Keeping your truck looking its best requires regular cleaning and maintenance. This includes taking care of your vinyl tonneau cover. Tonneau covers protect your truck bed and any cargo you’re hauling.
But like any other part of your vehicle, tonneau covers get dirty over time. Following a simple cleaning routine keeps your tonneau cover functioning properly while restoring that like-new sheen.
What Type of Cleaner Should I Use on My Vinyl Tonneau Cover?
Can I use regular truck soap or take it through an automatic car wash?
While regular truck soap or a drive-through car wash might seem like an easy cleaning solution, it’s not recommended for tonneau covers. The harsh chemicals and high-powered spraying can actually damage the vinyl over time. This leads to cracking, discoloration, and a lackluster appearance.
Are there special tonneau cover cleaners I should use instead?
Yes! There are several tonneau cover cleaners specifically designed to clean vinyl covers safely and effectively. Most are multi-purpose products that both clean and protect in one easy step.
The key advantage of a dedicated tonneau cleaner is its gentler formula. It lifts dirt and grime without stripping away the finish or causing damage. Tonneau cleaners also leave behind an UV-protectant shield to guard against sun damage. This keeps your cover looking vibrant for longer.
Some top tonneau cover cleaner options include:
- 303 Multi-Surface Cleaner: Cleans and protects in one spray-and-wipe application. Helps prevent UV damage.
- Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner: Foaming spray pairs cleaning power with UV protection. Also conditions to prevent cracking.
- Griot’s Garage Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner: pH-balanced formula loosens grime without harming finish. Leaves a protective coating too.
- Chemical Guys Signature Series Vinyl Cleaner: Deep cleans with light citrus scent. Contains no harsh solvents or alcohol.
Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Vinyl Tonneau Cover
Once you’ve selected the right tonneau cover cleaner, follow these simple steps for best results:
Step 1: Spray Cleaner over Entire Surface
Start by spraying your chosen cleaner evenly over the entire top surface of your tonneau cover. Concentrate on soiled areas but cover evenly.
Step 2: Let Cleaner Soak In
If your tonneau cover is quite dirty, allow the cleaner to soak in for 2-3 minutes. This gives the active ingredients time to break down built-up grime. For lighter cleaning, move right to the next step.
Step 3: Wipe Surface with Paper Towel or Sponge
Use a clean paper towel, microfiber cloth or soft sponge to wipe away dirt and cleaner residue. Scrub gently over stains or especially dirty spots to lift grime.
Step 4: Rinse Cover with Water
Follow up by rinsing your tonneau cover with clean water. You can use a garden hose on a light spray setting. Make sure to rinse evenly across the entire surface.
Step 5: Blot Dry with Towel
Blot drying is better than rubbing to prevent water spots. Gently press a towel over the surface to soak up rinse water. Change towel as needed to keep it clean.
Step 6: Apply Second Coat of Cleaner
Once fully dry, spray a light, even coat of your vinyl cleaner over the entire tonneau cover. Allow to dry completely.
Step 7: Buff Surface with Microfiber Cloth
Finish by using a clean, dry microfiber cloth to gently buff over the entire tonneau cover surface. This distributes the protective coating evenly for a brilliant, like-new shine!
How Often Should I Clean My Vinyl Tonneau Cover?
To keep your tonneau cover looking its best, aim to clean it at least once a month. Here are some signs it’s time for a cleaning:
- Buildup of dirt, dust or grime
- Water spots or stains
- Fading, cracked or dull sections
- Mold, mildew or environmental stains
Even if your tonneau cover still looks relatively clean, it’s a good idea to clean it regularly to protect the vinyl. Harsh sun, rain, snow and debris all wear down the vinyl over time. Frequent cleaning removes these elements before they can damage the finish.
Tricks for Removing Stubborn Tonneau Cover Stains
Sometimes you might encounter stubborn stains that require a bit more attention, such as:
- Bird droppings: Wet a cloth with water and gently dab the stain. Follow up with a tonneau cover cleaner.
- Tree sap: Gently scrape off any excess sap, then use a tar remover or rubbing alcohol on a cloth.
- Gas and oil: Degreaser or nail polish remover on a cloth can help dissolve these stains.
- Mold or mildew: Mix equal parts vinegar and water and scrub with a soft brush. Rinse well.
Avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia, as these can damage vinyl. For tough stains, allow cleaner or stain remover to soak in for 5-10 minutes before wiping. This gives it time to break down the discoloration.
Helpful Products and Tools for Vinyl Tonneau Cover Care
Having the right products on hand makes tonneau cover cleaning fast and convenient:
- Tonneau cover cleaner: Use a specialty vinyl cleaner and protectant regularly.
- Soft bristle brush: Great for working cleaner over textured tonneau covers.
- Microfiber cloths: Gently wipe and buff without scratching.
- Sponges: Soft, non-abrasive sponges help scrub without damaging vinyl.
- Hose nozzle or pressure washer: Rinses your cover thoroughly after cleaning.
- Protectant wax: Adds an extra layer of UV protection between cleanings.
- Storage cover: Keeps your tonneau cover clean in between uses.
Keeping Your Truck and Tonneau Cover Looking Great
Putting a little time into properly cleaning your vinyl tonneau cover pays dividends. Your cover protects your truck bed through all kinds of outdoor conditions. Give it the periodic TLC it deserves, and you’ll enjoy many years of like-new performance and appearance.
Follow these simple tonneau cover cleaning tips and you’ll keep your truck bed cover looking and functioning its best. Be sure to use automotive-grade cleaners made specifically for tonneau covers too. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives that could cloud or damage the vinyl.
With the right methods and products, it’s easy to keep that vibrant tonneau cover shine. Your truck will look great from top to bottom.