A tonneau cover is an important accessory for any pickup truck. It helps protect cargo in the truck bed from weather and theft. Tonneau covers come in different materials, with vinyl being a popular choice for its affordability and durability. As a vinyl tonneau cover gets exposed to the elements, it can get dirty and need cleaning. This raises the question – can you use leather cleaner on a vinyl tonneau cover?
What is a tonneau cover and why keep it clean?
A tonneau cover sits on top of the truck bed, covering and protecting it. Tonneau covers come in two main types:
Hard tonneau covers
These are made from aluminum, fiberglass or ABS plastic. They latch securely to the truck bed and provide maximum protection. However, they can be heavy and reduce accessibility to the truck bed.
Soft tonneau covers
These covers are made from vinyl, canvas or other fabrics. They roll or fold up for easy access to the truck bed. Soft covers are lighter and more affordable than hard covers.
Keeping the tonneau cover clean is important for a few reasons:
- Protects the cover material from damage. Dirt and debris can wear down the fabric over time.
- Prevents rust and corrosion. Dirt traps moisture against the truck bed, promoting rust.
- Improves appearance. A dirty cover takes away from the look of your truck.
- Allows proper operation. Dirt can interfere with the function of snaps, hinges and other hardware.
So clearly, keeping your tonneau cover clean helps maintain its good condition and your truck’s appearance. This is where using a suitable cleaner comes in.
Can you use leather cleaner on vinyl tonneau covers?
The short answer is yes, many leather cleaners work on vinyl tonneau covers too. However, you need to choose a gentle, vinyl-safe formula. Harsh chemicals in some leather cleaners can damage vinyl.
To be safe:
- Spot test any new cleaner on a hidden part of the vinyl cover first.
- Check the cleaner’s label or product description to confirm vinyl compatibility.
- Avoid cleaners with high alcohol content, as they may dry out vinyl.
- Look for cleaners specifically made for vinyl, rubber and plastics.
- Use a cleaner with moisturizers that will condition the vinyl cover.
With the right leather cleaner, you can safely clean vinyl tonneau covers to keep them looking new. Next, let’s go over how to use leather cleaner on a vinyl tonneau cover.
How should you use leather cleaner on a vinyl tonneau cover?
Cleaning a vinyl tonneau cover with a leather cleaner is a simple process:
1. Rinse away loose debris
Use a hose to gently spray down the tonneau cover and rinse away any loose dirt or dust. Avoid high pressure streams that could push debris into the cover fabric.
2. Make a cleaning solution
Check the leather cleaner’s dilution ratio for vinyl surfaces. Many can be diluted 4:1 or 4 parts water to 1 part cleaner.
Add the cleaner concentrate and water to a spray bottle. Shake well to mix.
3. Spot clean stubborn stains
Lightly spray extra cleaning solution on any tougher stains like bird droppings or tree sap. Let it soak for 2-3 minutes.
4. Gently scrub the tonneau cover
Use a soft brush or microfiber cloth to gently scrub the wet tonneau cover. This lifts dirt from the fabric.
Work in sections and rinse the brush often to avoid spreading dirt around.
5. Rinse off the cleaner
Spray the cover down with clean water to rinse off the cleaner. Wipe it with a dry microfiber towel to absorb excess moisture.
6. Allow the cover to dry
Let the vinyl tonneau cover air dry completely before using or folding it up.
The cleaning steps are straightforward and help refresh vinyl covers safely. For badly soiled covers, repeat the process for a deeper clean.
How often should you clean a vinyl tonneau cover?
The cleaning frequency depends on how much you use your truck and the driving conditions. Here are some general guidelines on tonneau cover cleaning:
- Monthly – For trucks used for regular transportation and hauling, clean the vinyl cover monthly. This prevents buildup of stubborn grime.
- Every 3 months – For lightly used trucks driven mostly in clear weather, quarterly cleaning is sufficient.
- After dirty trips – Clean the cover after off-roading trips or transporting dirty items like mulch or fertilizer bags.
- Before storage – Clean the tonneau before storing a truck for extended periods, to prevent fabric damage.
- When dirty – Spot clean bird droppings, sap and fresh spills right away, to prevent staining.
More frequent cleaning is needed in dusty regions or for work trucks. Check the cover each wash to see if it needs cleaning.
What cleaners can you safely use on vinyl tonneau covers?
Besides leather cleaners, various other cleaners are also safe for vinyl tonneau covers. Some options are:
Mild soap and water
A mild or gentle soap diluted in warm water works similar to specialized cleaners. Avoid dish soaps as they can be harsh.
303 Aerospace Protectant
This can clean vinyl covers and contains UV blockers to protect against sun damage.
Optimum Power Clean
This all purpose cleaner safely deep cleans vinyl and plastic surfaces on vehicles.
Meguiar’s Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner
Meguiar’s makes vinyl/rubber cleaners that remove oil and residue without harming the material.
Diluted isopropyl alcohol
A 10:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water can lift stubborn tonneau stains and won’t hurt vinyl.
Always check that any cleaner is approved for vinyl before using it on a tonneau cover. Harsh chemical cleaners could lead to premature cracking or peeling.
5 key tips for cleaning a vinyl tonneau cover
Follow these tips when cleaning your vinyl truck bed cover:
- Use a mild, vinyl-safe cleaner and avoid harsh chemicals. Don’t assume a leather cleaner is also vinyl-safe.
- Rinse away loose debris before cleaning to avoid abrasion from rubbing dirt particles.
- Gently scrub with a soft brush and microfiber cloth to avoid damaging the vinyl.
- Completely rinse away cleaner residue which could attract more dirt over time.
- Make timely spot cleans on spills and bird droppings before they have time to stain.
Proper procedures will allow thorough vinyl tonneau cleaning without risk of wear or fading.
Why avoid using armor all on a tonneau cover?
Armor All is a popular vinyl protectant for car dashboards. But it is not recommended for tonneau covers for a few reasons:
- Gets Slippery – Armor All leaves behind oily residues that get very slippery, especially when wet. This can be dangerous if you need grip while accessing the truck bed.
- Damage Risk – The oiliness attracts dirt that can abrade the vinyl cover as the particles rub against it.
- No UV Protection – Armor All doesn’t contain UV blockers to protect against sun damage like some tonneau cleaners do.
- Dries Out Vinyl – Frequent Armor All use can cause the vinyl cover to dry out and crack over time.
It’s best to spend a little more for a high quality vinyl protectant specifically designed for tonneau covers. This avoids the issues Armor All can cause over time.
How to care for a leather tonneau cover
Leather tonneau covers require different care than vinyl ones. To clean leather covers:
- Use a mild soap and water solution or a dedicated leather cleaner. Avoid vinyl cleaners on leather.
- Clean stains like sap immediately to avoid setting. Condition regularly to avoid cracks.
- Avoid hard scrubbing that could scratch the leather texture. Use a soft cloth.
- Rinse thoroughly and gently blot dry with a microfiber towel. Don’t let water pool.
- Apply a leather conditioner after cleaning to replenish oils.
With proper care, a leather cover will develop a rich patina over time. Vinyl requires less frequent conditioning but still benefits from an occasional vinyl protectant.
Can you use car wax on a tonneau cover?
Applying car wax is another way to protect and improve the look of a tonneau cover. For vinyl covers:
- Use a wax specifically made for vinyl, like Meguiar’s Hot Shine High Gloss Vinyl Wax.
- Avoid wax with petroleum distillates that can damage vinyl.
- Wax provides only temporary protection compared to tonneau sealants and protectants.
For leather-like coatings on hard covers, an all-purpose automotive paste wax can work well. As always, test on a small hidden area first. With proper prep and care, waxing a tonneau cover helps it shed water and resists UV damage.
How to prevent tonneau cover damage
Besides regular cleaning and conditioning, a few usage tips will keep your vinyl or leather cover looking its best:
- Roll up vinyl covers instead of folding when not in use. Folding can crease and crack vinyl over time.
- Park in shaded areas to minimize sun exposure and heat buildup. UV rays degrade vinyl and leather.
- Promptly fix any nicks, cuts or cracks using vinyl/leather repair kits. Don’t let damage worsen.
- Adjust driving habits to avoid debris kicking up onto the tonneau’s rear section.
- Remove ice and snow buildup carefully using deicer spray and a soft brush. Don’t scrape aggressively.
- Use support bows if specified for soft cover models, to prevent sagging and puddling.
With sensible precautions and proper care, a quality tonneau cover will last for years while protecting your truck bed.
Can you use leather cleaner on vinyl tonneau covers? Yes, as long as you:
- Choose a gentle, vinyl-safe leather cleaner and avoid harsh chemicals.
- Spot test on an inconspicuous area before overall application.
- Follow safe cleaning procedures to avoid vinyl damage.
- Rinse thoroughly and let the cover dry completely before using.
- Clean vinyl covers monthly or quarterly as needed to prevent heavy soiling.
Using the right leather cleaner is fine for vinyl tonneau cover maintenance. But remember to never use vinyl treatments like Armor All on leather covers, as it can cause damage. With separate care regimens for vinyl and leather, you can keep any tonneau cover looking its best.