Automotive Dressing 101

Tire dressing or tire shine is one of the most heavily debated topics in the detailing industry. In general, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding what different styles of dressing do and don’t do. Typically the debate surrounds what causes browning or what is known as “blooming” and if a particular style of tire dressing “slings”. Let’s set the record straight.


So every tire is manufactured with Antiozonants. It’s an organic compound additive that is included in the chemical make-up of the tire when it is manufactured to at the very least slow down the aging process. Tires are made of rubber and rubber is susceptible to the elements and erosion. Antiozonants help to prevent erosion.

Without antiozonants, you would be replacing tires on your vehicle about 3 times more than you currently are. That would make owning a vehicle extremely expensive.

Tire Browning or “Tire Blooming”

The Antiozonsants mentioned above are designed in a way so that over the life span of the tire, they work themselves out of the tire or “outgas”. Once the Antiozonsants reach the outside of the tire and are exposed to air and moisture, it typically oxidizes which results in the browning residue you know as “tire blooming”. This can happen on tires that have NEVER had dressing applied to them once.

You’ll never be able to remove this residue completely, you can reduce it with the proper use of elbow grease and cleaning agents but it will never be fully removed.

Silicone isn’t necessarily the enemy

Over the years the technology surrounding tire dressing has changed significantly. The industry has begun infusing dressings with SiO2, surfactants, silicone, petroleum, and a number of other compounds.

The common misconception is that tire dressing that contains silicone causing tires to “brown”. What is actually more likely to happen is that dirt and debris will stick to a tire and begin to bond with the rubber, leaving heavy grime and film behind. Most of the time, a citrus-based degreaser will remove this layer of grossness. Non-acid wheel cleaners are good for this too but you’re going to need to agitate the surface with some type of tire brush.

Something else to consider is that before you apply new tire dressing if you don’t clean off the old application, you are just piling on more dressing on top of dirt, grease, traffic film.

Know the Difference!
Solvent-based dressings

Lots of people love their tires to shine like mirrors. Solvent-based dressings are typically the ones that a particular person reaches to achieve these results.

A solvent-based dressing will contain an obscene amount of silicone. That’s because it dissolves and disperses VERY well in a solvent-based dressing. The biggest issue is that solvents are considered VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOC’s are harmful to the environment and heavily regulated.

Solvent-based dressings have a much higher chance of slinging as they contain a considerable amount of petroleum and most aerosol dressings even though they “dry to the touch” can reanimate in intense heat and become greasy again and sling off the tire.

In general, solvent-based dressings are not ones you want to use in a professional setting unless you are a car wash or a body shop.

Water-based dressings

Water-based tire dressings have come a long way in auto detailing and car care. They are typically lighter in color. The majority of water-based dressings also contain silicone. Since water & silicone don’t mix, the fluid is broken into tiny droplets and suspended in water through a process called homogenization.

Most products use surfactants, which keep the emulsion solution stable & cohesive but cause the silicone dressing to wash back off the tire when they become wet or centrifugal force is applied (the spinning of a tire).

More premium products use thickeners and stabilizing agents, which provide a better bond between the dressing and the tire and are less likely to come off later. Water-based dressings exist in a variety of viscosity ranges and various amounts of silicone. Water-based dressings are even enhanced with SiO2 in some cases to improve water repellency.

The hard part of creating a good water-based dressing is to find the correct formula for emulsion-producing agents that keep silicone fluid droplets suspended in water but do not de-apply the silicone back off of the tire the first time the tire gets wet. The lack of longevity is the concern with the typical white, milky macro-emulsions sold in the retail store. 

Most higher quality water-based dressings can be diluted to acheive multiple gloss levels so that it can be used in both interior & exterior applications. That means one less product to keep track of.


Both Solvent, Water-Based w/ Silicone, Solvent Free, Water-Based Silicone Free dressings all have their place. You aren’t necessarily any worse off for using any of these dressings but just know that each of them has pros and cons. 

You can choose what dressing makes the most sense for you by reviewing the chart below:

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