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Choosing the Best Tire Dressing for Your Application

By Malco Automotive

Choosing the Best Tire Dressing for Your Application

The Best Tire Dressing Isn't Just for Tires


Over time, vehicle rubber, plastic, and vinyl surfaces fade and look worn out from exposure to UV rays and contaminants. Regular washing with a high-quality car wash will help delay the effects. However, if you want to protect these surfaces and make them shine like new, a good dressing is the answer.


Choosing a tire dressing (or tire shine, as many people like to call it) can be a daunting task. There are hundreds of automotive dressing products on the market. At Malco® alone, we offer 14 different dressings and four conditioning sprays. All options are solvent - or water-based and deliver either a high-gloss or satin finish. Some are meant for exterior applications, like tires, fenders, and rubber trim, while others can be used on interior and exterior automotive surfaces. In this article, we will break things down and help you determine the best tire dressing or tire shine spray for you.


Table of Contents

  1. Dressing Choice
  2. Common Problems
  3. Conclusion


Choosing the Right Dressing


Why should I use a dressing on rubber, vinyl, plastic, and leather surfaces?


Dressings serve a few purposes in the upkeep of a vehicle. First, dressings help to prevent automotive surface cracking, hardening, and fading. In the case of water-based formulas, dressings also help protect tires from grime and environmental contaminants that come up off the road every time the vehicle is driven. Second, dressings improve the overall appearance of the vehicle. Who doesn't like the glossy shine of a freshly detailed car with that new tire look?


What's the difference between a solvent-based and a water-based dressing?


The main difference between solvent- and water-based dressings is the carrier system that delivers the active ingredient, most often a silicone polymer, to the intended surface. Solvent-based dressings use a chemical (solvent) to carry the active ingredient, and water-based dressings use water to carry the active ingredients to the intended surface. After application, solvents quickly evaporate, leaving behind a thin film of the active ingredient. Whereas - water evaporates at a slower rate than its solvent counterpart, taking longer to deposit the active ingredient.


What are the advantages of a solvent-based dressing vs. a water-based dressing?


Historically, solvent-based dressings are more durable and create more extreme tire shine than their water-based counterparts. However, with the advancements in product development, we have seen a shift in recent years. High-performance, water-based dressings are becoming more comparable to their solvent competition. The demand to meet environmental and safety requirements has resulted in many VOC-compliant, silicone-free, and body-shop-safe options for both solvent- and water-based dressings. Each of these has its own advantages.


Which dressings are ideal for interior surfaces?


Many Malco dressings can be used on interior surfaces. If you are an enthusiast looking for a good solvent-based, VOC-compliant dressing, we recommend Blue Blazes® VOC Compliant All-Purpose Premium Dressing. This product offers a pleasant melon scent, produces a durable, high-gloss shine, and is safe for rubber, plastic, vinyl, and leather. If you want an excellent water-based dressing, we recommend Aqua Bead™ Advanced Silicone Suspension Dressing. This product is a suspended silicone dressing, activated by water, that deposits silicone directly onto the surface for a high-gloss shine. Since Aqua Bead is dilutable, it offers various gloss levels to suit your needs, allowing you to achieve your ideal glossy finish.


If you are a professional detailer, you will want to choose a dressing that works best for your car detailing business. See below for our top-selling, professional-quality interior dressings.


Solvent-based option: Prizm Plus + VOC Compliant All-Purpose Dressing


Water-based option: Appeal™ Super Concentrated Dressing


Which dressings are ideal for tires and exterior surfaces?


As with interior applications, exterior applications require specific dressings. Malco offers many exterior dressing options. If you are an enthusiast looking for a good solvent-based, VOC-compliant dressing to use on tires for a wet look, VOC Compliant Blue Blazes is a good choice. If you want a tire coating that will deliver durability and shine, Malco recommends Prizm™ Plus +. Prizm Plus + has an innovative solvent delivery system for improved dry time, and its high-silicone formula delivers high gloss levels and extended durability. We recommend Aqua Bead if you want an excellent water-based dressing. Aqua Bead is a favorite of auto detailing professionals because of its ease of application, especially on engines and tires. Because Aqua Bead is a water-based suspension dressing, it can be applied to wet tires and engines. This product will wet out and leave a nice, even finish as it sits. If you want the best water-based dressing for delivering long-lasting shine, try Appeal. Appeal offers the highest gloss variability, ranging from a semi-gloss to a satin finish to a high-gloss black shine, depending on the dilution level.


If you are a professional detailer, you will want to choose a dressing that works best for your car detailing business. See below for our top-selling, professional-quality exterior dressings.


Solvent-based option: Flash® Cote All-Purpose Dressing


Water-based option: Appeal™ Super-Concentrated Dressing


What is a conditioning spray, and what are the advantages of using one?


A ready-to-use aerosol conditioning spray protects and conditions areas that are hard to reach with traditional dressings. They prevent drips and are great to have on hand for quick car cleaning. Conditioning sprays help prevent battery terminal corrosion and provide a waterproof barrier on hinges, springs, and casters.


If you are interested in aerosol conditioning sprays, you will want to choose a product that works best for your car detailing needs. See below for our top-selling, aerosol conditioning sprays.



How often should interiors be dressed?


Vehicle interiors should be dressed according to a regular car detailing schedule and the durability rating of your selected product. Aqua Bead will last approximately four to six months, when used at full strength, and can be diluted at 1:3 for greater economy and variable gloss levels. If you live in hot southern climates where cars risk greater exposure to UV rays, you might want to dress your interior surfaces more often to maintain UV protection.


Do I need to do anything specific before applying a tire dressing?


The best tire shine products on the market won't adhere to a dirty surface. Before applying tire shine to any surface, ensure you have thoroughly cleaned it. If you are going to dress your tires, use a good quality wheel cleaner and tire cleaner to remove dirt, grime, and contaminants from the tire surface. For engine bays, use a high-quality degreaser in a spray bottle to break down all grease, oil, and grime that has accumulated. Then, rinse them with clean water, and allow them to dry, before applying the dressing (unless you use Aqua Bead, in which case you can skip the drying step). Interior surfaces should be cleaned with a clean microfiber cloth and an appropriate interior cleaner to remove dust, grime, and oils before dressing application.


Avoiding Common Problems


How can common problems like product sling and product build-up be avoided when applying tire dressing?


The best way to reduce sling and product build-up is to use an applicator pad to apply dressings to tire sidewalls, instead of spraying it directly onto the tire surface. Spraying often results in overspray on the rims and over-application, which can cause sling and build-up. Moving a vehicle before the applied dressing is dry can also cause product sling. We recommend applying a thin layer of dressing with a tire shine applicator pad and allowing the tire to dry for at least 5-10 minutes before moving it. For more on reducing the risk of tire sling, see here.


Conclusion: Tire Dressing Isn't Just for Tires


Tire dressing or tire shine can be used for multiple car care applications. Choose a super shiny dressing, if you desire gloss tires, or a satin finish dressing, if you want the versatility of using the dressing for tire care, engine care, and interior applications. Either way, if you want the best car care products, don't opt for the cheapest product on the shelf. Lastly, always ensure you properly prepare vehicle surfaces before applying.



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