How to easily clean rubber, glass and plastic

David S.
Update by David S. Wallens to the Mazda Miata project car
Jul 14, 2024 | Mazda, Miata, Garage Rescue Miata

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Don’t worry, we’re not becoming a detail website. But we do like to keep our cars clean–whether it's for a local get-together, Radwood or our own $2000 Challenge.

We also like products that work well and deliver at a fair price.

How’d we find these easy, effective products? Tim McNair of Grand Prix Concours.

Here are some of the products that we have been using to rejuvenate our Garage Rescue Miata, so let’s all crib from his notes. And notice that this stuff is all easy to use, and no hose required. 

[A quick, easy guide to detailing your car.]

How to Clean Rubber and Plastic

Are your tires looking more brown than black? That might be the dirt attracted by the mold release compound.

Tim recommends SD-20, a foaming all-purpose cleaner from Spartan Chemical. Simply spray, agitate with a brush, and then wipe off with a microfiber towel. The SD-20 quickly removes the grime.

We spent about 5 minutes with SD-20 to transform some tires that had seen duty on our VW Fox race car.

SD-20 also works well on other dirty rubber parts like hoses, bumper trim and the like. 

SD-20 can be a little tough to find locally, but we scored a can online for about $17. For a local source, check with janitorial supply companies.

After cleaning any rubber and plastic–interior or exterior trim, tires or even under the hood–hit them up with some Griot’s Vinyl & Rubber Dressing ($19.99 for a 22-ounce bottle). We have found this product to produce natural blacks that don’t look greasy.

[DIY Interior Deep Clean]

How to Clean Auto Glass

Cleaning windows can be a pain. Tim’s tip? Use a foaming cleaner as it seems to better cling to those sloping interior surfaces while also cutting through the grime.

His brand of choice: Sprayway. We scored some at our local supermarket on a BOGO: two cans for $5.

After spraying the window, we wipe everything clean with a Griot’s Garage microfiber towel designed specifically for glass. We found them in our garage, so we call it gift from above. (Why not wipe up with newspaper? Because then you have a clump of wet, dripping newspaper.)

[Cleaning up That Garage Find.]

How to Clean Hard Auto Plastics

One more tip that we picked up from Tim: To clean hard plastic parts–think taillights, turn signals and even those clear fuse box lids–use Plexus.

Spray on this foaming cleaner and then buff with a microfiber towel. It somehow, magically, polishes away any light scratches and brings out the color. Amber lights, for example, will seem more amber-y.

When we first pulled the Miata from storage, we used Plexus to clean the Miata's back window, too. Spray, wipe, enjoy.

This one can also be a little tricky to find. If in need of a local source, check your local motorcycle shops. We paid about $28 for a can, but note that a little goes a long way.

For softer plastics–like interior trim and such–we just use the Griot’s Vinyl & Rubber Dressing. Spray, wipe and move on.

What are some of your favorite car clean-up tricks?

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infernosg Reader
1/3/22 2:22 p.m.

Thoughts on cleaning polycarbonate (i.e. LEXAN)?

1/3/22 6:11 p.m.

In reply to infernosg :

I've been using Plexus in the marine industry for years. It will work on polycarbonates for minor cleaning. Meguiars 2 part pastic cleaner works better. And if bad enough don't be scared to break out the 1500 and 2000 grit. Then finish with the Meguiars. As a side note - Plexus works great on prescription glasses. 

hybridmomentspass HalfDork
1/4/22 8:35 a.m.

The Sprayway glass cleaner is something my local glass shop uses and 'rebrands' by putting their sticker over the front. But it's great stuff, and, as you stated, 2 for 5 bucks

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/4/22 8:51 a.m.

In reply to hybridmomentspass :

Yeah, BOGO is hard to beat. We have a glass kitchen table, so I keep one can in the kitchen, one in the garage. 

Shadeux GRM+ Memberand Dork
1/4/22 9:09 a.m.

Glad to see Plexus mentioned, and Zep is my go-to for glass.

infernosg Reader
1/4/22 9:11 a.m.

In reply to FastFreddy :

Thanks. It seems like Plexus or Sprayway could both work. My track RX7 has a LEXAN rear window and while the exterior cleans up just fine during a normal wash the interior is more difficult. I've been using a simple mixture of water and a drop of dish soap with moderate success but that requires a level of "polishing" to get it clear and free of streaks.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
1/4/22 9:18 a.m.

I do like the spray on glass cleaner.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/4/22 11:59 a.m.

In reply to Shadeux :

Years ago--like 25 or more--we got a care package from Plexus. This might have been when they were new. Anyway, the company made all sorts of bold claims: Cleans! Polishes! Protects! It was both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Anyway, that stuff worked as promised. It smelled good, too.

The biggest trick has been finding it. 

Shadeux GRM+ Memberand Dork
1/4/22 12:26 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

You mentioned rubber. This is a finish protectant, but I like Aero Cosmetics Rubber Care. It's not glossy or messy. 

Maybe they will send a care package laugh

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/5/22 12:55 p.m.

In reply to Shadeux :

Thanks for the tip, and I'll have to check it out. 

I need to clean up some more tires soon, so I'll take some before and after photos. It is amazing how well those old race tires cleaned up with just the SD-20. That was about a minute of work: spray and wipe. I didn't even wait for the stuff to work as I was rushing to get to the tire store. Also, no hose, no mess. 

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