If you use your truck for hauling or work purposes, it’s common for grease stains to build up on your truck bed tonneau cover over time. These stains not only look unsightly but can also lead to degradation of the tonneau cover material if left untreated. Thankfully, with some basic cleaning supplies and a little elbow grease, you can get your truck bed tonneau cover looking like new again.
Why Do Grease Stains Build Up on Tonneau Covers?
Grease stains occur on tonneau covers for a couple of reasons:
From Loading Cargo
When loading items with grease or oil residue, some of that grease can get transferred onto the tonneau cover surface. This occurs most often when hauling machine parts, tools, off-road vehicles, etc. The grease sticks to the material and slowly builds up over time.
From Accessories Mounted to the Bed
If you have any accessories mounted to your truck bed (tie downs, truck toolbox, lighting, etc.), grease and dirt often accumulate around the mounting points. When you open and close the tonneau cover, some of this grease can get spread around.
How to Clean Grease Stains Off Vinyl and Other Tonneau Cover Materials
Cleaning hardened grease off a tonneau cover takes a little more effort than your usual washing, but it’s very doable with common cleaning supplies. Here are some step-by-step instructions:
Step 1: Prepare the Truck Bed Area
Before cleaning the tonneau cover itself, do some preliminary cleaning of the truck bed:
- Remove any loose dirt or debris using a broom or shop vac.
- Clear out any tools, cargo, bed liners, or other items to allow full access to the tonneau cover.
- Check under the tonneau cover with a flashlight for any debris that may have gotten lodged underneath. Remove any sticks, pine needles, leaves, etc.
- Verify the tonneau cover drainage tubes are clear of obstructions. Make sure all connections are tight.
- Clean the inside edges of your truck bed side rails with a multi-purpose cleaner or soap and water solution.
Prepping the truck bed will prevent loosened grease and grime from the tonneau cover from re-contaminating the area during cleaning.
Step 2: Mix Your Cleaning Solution
For cleaning vinyl, plastic, canvas, and other tonneau cover materials, mix up the following cleaning solution:
- Bucket or large bowl of warm water
- 1-2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap or other mild detergent
- If needed for stubborn stains, all-purpose cleaner, degreaser, or an oxygen bleach powder can be added as well
The warm water helps dissolve and lift grease while the soap cuts through oily grime. Make sure to use a gentle soap that won’t prematurely wear or dry out the tonneau cover fabric.
Step 3: Apply Cleaner and Let Sit
Using a sponge or soft-bristle scrub brush, liberally apply the cleaning solution directly onto the grease-stained areas of the tonneau cover. Cover the entire stain area, not just the edges.
Let the cleaning solution sit for 5-10 minutes. This dwell time allows the warm soapy water to penetrate and loosen the hardened grease.
Step 4: Scrub the Stained Areas
Now comes the elbow grease portion. Using a soft-bristle scrub brush, gently scrub the grease-stained areas of the tonneau cover. Apply light pressure and scrub in a circular motion.
Be careful not to press too hard or you could damage the tonneau cover surface. Scrub patiently – the cleaning solution needs time to work at dissolving the bonded grease.
Step 5: Rinse Off Tonneau Cover
Once you’ve scrubbed the entire stain area, rinse off the tonneau cover with clean water. You can use a garden hose if the tonneau cover is still mounted. Or remove the cover and rinse it thoroughly over a lawn or driveway area.
Let the water flush away all the dissolved grease and cleaning solution residues. Doing a thorough rinse helps prevents re-depositing of grime.
Step 6: Repeat as Needed for Stubborn Stains
Check if the grease stain has been fully removed after rinsing. For any remaining discoloration or grease residue, repeat steps 3-5. More applications of the cleaning solution paired with determined scrubbing will eventually lift even stubborn, caked-on grease.
If needed, a plastic-safe degreaser can be substituted for extra cleaning power on follow-up applications. But start gentle with regular dish soap first.
Step 7: Clean Tonneau Cover Edges and Underside
Once the top surface of the tonneau cover is clean, flip it over to clean the edges and underside as well. Any accumulated grease here can easily re-stain the surface later.
Use the same cleaning process of spray, dwell time, scrub, and rinse for the underside. Pay particular attention to any folds and seams.
Special Tips for Different Tonneau Cover Materials
Certain tonneau cover materials have properties that require slightly different cleaning approaches:
Canvas Fabric Covers
Rinse canvas tonneau covers with clean water after any soap scrubbing. Letting soap residues dry on canvas can stiffen the material or cause mildew.
Use a dedicated aluminum cleaner rather than harsh degreasers to avoid oxidizing or dulling the finish over time.
Avoid using excess force when scrubbing vinyl covers. The material can scratch or scuff fairly easily.
Use a leather car interior cleaner and soft cloth. Follow up with a leather conditioner to prevent the material from drying out.
Powder-Coated Hard Covers
Gently clean powder-coated covers with soap and water and a soft brush. Avoid abrasive cleaners that can wear the finish over time.
Alternative Cleaning Methods for Tonneau Covers
If scrubbing by hand isn’t getting your tonneau cover clean enough, here are a couple of cleaning machine alternatives:
Use a Pressure Washer
For full-size truck beds, a pressure washer is a quick way to blast off caked-on grease and grime from a tonneau cover surface. Use a wide-spray low pressure setting and keep the nozzle at least a foot away to avoid damaging material.
Pressure washing is ideal for canvas or vinyl covers. Avoid aiming directly at folds, seams or edges which are more prone to tearing.
Steamer Clean Grease Stains
A steam cleaning machine uses the power of steam to dissolve and loosen stuck-on grime. The hot steam helps lift grease residues from textured tonneau cover surfaces.
When using a steamer, pass slowly over the stain while avoiding prolonged contact in one spot which can damage material. Use a terry towel to wipe away softened grease.
Preventing Grease Stains on Your Tonneau Cover
Cleaning grease stains is hassle you’ll want to avoid in the first place. Here are some tips to keep your truck bed tonneau cover free of grease buildup:
- Use truck bed mats and liners when hauling messy loads.
- Cover extremely dirty items with a tarp before closing the tonneau cover.
- Clean the bed area anytime liquid spills or greasy cargo was transported.
- Remove external truck bed hardware when washing your truck to access all surfaces.
- Inspect and clean underneath the tonneau cover liner every few months.
- Apply vinyl/leather conditioner to prevent cracking which can trap grime.
- Wash your tonneau cover regularly using a mild cleaning solution.
With frequent washing and being mindful of greasy cargo contacting the cover surface, you can minimize messy tonneau cover cleaning jobs down the road. But when those inevitable stubborn grease stains do occur, use the steps outlined here to safely restore your truck bed tonneau cover to like-new condition.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Grease Stains Off Tonneau Covers
Cleaning hardened grease stains off a truck bed tonneau cover brings up a lot of questions for first-timers. Here are answers to some of the most common tonneau cover cleaning FAQs:
What is the easiest way to clean grease off my truck’s tonneau cover?
For quick cleaning, nothing beats the convenience of pressure washing. Blast off caked-on grease and grime with a pressure washer using a wide nozzle and low pressure setting. It’s fast and effective for heavy soiling on vinyl or canvas covers.
What homemade cleaner works best for cleaning a tonneau cover?
An effective DIY cleaner is: 1/4 cup dish soap mixed with 1/4 cup laundry detergent in 1 gallon of hot water. The dish soap cuts grease while the laundry detergent helps lift away tough stains. For extra cleaning boost, add 1 cup baking soda.
Will brake cleaner harm my tonneau cover?
Brake cleaner will quickly dissolve greasy grime. However, it can potentially dry out and damage vinyl tonneau covers with repeated use. Test on a small hidden area first. Use brake cleaner extremely sparingly on canvas or delicate covers.
How do I clean delicate leather or canvas tonneau covers?
Use only mild soap and lukewarm water when cleaning canvas or leather. After rinsing, reshield leather with a conditioner. Allow canvas to fully air dry before closing the tonneau cover to prevent mildew.
Is it ok to use ArmorAll on a vinyl tonneau cover?
Yes, ArmorAll is safe for cleaning and protecting vinyl truck bed covers. Wipe on and let dry to restore vinyl’s natural luster. Overusing ArmorAll can leave a greasy residue though so apply sparingly.
Should tonneau covers be washed by hand or machine?
Hand washing with a soft brush allows you to use gentle scrubbing pressure. Machine washing risks damage, especially to vinyl covers. Remove covers and hand wash them separately from your truck when heavily soiled.
How often should I clean my truck’s tonneau cover?
Clean your tonneau cover at least monthly as part of your vehicle washing routine. If hauling messy cargo frequently, step up cleaning to biweekly or weekly. Catching grease buildup early prevents hardened stains.
Why avoid harsh degreasers on aluminum tonneau covers?
Caustic degreasers like oven cleaners can oxidize and pit aluminum over time. Use a dedicated aluminum cleaner instead. Seek out formulations with oxalic or phosphoric acid which are gentle on aluminum.
Can I use a pressure washer on a hard folding tonneau cover?
It’s best to avoid pressure washing folding hard covers. The high pressure spray can penetrate seals and damage internal components. Instead, gently hand wash hard folding covers.
Cleaning a filthy tonneau cover back to like-new condition takes work but is very doable with a little time and elbow grease. Following these tips will make the process easier plus help prevent grease stains from returning quickly. With regular washings, you can keep your truck bed cover looking great for years of reliable service.
How to Remove Other Common Stains from a Truck Bed Tonneau Cover
Grease stains are just one of many types of grime that can collect on a truck’s bed cover. Here’s how to remove other common tonneau cover stains:
Tree Sap Stains
Tree sap oozes into tiny crevices, making it hard to clean. Use denatured alcohol to break down sap. Apply with a cloth, let sit 5 minutes, then scrub with a brush. Repeat as needed. Avoid using alcohol on finished leather.
Bird mess eats away at finishes. Rinse off droppings promptly with water. Follow up with soap and brush scrubbing to remove clinging waste and lift discoloration.
Use a plastic putty knife to scrape off thick tar deposits. Apply a tar remover gel or adhesive remover to soften remaining residues. Wipe clean with a cloth.
Mold or Mildew
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Spray onto affected areas and let sit 10 minutes. Scrub with a nylon brush and rinse clean. Repeat to remove stubborn mildew stains.
Hard Water Spots
Full strength white vinegar applied with a cloth dissolves alkaline water deposits. Makes sure to thoroughly rinse vinegar residues after cleaning to avoid water spotting when dry.
Dust and Dirt Buildup
A citrus-based degreaser helps cut through dusty grime that accumulates on tonneau cover surfaces. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe clean. Avoid silicone-based detail sprays that attract dirt.
A 10% oxalic acid solution removes rust staining. Use a small brush to apply onto rust spots. After 5 minutes, wipe off with a damp cloth. Rinse thoroughly.
Oil and Lubricant Spills
Dampen a cloth with paint thinner or mineral spirits to blot up wet oil. For dried stains, scrub with a degreaser cleaner using a brush. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
With the right cleaning solution and methods for the stain type, you can keep your truck bed tonneau cover looking factory fresh for maximum appearance and performance.