If you have a tonneau cover on your pickup truck, keeping it clean is important for protecting it and maintaining its appearance. Tonneau covers can quickly become dirty from road grime, dust, bird droppings, sap, and other environmental contaminants.
While you can take your truck to a professional car wash, it’s often more convenient and affordable to clean your tonneau cover at home. Fortunately, with the right cleaning solutions and techniques, you can easily clean your tonneau cover yourself and have it looking like new again.
What Are Some Recommended Tonneau Cover Cleaners I Can Use At Home?
When it comes to cleaning tonneau covers at home, there are several effective options:
Can I Use Regular Dish Soap To Clean My Tonneau Cover?
Yes, regular dish soap designed for washing dishes can be an effective cleaner for tonneau covers. Dish soap is designed to cut through grease, oil, and grime – the same types of dirt that accumulates on tonneau covers. To use it, mix a few tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of warm water.
Apply the soapy water with a soft sponge, brush or microfiber cloth. Let it soak for 5-10 minutes before rinsing clean. The key is avoiding dish soaps that contain bleach, acids or abrasives that could damage the tonneau cover surface. Stick with gentle, grease-cutting dish soaps.
Are There Specialized Tonneau Cover Cleaners I Should Use?
There are several cleaners made specifically for tonneau covers such as Extang Tonno Tonic and Aerospace 303 Protectant. These specialized tonneau cleaners contain surfactants and polymers designed to gently clean vinyl, canvas and other tonneau cover materials without damage.
They also contain UV inhibitors and conditioners to keep the cover surfaces protected. While pricier than regular dish soap, these dedicated tonneau cleaners are very effective and help keep covers looking their best. Follow the label directions for proper dilution and usage.
Can I Use Vinyl or Plastic Cleaners and Protectants?
Many tonneau covers are made from vinyl, plastic composites or fabrics coated with vinyl. Using a vinyl cleaner and protectant is a great way to clean and condition these surfaces. Quality vinyl cleaners contain detergents to dissolve dirt and oils.
The protectant adds a layer of UV inhibitors and shine. When using vinyl care products, test them first on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure they are compatible with your specific tonneau cover material. Never use vinyl cleaners or protectants on canvas tonneau covers.
Are There Any Homemade Cleaning Solutions You Recommend?
If you want to make your own tonneau cover cleaner, a good option is mixing 1/4 cup of mild dish soap with 1/4 cup of Murphy Oil Soap. Add this concentrate to one gallon of warm water.
The dish soap will cut through grease and grime, while the Murphy Oil Soap conditions and protects the cover surface. For an all-natural cleaner, white vinegar or lemon juice can help dissolve dirt when mixed with water. Rinse well after using citrus or vinegar-based cleaners.
What Are Some Tonneau Cover Cleaning Tips and Techniques?
When cleaning your tonneau cover at home, follow these tips to safely and effectively remove dirt while protecting the surface:
Should I Clean My Tonneau Cover in Direct Sunlight?
It’s best to clean your tonneau cover in a shaded area out of direct sunlight. Sunlight causes cleaning solutions and water to dry too quickly before having time to dissolve and rinse away dirt. Park your truck in a shady spot, under a tree or carport for easier cleaning.
How Should I Rinse My Tonneau Cover When Cleaning?
Rinsing with a hose on a high-pressure setting can force dirt and grime further into the cover material. Use a hose with garden sprayer attachment on a light mist setting. Or rinse by hand using a bucket of water and a soft sponge. Always let the tonneau cover fully air dry before driving your truck.
Will a Soft Brush Help Loosen Dirt and Debris?
For tonneau covers with stubborn dirt or stains, using a soft brush helps loosen contaminants before rinsing. Look for a soft bristled brush made for cars or RVs. Avoid stiff brushes that could scratch the cover surface. Work in sections gently brushing trouble spots before applying your cleaning solution.
Is It Important to Work in Small Sections When Cleaning?
Don’t attempt to clean your entire tonneau cover in one step. That allows the cleaning solutions to dry in some areas before you have a chance to rinse. Work in sections of about 2 x 2 feet, applying your cleaner and rinsing before moving on. This ensures you don’t miss any spots of dirt buildup.
Should I Apply Protectant After Cleaning the Cover?
Once your cover is fully dried after cleaning, apply a protectant like Aerospace 303 to add UV protection and shine. This helps lock in your cleaning efforts and adds a layer of protectant from future sun damage and fading. Use a small applicator sponge to apply the protectant evenly and buff off any excess.
How Often Should I Plan to Clean the Tonneau Cover?
Most truck owners find cleaning their tonneau cover every 2-3 months keeps it looking nice. But the cleaning frequency varies based on weather exposure, road conditions and how often you drive your truck.
More frequent cleanings may be needed to counter dusty roads, winter weather and long commutes. Keep an eye on buildup and clean as needed.
Can DIY Cleaning Damage My Tonneau Cover? What Precautions Should I Take?
Cleaning your own tonneau cover is perfectly safe if some basic precautions are followed:
Are Certain Cleaners Unsafe for Tonneau Covers?
Stay away from harsh cleaners containing ammonia, bleach, hydrogen peroxide or abrasives. Check manufacturer guidelines – some tonneau covers may be damaged by strong solvents. Always spot test a cleaner on a small hidden area first to check for potential damage.
How Can I Avoid Scratching the Surface When Cleaning?
Use only microfiber cloths and soft-bristled brushes to gently clean tonneau covers. Avoid scrubbing with anything abrasive that could leave fine scratches on the surface. Rinse debris away rather than rubbing it in.
Is Pressure Washing Harmful to Tonneau Covers?
Avoid high pressure washers which can inject moisture and damage cover stitching and edges. Use low pressure water via a hose or spray bottles instead. Follow up immediately with conditioner on vinyl covers.
How Do I Avoid Soaking the Tonneau Cover?
Don’t allow cleaners or water to pool on cover stitched seams. Roll back the cover or tilt truck bed as needed to allow drainage and drying. Prolonged moisture soaking into seams can weaken cover adhesives and stitching.
Should I Wax or Polish a Vinyl Tonneau Cover?
Waxing or polishing is not recommended for tonneau covers as residue can permeate stitching and get trapped within seams. Use a protectant like Aerospace 303 instead for UV protection and shine without buildup. Follow your cover manufacturer’s advice regarding waxing or polishing before proceeding.
Cleaning your tonneau cover periodically is an important maintenance task that keeps your truck looking it’s best. Fortunately, with the right cleaning solutions and techniques, you can easily handle this job yourself without needing to visit a professional car wash.
Use the recommendations in this article to properly clean vinyl, aluminum, fiberglass or canvas tonneau covers and keep them in like-new condition. Just remember to work in manageable sections, rinse thoroughly and finish with a UV protectant to lock in your cleaning efforts.
With a little time invested, you can keep your tonneau cover looking new for years of continued service.