How to clean "water spots" on instrument panel lens?

I just bought this car, and the spots on the instrument panel lens are annoying. Any success cleaning something like this?

Try white vinegar and some distilled water.

Or if that doesn’t work, use plastic polish. Available in the wax section of the auto parts store.


Have you tried to clean it yet? If not, try glass cleaner first. I find that Simple Green is a very good solvent.

I tried a little Magic Eraser, which didn’t do anything. Then I tried Meguiar’s Quik Interior Detailer Cleaner, which also didn’t do anything.

Those spots look like calcium salt deposits, occur naturally in many city water systems, esp western USA. Vinegar is mildly acidic and acids tend to dissolve those salts. So MM’s idea above is where to start. May take several cleaning attempts. Good idea to make sure vinegar doesn’t damage that material first, try in inconspicuous spot. If vinegar doesn’t clean it up, the spots must be something other than calcium salts.

Suggest to avoid rubbing anything on the surface, may cause permanent scratch, or concentrated solvents. may dissolve plastic materials. .

That is chemical damage from a harsh detergent. “Professional” detailers spray a strong cleaner onto the steering wheel when cleaning and the overspray causes that damage to the plastic lens. It takes a lot of buffing to remove the damaged layer of plastic. Replacing the lens is easier.

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The lens itself isn’t very expensive, but what would labor cost?

Replacing the instrument cluster lens in a late model car can usually be done in one hour.

By a dealer?

Sure, by a dealer. Maybe a little longer for someone inexperienced with your car. Knowing how to remove the bezel without causing damage helps.

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I’ve had some results with my spray wax.


After browsing some other fora, I tried WD40, and it seems to have worked. I applied it with a cotton ball and then tried to gently wipe excess with a clean cloth. Looks 100% better, at least for now.


Try the progressive approach

  1. Distilled water and a clean soft cloth.
  2. Mild detergent, distilled water and a clean soft cloth.
  3. Simple Green, distilled water …
  4. WD40 with … (Since you already skipped 1 & 2, if the fogging returns revert to #1 and start again)
  5. Mild polishing compound followed by 1-3. (Most abrasives incorporate an oil component that will attract dirt & dust).
  6. More agressive Rubbing Compounds followed by …
  7. Replacement

Most instrument panels are made of a very soft plastic lens which is easilly damaged by chemicals, harsh fabbrics or even common household cleaners so the idea is to start small to avoiding additional damage and work up to acceptable from there.
And BTW, that 20 year old set of ultra soft boxers or tee shirts your spouse has been telling you to get rid of? Perfect to now sacrifice for the cause. :slightly_smiling_face:

I had already also tried 50/50 distilled water and vinegar, and that didn’t work either. I’ll update if the WD40 ends up not working.

I would not have used WD40, chance to damage the plastic. I’ve read good things about PlastX, made for cleaning and polishing clear plastic.

I didn’t have any reason to think WD40 would damage it, but I was willing to take that chance because if I couldn’t clean it I was going to replace it anyway.

WD40 might have worked because it started to dissolve the plastic. Get a bright flashlight, shine it in the lens at an oblique angle, and see if there are swirl marks. As long as it doesn’t bother you while driving the car it’s fine. This is just a little extra information for other cleaning efforts. Polycarbonate is attacked by WD40 and it wouldn’t surprise me if the lens is polycarbonate.