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."
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
303 Aerospace Protectant
Chemical Guys Black on Black:
Chemical Guys VRP Dressing:
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:
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.