What to Look For in the Best Tire Dressing

Tire dressing is one of the final touches for any professional car detailer. It’s a chemical formula that is applied to car tires to restore the deep black of the tire while giving the appearance of a richer and glossier tire. In short, it helps tires look shiny and new again. 

There are two types of tire dressings available: solvent-based or water-based. Each has its own benefits and will give a different look based on how it is applied. Read below for more information about each type of tire dressing, what you should consider before purchasing a tire dressing, and tips for properly applying tire dressing. 

Solvent-Based Tire Dressing 

Solvent-based tire dressing uses solvent as a carrier to get the silicone dressing to adhere to the tire. There is a common misconception from both enthusiasts and professionals alike that solvent-based tire dressing can, over time, ruin the rubber of tires, causing dry rot and cracking. If not formulated properly, this is somewhat true, however, it can be avoided with a properly formulated tire dressing. In fact, solvent-based tire dressing can actually lengthen the life of your tire, as long as the solvent has an extremely high flash point. 

Why Choose Solvent-Based Tire Dressing

High flash point solvents are used in tire dressings merely as a carrier to get silicone to the tire. When lower flash point solvents occur in tire dressings, they can sit on the tire, causing issues. But high flash point solvents evaporate virtually immediately, leaving a thin coating of silicone on the tire. Because of the speed of evaporation, there is no damage to the tire, and the remaining silicone provides protection from UV rays and conditions the tire to help with elemental triggers that could potentially cause harm to the rubber.  

The main benefit of a solvent-based tire dressing is that it leaves a thicker, shinier coat of silicone on tires when the solvent evaporates. The higher gloss offers more protection for the tire, and it has a distinctive look that many car owners and detailers value. It is also typically more durable, water-repellent, and longer-lasting than its water-based counterparts.  

How to Apply Solvent-Based Tire Dressing

When considering solvent-based tire dressing, there are typically formulas that you can either spray on—aerosol or non-aerosol—or wipe on. As a professional detailer, minutes count, and having a product that sprays on with no drips, no wiping, and no mess is a huge time saver as compared to a tire dressing that needs to be applied and wiped.  

VOC Considerations for Solvent-Based Tire Dressing

One extremely important consideration in choosing a solvent-based tire dressing is whether or not you live or work in a state with VOC restrictions. VOC is an acronym for volatile organic compounds, and many states have laws restricting how much VOC is allowed in chemicals. 

The list for VOC states is continually growing, but here are the states that currently have laws restricting VOCs: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Washington DC. 

Individuals and businesses in these locations will need to use a low VOC tire dressing, which is formulated with different solvent blends with a slightly lower flash point, which can lead to heavier application of the silicone tire dressing. For low VOC formulas, a little product truly goes a long way, but they will typically require wiping to avoid running or slinging. On the plus side, though, these formulas usually have a bit more silicone in them, providing higher gloss and additional protection for the rubber of the tires. 

Water-Based Tire Dressing 

A water-based tire dressing uses an emulsion base to be able to properly mix with silicone. An emulsion is a blend of surfactants and water that are whipped up at high speeds to form a base suitable for blending seamlessly with silicone without causing separation. Water-based formulas do not last as long as solvent-based formulas, because the amount of silicone adhering to the tire is diluted.  

Why Choose Water-Based Tire Dressing

Many detailers opt for a water-based tire dressing because it can be used throughout a vehicle for multiple applications. For example, Superior Products Aqua Gloss can be used on tires, engine bays, and even interiors dashboards and door panels. It has also been formulated with the added benefit of repelling dust. Dust particles collect electrons and ions on their surface, but the surfactants used in Aqua Gloss are non-ionic, which repels dust.  

Depending on the chosen application process, water-based tire dressings can provide nearly the same glossy finish as solvent-based tire dressings, though they may require a bit more attention than spray and walk away. Water-based tire dressings are also a great option for those who prefer a more matte finish, provided the product is concentrated and can be diluted to achieve that effect. 

How to Apply Water-Based Tire Dressing

To apply water-based tire dressing, first look for one that is concentrated so you can dilute it for your specific needs and which area of the vehicle you’re using it on.  

For high gloss applications, you may choose to apply it diluted 1:1, or even undiluted. This is typically seen just on tires, unless the detailer is looking for a more matte finish. Water-based tire dressings can be diluted at 3:1 or 4:1 to accomplish a more matte finish without sacrificing protection against harmful UV rays. When diluted, it can be applied with a sprayer, but at full strength, most water-based tire dressings will need to be wiped onto the desired surface. 

About Superior Products 

Superior Products manufactures, sells, and distributes a full line of professional automotive appearance and industrial chemicals. A family-owned business since 1994, we manufacture all of our products at our facility in South Roxana, Illinois. We pride ourselves on the quality of our products, which are all 100% made in the USA.  


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