Applying sunscreen or suntan lotion on your skin before spending time outdoors is an important part of protecting yourself from sun damage. But what if some of that lotion accidentally gets on your truck’s vinyl tonneau cover – will it cause damage? Here’s what you need to know about using sunscreen around vinyl tonneau covers.
Can Suntan Lotion Damage Vinyl Tonneau Covers?
Yes, there is potential for suntan lotion to damage vinyl tonneau covers over time. Here are the main risks:
UV Exposure Can Degrade Vinyl
Vinyl tonneau covers are susceptible to UV damage from the sun’s rays. The oils and chemicals in suntan lotions can accelerate this degradation process when exposed to sunlight. The sunscreen ingredients absorb UV radiation, generating heat which can dry out and weaken the vinyl.
Applying suntan lotion directly on a vinyl tonneau cover leaves behind a residue that can be difficult to fully remove. This residue attracts dirt and debris, affecting the appearance of the cover. Thick applications that aren’t promptly cleaned off can leave a gummy film.
Potential Shrinking or Delamination
Some sunscreen ingredients such as silicone oils can cause vinyl to shrink or delaminate, especially on rolling covers that flex frequently. The oils seep in and act as plasticizers, disturbing the chemical bonds in the material. This can make the vinyl cover loose, warped or bubbled.
How to Prevent Suntan Lotion Damage on Tonneau Covers
While suntan lotion does pose risks to vinyl tonneau covers, the damage can be prevented by taking the right precautions:
Apply Sunscreen to Skin, Not the Cover
Avoid putting lotion directly on the tonneau cover surface. Apply it thoroughly to your own skin instead and give it time to fully absorb before coming into contact with the cover. This will help prevent transfer.
Be Careful Around Sleeves and Necklines
Pay extra attention to avoiding lotion on sleeves, shirt collars, or other areas that may rub against the cover. Any residual lotion on skin or clothing can easily be transferred.
Clean Spills Promptly
If some lotion does get onto the vinyl cover, wipe it off immediately using a mild soap and water solution. Don’t let it sit for extended periods. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners.
Use Vinyl Protectants
Applying vinyl conditioners or UV protectant sprays can help shield the material from sun damage. But check that they are specifically made for vinyl.
Proper care and maintenance will extend the life of your tonneau cover. If damage does occur, have warranty repairs done or replace the cover.
Key Things to Remember
- Direct sunscreen application on vinyl tonneau covers can degrade, stain or warp the material over time.
- Oils in the lotion damage vinyl when exposed to UV rays. Residue also attracts dirt.
- Prevent damage by applying sunscreen only to skin, promptly cleaning spills, and using vinyl-safe protectants.
- With proper precautions, you can still protect your skin while keeping your tonneau cover looking great.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of damage can suntan lotions cause on tonneau covers?
The main damage includes UV degradation, stain residue buildup, shrinking, cracking, delamination or bubbling if the oils seep deep into the vinyl material. Discoloration can also occur.
How can I get sunscreen stains off my vinyl tonneau cover?
Use a mild soap and water solution with a soft cloth or sponge to gently wipe off the residue. Avoid harsh abrasives. For stubborn stains, vinyl cleaners specifically made for tonneau covers can help dissolve the oils.
Should I use conditioners on my vinyl tonneau cover?
Yes, vinyl conditioners and protectants help moisturize the material while providing a UV shield. But it’s important to use products designed for vinyl, not just any plastic or rubber conditioner. Read labels to be sure.
How often should I clean and treat my vinyl tonneau?
Aim to clean your vinyl tonneau cover every few months with soap and water to prevent buildup. More frequent cleaning may be needed for tonneau covers subjected to tougher conditions. Applying vinyl protectant 2-4 times per year can help maintain durability.
Will using sunscreen void my tonneau cover’s warranty?
It depends on the warranty. Many will not cover damage clearly caused by using inappropriate chemicals/cleaners on the vinyl. Read warranty details carefully and contact the manufacturer if unsure. Proper care will help prevent voided coverage.
Care and Maintenance Tips for Vinyl Tonneau Covers
- Wash with a mild soap and water solution using a soft cloth or sponge. Rinse off all residue.
- Wipe off bird droppings, tree sap, and other spills quickly before they have a chance to stain.
- Avoid using petroleum-based products like grease removers or armor all, which can degrade vinyl.
- Use vinyl conditioners and UV protectant sprays made specifically for tonneau covers. Apply 2-4 times per year.
- Inspect cover seals, hinges, latches and other components regularly. Have repairs done promptly.
- If cover has sustained damage from suntan lotion or other causes, contact the manufacturer about warranty coverage.
Signs Your Vinyl Tonneau Cover Needs Replacement
- Material has become stiff, warped, bubbled or delaminated
- Discoloration that cannot be removed with vinyl cleaners
- Cracks wider than 1/4″ across seams and folds
- Snaps, bows, hinges or latches that are broken or worn out
- Leaking through damaged vinyl or seals
- Cover not closing tightly due to stretched out material
Tonneau Cover Alternatives to Vinyl
If you’re concerned about damaging vinyl or want other benefits, consider these alternative tonneau cover materials:
- Aluminum – Durable metal construction that won’t warp or bubble. Withstands weather and UV exposure. Lower maintenance than vinyl.
- Fiberglass – Similar durability to aluminum but quieter rolling action on some designs. Provides good security and weather protection.
- Powder Coated Hardcovers – Dent resistant polymer coatings add scratch protection. Available in different finishes. Requires less cleaning than vinyl.
- Canvas – Breathable fabric made of cotton or synthetic fibers like polyester. Treated canvas resists UV rays, mildew and stains. Requires proper waterproofing.
- Hybrid Covers – Combine materials like aluminum panels with vinyl or canvas overlays. Provides flexibility with roll/retract function.
Applying sunscreen lotion directly onto your vinyl tonneau cover can lead to premature UV damage, ugly staining, and other problems over time. But being mindful of proper use, cleaning, conditioning and maintenance can go a long way in preventing these issues. If damage does occur, have warranty repairs done or consider switching to an alternative tonneau cover material for greater longevity. By taking the right precautions, you can continue protecting your skin while also keeping your truck bed cover looking its best.