What is the best thing to clean car dashboard?

What is the best thing to clean car dashboards?  If only all questions were this easy.  Years ago, car interior cleaning and protectant products were messy, usually leaving a smelly, grimy residue.  The best modern cleaners are fantastic and get universally great feedback.

So to answer our question, a good interior cleaner and protectant, microfiber cloths, a little elbow grease and maybe a vacuum with attachments if you want to get fancy.

Preventive Maintenance

Dashboards are typically made out of plastic or leather and are much more at risk from sun / UV degradation than car paint.  Garaging your car will help, as will using a car cover.  Dashboards that don’t have cracks or severe fading are much easier to clean and maintain.

Step 1: Pre-Cleaning

Pre-cleaning involves two steps.   First is simply wiping away any dust or other debris before applying the cleaner.  Most people use a damp microfiber cloth.  If you do this, it is important to let the dash dry a bit before cleaning.

The second step is using a vacuum attachment to clean dust from hard to reach creases and crevices like around the vents and information panels.  If you don’t have a vacuum, home dusters or even soft toothbrushes (for crevices) can work.

Step 2: Apply the Cleaner

Cleaners are important because they penetrate the surface to loosen and lift away “soaked in” dust and grime.  This results in a MUCH cleaner dash and console than simply using a wet cloth.  Instructions vary, but most manufacturers recommend spraying the cleaner directly onto a microfiber cloth and then using the cloth to clean the dash.

For leather, I personally use Car Guys Premium Super Cleaner.  For me it works well, because my main issue is light dust and some mild UV effects from outdoor parking during the day.  My one “must have” with any car cleaner is a smooth matte finish with no gloss or greasy leftover residue.  Car Guys is excellent when it comes to a clean finish.  An included microfiber cloth that wont scratch your dash is a nice bonus.

Unusually for a mass consumer product, Car Guys has very proactive customer service.  They sent me an email making sure that I received the product and another one to see if I was happy with the way it worked.  It honestly felt like I was buying a stereo or TV. It is also made in the U.S.A.

For a more affordable product, Shine Society Interior Cleaner is a very good product.  Like Car Guys, it is recommended for all surfaces and also comes with a microfiber cloth.  Shine Society has a couple of nice extra features. 

First, it is a disinfectant that targets germs and allergens. Secondly, it has a “lemon” scent that many find appealing.  Note that the lemon scent is a secondary feature and will not overcome bad smells that have deeply soaked into car interiors.  Febreze or other specialized products are needed for those cases.  Shine Society also gets good reviews when used on plastic dashboards.

Step 3: Seal With a Protectant

Once your dash is clean, sealing with a protectant is a good idea.  Three primary benefits of a UV protectant include:

  • Restoring luster and color
  • Preventing cracking and fading from sun / UV exposure
  • Creating a thin barrier which resists stains and dust.

I’ve had good luck with TriNova UV Protectant.  Unlike with cleaners, most protectants are sprayed directly onto a clean dashboard as opposed to a microfiber cloth.  I use two microfiber cloths – one to work the product into the surface of the dash and one to clean up an excess protectant.

Probably the most famous protectant is made by 303.  This is the most tried and true consumer grade product on the market. The 303 UV Protectant works on virtually any surface and provides a non-toxic matte finish.


The other nice thing about 303 is that several different varieties are offered at a range of price points.

Cleaning Tips

Cleaning your car interior is not rocket science, but there are a few “lessons learned” that can save you some grief.

  1. When using a new product for the first time, test on a small, non-visible part of your car.  This applies to both cleaners and ESPECIALLY protectants.
  2. Do not let cleaner dry on the dash before wiping with a cloth.  I typically do my dashboard in 6-8 blocks versus all at once.
  3. Use small amounts of product on fabrics.  Because fabrics absorb product more quickly than vinyl or leather, using too much can create a mess.
  4. Only use on finished, not untreated, leather.  Virtually all new cars have finished leather these days, but for customized interiors (e.g., suede) caution is needed.

Cleaning Frequency

Generally, I take my SUV to the car wash for exterior cleaning, and then I clean my dash and console every 4-6 weeks at home.  It’s may seem like a small thing, but the savings add up quickly when you do interior detailing at home.

If your car dash gets unusually dirty for some reason, e.g., you leave the windows down and pollen blows in, clean it quickly!  Some substances can leave stains that are hard to remove.  It’s easier just to take 5 minutes and do a quick cleaning.

Conclusion

We often get asked, “what is the best thing to clean car dashboard?”  A little cleaner / protectant and a few minutes invested each month will keep your dash and console looking like new.  And of course, a well maintained car not only retains its value but makes you feel better when driving.

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