The rubber trim on your car windows often gets overlooked when it comes time to clean. These components can become just as dirty as the rest of your car’s exterior, though, and they’re important for more than just looks. Knowing how to clean rubber trim around car windows properly will prevent the trim from becoming dull and worn.
Cleaning trim can take some time—one of the reasons it so often gets overlooked. It’s relatively easy, though, and you can use supplies you probably already have on hand. Let’s dig into the details of the process.
Why do you need to clean rubber trim?
The rubber trim on your windows serves two main functions. Its main purpose is to prevent moisture, road dirt, and other contaminants from getting into your window well. A damaged rubber strip on your window could lead to rust or corrosion inside the door. Moisture is especially bad for the electronic window controls you’ll find on most modern cars.
Rubber is a relatively durable material, but it’s not impervious to damage. Radiation from the sun’s rays not only dulls the rubber, it can also make it hard and brittle. This causes cracks and damage, which in turn allow moisture into the window. Other things that can damage your trim include heat and road film.
These things can damage your car’s paint, too. The difference is, your paint is protected by a clear coat from the second it leaves the factory. Your rubber trim doesn’t have that extra protection. If you’re not diligent about cleaning and protecting it, you could find it damaged in as little as a year.
What you’ll need to clean rubber trim
Now that you know how important it is to clean your window trim, you’re probably wondering what you should use to do so.
- Automotive shampoo >>> Check it on Amazon. While you can make DIY cleaners using dish soap or white vinegar, automotive shampoo is the best cleaning solution to use on rubber trim. It’s relatively affordable, too, and easy to find at any automotive store. >>>If you need a product for black car read our special guide here.
- A soft brush. You don’t want to use stiff bristle brushes on a soft material like rubber. This can lead to scratching and damage, sometimes doing more harm than good. Toothbrushes make great window trim scrubbers because they’re small and maneuverable, as well as soft.
- Rubber trim protectant. Treating the trim on your windows will help extend its life by preventing wear, sun damage, and oxidation. Use a protectant designed specifically for vinyl or rubber, and look for one with a UV protectant.
- Microfiber towels or cloths. Microfiber is less likely to scratch either the rubber trim itself or the window. It also won’t leave behind any debris, like a paper towel might.
Step-by-step: How to clean rubber trim around car windows
- Prepare your car by rolling up the windows fully. Wipe away any visible dust or debris with a microfiber cloth.
- Apply the automotive shampoo to your window trim. Put it the entire way around on the exterior, then scrub using the toothbrush (or similar soft bristle brush).
- Use a damp microfiber towel to wipe away the automotive shampoo. Make sure you thoroughly rinse the shampoo off, or it can leave a residue behind on both the window and the trim.
- Inspect the trim. If there’s still any dirt or stains, repeat steps 2 and 3 as needed.
- Dry the trim as much as possible using a microfiber towel, then allow it to air dry fully before you apply the protectant.
- While the exterior is drying, you can check to see if the interior needs a touch up. The interior rubber trim is less likely to be dirty or damaged. If you don’t see any visible gunk or spills, wipe it clean of dusty using a damp microfiber towel.
- Once the exterior trim is dry, apply the rubber or vinyl protectant following the directions on the package.
How to restore rubber trim on car windows
Cleaning your trim and applying a protectant can only prevent future damage. If your trim is already degraded or damaged, you’ll need to take some extra steps to keep the seal intact.
Sometimes your only choice is to have the trim replaced. If the rubber is so weak it flakes off at a touch, talk to a mechanic about getting a new rubber trim installed—then protect and clean it properly, so you don’t have the same problems again.
If there are only minor cracks or scratches in the rubber trim, however, you may be able to bring them back to life using a plastic trim restorer. Car Guys Plastic Restorer >>> Check price on Amazon and Meguiar’s Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer >>> Check price on Amazon are popular options. While the exact application instructions can vary, normally this involves dabbing a small amount onto a microfiber cloth and applying it directly to the trim.
A last word on trim cleaning
How frequently you need to treat your window trim depends mostly on where you live. If you’re in a temperate area that doesn’t get a lot of sun, you can apply the treatment as little as twice a year. For sunnier climates, where your rubber trim is exposed to more UV radiation, you may want to apply it as frequently as once a month.
The exterior rubber trim on your windows is exposed to a lot of environmental hazards. Following the steps above will help you keep it intact for longer, protecting your windows and keeping your car looking sharp. Hopefully, you have all the info you need to start your own window trim care routine!