How to Remove Scratches from Cars Interior Plastic

If you’ve had your car for some time, it can be frustrating to find out that there are scratches on the plastic. After using a car for a while, it’s normal to find that the plastic is scratched, and this can easily happen over a long period of time. It could be your kids that are doing it, your jackets, or even accidentally in your car. Luckily, these scratches don’t have to remain in your car and there are ways you can remove them.

Reasons For Removing Scratches From Your Plastic Car Interior

Scratches on your car’s plastic interior are not serious but aesthetic issues can be embarrassing. Having scratches on the interior and not having any motivation to remove them can hurt your car in the long run. Having scratches on the plastic isn’t aesthetic and it’s like leaving your cutting board to sit without oiling or resurfacing it. Your car won’t have any performance issues because of scuffs on the inside but it’s not going to look good and over time it’ll get worse. These scratches may become discolored over time and could form hairline cracks if not attended to and could turn something that was minor into an expensive headache.

Even if you were to go ahead and sell your car, the resell value could be affected if there’s a scratch or two inside. While some people may not care about the scratches inside a car’s interior, car dashboard scratches depreciate your car’s vehicle. Whether the scratches were formed by a careless child, a misplaced wallet, or your dog, the fact that there are marks across a very visible part of your vehicle is not good. Unlike your car’s exterior where scuffs can easily be removed using some elbow grease, removing scratches from your dashboard or by the door requires a lot more preparation and equipment.

If you want to prevent your interior from getting scratches, you can use things like interior wax, protectants, a ceramic coat, or adding a protective layer. You can also use a dash cover to confirm that it’ll contour to the dashboard and protect your interior from scratches.

Why Do Scratches Appear On The Plastic In Car Interior?

Scratches appear in your car’s interior due to reasons that could be unbeknown to you. There are plenty of occurrences that can happen that you would never expect.

Keys, Hair Pins, Jackets, Purses, etc

Anything with metal could cause a scratch on your car’s interior. The zip on your jacket or purse could catch the plastic, keys, and other small metal objects. Just placing your wallet or jacket on your dashboard and taking it down could cause a scratch on the interior. To prevent this from happening, you need to make sure that items with metal aren’t placed on your dashboard or near the inside of your car door.

Children

If you have children, they could get up to all sorts of nonsense in the back. From their fingernails to their toys, anything they do could leave a scratch. They could see your interior as a canvas and just play with it which ends up leaving a scratch. To prevent your kids from leaving scratches on your interior, you could simply let them know that the interior is crucial and they should not touch it. If they want to doodle, make sure that they use paper or a toy and leave the plastic interior alone.

Types Of Plastic Scratches

There are different ways the trim in your car could get scratches and these are all by different agents. Each scratch you get is usually of a type and it can help you prevent them from happening.

Scuffs

The first type of mark you could see is a scuff and this is when an object such as a shoe rubs against the plastic interior of your car – the exterior coloring of the object or the dirt is also transferred onto your interior’s plastic. These scuffs often appear on the inside of the door and between the seat and the door. They’re commonly made when people drag their feet when entering or getting out of the car. Scuffs aren’t damages to your car’s interior plastic, they’re just superficial marks meaning that they could be removed easily.

Scratches

The next type is a scratch and these are frays or tears to the plastic panels in your car’s surfaces. They’re deeper than scuffs and they’re actual damages. They’re often caused when objects with sharp edges such as screwdrivers or pens rub against your car’s interior.

Chips

Chips are when a tiny bit of plastic comes off from the plastic in your car’s interior. This often happens in old cars when the plastic has been worn out. Chips are the most difficult to repair because tiny chunks of plastic are taken out of your car’s interior. If you do notice that the interior starts to chip, you need to make sure that you do your best to preserve the breakaway pieces as it’s hard to find similar-looking bits of plastic to remove the broken-off bits of plastic.

Cracks

Cracks are another type of mark in a car’s interior plastic and it happens when the plastic becomes weak, it gets brittle and cracks start to form. If the plastic is always exposed to sunlight, this might always cause it to crack. Cracks are the hardest to notice which is why you need to inspect the interior for them.

Best Tools And Materials For Removing Scratches On Plastic Car Interior

Like any DIY project, you need to know the best tools and materials for getting scratches out of your car’s plastic. Just like common projects such as clear coat paint protection have their own list of necessary materials needed for it to be carried out, so does removing a scratch from the inside of your car. For a serious interior scratch, forget home remedies like baking soda or toothpaste, you’ll need to forego the off the self approach if you seriously want to take the scratch out.

Materials to Use When Removing Scratches on Plastic Car Interior

Interior Car cleaner – is a must use especially when it comes to removing scuffs are they’re surface level. Using interior car clean with a spray bottle is useful when it comes to removing dirt scuffs as the pressure forces the dirt to come off.

Heat Gun or Hair Dryer (view on Amazon)– A heat gun or hairdryer will help the interior of the plastic to melt slightly and it’ll allow you to mold it into a shape to make it less visible.

Fine Grit Sandpaper – Sandpaper allows you to remove the high parts on a crack or scratch and it also allows you to blend the scratch into the rest of the plastic.

Textured Finishing/Grain Pads – If your interior plastic is vinyl, this will allow you to resurface it so the area around it matches. There are plenty of finishes out there so make sure to choose one that resembles scratched plastic that closes.

Color-matched Paint – To get the scratch to make the interior as much as possible, you can use color-matched paint to do this. Since scratches are usually discolored, that’ll help a lot.

Cleaning Cloth – A cleaning cloth will allow you to clean up scuffs as they’re just surface level.

Materials to Avoid When Removing Scratches on Plastic Car Interior

Household Cleaners – Household cleaners aren’t designed to help with scratches in your car’s interior plastic. They may even end up discoloring the dashboard or car’s interior plastic.

Blow Torch – A blow torch will end up burning your interior rather than making it softer so that you can mold it. A heat gun is a better tool to use as it won’t be a direct flame, it’ll just warm up the plastic so that you can mold it.

Coarse Sandpaper – Using coarse sandpaper could completely disfigure the plastic interior. It’ll also take a lot longer to make the interior smoother and you’ll have to use various levels of sandpaper just to get rid of the damage of the coarse sandpaper. It’s best to stick to a slow and soft approach when it comes to the interior.

Spray Paint – Using spray paint to get rid of discoloration is a no-go. Spray paint is for a larger area and using it in your interior will cause it to go everywhere. Using paint that can be applied with a brush is a much better option.

How to Remove Scratches From Plastic Car Interior

1. Clean The Scratch With Water

The first way that you can try and remove scratches from the inside of your car is by cleaning the area with soapy water and a sponge. Sometimes the scratches may not have scraped parts of the plastic away, but it may have made a mark that can be cleaned up pretty quickly. After cleaning the scratch, if you notice that it didn’t go away, then you can try some more methods.

Important: If you want to save $100s in servicing, diagnosis, and repair costs, improve your car's performance significantly and increase its value by 1.2x with little effort, download our Beginners Auto Maintenence & Repair Manual now. 

2. Use A Plastic Filler Kit To Cover It Up

You can apply a plastic scratch to the scratched part of the plastic. A plastic scratch remover (View on Amazon) is formulated to remove scratches and scuffs on plastic. When you apply the filler kit, you can use your fingers or a putty knife to remove any excess plastic. If there is a lot of excesses, you can remove them. It will take a few minutes for the remover to harden and fill up the scratch.

When the filler hardens, you can remove the excess filler around the scratch and make sure the area is cleaned up properly – you can do this either with your fingers or a putty knife. Make sure when you’re cleaning it not to accidentally make the same mistake and scratch it again. Once you’re done, you can sand the area down using some sandpaper (be careful with this because you can end up damaging the plastic even more). Once you’re done, you can clean the area done with a cloth.

3. Using Sandpaper To Smooth It Out

For deeper scratches, you can try using several grades of sandpaper. Clean the surface first like in all the other scratch removal methods, then soak 800-grit sandpaper in water. When the sandpaper is saturated, sand down the scratched area using circular motions and with light pressure. The water helps to keep the sandpaper from being too abrasive, and it also helps to get sand and debris out of the way.

Continue doing this until the scratches disappear. After that, clean the area using a clean, damp cloth. To smoothen out the surface, take finer grit sandpaper, e.g. 1200-grit sandpaper, and sand down the scratched area. After that, clean the surface again using a damp cloth. Finally, polish the sanded area using a plastic/acrylic polishing compound to restore its original shine.

4. Remove the High Spots From The Scratch

In most cases, if the scratch is deep enough, there are going to be high points and low points in the scratch. When the scratch is pushed down, this creates a rough edge with a higher spot and a low point which is the scratch. The edge of the scratch needs to be removed before you watch to apply any type of filler. With the scratch, you can use a razor blade or sand part. The end is large enough, you’ll need to use a razor blade, and chances are you have one since it’s a household item. With the razor blade too, it’s a lot more targeted, you just need to make sure that your hand is steady.

5. Clean The Scratch & Apply Prep Spray

Before you attempt to fill any scratches or use sandpaper to remove any bumps, make sure that you have already cleaned the surface. One reason is that it could just be a scuff – color from another object could’ve just rubbed onto the car’s interior and it may not actually be a scratch. But if it is an actual scratch, cleaning it will allow you to remove any oils, dust, or debris that could cause more damage. The best way to clean the scratches would be to use a 99% alcohol cleaner or dashboard cleaner. A good practice after using a cleaner is to apply some prep spray. Prep spray allows any paint that you want to apply to the panel to stick better. Before you attempt to repair the scratch, make sure to let it dry.

6. Recreate The Texture With A Glue Tab

You can recreate the texture and make the scratch look like the surrounding area by using a glue tab. Glue tabs usually come with DIY repair kits (view on Amazon) and they come with glue guns. If the kit you’re using doesn’t have a glue gun, you can get it separately. You need to locate the area that is damaged and find another area on the panel that isn’t damaged > spray the area with some dashboard cleaner and wipe it off so that you’re prepared for the glue tab. Once it’s clean, you can apply some PDR glue to the glue tab and push it down on the undamaged textured area, letting it dry slightly but not fully. Make sure not to let it dry for too long unless it’ll stick to the panel. The glue tab just needs to be hard enough to keep the share and texture.

7. Apply Plastic Putty To The Scratch

You can apply plastic putty to the scratch using a spreader to apply it evenly. If there’s excess putty on the scratch, you need to scrape it off using the spreader. Once the putty has been applied, push down gently into the scratch to recreate the texture. Once you think you’ve recreated the texture, you need to let it try. If you’ve got a heat gun, you can apply some heat so that it can be dried quickly.

8. Paint The Scratch

If you want to make the scratch look like the surrounding area, you can apply some prep spray to it before you paint it. Adding a light coat of prep spray will allow the paint to stick ti the plastic interior better. Before you decide to paint it, you need to get the correct paint and this can be done by finding the interior color code. From here, you can remove or mask any areas that are a different color or material.

Once you’re happy that you’ve found the right paint, you can paint the plastic. Wait for the paint to dry before trying to touch the plastic interior or if you’ve got a heat gun, you can speed up the drying process. If you’re not happy with the repair, you can start again by using paint thinner to remove the paint.

9. Use A Vinyl Filler Kit

Before you use a vinyl filler kit (View on Amazon), you need to make sure the area you’re going to apply it on is cleaned. You need to make a paste from the catalyst and resin and make sure to apply it to the area that has been scratched. Once you’ve applied it, you can clean away any excess filler by using something that won’t damage the plastic further. Once you’ve applied it, you’ll need to leave it for 24 hours to allow it to dry up.

10. Use Heat Treatment And Mold The Plastic

Rather than applying stuff to the plastic to fill it in, instead, you can repair the plastic yourself without using any tools but some heat. By doing this, you’re going to melt the plastic and blend it together with the surrounding plastic – this is much easier to do when some heat is applied than doing it in normal circumstances.

To do this, you’ll need a heat gun (View on Amazon). You need to apply some heat to the scratched plastic until the area starts to soften. To blend the plastic with the surrounding area, you’ll need to apply some pressure to it using a buffing pad (View on Amazon). When the area gets cool again and starts to harden, you can sand it down with the buffing pad, so it blends in with the surrounding plastic. To give the area a better finish, you can use a plastic restorer spray (View on Amazon).

11. Clean The Plastic

If the scratch in your car is shallow, you can clean the scratches by using a mild abrasive such as toothpaste or furniture polish. Before you do this, you need to clean the plastic with a damp cloth and rub the area around the scratch. Make sure to dry the area so that you remove any debris that will make the process hard for you. Once you’ve done this, you want to apply the abrasive using a cloth or your fingers.

After the abrasive has been applied properly, then you can wipe a cloth over the paste that you’ve applied in a circular motion until the scratch has disappeared. Once this is done, clean the area with a fresh cloth. The shallower the scratch you’re dealing with is, the easier it will be to blend the scratch in with the surrounding area. Scratches that are too deep won’t be able to match the surrounding area so it’s best that you either replace that part or use some aggressive sandpaper or lower the grain as the scratch starts to blend with the surrounding area.

12. Prevent The Scratch From Happening

After repairing the scratches on your car’s interior, to prevent any more scratches from happening, you can make sure to keep sharp objects out of your car so that nothing can accidentally rub against the plastic. If you have kids, you can keep toys out of the car and make sure your kids have nothing that could damage the plastic – you can also advise them to be careful, so it doesn’t happen again. If you wear clothes that have a lot of metal, this can accidentally scratch your plastic so it’s best to take it off before you start driving.

It’s important to look after your vehicle so that you don’t have to keep visiting the dealership to pay money for a repair. If you maintain your vehicle properly, you can save a lot of money.

If you want to avoid problems within your vehicle and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.

A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.

Put all metal objects in a container – If there are any metal items that are going to be in your car and could potentially scratch the plastic, you need to put them in a container. Things like coins, bobby pins, keys hair clips, children’s toys should all be put in a container. These tiny objects are sharp enough to scratch your car’s interior and they can become an eyesore. Make sure to keep an eye out for these items and put them in a container before you go into the car.

Be mindful of what you place near your car door – Since most of the passengers will be at the sides of the door where there’s a lot of plastic, you need to make sure that you don’t place anything that could potentially scratch the inside of the car door. A lot of damage can be done with your car keys – especially when you close your door with the car keys in your hand. Because of this, you should make sure not to leave your keys in your hand before you close the door.

Keep the dashboard free from unnecessary objects – There are tons of items that you could place on your dashboard that could potentially scratch it. Things like phone holders, dash cams, and bags are commonly placed on the dashboard and they can easily scratch it. The key to preventing this is to have a no-go rule for the dashboard. If it can’t fit into the glove compartment, in the boot, or on your lap, don’t take it in the car. Just make sure that it doesn’t go on the dashboard.

Keep it clutter-free – If you keep your clutter-free, there will be nothing inside that could scratch it. Make sure that you clean your car’s interior regularly so that there will be no objects inside that could scratch it. It’s better that you prevent the inside from being scratched than having to use a car interior plastic scratch repair kit which can be a long job.

Household Hacks To Remove Scratch On Cars Interior Plastic

If you don’t want to fork out money to be buying kits that help restore plastic on your car’s interior, you can use household items such as toothpaste and baking soda to get the job done. This is a quick and easy hack to get rid of scratches and it doesn’t require much work.

Remove Light Scratches With Toothpaste

Rather than using automotive repair kits to remove the scratches from the plastic, for light scratches, you can use a gentle abrasive such as toothpaste. Toothpaste has silica and it’s used to remove stains for our teeth. Grab your toothpaste and squeeze out enough to cover the scratched area. Using a cloth, work in the toothpaste to fill in the scratches. Use water to remove the excess toothpaste around the area that isn’t scratched. If the scratch hasn’t gone, then you need to repeat the steps a few more times.

Remove Light Scratches With a Baking Soda Paste

Using Baking soda, you can get rid of light scratches on your car’s interior plastic. Baking soda is a mineral abrasive that will buff away scratches on plastic. To get rid of the scratches as best as possible, combine two parts baking soda to one part water to create a thick paste. With a cloth, apply the paste to the scratches area. In circular motions, work in the paste to buff away the scratch. Once done, rinse the area often to check your progress. If the scratch hasn’t completely done, repeat the steps until the scratch has disappeared and the plastic appears even with the rest of the interior.