If you have a hard folding tonneau cover on your truck, keeping it clean is important for both appearance and performance. A dirty tonneau cover not only looks bad, but it can also lead to damage over time. Fortunately, cleaning a hard folding tonneau cover is a straightforward process if you follow some simple steps.
What Supplies Do You Need to Clean a Hard Tonneau Cover?
Before cleaning your tonneau cover, gather the necessary supplies. Here are the main items you’ll need:
- Car wash soap or mild detergent
- Soft towels or microfiber cloths
- Soft-bristle scrub brush
- Garden hose
You’ll mix the car wash soap with water to create a cleaning solution. Microfiber cloths work great for scrubbing and drying. A soft-bristle scrub brush helps loosen dirt in crevices. And a garden hose provides a water source for rinsing. Avoid using any abrasive cleaners or stiff brushes that could scratch the tonneau cover surface.
What’s the Best Process for Washing a Hard Tonneau Cover?
Follow these key steps to properly clean your hard folding truck bed cover:
1. Rinse Away Loose Debris
Before washing, use a garden hose to spray off the tonneau cover. This helps remove any loose dirt or debris that’s just resting on the surface. Rinsing first makes the cleaning step faster and more effective.
2. Create a Cleaning Solution
Fill your bucket about halfway with warm water. Add a small amount of car wash soap or mild detergent and stir to create suds. The soapy solution helps lift away stuck-on grime.
3. Scrub the Entire Surface
Dip your scrub brush or microfiber cloth in the soap solution. Start scrubbing from the middle of the cover and work outward toward the edges. Apply light pressure and use smooth back-and-forth motions.
Make sure to get into crevices, folds, and textured surfaces. For stubborn spots, let the cleaning solution soak for a few minutes before scrubbing.
4. Rinse Away All Traces of Soap
Once you’ve scrubbed the entire tonneau cover, use your garden hose to rinse away all traces of soap. It’s important to remove all suds so they don’t dry and leave residue. Rinsing also washes away the lifted dirt.
5. Dry Thoroughly
After rinsing, use a clean soft towel or microfiber cloth to dry the tonneau cover. Wipe in straight lines from front to back to soak up all water. Take extra care to dry creases and seams.
Leaving standing water to air dry can lead to water spots and mineral deposits. For a streak-free finish, make sure to fully dry your cover.
How Often Should You Clean Your Hard Tonneau Cover?
To keep your tonneau cover looking its best, aim to wash it every 2-3 months. If you drive in dusty conditions or park under trees, you may need to clean it more frequently.
Signs that it’s time for a wash include:
- Dirt buildup
- Fading or discoloration
- Water beads rather than sheets off
- Grimy texture or residue
Washing your cover regularly prevents contaminants from damaging the surface. It also removes stuck-on debris that can hinder opening and closing.
What Cleaning Tips Help Avoid Scratches?
Certain precautions during washing can help avoid scratches on your hard folding tonneau:
- Never use abrasive cleaners or stiff brushes that could mar the surface.
- Scrub gently in straight lines using light pressure. Avoid harsh circular scrubbing.
- Make sure to fully rinse away any gritty debris that could cause scratches.
- Only dry using ultra-soft microfiber cloths, not rough towels.
- Avoid placing heavy objects on top of the cover that could scuff it.
- Fold open and closed carefully without dragging over the truck bed rails.
- Inspect for debris before closing and remove anything that could get trapped and scratched.
How Do You Clean Stained or Discolored Spots?
For stubborn stains or discolored areas, you may need to use a cleaning solution specifically designed for tonneau covers. Options include:
Tonneau Cover Cleaner
- Safely breaks down grease, oil, tree sap, bird droppings, and other stuck-on gunk.
- Won’t harm the cover’s finish.
- Also removesminor oxidation and fading.
Vinyl Tonneau Cover Conditioner
- Contains UV protectants to prevent sun damage.
- Restores color and luster.
- Leaves a like-new satin sheen.
- Foaming spray dissolves grease and tar buildup.
- Contains no harsh solvents that could dry out vinyl.
- Won’t leave behind oily residues.
Test specialty cleaners in a small inconspicuous area first. Follow the product instructions closely. Avoid using household cleaners like bleach or ammonia that can damage tonneau covers.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Folding Hinges and Seals?
Pay special attention when cleaning the hinges, clamps, and sealing edges of a hard folding cover. These areas easily collect dirt that can interfere with proper operation.
Here are some tips for keeping them clean:
- Use a small brush to gently scrub debris from hinges. Take care not to force any grit into the moving parts.
- Spray hinges with a silicone or rubber protectant/conditioner to prevent rust and keep them operating smoothly.
- Use a toothbrush dipped in soapy water to gently clean clamps and lock mechanisms.
- Wipe away bugs, tree sap, pollen, etc. from weatherstripping using an all-purpose cleaner and microfiber cloth.
- Treat weatherstripping with UV protectant/conditioner to prevent cracks. Reapply after washing the cover.
- Carefully vacuum out any dirt that accumulates in channels with a brush attachment.
Keeping all seals, hinges, clamps, and moving parts clean is essential for your tonneau cover to continue folding, latching, and sealing properly year after year.
Does a Protectant Help Keep Your Tonneau Cover Clean?
Yes, using a tonneau cover protectant/conditioner helps keep your cover clean between washes. These products provide a glossy water-repellent coating that makes dust, dirt, and debris slide right off with a simple rinse.
Protectants also contain UV blockers that prevent sun damage. On vinyl covers, conditioning agents keep the material from drying out and cracking.
You can apply protectant immediately after washing your cover or anytime it starts to look dull. Use a foam applicator or soft cloth to rub it evenly over the entire surface. Buff off any excess with a microfiber towel. Reapply every 2-4 months.
Protectants make regular washing faster and easier. They help your expensive tonneau cover retain its like-new condition for longer.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Inside the Truck Bed?
While you have your tonneau cover open for washing, it’s the perfect time to clean the truck bed interior too. Here are some tips:
- Sweep out loose debris with a broom. For stuck-on grime, use a scrub brush and all-purpose cleaner.
- Spray truck bed liner protectant/conditioner and wipe down with a cloth. This nourishes and restores faded, chalky spray-in liners.
- Scrub out built-up dirt in cracks and corners with an old toothbrush.
- Remove scuffs on the paint with gentler rubbing compound before applying touch-up paint.
- Vacuum out crevices and rail caps where smaller debris collects.
- Clean and dress rubber bed mats.
- Wipe down the tailgate inside and out.
Maintaining a clean truck bed preserves your truck’s value while also keeping the tonneau cover’s underside clean. Remove any jagged debris to prevent punctures or tears.
Can You Use a Pressure Washer to Clean a Hard Tonneau Cover?
Pressure washing is not recommended for hard folding tonneau covers. The powerful spray can force water into seams and edges, damaging seals and weatherstripping. High-pressure water can also dull and erode the surface.
It’s safer to use a soft stream from a garden hose when rinsing your cover clean. Avoid aiming directly at hinges or latch mechanisms that are susceptible to water intrusion damage.
If you do need to pressure wash your truck, carefully mask off the tonneau cover first. Place a towel or blanket over the cover, or drape plastic sheeting around the edges and secure it temporarily with painter’s tape.
Take steps to protect your cover any time you use a pressure washer on the rest of your truck. The extreme spray will do more harm than good if directed at the tonneau cover.
How Can You Prevent Water Spots When Drying?
Nothing ruins the freshly-cleaned look of a tonneau cover faster than leftover water spots. To prevent them:
- Always dry the cover fully with a clean, absorbent towel immediately after washing. Don’t let water air dry.
- If drying in the sun, fold a towel over the cover to absorb the rapidly evaporating water rather than letting it dry directly on the surface.
- Buff with a dry microfiber cloth to catch leftover droplets and traces of water in crevices.
- Avoid forming suds directly on the cover surface. Rinse soap off immediately.
- Don’t wash when temperatures exceed 85°F or in direct sunlight to minimize fast water evaporation.
- Wipe off any sprinkler spray from lawn watering right away so it doesn’t dry.
- Remove bird droppings immediately, before the liquid etches the surface.
Staying on top of drying and not allowing water to linger is the number one way to avoid spots on your freshly cleaned tonneau cover.
What’s the Best Way to Clean Tonneau Cover Windows?
If your folding tonneau cover has transparent vinyl windows, take care when cleaning them. Avoid using harsh chemicals, abrasive pads, or squeegees that could scratch.
Follow these steps to safely clean and shine the windows:
- Hose down the windows first to rinse away gritty debris that could scratch during wiping.
- Mix a few drops of mild dish soap in a spray bottle filled with water. Mist onto windows and let soak briefly.
- Gently rub soapy water over the surface with a soft microfiber cloth, using light pressure.
- Rinse windows thoroughly with water then dry using a fresh microfiber towel.
- Buff windows with a lint-free cloth to eliminate streaks and water spots.
- Apply a small amount of plexiglass cleaner and wipe windows again for added sparkle.
Take your time cleaning tonneau cover windows. Rushing can cause scratches that quickly cloud the clear vinyl. Handle them with care for optimal visibility.
Does Tonneau Cover Material Affect Cleaning Method?
Yes, the specific material used to construct your folding tonneau cover can impact the cleaning process. Here’s how to adapt:
Painted Aluminum Tonneaus
- Use gentle cleaners formulated for automotive paints rather than harsh chemicals.
- Rinse away all soap residues thoroughly.
- Apply automotive wax or polish for added protection.
- Use a vinyl cleaner and conditioner to prevent cracking.
- Avoid products with alcohol, bleach, or ammonia that dry out vinyl.
- Protect with UV blockers to reduce sun damage and fading.
Powder Coated Tonneaus
- Soap and water is typically sufficient for cleaning.
- Gently scrub areas of stuck-on grime with a soft brush.
- Reapply powder coat sealant/wax every few months.
- Dish soap mixed with water works well for cleaning.
- Rinse thoroughly to prevent soap sticking in textured surfaces.
- Wipe down with protectant to repel dirt and debris.
Always reference your owner’s manual to make sure you use the proper cleaning products recommended for your specific tonneau cover material. Tailoring your washing methods will provide the best results.
What Are Some Common Tonneau Cover Cleaning Mistakes?
It’s easy to accidentally damage your tonneau cover if you use poor cleaning techniques. Here are some mistakes to avoid:
- Using harsh chemical cleaners not formulated for tonneau covers. This can strip protective finishes.
- Neglecting to completely rinse away all soap residue after washing. Leftover suds attract dirt once dry.
- Scrubbing too aggressively with stiff brushes. Go gentle to avoid inflicting scratches.
- Allowing debris and moisture to linger in hinges. This leads to corrosion and stiffness.
- Skipping conditioner/protectant after washing. Unprotected covers weather faster.
- Rubbing dirt or dust across a dry cover. Always rinse first to avoid scratching the surface.
- Using dirty towels and applicator pads. This transfers grime back onto the clean cover.
- Drying in direct sunlight. Heat and UV rays accelerate water spotting.
- Focusing only on the top surface and neglecting undersides. Grime builds up on both sides.
With the proper techniques and cleaning tools, keeping your valuable folding truck bed cover sparkling clean doesn’t require much effort. Just remember to be gentle and thorough.
How Can You Minimize Dirt Buildup on Your Tonneau Cover?
While regular washing keeps your tonneau cover clean, you can also take steps to minimize dirt buildup in between washes:
- Park in the shade or garage when possible. This reduces tree sap, bird droppings, and other environmental grime.
- Immediately wipe off any spilled cargo or liquids before they stain.
- Fold the cover closed whenever you’re not actively using the bed. This protects the interior surface.
- Use a bedliner to catch and contain loose debris thrown up while driving. Shake out often.
- Install fender flares to reduce mud and road spray hitting the sides.
- Apply a protectant/conditioner that causes water to bead and rinse debris away.
- Remove buildup from hinges, seals, and clamps frequently to avoid abrasion damage.
- Check weatherstripping condition and replace if cracked, stiff, or leaking.
- Avoid overloading the truck bed which can stress the cover.
With vigilant preventative care, you can go longer between deep cleanings. But don’t neglect occasional thorough washing when needed.
What Are Some Tonneau Cover Cleaning Tips to Remember?
Here’s a quick recap of key tips for successfully cleaning a hard folding truck bed tonneau cover:
- Always use automotive car wash soap or mild cleaners, not harsh chemicals.
- Rinse well before and after washing to prevent scratches.
- Gently scrub stains and stuck-on gunk with soft brushes or microfiber cloths.
- Take extra care cleaning hinges, seals, and latch mechanisms.
- Dry thoroughly with clean soft towels immediately after rinsing.
- Apply vinyl conditioner and protectants/wax to protect the finish.
- Clean inner and outer surfaces as well as the truck bed.
- Avoid using pressure washers directly on the cover.
- Wash every few months and inspect closely for any damage.
- Fix minor issues immediately to prevent bigger problems.
- Adjust cleaning methods to suit the specific tonneau cover material.
Keeping your expensive folding truck bed cover clean takes some occasional effort but is essential. Follow these cleaning tips to help it function and look its best.
Hard folding tonneau covers provide many benefits for your truck, from extra security to improved gas mileage. Keeping them cleaned properly helps maintain their sleek look while also extending their lifespan. With the right cleaning process and supplies, you can easily wash away dirt, stains, and residue from a hard tonneau cover in just a few steps.
Remember to use automotive cleaning products and gentle scrubbing motions. Completely rinse away all soap. Make sure to dry thoroughly. Following these simple tonneau cover cleaning techniques will keep your cover functioning like new while protecting the expensive investment you’ve made in your truck.