Have you ever noticed how faded and worn your black plastic running boards appear in comparison to when your car was brand new? Or looked at your running boards after washing your car and noticed grey or white patches, scuff marks, and rust spots on the surface? These details detract from the overall appearance of your car and are frustrating for most car owners.
Furthermore, if you have tried to clean your plastic running boards using the incorrect method or products, you may have been left with a slippery, greasy surface that is hazardous to anyone climbing in or out of the vehicle.
Most people think they need to take their car to a professional auto detailing company to alleviate these problems. We break that myth in this article by showing you how you can do clean your plastic running boards at home yourself.
How to Clean Plastic Running Boards (3 Methods)
This method is to be used if your plastic running boards aren’t too dirty.
1- All-purpose cleaner
2- Clean cloth / Microfiber towel (2)
STEP 1: Apply a small amount of an all-purpose cleaner, onto a soft, clean piece of damp cloth or microfiber towel and use it to rub off the dust and dirt from your running boards, paying special attention to the grooves which tend to accumulate more dirt than the rest of the running board.
Microfiber towels are great to use as they are soft, lint-free, and dry quickly. You should avoid using harsher cleaning products as they contain chemicals that may damage your boards.
STEP 2: You would then wipe down the running boards with a different wet cloth or microfiber towel, making sure to remove all the excess cleaner from the surface, before drying them.
If your plastic running boards are caked with mud and grime.
1- Plastic bristle brush / Scrubbing brush / Fender brush
2- All-purpose cleaner
3- Pressure hose
4- Cloth / Sponge (2)
5- Paint prep product (Optional)
6- Isopropyl alcohol
7- Distilled water
8- Spray bottle
STEP 1: Use a plastic bristle brush or a scrubbing brush or a fender brush along with the all-purpose cleaner of your choice to remove all the dirt from the boards.
Don’t skimp on the effort you use when scrubbing your boards.
STEP 2: A pressure hose can be used on the running boards as an easier way to rinse off the thickest dirt, with minimal effort or you can simply wash off the soap with a cloth or sponge and some water.
STEP 3: Once again, you need to make sure that all the cleaning product is removed from the surface before starting with the next step.
STEP 4: All alkaline cleaners and surfactants will leave behind an undesirable, often invisible residue on the surface where they have been applied.
This residue can be removed using a paint prep product, or by making a solution of 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% distilled water in a spray bottle. Other alcohol-based spray cleaners can also be used.
You should spray the solution onto a separate cloth (from the one used to clean your running boards) and wipe the boards down well, again making sure to get in between the grooves.
The result of this process is running boards that are clean and residue-free.
If you have yellow-brown rust spots on your black plastic running boards, these can be easily removed with Iron-X or Liquid Wrench lubricating oil (or other penetrating oils), a Scotch-Brite foam scourer, and a cloth.
You should address this problem after you have cleaned and dried your running boards.
1- Iron-X / Liquid Wrench lubricating oil
2- Scotch-Brite foam scourer
STEP 1: First, spray the oil directly onto the rust spots on the board’s surface.
STEP 2: Then use the scourer to gently scrub the affected areas. Don’t scrub too hard, as you could scratch the plastic.
STEP 3: Then using the cloth, wipe all of the oil off the board.
Restoring Plastic Running Board to Its Natural Color
After taking the time and effort to clean their plastic running boards, most car owners are dissatisfied as their boards still look faded and patchy. Dressing the black plastic running boards on your car, after cleaning is the solution to this problem.
There are a variety of dressing products available that will restore the natural color to the running boards, repel dust and lint, protect them from UV radiation, prevent fading and cracking, and keep the surface of your running boards looking cleaner and brighter for longer.
The dressing product should leave a matt-dry finish to your running boards and not feel oily or greasy. Popular, reliable dressing products include Mother’s Back to Black, 303 Automotive Protectant, 303 Aerospace Protectant, Meguairs Natural Shine Protectant, Solution Finish Black Plastic, and Vinyl Restorer, Wolfgang Plastik Surface Sealant, and Chemical Guys Back to Black.
1- Dressing product
2- Microfiber towel / soft cloth (2)
STEP 1: Clean and dry your running boards.
STEP 2: Wipe off the remaining residue.
STEP 3: Apply the product liberally to a clean microfiber towel or soft cloth and use it to rub down the surface of your boards, thoroughly.
STEP 4: Then take a different clean microfiber towel and use it to wipe off the excess dressing product from the boards, paying special attention to wipe in between the grooves and sides of the boards.
STEP 5: If necessary, repeat the above process and run your fingers over the plastic. It should feel dry and not sticky, to the touch.
Wiping off the excess dressing product is very important as it ensures that your running boards are not greasy and slippery after dressing.
Plastic Running Boards Maintenance – Tips
1- You should clean your running boards after washing and drying your car, ideally on a weekly or bimonthly basis, depending on how dirty they become due to use. Regular cleaning is ideal as it saves you time and effort in the long run.
2- You should add the materials needed to clean plastic running boards to your car wash kit to make the process more convenient and to serve as a useful reminder.
3- The materials and products needed include multiple soft cloths, microfiber towels or wash-mitts, a soft-bristled scrubbing brush, a bottle of all-purpose cleaner (such as Simple Green, Super Clean, or Spray Nine), isopropyl alcohol solution or a paint prep product, the dressing product of your choice, and a different bucket of clean water (from the one used to clean the rest of your car) as you don’t want to mix the products you use to clean your tires, rims, and paintwork with the ones you will use to clean your running boards.
Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Plastic Running Boards
1- A trim protectant or dressing product is a wise thing to use before waxing the paint as it will repel polish and wax. This will help to avoid getting the trim stained.
2- Dress your running boards undercover, to avoid being caught in the rain and spoiling all your hard work.
3- Use color-coded microfiber towels specific to the tasks of cleaning, wiping, and dressing your running boards, for greater efficiency.
4- Purchase products of good quality, while they may seem expensive at the outset, they will save you the frustration and replacement cost which results from the use of inferior products and materials.
1- Don’t use abrasive scourers, wire-bristle brushes, or steel wool to clean your plastic boards as this will scratch the plastic, and leave tiny particles on the boards, which encourage rust deposits.
2- Don’t store your car products in places where temperatures fluctuate and in direct sunlight, as this will reduce the lifespan and efficacy of the product.
3- Don’t use the same products that you would use to clean your tires and rims, to clean your running boards, as this will cause the boards to become slippery.
4- Don’t get the dressing product on the paintwork of your vehicle. (You can avoid this by taping over the painted areas in close proximity to your running boards and trims before you apply the product).
5- Don’t use fabric softener, when washing your microfiber towels and wash mitts as this forms a coating on the individual fibers, making their action redundant.
Taking the time, money, and effort to care for your car is not an obsession or a sign of vanity. It is part of responsible vehicle ownership.
Regular upkeep is important in maintaining your car’s value and saves you money that you may have to spend on car repairs and servicing due to neglect.