A retractable tonneau cover is a great way to protect the bed of your truck and any cargo you’re hauling. Unlike a traditional rigid tonneau or a soft roll-up cover, a retractable tonneau provides the best of both worlds – the security of a hard cover with the convenience of being able to retract it back over the bed.
But like any truck bed accessory, a retractable tonneau cover needs proper cleaning and maintenance to keep it looking its best and functioning properly. Here we’ll explore the most effective methods and products to keep your retractable tonneau cover clean.
What is the Best Way to Wash a Retractable Tonneau Cover?
Can I Use Regular Car Wash Soap on a Retractable Tonneau?
Most retractable tonneau covers have a vinyl surface, similar to the vinyl used on dashboards and other interior surfaces. Using a harsh detergent like dish soap or degreasing chemicals can actually damage the vinyl over time. Stick to cleaners made specifically for tonneau covers or vinyl/rubber exterior surfaces.
Should I Take My Truck Through an Automatic Car Wash?
Running your truck through a drive-thru automatic car wash is not recommended for tonneau covers. The heavy brushes can scratch the surface or dislodge gaskets. Truck washes also use harsh chemicals unsuitable for vinyl tonneau covers.
Using a self-service spray wand is okay if you use light pressure and keep the soap nozzle at least 12 inches away. But you’ll get better results washing by hand.
How Should I Wash My Retractable Tonneau Cover by Hand?
Hand washing your retractable tonneau is the best way to get it clean while being gentle on the surface. Follow these steps:
1. Rinse With Water
Rinse the tonneau cover to remove any loose dirt or debris before washing. You can use a hose if your water pressure is gentle enough.
2. Make a Mild Soap Solution
In a bucket or spray bottle, mix a few ounces of a mild soap like dish detergent or an automotive soap made for vinyl into a few gallons of warm water.
3. Wash With a Soft Brush
Use a soft brush or microfiber cloth to gently scrub the tonneau cover surface. Scrub in straight lines along the grain of the vinyl. This lifts dirt from the textured surface.
4. Rinse Away Residue
Rinse the tonneau cover thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap residue. Make sure to rinse crevices and textured surfaces.
5. Dry With a Microfiber Cloth
Wipe any standing water away with a clean microfiber towel. Let the tonneau air dry before retracting it.
Can I Use Other Cleaners on My Retractable Tonneau Cover?
Specialty tonneau cleaners are safe for regular use on vinyl covers. However, you want to avoid household cleaners like ArmorAll or kitchen sprays which can damage the vinyl over time.
See the next section for the best tonneau cover cleaning and care products to use.
Top Cleaning and Protection Products for Retractable Tonneau Covers
Using the right tonneau cover cleaner can make maintaining your retractable cover quick and easy. Here are the best options:
1. Extang Tonno Tonic
Extang Tonno Tonic is a favorite for cleaning and protecting retractable tonneaus. The formula contains UV inhibitors to prevent fading and conditioning oils that keep vinyl supple. It cleans away dirt, grease, and grime leaving a like-new finish. Simple spray it on and wipe it off – no scrubbing required. Use Tonno Tonic monthly to keep your cover looking its best.
2. Gtechniq C4 Permanent Trim Restorer
Gtechniq C4 is a versatile vinyl/rubber restorer that cleans and shines in one step. It was originally formulated to renew exterior car trim but works great on tonneau covers. Spray C4 on and wipe away dirt and oxidation with very little rubbing needed. It leaves a UV protective coating that repels dust and water. Reapply every 3-5 months.
3. 3M Marine Vinyl Restorer and Protector
From boat covers to tonneau covers, 3M’s marine vinyl cleaner is a great choice. It removes embedded dirt and stains with light scrubbing. The cream formula conditions as it cleans, leaving a renewed matte finish. It contains UV blockers to prevent sun damage. Use 3M Restorer about every 2 months to keep vinyl covering looking new.
4. 303 Aerospace Protectant
303 Aerospace Protectant is non-greasy formula made for vinyl, rubber, and plastic surfaces. It cleans away dirt and sap buildup while adding UV protection. Just spray and wipe on tonneau covers and other exterior vinyl truck parts like side steps. 303 leaves behind a natural, matte finish. Reapply monthly for the best results.
5. Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner
Meguiar’s makes a great interior/exterior vinyl cleaner and conditioner. It lifts away dirt and contaminants from textured tonneau surfaces while moisturizing to prevent drying and cracking. Meguiar’s cleaner leaves a protective coating that repels dust. Use it as part of your regular tonneau cover cleaning routine.
6. Chemical Guys SPI_663_16 All Clean+ All Purpose Cleaner
As an all-purpose cleaner for interior and exterior surfaces, Chemical Guys All Clean+ is safe for cleaning tonneau covers. It easily removes dirt, grease, bird droppings, and other grime from vinyl surfaces with just a spray and wipe down. All Clean+ can be used diluted for light cleaning or at full strength for tougher jobs.
7. CarGuys Super Cleaner – All Purpose Cleaner and Degreaser
Another good option for all-around cleaning is CarGuys Super Cleaner. The green formula uses nano-technology to break down contaminants without rubbing or scrubbing. Super Cleaner is safe on clear coat, vinyl, plastic, metal, and finished wood. It cleans tonneau covers, paint, wheels, undercarriage, chrome, and more.
How to Remove Stubborn Stains From a Retractable Tonneau Cover
Even with regular cleaning, tonneau covers can develop difficult stains over time. Here are some tips to remove common stubborn stains:
Bird Droppings and Tree Sap
Bird droppings and tree sap harden into stubborn stains. Soak the affected area with isopropyl alcohol or lighter fluid to soften. After 5-10 minutes, the residue can be gently rubbed away with a soft brush or plastic scraper. Make sure to rinse the area well so the solvent doesn’t damage the vinyl.
Gas and Diesel Spills
Fresh fuel spills can be cleaned with dish soap and water. For dried stains, use an all-purpose cleaner like the ones mentioned above. Avoid acetone or thinners which may damage the vinyl. Rinse thoroughly after cleaning.
Mold and Mildew
If mold or mildew develops on a tonneau cover, mix 1/2 cup of bleach into a gallon of water. Spray the solution on and allow it to soak for 10 minutes before rinsing. Never mix bleach and ammonia! For a non-toxic option, try vinegar instead of bleach.
Caked On Dirt and Grime
If caked on dirt makes the vinyl feel gritty or look dull, use a vinyl/rubber degreaser before washing. Spray on full strength and let it soak for 5 minutes. Then scrub with a soft brush and rinse. The cleaner will break down the grime so it can be washed away.
Tips for Keeping Your Retractable Tonneau Cover Clean
Prevention is the easiest solution for a dirty tonneau cover. Here are some tips for keeping your cover clean between washings:
- Wipe down vinyl weekly with a microfiber cloth to remove surface dust and dirt before it builds up.
- Park in the shade whenever possible to prevent bird droppings that bake on in the hot sun.
- Clean up spills right away so they don’t have time to stain.
- Inspect weather stripping and keep it conditioned so it forms a tight seal.
- Check that drain tubes are clear so water doesn’t collect on the cover.
- Avoid carrying dirty items directly on the tonneau cover surface. Use a bed rug or truck bed mat to protect the vinyl underside.
- Wash your truck regularly including the tailgate so dirt isn’t flung up onto the tonneau by the rear tires.
Proper care and cleaning will keep your retractable tonneau cover looking new and functioning properly for years. Following these tips will help maintain the vinyl surface while keeping your truck bed protected from the elements.
How Often Should You Clean a Retractable Tonneau Cover?
To keep your retractable tonneau cover in the best shape, follow these general cleaning guidelines:
- Monthly – Use a dedicated tonneau cover protectant/cleaner like the ones mentioned earlier. This lifts dirt, conditions the vinyl, and adds UV protection.
- Every 3 Months – Do a thorough soap and water wash by hand as outlined above. Get into crevices and textured surfaces.
- As Needed – Spot clean bird droppings, sap, spilled cargo, etc right away so staining doesn’t occur.
- Seasonally – Do a deep clean at the start and end of winter to remove road salts, grime, and protect before/after cold weather.
vinyl tonneau cover cleanersmake maintenance quick and easy. Here are the best options:
- Extang Tonno Tonic – Favorite cleaner and protectant for retractable covers. Prevents fading, conditions vinyl. Simply sprays on and wipes off.
- Gtechniq C4 – Versatile trim restorer that cleans and shines in one step. Repels dust/water. Leaves UV protection.
- 3M Marine Vinyl Restorer – Renews vinyl boat and tonneau covers. Removes stains, provides UV blockers. Gives matte “like-new” finish.
- 303 Aerospace Protectant – Non-greasy formula cleans vinyl/rubber and adds UV protection. Great for tonneaus, side steps, mud flaps.
- Meguiar’s Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner – Cleans and conditions vinyl. Leaves a protective coating that repels dust. Use as part of regular cleaning routine.
- Chemical Guys All Clean+ – All purpose cleaner safe for tonneau covers and other exterior vinyl. Lifts dirt, grease, grime, sap.
- CarGuys Super Cleaner – Nano-cleaner degreases without scrubbing. Safe for vinyl, plastic, finished wood, wheels, undercarriage.
Following these tips and using the right products will keep your retractable tonneau cover looking like new for years. Let us know if you have any other questions!