A tonneau cover is an important accessory for any pickup truck owner. It provides protection for the truck bed and anything stored inside. Tonneau covers come in soft vinyl or hard folding/rolling materials. No matter the type, proper cleaning is required to keep the tonneau cover looking its best. But when it comes to cleaning products, not all are tonneau-safe. So, is it okay to use bleach cleaner on a tonneau cover?
Should You Use Bleach Cleaner On A Tonneau Cover?
The short answer is no, do not use bleach cleaner on a tonneau cover. Bleach can damage the tonneau material, whether vinyl, canvas, aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic. It can cause cracking, discoloration, and deterioration over time.
Petroleum distillates, silicone oils, ammonias, and bleaches are harsh chemicals that should be avoided for tonneau cover cleaning. These can break down the protective coatings on soft covers or corrode fixtures like clamps and hinges on hard covers.
So what’s the best way to safely clean your tonneau cover?
What’s The Best Way To Clean A Tonneau Cover?
To clean tonneau covers, start with a mild soap and cold water. Use a soft cloth or sponge to gently wash away dirt and debris. Avoid abrasive brushes or scouring pads.
For soft vinyl or canvas covers, start by:
- Sweeping off loose dirt with a soft brush.
- Mixing a mild soap like dish detergent with cold water in a bucket.
- Dipping the sponge in the soap mixture and wringing out excess water.
- Gently scrubbing the cover top and bottom to lift dirt. Rinse often.
- Drying with a soft cloth. Avoid letting air dry.
If stains persist, a tonneau-safe vinyl cleaner may help lift grease or grime. Test on an inconspicuous area first.
For hard folding or retractable covers:
- Sweep off loose debris before washing.
- Use the same mild soap and cold water method.
- Clean any sliders, hinges, or tension adjusters.
- Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry.
- Lubricate hinges afterwards if needed.
Avoid using any protectants, conditioners, or gloss enhancers on matte finished hard covers. This will create a slippery surface.
For tough stains like bird droppings or tree sap, use an ammonia-free tonneau cleaner specifically formulated for your cover material. Test first in a small area.
Should Tonneau Covers Be Pressure Washed?
Pressure washing is not recommended for tonneau covers. The intense water pressure can damage the material and protective coatings. It may blast off snaps, corner seals, or cause the cover to warp. Soft cover bows can get bent out of shape too.
Even low pressure setting can distort adhesives and stitching over time. It’s best to hand wash tonneau covers with mild soap and water only. Letting a professional truck wash do the initial rinse is okay, but avoid direct pressure spray.
Can Bleach Damage A Tonneau Cover?
Yes, bleach can definitely damage a tonneau cover made of vinyl, canvas, plastic, fiberglass, or even aluminum. Here’s why it’s caustic to these materials:
- Vinyl – Bleach breaks down the protective polymers in vinyl that make it waterproof and flexible. This leads to premature cracking, splits at seams, and shrinkage.
- Canvas – The fibers in canvas get damaged by bleach. It becomes stiff and discolored, with weakened sections prone to ripping.
- Plastic/Fiberglass – Bleach corrodes and discolors plastic tonneau components like clamps, sliders, and stripping. Fiberglass can get bleached spots and small cracks.
- Aluminum – Although aluminum won’t get damaged in the same way, bleach will oxidize the surface. This dulls the bright finish.
Even diluted bleach solutions can degrade tonneau materials over time. The damage may not be immediately visible, but have lasting effects on performance and appearance. It’s just not worth the risk for a quick cleaning shortcut.
Are There Any Safe Bleach Tonneau Cleaning Methods?
There is one tonneau cover bleach cleaning method reported to work in very diluted mixtures. However, it still carries risks and should be approached with caution:
- A 50/50 bleach and water solution has been used by some owners to remove mildew on the underside of soft vinyl tonneau covers. The bleach kills off the mildew spores. But great care must be taken to avoid letting it contact the vinyl top side.
- Immediately rinse off any overspray. Test first in an inconspicuous spot to watch for adverse reactions. Limit this to periodic stain removal, not regular maintenance washes.
The safest guidance is still to avoid bleach entirely. Use an ammonia-free cleaner labeled tonneau-safe instead. Don’t take risks with harsh chemicals that can permanently damage your cover.
What’s The Best Tonneau Cover Cleaner?
For routine tonneau cover cleaning, a mild soap and water mix is all you need. But for deeper cleaning power, the Wolfsteins Tonneau Cover Cleaner is a great choice.
This specialty cleaner is safe for vinyl, canvas, plastic, and powder coated tonneaus. It’s designed to dissolve grease, road grime, sap, and more – without bleach or other hazardous chemicals.
Key benefits include:
- Gentle cleaning formula won’t damage cover material or finishes.
- Removes stubborn stains like tree sap without heavy scrubbing.
- UV blockers help protect against sun damage.
- Leaves a renewed matte satin finish.
- Repels dust and dirt between washes.
- Can be used on tonneau interiors too for mildew removal.
Regular use of a mild, tonneau-specific cleaner like this keeps covers looking clean and new. It gets rid of grime that soap alone may not tackle.
Just remember to always test on a small, low visibility area first. Check that it doesn’t impact vinyl gloss or fade color. If no adverse reaction, it’s good to use on the entire cover surface.
Tips For Keeping Tonneau Covers Clean
Here are some handy tips for minimizing tonneau cover cleaning needs:
- Vacuum or sweep out the truck bed weekly to avoid debris buildup.
- Hose down monthly with a light spray to lift dust.
- Wipe spills quickly before they can stain.
- Keep vinyl protected with UV sprays.
- Lubricate folding hinges regularly.
- Park in covered areas when possible.
- Use tonneau cover when hauling dirty/sandy cargo.
- Let professional truck washes do a presoak rinse first.
- Dry soft covers thoroughly after washing.
- Check seals and snaps for wear; replace if damaged.
With proper care and cleaning, a quality tonneau cover should last for years looking great. Avoiding harsh cleaners like bleach prevents premature damage. A little soap and elbow grease keeps your cover protected while maintaining that new truck look.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use Windex or other household cleaners on my tonneau cover?
No, most household cleaners like Windex contain chemicals like ammonia that can damage tonneau covers over time. Stick to mild soap and water instead.
How often should I clean my truck tonneau cover?
Aim to clean soft covers every 2-3 months, and hard covers every 4-6 months. Clean promptly after exposure to sap, bird droppings, and spills.
Will Armor All hurt my vinyl tonneau cover?
Yes, Armor All and similar vinyl protectants can damage tonneau covers. The oils in these products break down vinyl over time, causing premature cracking. They also create a slippery surface hazard.
Can I pressure wash my retractable tonneau cover?
No, you should never pressure wash a tonneau cover. Even on the lowest setting, pressure washing can damage the material, seals, and operating components. Stick to hand washing instead.
What household items work to clean tonneau covers?
For DIY cleaning, a mild dish soap and cold water works well. Baking soda or vinegar can tackle tougher stains. But avoid harsh chemicals like bleach, ammonia, alcohol, or acetone that can harm tonneau covers.
The Bottom Line
Bleach may be an effective cleaner in many applications, but tonneau covers are not one of them. The caustic chemicals damage vinyl, plastic, and even aluminum materials. Sticking to a mild soap and water wash is the safest way to clean soft or hard covers. For deeper cleaning power, use a specialty tonneau cover cleaner formulated to be gentle yet effective. With proper care, your tonneau cover will last for years and continue protecting that truck bed in style.