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Removing residue from trims and plastics

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Trying to prevent polish or wax from getting onto trims and plastics doesn’t always go flawless. In those cases, you might experience the white haze (residue) you can get on the plastic. Getting that white haze off might not be as easy as you think.

What causes the white haze

Removing oils from trim and plastic
Removing oils from trim and plastic

Certain products that are used in detailing contain oils. Polish, wax, glazes and even quick detailers can contain oils. Some of these oils dry up with slight white haze. In some cases, it can even be caused by a combination of oils, even though those oils on their own won’t leave any marks. When other ingredients in these products evaporate, the oils are left behind. When trims are unpainted and plastic parts are made in a dark color (they are often black), the white haze is very visible.

Why remove residue before applying dressing

Dressing works as a very quick fix for dried up residue, but it doesn’t remove it. It only covers it up. Dressing wears out over time, so eventually the white haze will return and becomes visible again. You can re-apply the dressing, but it will keep coming back again. Removing the residue before you apply dressing might increase the durability of the dressing and will prevent the white haze from returning.

Ways of removing the residue

*although all these techniques have been proven to work in certain situations, it is always recommended to try it out on a small patch first before doing the entire vehicle.

If residue is fresh:


IPA is used to remove polish oils from the surface after polishing. If the residue is fairly fresh, IPA will break it down, and remove it from the surface. When the residue is older, the oils could have soaked into the upper layer of the trim, and IPA might not be strong enough to remove it completely.


APC or a strong degreaser will have the same effect as IPA. It will loosen up the bond between the oils and the trim, allowing you to wipe it off. Wiping it off is always an option when the residue is fresh, but that might not be enough to prevent the white haze from showing up later.


In some cases the residue is so fresh that washing it with regular shampoo can be enough to remove it. The residue won’t have had time to get into the trim, and wiping it off with normal shampoo will remove it.

If residue is old:

Mineral spirits

A effective option, but also one that needs to be done with care. Mineral spirits is a solvent that does not always works properly on all trims. The solvents loosen up the dried up residue, allowing you to wipe it off. Mineral spirits evaporate quickly, so letting it soak will be difficult.

Vegetable oil

Peanut butter is an old trick used by veteran detailers, the vegetable oil in the peanut butter has a very slight dissolving effect on certain oils. The oil allows to let it soak for several minutes before wiping off. Leave it for a little time to let it soak into the upper layer of the plastic, and loosen up the dried up residue. After wiping this off, it is recommended to wash the trim to remove any residue from the vegetable oil.

Pencil eraser

Another life hack, the pencil eraser. This standard eraser you use to erase pencil lines works great at removing dried up residue. It works best on small spots, because large specks can have penetrated the upper layer of the trim, which the eraser can’t reach.


Products aimed at this task

There are certain products on the market that are specifically designed to handle this task. However, they are known for not always performing equally. Some work better on old residue, others only work on fresh residue. Its best to contact the manufacturer to learn how the product works best.

Pressure washer

The pressure washer can sometimes be used to literally blast it off. However, this should be done with care and attention and definitely doesn’t always guarantee the same result.

Steam cleaner

The steam cleaner uses pressure and heat to loosen up the oils in the residue. It works best on the surface, and doesn’t penetrate the upper layer of the trim. So it might no be as good on big specks or very old residue. Because of the pressure, care should be taken when using this technique.

Preventing residue

Although it is difficult to prevent it for 100%, taping off rubbers and trim, will help to prevent residue from getting into/onto certain areas. Masking tape is specially designed for tasks such as this.

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