The Best Car Interior Dressing
The interior dressings that will deliver professional results

best auto detailing tips tag line

Car interior dressing is a love/hate relationship for me both personally and professionally.

As a rule I am not a huge fan of shiny, overly dressed car interiors. But car interior dressing has a place in the world of not only professional detailing, but in the world of cars owners and enthusiasts alike.

Whether we are discussing vinyl dressings or leather conditioners, the problem is that most people become hyper-focused and short sighted. As car owners they become fixated on rushing out and shopping for the best auto interior dressing thinking this is the cure-all to keeping their car's interior looking brand new, protecting it, and nourishing the many materials that a person might choose to use a dressing on.

"The world is full of short-cuts and most people look for quick fix solutions. Dressing the interior of your car is a perfect example where people grossly misunderstand how their ignorance and short sighted strategy actually produces the exact opposite result they were originally after."

car interior dressing bentley

Car Interior Dressing:
Questions and Answers

Q. What is the difference between a dressing and a conditioner; they seem to have the same effect when I apply them?

A. Not a whole lot! Since most of us are not chemical engineers or formulators, none of really know for sure. Like so many areas of car care and life, we have to rely and trust on the industry, manufacturers, and so-called experts. As a rule, dressings and conditioners are interchangeable. A good place to start is by reading the product labeling.

Q. It would appear Darren that you are not a big fan of dressings as a rule?

A. You are correct! But for every rule, there are exceptions to the rule. There are times when either I have a customer request some form of dressing/conditioner be applied to their car, or I have determined that for visual reasons I need to add a slight level of shine, or selectively use a dressing or conditioner on the interior of a car to create a uniformed appearance.

Q. How do you determine the appropriate time to use a dressing?

A. As a rule, I only apply an interior car dressing at the request of the customer, or if I determine that in order to achieve a uniformed appearance, an interior car dressing is needed. Generally any black or dark colored interior will require the limited use of some form of dressing or conditioner.

With Dressing

After Cleaning

car interior dressing buildup

This picture above represents what the car dash would look like with traditional car interior dressing on the left and after it has been cleaned on the right.

This is the rag I used to clean the excessive build-up of the car interior dressing the owner had kept reapplying year after year without cleaning the dash before each new repeat application.

Car Interior Dressing vs. Conditioner

Due to so much confusion within every subject of car care and detailing, I will need to separate these two terms for the sake of clarity:

Dressings: The What, The Why, and The Why Not!

What: Dressings as a rule in the industry simply refer to a product that is superficial in nature and used to enhance the appearance of a surface by creating some level of shine; from extreme gloss, to a subtle sheen. As a rule, dressing and conditioners are interchangeable terms.


Anytime you want to create an added shine or feel your car's interior needs some revitalizing through the use of some kind of interior conditioner.

interior car dressing
Why Not:

There are (2) common mistakes people make when it comes to using a car leather and/or vinyl conditioner. First, they don't realize that 99% of the time the car leathers of today are finished with a clear protective coating. So all those fantasy's of using a high grade leather conditioner to work into your cars leather like we did as kids on a brand new leather baseball mitt, need to be dismissed altogether. What you are really dealing with is a synthetic coating, not the natural leather. Therefore depending on who you ask, conditioners become a non-issue and irrelevant. You can go to car leather care for more information regarding the process and the different types of leathers.

When it comes to conditioning the vinyl in your cars interior, you need to understand that unless you are in love with the glossy, shiny look of dressings or conditioners, your vinyl needs to be first and foremost kept clean. Due to advances in manufacturing, the vinyl's of today are far superior than the vinyl's of yesterday. What happens is most people become fixated on searching out the best car interior dressing and/or conditioner and run off to slather layer upon layer of dressing in their car. Meanwhile, they forget the most important part of the process of cleaning. What is then created over time is a greasy build-up of dirt and conditioner.

All-in-one Car Interior Dressing

I realize there are many of you reading this that like the ultra simple approach to everything car care. You accept that there are certain requirements, but don't want to over-think any of these areas.

You just want a direct and simplified answer and approach. Which is why I chose the Meguiar's product below.

Meguiar's G10916 Gold Class Rich Leather Cleaner & Conditioner - 15.2 oz.

  • Cleaner and dressing all in one.
  • Yes, I realize this is labeled as a leather cleaner and conditioner. But is suitable for ALL your materials (not intended for any porous cloth, suede, velour, carpeting) when you want to add some conditioning to them: vinyl, rubber, plastic, etc., etc. (you could actually use this on your tires as a tire dressing)
  • What most people don't realize (and the industry will not teach you) is that car leather is actually coated with a water-based clear coating that in many ways is a form of plastic. While this may be disappointing to many, it is actually the good news as it makes your car leather easier to take care of. For a full write up on car leather, see my dedicated car leather page if you want to become part of the truly "informed".
  • I only recommend this product for the "less-committed" car owners looking for an ultra-simplified approach to car care. (since it is not overly aggressive in cleaning abilities, it will not prove overly effective in cleaning anything but light levels of dirt. If you recognize you have moderate to heavy level so cleaning to do first, see car upholstery cleaning)

Professional Grade:
Car Interior Dressing

303 Aerospace Protectant

303 (30313-CSR) UV Protectant Spray for Vinyl, Plastic, Rubber, Fiberglass, Leather & More - Dust and Dirt Repellant - Non-Toxic, Matte Finish, 32 Fl. oz.

  • I was turned onto this product by one of my customers who swore by it after using it for over 20 years.
  • Since trying it out myself professionally it has become one of my "go-to" products designed for protecting many types of materials.
  • I now find myself using it on more and more materials the more I use it and understand the versatility of this amazing product. (not just a simple "car interior dressing")
  • Cars: use it on tires, exterior black trim, interior vinyl, rubber, leather, plastic, dashboards, etc.
  • Boats: Use on trailer tires, interior vinyl upholstery, plastics, clear plastic accessories, etc.
  • RV's: Use on tires, roof top accessories like solar panels, exposed vinyl awnings, dome lights, skylights, satellite dishes, TV antennas, plastic exhaust vent covers, interior plastics, vinyl and leather.
  • Not only to I continue to find more and more uses on the job, but find uses for this product around the house when it comes to anything plastic, vinyl, leather, etc.

Chemical Guys Black on Black:

Chemical Guys AIR_SPRAY_1 Black On Black Instant Shine Interior & Exterior Spray Dressing

  • Makes it on my list of "Must Haves".
  • I use it sparingly and mostly on black interiors to create a uniformed appearance only; any other benefit is purely accidental.
  • I also use on older cars where plastic interior parts have become dried out due to prolonged exposure to the sun.
  • Is as easy as easy gets.
  • Light aerosol dressing can be sprayed and let be, or "knocked down" by rubbing lightly with micro-fiber cloth to reduce shine.
  • Can be used for both interior and exterior. Literally any surface you feel needs to be rejuvenated due to excessive aging.

Chemical Guys VRP Dressing:

Chemical Guys TVD_107_16 V.R.P. Vinyl, Rubber, and Plastic Super Shine Dressing (16 oz)

  • The actual dressing I use professionally when heavier layers of dressing are needed, or larger areas need to be dressed.
  • Water based dressing; easy to clean off each time when needed. (I prefer water-base dressings so I can actually clean them off before a new application)
  • Can be diluted down with water to custom blend to your exact needs.
  • Suitable for tires, leather, vinyl, plastics, interior, exterior.

Darren's Car Interior Dressing Tips

I think I have made myself clear regarding dressings and conditioners. For the sake of clarity and recap, I will bullet-point the following tips and recommendations for you:

  • All these products make my "Must Haves" list.
  • I use both on a daily basis in my professional world.
  • For a light, easy to use dressing that is ideal on any intricate parts, I reach for the aerosol spray dressing.
  • For all the larger areas I choose to apply dressing, I reach for the VRP or the 303 Aerospace protectant based on my own professional experience.
  • As a rule, I use the VRP for tires where I prefer a greater level of shine, for all other materials I prefer the 303 Aerospace.

Darren's Video Tutorial:

This video takes you through the cleaning and dressing process. If you are interested in the dressing process only, skip video to 10:40

I hope this page is comprehensive enough so that you walk away with enough understanding to not only make an informed decision, but to put what you have learned into play. You can do me a favor and pay this page forward, sign up to my YouTube channel, or simply share the link to someone else you think could also benefit from all the info I have spent much time configuring into this car interior dressing page.


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