Cleaning Your Vehicle: Dash and Accessories

Part 2 of the “Cleaning Your Vehicle” series

Thoroughly cleaning your car (called “detailing”) is a joy to some and torture to others. To me, it’s a lot of work, but well worth it.  I love the results. I can step back and feel good that I have taken care of my investment (and a source of joy for me). Also, detailing your significant other’s vehicle can earn you serious brownie points.

In a previous article, we discussed cleaning the carpet in your car. That is a lot of work, just in itself. But now we are going to move to the dash and accessories. This includes the radio, cup holders, steering wheel, shifter, armrest, much more.


Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

Dashboards take a beating from the sun, moisture, and the stupid stuff we glue, bond, attach, and tape to them to hold our phone or notepaper. There are many great products for cleaning and treating dashboards. In fact, so many that there is not enough space here to review all of them. However, I strongly suggest taking a trip to your favorite auto store and perusing the aisles for cleaning supplies. Try a bunch of them to figure out what you like.

Be sure to read the instructions.  I know, I know; ugh, reading. But it is well worth it. Some cleaners or conditioners require you to go back when you are done applying them to wipe off any remaining residue. That’s a pain, but it does give you a lasting shine.


When you are looking for a dashboard cleaner, see if you can use it to clean your radio or clear plastic surfaces. I would say that most radios have a plastic faceplate. Navigation and backup cameras may have glass. It is important to be aware of the surfaces you are cleaning. Some solutions can create a fog or haze if applied to plastic. Be careful not to get any fluid INSIDE the radio.

You might also want to read your owner’s manual (yikes, more reading!). Some manufacturers have tips on cleaning the interior surfaces.

Gear Shift Knobs

Some gear shift knobs are made of leather, some are made of vinyl or other leather-like material.  You can clean the shift knob with the appropriate cleaner, but I usually do not. The reason I do not usually clean them is they become very slippery.  Since you handle them quite often, they do not usually need to be cleaned.  However, if you do need to clean the gear shift knob or arm, make sure you use the proper cleaner for that surface (plastic, leather, vinyl, or other).

Cup Holders

Cup holders are notorious for becoming full of sticky junk. Most cup holders have an insert that you can remove and wash in the kitchen sink.  I prefer these, as you can really get them nice and clean. If the cup holders do not come out or do not have a liner, you may need to use a soapy rag or sponge and wipe them out.  For stubborn gunk, and if there are no holes in the bottom, you can let some soapy water sit in them for a short time. Then use a paper towel or absorbent towel to finish the cleaning.  Follow with a good rinse of clean water.

More Cleaning

Next time, we will talk about cleaning the windows, inside and out. There is more to it than you might think.  Stay tuned!

Written by Gary Pradel