If you’ve ever had the misfortune of finding your prized pickup truck splattered with bird droppings, you know what a mess it can make. Bird poop contains uric acid which can eat through paint and clear coats surprisingly quickly. If left for long, it can even damage soft tonneau covers made of vinyl or canvas.
The good news is that bird droppings can be removed from your retractable tonneau cover without too much trouble. With some basic cleaning solutions, the right tools, and a little scrubbing, you can get your tonneau cover looking clean and new again.
What You’ll Need to Clean Bird Droppings Off a Retractable Tonneau Cover
Before you start cleaning, make sure you have the following supplies:
- A soft-bristle scrub brush with a plastic or wooden handle. Avoid metal bristles that could scratch.
- Mild soap and water. Dish soap or laundry detergent works well.
- Clean rags or microfiber cloths.
- A hose with adjustable nozzle or pressure washer if needed.
- Protective gear like rubber gloves, eye protection, old clothes, etc.
- Tonneau cover cleaner formulated for your specific material.
How to Clean Off Fresh, Wet Droppings
If you find fresh bird poop on your tonneau cover, act quickly before it has a chance to dry and harden. Here are the steps to clean it fast:
Step 1: Spray Down the Area
Use a garden hose on a light setting to gently rinse away any loose droppings. Avoid high pressure streams which can drive the mess deeper into the material.
Step 2: Wipe Away Initial Residue
With a damp microfiber cloth, gently wipe the area to lift off any remaining poop and liquid. Take care not to rub too hard.
Step 3: Mix a Mild Soap Solution
In a bucket or spray bottle, make a cleaning solution of warm water and a few drops of mild dish or laundry soap. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners.
Step 4: Scrub With Soft Brush
Use a soft-bristle scrub brush dipped in the soap solution to lightly scrub the affected area, getting into crevices and grain.
Step 5: Rinse Clean
Thoroughly rinse away all soap with clean water. Wipe dry with a clean cloth. Apply tonneau cover protectant if needed.
Removing Dried or Stubborn Droppings
If the bird poop has had time to dry and harden, getting it off will take a little more effort. Here are some tips:
Use Alcohol, Vinegar or Witch Hazel
For stuck-on droppings, use isopropyl alcohol, white vinegar or witch hazel to help dissolve caked-on poop and lift staining. Dip your scrub brush into the solution and scrub gently.
Heat With a Hair Dryer
A hair dryer on a warm setting can help soften dried bird droppings so they wipe away more easily. Just don’t overheat vinyl or canvas.
Try a Plastic Putty Knife
A plastic putty knife is useful for chipping off any chunks of hardened poop before scrubbing the remaining residue.
Use Tonneau Cover Cleaner
For really stubborn bird mess, use a specialty vinyl, canvas or leather tonneau cover cleaner formulated for retractable covers. Let it sit before scrubbing.
Scrub With Stain Remover
For set-in stains, an organic stain remover paste mixed with a little water can help pre-treat the area before scrubbing.
Cleaning Bird Poop Off Different Tonneau Cover Materials
Bird droppings can generally be cleaned from any tonneau cover material, but some require special care:
- Use mild dish soap and water. Avoid harsh chemicals that can dry out vinyl.
- Rinse well and wipe completely dry to avoid water spots.
- Apply a vinyl protectant like 303 Aerospace Protectant when finished.
- Stick to mild soap and water. Acidic cleaners can damage the aluminum finish.
- Dry thoroughly and apply aluminum polish to restore luster.
- Pretreat with a canvas cleaner and use a soft brush to avoid damaging the fabric.
- Rinse gentle with a low-pressure hose spray. Air dry only.
- Clean with a mild leather soap and soft cloth. Avoid excessive water.
- Rub in leather conditioner when dry to prevent stiffening and cracking.
Painted Hard Covers
- Use soapy water and a soft brush or microfiber cloth. Avoid abrasive pads.
- For stubborn spots, try an automotive paint degreaser.
- Wax or sealant will help restore gloss and protection.
Pressure Washing a Retractable Tonneau Cover
If you need to remove heavy soiling, dried mud or caked droppings, you can pressure wash a hard retractable tonneau cover:
Keep Nozzle at Least 1 Foot Away
Holding the pressure washer too close can damage the cover. Keep it 12 inches back to avoid stripping off paint or clear coat.
Use Lower Pressure Setting
Start with a wide-fan low pressure spray around 800 PSI. Increase pressure gradually only if needed.
Rinse With Care
Rinse vinyl and canvas covers with extra care, keeping the nozzle farther away and using lower pressure.
Remove Tonneau Before Washing
If possible, remove the cover from the truck bed for easier cleaning access. Pay attention to hinges and joints.
Clean Entire Cover
Once you start pressure washing, do the entire cover to prevent water spots or uneven streaking.
After pressure washing, let the tonneau cover dry completely before treating, conditioning or reinstalling.
How to Remove Set-In Stains From Bird Droppings
If bird poop stains remain after washing your retractable tonneau cover, try these tips to remove them:
Make a Baking Soda Paste
Mix baking soda with just enough water to form a spreadable paste. Apply to stained areas and let sit before scrubbing.
Use Oxalic Acid (Wood Bleach)
Dab on a dilute oxalic acid solution with a cotton swab. Helpful for lifting stains on paint or clear coat. Rinse thoroughly.
Try Vinegar or Lemon Juice
Helpful for canvass and vinyl, wet stains with vinegar or lemon juice. Let soak before scrubbing.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
Dab 91% isopropyl alcohol onto lingering stained spots using a clean cloth. Helps break down residue.
Lightly Sand Clear Coat Stains
If stains remain on a painted hard cover, gently sand with fine-grit sandpaper before reapplying clear coat.
Protect Against Future Stains
Regular use of tonneau cover protectants helps repel dirt, water spots and bird droppings.
How to Keep Bird Poop Off Your Truck Bed Cover
No one wants to constantly scrub bird mess off their nice tonneau cover. Here are some tips to keep your cover poop-free:
Park in Covered Areas
Pull your truck into the garage or under a carport to prevent birds from bombing it.
Use a Car Cover
A fitted waterproof car cover will protect the tonneau cover when parking outside.
Tonneau cover protectants create a slick barrier that makes poop slide right off. Reapply often.
Scare or Deter Birds
Fake owls, reflective tape, or bird spikes along the roof may discourage birds from landing.
Make it part of your routine to hose down the cover. Bird droppings wash off easiest when fresh.
When to Call a Professional for Tonneau Cover Cleaning
While you can handle a basic mess, it’s best to call the pros for:
- Extremely heavy or stubborn droppings that require aggressive cleaning. This risks damaging the cover.
- Multiple layers of built-up dried bird poop. Time for an intensive degreasing.
- Bleach stains that won’t come out. A pro has stronger stain removal products.
- Tears, rips or seam leaks caused by weakened material. Time to patch or replace the cover.
- Pressure washer damage or peeling clear coat. May need touch up paint or re-clear coating.
- If you simply don’t have the time or energy for a full cleaning. It’s a tedious job.
Keep Your Tonneau Cover Clean With Regular Washing
While an occasional bird bombing is inevitable, you can minimize the mess by washing your tonneau cover regularly before droppings have a chance to dry. Be sure to follow the cleaning methods recommended for your specific cover material. With proper care and cleaning, your retractable truck bed cover will continue to function and look great for years to come.