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How to Remove Wax From Black Plastic Trim: 3 Easy Ways

You may have heard that you shouldn’t get car wax (specifically that yellow carnauba paste) on car trim. Here’s why: Dried-on wax residue can be pretty difficult when it bonds to plastic–especially a porous surface. When wax dries on black plastic trim, the affected area can appear gray or white and can stay that way even after washing.

Old wax on your trim can also make those plastic restorer products less effective too because they won’t adhere to the surface properly. After all, wax is meant to protect first and foremost; unless specific wax removal products are used, old wax can stick around for a while.

But you have options! In this post, I’ll break down a few solutions to remove wax on your trim. From there, I’ll break down a simple step-by-step process once you have what you need.

Option 1: Magic Rub Pencil Eraser

Ideal for: missed spots and small areas of dried-on wax.

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Magic Rub eraser for removing car wax.

Pro tip: square white pencil erasers are one of the most effective and affordable ways to remove small amounts of wax from black trim or plastic. It’s easy and safe…as opposed to heat guns or other methods that tend to discolor or fade the plastic.

While you can technically use a pink eraser, white magic rub erasers work better.

After trying this on my truck, I can say firsthand that it does a great job in hard-to-reach areas. In some around glass where I don’t want to deal with overspray, the eraser is my go-to wax remover.

Quick Tip

Use gummy erasers for areas you may have missed with a spray-on wax remover…or hard-to-reach areas. Erasers I don’t recommend over a wax remover product, but they are effective and handy to have in your detailing cart.

Option 2: Spray-on Wax Removers

Ideal for: wet or dry wax removal; large panels.

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McKee's 37 wax remover with brush.

The best way to remove wax stains on large panels of trim is to use a dedicated spray-on wax remover. The best product I’ve found for dried wax is called McKee’s 37 Wax Remover. This product comes in a spray bottle and is essential to your detailing arsenal so you can remove wax on trim at any time. I recommend trim cleaner over an all purpose cleaner or dish soap, because these products can cause streaking and use solvents and detergents not designed for trim.

If you’ve got a bit of work to do, pick up the two-pack that comes with a soft-bristled brush. A plastic or nylon-bristled brush will save you a lot of time removing stubborn wax, especially on textured plastic surfaces.

Option 3: A Clay Bar

Ideal for: removing white residue caused by wax or iron deposits on trim.

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In some cases where your trim has been neglected, a clay bar can remove wax and other stuck-on contaminants from trim. If you’re already using clay on your car’s paint, it can also be used to make rough-feeling trim pieces smooth again by removing substances like wax or traffic film.

Tutorial: How to remove wax in 3 steps

What you’ll need

  • A wax remover spray
  • Several clean microfiber towels
  • An old toothbrush (optional)
  • Detailing clay or a white gummy eraser (optional)
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (optional)

Step 1: Spray or apply a wax remover to a dry, clean surface

For fresh wax, start by spraying a wax removal product on the affected area and use a microfiber towel to scrub and lift the wax. The pile in microfiber is designed to lift, so have a towel handy any time you are applying wax around rubber trim or plastic areas of your car.

Step 2: Agitate with a brush or Magic Eraser if needed

For old wax that’s already dry, use a wax removal product plus agitation for best results. You can use a toothbrush or nylon cleaning brush on textured plastic, just be sure the brush you use won’t scratch the surface.

Since a Magic Eraser is textured (and can remove wax pretty well), you can use one on large trim pieces about 3 inches wide. For door handles or other areas, a toothbrush or small piece of clay can help.

Caution!

No matter the agitation method you use to remove wax, use plenty of lubrication and be careful not to scratch your clear coat. you may want to mask off a freshly waxed panel to avoid overspray.

Step 3: Dry the surface and repeat if needed

Using a clean towel, dry the plastic or trim and wait until dry to the touch before inspecting your work. Sometimes wax can be difficult to see if not in direct sunlight, so use a flashlight if working indoors.

Frequently asked questions

Can you use peanut butter to remove wax on car trim?

Technically, yes, However, it’s wise not to use food products like peanut butter on your vehicle; oils in peanut butter can get on your paint…and cause problems you’ll have to clean up later.

Automotive trim cleaner products wipe off way easier too…and they’re pretty cheap. So don’t risk it with the jar of Jiffy.

Can you use isopropyl alcohol to remove wax on trim?

It’s wise not to use rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol when cleaning trim. Alcohol can cause discoloration of some types of plastics, so it’s best to use a dedicated trim cleaner.

Before using a trim restorer remove any trapped wax, pollen, or other particles using one of the products mentioned above.

Why is car wax so hard to remove from plastic and vinyl?

Some plastic trim pieces are textured and porous, which allows wax particles to get lodged inside these pores. When dry, soap and water alone are unable to lift the particles out.

This causes the appearance of a white haze that can make it look like the plastic itself is fading (when it’s just trapped wax).

Will wax damage trim?

No. Dry or fresh wax won’t damage your trim, although it can make it appear faded or dull.

Should you tape off trim before waxing?

It’s not a bad idea to use painter’s tape when waxing around trim, especially since polishers can sling wax. If you’re careful when waxing by hand and have a towel on hand you should be okay; it’s simply a matter of personal preference.

Need to restore faded plastic trim? Here’s how to do it

Now that you know how to remove wax from trim, check out our trim cleaning and restoration guide. Trim is so commonly neglected by many people, and restoring old faded trim can make your vehicle look 10x better in my opinion.

Good luck, and happy detailing!

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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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