpensive alternative is furniture polish. Apply this evenly on your car’s dashboard and wipe it off with a microfiber towel. The furniture cleaner’s glossy finish might be too much of a shine, though, and this may cause a glare to emit from your dashboard, so make sure to test out a small section first and discover whether this is right for you. There are also certain brands that can cause plastic to turn brittle, which is why you should always exercise caution when using this method.

Baking Soda

The good thing about baking soda is that it not only cleans surfaces but also absorbs bad odors, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone. Dissolve the baking soda powder in water until you’ve got a wet paste, then apply it onto a clean microfiber towel. Wipe your dashboard with the towel until the stains disappear.

Vaseline

Finally, good ol’ Vaseline or petroleum jelly will save the day once again. Apparently, it’s not only amazing for chapped lips but chapped dashboards as well. Like before, brush off any dirt and dust, then apply a small amount of Vaseline onto a clean microfiber towel and use it to wipe your car’s interior. The Vaseline is so effective in removing scratches that it’s even been compared to Armor All!

DIY CERAMIC COATING - 1yr of Protection
The Two-Step Interior Kit That Works

★★★★★ "I have a 2020 Cadillac XT6 with pearl white exterior and light oyster color interior your new interior kit is fantastic it is easy to work and the results are incredible. This product is just like all your other products I purchased from you to keep my car looking better than new.." - Lillian M.

SHOP NOW

Summary: A Clean And Shiny Dashboard!

One of the telltale signs of superficiality is focusing too much on the exterior while neglecting the interior. This is true of people as well as cars. A vehicle with a clean dashboard promotes more confidence in your passengers and instills in them the idea that they’re in the hands of a man (or woman) who cares. They’re also less likely to get sick and disgusted if you make sure that your upholstery, panels, console box, and GPS are clean and spotless.

So, give your baby some love and make it look good not only from the perspective of onlookers but from yours as well. Besides, it’s about time you ate that leftover French fry from last week that fell on your floor mat.

Don’t worry—the five-second rule still counts if no one sees it.

Published on May 16, 2021