How to Clean a Tonneau Cover

How to Clean a Tonneau Cover: Step by Step Guide

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If you own a pick-up truck or a convertible car, then you’re well aware of the convenience offered by a tonneau cover. One of the benefits of a tonneau cover is to improve your rig’s aerodynamic design. Another benefit is to keep your tools, gear, and precious cargo free from the elements. Although these covers are designed to endure any road abuse that comes their way, they need to be well maintained to extend their life. For this reason, it’s highly imperative that you learn how to clean a tonneau cover.

You see, depending on your driving demands, tonneau covers can either be hard or soft. Hardcovers are made from materials such as plastic and fiberglass while soft covers are made from leather or vinyl. Since these two types of tonneau covers vary greatly, you need to have a safe cleaning strategy that will not hurt or damage them.

For that reason, this short guide will discuss a simple step-by-step procedure on how to clean and maintain your tonneau cover to extend its life.


How to Clean and Maintain Soft Tonneau Covers


But, Before Cleaning the Cover:

After inspecting your tonneau cover, you’ve realized that it’s covered with a cloud of road grime that makes it dull and dirty. For this reason, your precious investment requires a thorough cleanup to restore its former shine. But, before you commence, it’s highly recommended that you take your time to examine the cover for several things.

One of them is signs of wear and tear especially if you’re dealing with a soft tonneau cover. You see, the worst thing you can ever do to your precious cover is to wash it when it’s already scratched or torn. The scrubbing process can easily exacerbate the situation making it worse and sometimes impossible to repair.

If you’re dealing with a hard tonneau cover, you need to inspect it for any signs of corrosion, dents, and scratches. You also need to inspect the bolts, clamps, locks, and nuts to ensure they’re tight and firmly placed.

Lastly, you need to figure out whether you’ll be cleaning the tonneau cover while it’s attached to your truck or when it’s detached. In either case, always make sure that you clean the tonneau cover in a well-shaded area.


What You’ll Need For Cleaning

When cleaning a tonneau cover, there are some dos and don’ts you need to adhere to. For instance, you must avoid using detergents, bleaches and dishwashing soaps as most of them have harmful substances that can damage the cover.

Secondly, you need to use the right cleaners that are specifically formulated for washing hard or soft tonneau covers. Most of these cleaners have special additives that clean, condition, and protect your tonneau cover against fading, discoloring, or cracking due to the harsh effects of the elements.

So, with all that in mind, let’s now get straight to cleaning. Here, we’ll be discussing a simple step-by-step process on how to clean your cover.


  1. Step One: Read Through the Owner’s Manual

The process of cleaning a tonneau cover is straight and simple. However, you need to be very keen when cleaning your cover as failure to pay attention to details can lead to costly errors.

So, before you commence, take your time to read the manual to check for any model-specific instructions. In case of any guidelines, make sure that you follow them precisely throughout the cleaning process.


  1. Step Two: Find a Shaded Area

Once you’re aware of the instructions, the next step is to find a well-shaded area where you can work on. This can be under some trees or in your garage. This will help you to secure the cover from direct sunlight. Next, you can opt to remove the cover from your truck or leave it intact on your truck’s tonneau.


  1. Step Three: Pre-Rinse the Cover With Water

With the help of a hose or a pressure washer, spray clean water on the surface of the tonneau cover to remove any surface dirt and road debris. This is considered the first step of cleaning a tonneau cover as it helps to soften lodged debris making it easier to remove.


  1. Step Four: Mix the Cleaning Solution

Here, you’ll need to mix half a cup of car wash shampoo with a bucket full of warm water. As a rule of thumb, make sure the car wash soap you’re using is specifically formulated for cleaning and conditioning tonneau covers. Next, agitate the mixture until it forms a thick cloud of white foam.


  1. Step Five: Clean the Cover

So, with everything ready, soak a soft-bristled scrub brush in the foamy solution and start scrubbing the tonneau cover. For an effective cleaning process, you can decide to divide the cover into two parts or you can opt to clean it from the center moving outwards towards the edges.

When scrubbing, use a side-to-side motion smoothly and gently without applying too much pressure. In case the dirt is too stubborn to come off, allow the foam solution to rest on top of the cover for about 5 minutes. This will give the soap’s special additives enough time to dissolve deep into the stains for easy stain removal.


  1. Step Six: Rinse the Cover

Once you’re certain the cover is spotlessly clean, rinse it gently with a lot of water to get rid of the soapy residue. Use a sponge bar or a clean microfiber towel to wipe off any excess water. When you’re done, leave the truck for several hours to allow the tonneau cover to dry up naturally.



Some people will prefer to end the cleaning process here while others will prefer to take it a mile further by applying a sealant or a tonneau cover protectant. The purpose of adding a protector/sealant is to give your tonneau cover an extra layer of protection against acid rain and UV rays.

So, to add the sealant/protector, all you need is to use a clean microfiber applicator to smear the protector on the surface of your tonneau cover.

And with that said, cleaning a tonneau cover is a simple but tricky process that demands attention to detail. Thankfully, our short guide has discussed a detailed step-by-step procedure that you can follow to guarantee longevity and, of course, a stellar look at your tonneau cover.

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