Automotive Interior Dye: “How To”

If you found this page looking for Automotive Interior Dye so you can dye your interior then you’re in the right place! So after almost 4 years of having dyed the interior in my Lightning it was time to do a few touch ups. People always go on and on about painting interior plastics. But did you know some companies paint their pieces from Factory? Normally cars that have 2 toned pieces such as a dash or door panels, there will be one primary color and the secondary is usually a result of dye/paint. You can see more on my -after buying it back years later! 2000 SVT Lightning
Since my Lightning only ever had a Gray option I was quick to dye the interior black. I had dyed dozens of Mustang Interior, BMW interiors, Hondas etc. I have used black, white, blue, red, gray dyes and paints. There are many options out there when it comes to the paint/dye you want to use and it can be extremely confusing. What it really comes down to tho is the prep work. Much like painting a car.

Plastics & Vinyl

Interior Paint/Dye options. You will notice that most now saw plastic/vinyl and both will work just fine as most interior consist of these two materials. Please note that you CAN use this on leather with great results as well. So here are some options you may come across these days:
  • SEM (limited vendors and expensive but great quality and my personal pick)
  • VHT (available through most auto stores such as Autozone, Advanced Auto Parts, Pep Boys etc. Also a very good option)
  • Krylon (Wal Mart and has a great spray nozzle and super cheap!)
  • Rustoleum (Recently seen this taking over the dupli-color options at Auto-Zone, great color selection and haven’t used it yet)
  • Dupli-Color (Most auto stores and “okay” quality hard to find some colors)
  • Dealer (Yes you will know you can buy interior paint directly from the dealer if they used it, be prepared to pay, good quality but you pay for it and inconvenient)
  • Dupont (You can buy it by the gallon if you wish and mix it and spray it through a paint gun for bulk projects)
Gloss/Satin/Flat: Lots of controversy over this and I have used all of them. In my honest opinion stay away from Gloss finishes. It looks cheap, reflects light into your face and just looks cheesy. There are however sometimes a time and place for it with some custom interiors. If you are after a factory OEM finish like most cases, you will want a “flat” or “satin” finish. It really depends on what you prefer. I tend to lean towards a satin finish since it gives a nice clean look. I also find that the flat finishes tend to scratch a little more easily as they have no sheen what so ever. The sheen sometimes allows things to “slide” a bit better.
So along with all these options, some of the manufacturers of these paint and Automotive Interior Dye products also have available their own “special” cleaners and adhesion promoters etc. They are sometimes even more expensive than the paint itself! Don’t be fooled by such gimmicks. The best way to prep your surfaces prior to paint is to use the right products and to take your time which is all part of the Automotive Interior Dyeing process

Here we go!

  1. Get some dish soap (yes the kind you wash your dishes with). Make sure it doesn’t have hand lotion or any other weird stuff (scented is okay)
  2. Bucket of nice warm water and add a good amount of soap.
  3. Get one of those cellulite sponges that has the scotch pad on the back
  4. With your interior panels removed and in a clean area wash them down with your water and sponge really well. Also go over the whole area with the scotch pad side of your sponge. This will help “scratch” the surface to give the paint something to stick to. (don’t worry it will not damage the surface)
  5. Use clean paper towel to dry your panels off completely. You will be amazed at the dirt and grime and old Armor All you remove! Wash them again if you feel they are still dirty. Some parts you may have to use a tooth brush (like on dash vents)
  6. Use a clean cloth and poor some Acetone on it and wipe down the surface you are about to paint. It will dry itself and this will make sure your surface is free of any dirt or oil. Acetone can be found in the household paint area in Wal-Mart
  7. In a well ventilated area place your pieces out on a big piece of cardboard or whatever you got to make it easy to paint and get access to. Be creative! Make sure there isn’t much wind and that you have good lighting. Make sure to mask off any pieces/areas you don’t want painted.
  8. Shake your can of paint/dye well and apply light thin coats almost “misting” it on. The idea is to get a uniform look and not to have a “splotchy” finished product.
  9. For color changes this could be 5-6 coats.
  10. Let dry and reinstall! – Note: Interior dye dries fast! Like 10 minutes fast, but I recommend waiting 12-24 hrs prior to handling for re-install.
The pics above are some I recently took of my lightning.. The interior was gray and originally I had dyed it with VHT Flat Black interior paint. After 4 years and 40, 000 miles there were a few marks on the kick panels and door sill plates and I wanted to try a Satin finish. This time around I used Krylon. So far so good! Want to see my most recent project check out this video on my 1989 Saleen Clone Build that I dyed some of the key interior pieces to black!


Don’t waste your money on an aftermarket rug if yours is in good shape -Do the following:
  1. Remove the Carpet
  2. Remove any sound insulation from the back
  3. Get a large garbage can and fill with warm water if possible
  4. Add 15 boxes of RIT dye from Wal-Mart in the Laundry Detergent Section
  5. Mix Well
  6. Add your carpet one chunk at a time (wear gloves!)
  7. Move the carpet around as you eventually get the whole thing in the can and submerged
  8. Wait an hour
  9. Remove the carpet slowly and put it back in another way to avoid light spots and creases
  10. Submerge (use of a cinder block helps) and let sit overnight
  11. Remove and rinse off with hose until water rinses clear (pressure washer OK!)
  12. Let dry
  13. Re-install
Not only will your carpet look like NEW and be all cushy again, but it will fit like OEM because it is! No trimming and cutting and it will NOT RUB OFF!


Option 1: Easy to recover with the material of your choice. Remove headliner and peel off the material and recover using 3M industrial grade spray glue! Make sure to spray both sides of the surfaces.
Option 2: If you wish to just paint your old one… You can use Automotive Interior Dye (aka PAINT!) Don’t waste your money on material paint. Buy the $1 cans of black primer from Home Depot and paint in cross X patterns each coat. Get a soft brush and brush in-between coats to get soft again!
In the below video you will see how I dye the headliner in my 1989 Foxbody Mustang Saleen Clone

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