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The Simple and Safe Way to Clean Sticky Buttons in Your Car

To remove that gross, sticky residue on interior car buttons…spoiler alert—you don’t need many products. But you do need to know what to use and what not to use. 

Before you try an online DIY solution, know that some harsh chemicals can remove paint from plastic parts or trim pieces. Liquids like degreasers can also short-circuit electronics if sprayed directly on a button.

But don’t worry, you do have better options.

In this post, we’ll cover how to safely remove any sticky coating from rubber or plastic interior buttons.

To start, here are a few helpful products to clean sticky buttons followed by a simple tutorial.

Helpful products to clean interior vehicle buttons

  • Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
  • Microfiber towel or soft cloth
  • Electrical contact cleaner
  • Short-bristled nylon detailing brush
  • Compressed air
  • Liquid adhesive remover

Dos and dont’s before you begin

Do: Test an inconspicuous area first. Modern vehicles are pretty resistant to cleaners we recommend, but testing is always a good practice.

Don’t use protectants. Protectants like Armor All tend to leave plastic buttons greasy and don’t clean very well

Don’t use acetone-based products. Products like Goof Off (different from Goo Gone) can remove adhesive and paint on plastic buttons.

Don’t use a paper towel. Paper towels leave tiny wooden fibers everywhere when dry.

Step 1: Power off the vehicle and remove trapped debris

Be sure to turn your vehicle off and never clean buttons with the power on to avoid damage.

If needed, use a can of compressed air to clean behind any center console buttons, steering wheel buttons, or window switches. If you’ve had problems with buttons sticking or not engaging properly, you may have debris lodged in the cracks you can remove with air.

View our post on using compressed air in detailing for a few other handy uses of air.

Step 2: Wipe down the area

After you blow out loose debris, use a dry or damp cloth to wipe down the buttons. The idea here is to remove dust and light dirt before using chemicals on the sticky stuff. Grab your vacuum cleaner if needed and tackle the rest of your interior while you’re at it!

To remove dirt or grime, start with simple products like distilled water or a clear interior detailing spray instead of harsh chemicals. I generally use an interior cleaner by Griot’s Garage because it isn’t harsh like some degreasers and can safely remove dirt on vinyl, plastic, or rubber buttons.

Griot’s Garage Interior Cleaner

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Griot's Garage interior detailing spray.

Any cleaner that includes protectants may leave a grease behind, which you don’t want in this case. Always use the simple products first…and proceed to more acidic cleaners if needed.

Step 3: Apply a button-safe adhesive remover

If buttons are still sticky, isopropyl alcohol at either 90% or 70% concentration can be effective. Use either a microfiber towel or cotton swab to apply to the affected area.

I have a detailing kit that includes tiny microfiber brushes that work great for this process. For really stubborn stuff, plastic scrapers work well too.

Step 4: Agitate gently

Once you apply the product, use a microfiber towel to remove any residue now loosened by the cleaner. Microfiber is great because the fingers are designed to lift particles. If you have an adhesive that won’t off, try a product by WD-40 called electrical contact cleaner.

We recommend this product because it can dissolve adhesive and is one of the few products designed for electronic cleaning.

Step 5: Dry with a towel and inspect

Using a separate (but clean) microfiber towel, dry the surface and inspect for any remaining debris. You may need to repeat the process if the button is still dirty or sticky.

Quick Tip

Make button cleaning part of your normal interior detailing process to avoid the buildup of sticky substances or ‘gunk’. Buttons are one of the dirtiest, most-touched areas of a car that people rarely clean.

Button replacement options

Button stickers are an easy fix if you’re looking for an affordable option. When the paint on my Silverado’s plastic plastic A/C and climate control buttons began to chip off, I covered them with stickers for about $15.

You can typically find either aftermarket plastic buttons or sticker kits on marketplaces like eBay or Amazon.

Check your warranty or manufacturer for replacements

If you have severe button damage, it’s worth checking to see if your warranty covers steering wheel button replacements.

You can have car buttons replaced without a warranty, but new buttons can cost around $300 to replace (plus labor) so keep that in mind.

Ready to clean your car like a pro?

For more free guides like this one, view our Interior Car Care page.

Ready to learn the fundamental techniques the pros use to achieve great results, check out our video crash course in auto detailing, Washing and Detailing for Beginners.

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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