The average Joe assumes that Armor All is THE interior dressing of choice and for good reason. It’s the most popular product on the market for protecting plastics and rubber in and outside your car or truck. It’s not exactly the ideal product in my opinion for detailing your dashboard and other interior and exterior surfaces but it isn’t bad for your car interior or exterior.
Don’t get me wrong, Armor All makes good products. Using Armor All on your cars interior isn’t going to ruin it. But when it comes to protecting your plastics and rubber, I think you can do better.
Is Armor All Safe? Silicones & Petroleum Distillates
So what’s so bad about using Armor All on your dashboard, tires, or other rubber, vinyl, and plastic surfaces? Nothing. The confusion is Armor All uses water-based silicone emulsions but does not use petroleum distillates. It’s safe.
Silicones and petroleum distillates can create a shiny surface but over time it is believed that they will dry out plastic and rubber which can cause it to crack prematurely. To be clear, Armor All does not contain these and you can use it safely. The best that I can determine is that long ago they may have contained silicones but if they did they don’t anymore and haven’t for some time.
Many people, myself included, don’t care for the shiny appearance. A more muted matte finish is far more preferable. That said, Armor All now produces a matte formulation of its protectant. While applying Armor All to most interior surfaces isn’t preferred by me, it is a perfectly safe product.
There are plenty of great products in the detailing world and I personally prefer others to the Armor All product line. Your mileage may vary.
Best dashboard, plastic, and vinyl protectant
Instead of Armor All, I highly recommend Aerospace 303. If you want the best protectant available for your dashboard look no further.
This high quality interior protectant helps protect your interior surfaces from harmful UV rays which are the main culprit causing premature cracking and discoloration of plastics, rubber, and vinyl.
It does not contain any silicone or petroleum distillates. It leaves a matte finish that helps repel dust and dirt from interior surfaces.
It can be used not only on interior plastics and rubber but also on exterior plastics and rubber to help protect them as well. 303 can help extend the life of rubber seals and can help restore faded exterior plastics.
It can even be used as a tire dressing. We have found some other products we like better for tire dressings but 303 is a great alternative.
Some people even apply it to their leather seats although we recommend better suited products for that job.
In short, this is an awesome protectant that is safe for almost any surface.
How to clean and protect your dashboard and other interior surfaces
In general it is best to get a damp rag and wipe down all surfaces to remove dust, dirt, and grime before applying a plastic and rubber protectant like Aerospace 303.
If your car or truck is particularly clean it probably isn’t necessary. You should pay special attention to all areas that your hand comes into contact with. Oils and grime from your hands will build up on frequently touched surfaces and should be wiped off well prior to applying a protectant.
Spray a bit of protectant onto a good microfiber towel and wipe it on all of the surfaces until they are well coated.
You should avoid spraying directly onto your dashboard and other interior surfaces however. The reason you want to spray onto the rag is to better control where the protectant goes.
While 303 is safe for almost any surface, it is less than ideal for glass and fabrics. Spraying onto a rag as opposed to spraying onto your dashboard will help prevent the possibility of overspray onto the inside of your windshield for instance.
How to protect rubber seals on cars
Gummi Pflege Stift is a particularly unusual name for an excellent rubber protectant.
This German-formulated protectant is designed specifically for protecting and extending the life of rubber seals around doors and windows.
If you have Aerospace 303 but don’t have Gummi Pflege Stift it is a reasonable alternative and is certainly better than not applying any protection at all.
As was mentioned earlier, the last thing you want to apply to your rubber seals is a silicone/petroleum distillate based product. Research your product of choice and make sure it is safe.
A product with these ingredients will accelerate the drying out and cracking of rubber and cause serious issues for your doors and windows.
How to clean, protect, and dress tires
We recently covered this topic in an article titled “How To Clean Tires To Look New“. To summarize, not only do tires obviously get dirty, but they also turn brown over time.
A protectant called Antiozonant is included in the rubber of the tire and causes a brownish tint to occur on the outside of the tires. This browning effect is called blooming.
To clean off this brown coating as well as any dirt and road grime buildup you’ll want to clean your tires with a good cleaner such as Meguiar’s Detailer All Purpose Cleaner and a good quality tire brush.
Once the tires have been thoroughly scrubbed clean and rinsed you’ll want to apply a good quality tire dressing. For a glossy look we recommend Meguiar’s Endurance Tire Gel. For a matte look we recommend Meguiar’s Hyper Dressing.
The bottom line is that Armor All is a great product but isn’t my preferred choice. Be sure you’re not using a product with silicones or petroleum distilates. They can accelerate the drying and cracking of plastics and rubber inside and outside of your car.
Also try to avoid anything that leaves a sticky and greasy film that attracts dust and dirt causing the surfaces you’ve applied it to get dirty more quickly.
My favorite option and one that I highly recommend is Aerospace 303 Protectant. It contains a good UV protectant to help slow aging of plastics and rubber. It also leaves a very visually pleasing matte finish that doesn’t attract dust and dirt.
While Aerospace 303 is great for any plastic or rubber whether it’s inside or outside of your car or truck, I recommend Gummi Pflege Stift for protecting rubber seals on doors and windows and recommend Meguiar’s Endurance Tire Gel for glossy looking tire protection and Meguiar’s Hyper Dressing for matte looking tire protection.