How to Clean a Tonneau Cover

Whether you use your truck on a construction site, as an offroading rig, or as a family vehicle, the tonneau cover is going to get dirty. Everyday dust and grime settles on the surface, and there’s no telling what foreign substances can fall on it from above. Cleaning your tonneau cover not only restores its looks but also removes the gunk and dirt that will eventually degrade it.

After spending $300 and up on a tonneau cover, it’s a minor investment and inconvenience to clean it from time to time. Read on to learn about the different types of tonneau covers, how to remove different types of stains, the steps to clean it, and solutions to get the job done.

Types of Tonneau Covers and Materials

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Types of Tonneau Covers

Tonneau covers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, making it easy to find one that fits your particular needs. Here are some of the different types of tonneau covers and their respective materials:

  • Soft Folding Tonneau Covers. These covers feature a lightweight design and are typically made of vinyl, canvas, or other light fabrics. The panels are easy to install and use.
  • Hard Folding Tonneau Covers. These tonneaus offer better protection than soft covers due to their durable construction. They are usually made out of painted aluminum panels, fiberglass, or ABS plastic which provides excellent protection for your cargo.
  • Retractable Tonneau Covers. This type of cover retracts into a housing compartment at the front of your truck bed. Most retractable covers are made from heavy vinyl or aluminum slats for added durability and strength.
  • Soft Roll-up Tonneau Covers. Roll-up tonneaus provide easy access to your truck bed without having to remove the entire cover. The frame is made from aluminum while the top is crafted with vinyl for increased waterproofing capabilities.

Knowing what material your tonneau cover is made of will help you determine the best products to use to clean it.

How to Clean Different Stains

Keeping your tonneau cover clean will not only ensure that it looks great, but also helps keep it in optimal condition throughout its lifespan. While typically easy to clean, different types of stains require different approaches in order to get rid of them.

Bird Droppings

Spray the affected area with a cleaning solution safe for your material, then wipe it off with a soft cloth. If the stain is particularly stubborn, you may need to use rubbing alcohol or a chemical cleaner specifically designed for automotive use.

Mud and Dirt

For mud and dirt stains, you can start by washing the affected area with a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Once done, use a soft brush or sponge to scrub off any remaining residue before finally wiping over the surface with a damp cloth.

Oil or Grease Stains

To remove oil and grease stains from your tonneau cover, apply an all-purpose cleaner directly onto they stain and let it sit for approximately 10 minutes before lightly scrubbing away at it using a soft brush or cloth. Once finished, rinse off with warm soapy water.

Tree Sap

To get rid of tree sap stains on your tonneau cover, you need to break up the sticky, fast-hardening mess. Apply a tree sap remover that’s safe for your material over the affected area and wait for about 15 minutes before scrubbing away any remaining residue with a soft brush or cloth. Finally, use warm soapy water to wash off the cleaner.

Water Stains

To remove hard water stains or water spots from your tonneau cover, a detailing spray is often all you need. Spray it onto an applicator or cloth, or use detailing wipes

Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide

General care for your tonneau cover is simple and fast, and it can help keep it looking like new and maintain its optimal condition. Here’s a step-by-step guide to clean your tonneau cover.

1. Clean away loose materials

Remove any debris such as leaves or sticks from the surface of the tonneau using either a vacuum cleaner or soft brush (make sure not to use anything made of steel).

2. Soak and wash

First, rinse the cover, laying down clean water that acts as a lubricant. Then, clean off any dirt and grime with a mild car shampoo mixed with warm water and wipe over the tonneau with a sponge or soft cloth.

3. Rinse thoroughly

Once finished, rinse off the tonneau with clean water using either a garden hose or pressure washer. If using the latter, make sure to adjust the power setting so as not to damage the material of your cover. Use a fan nozzle to avoid blowing away paint or stretching and tearing vinyl.

4. Wipe dry

Dry off your tonneau cover thoroughly by wiping it down with either a microfiber towel or compressed air from a safe distance. Air drying will allow for water spots, and it attracts dust.

5. Treat the finish

Finally, apply an appropriate cleaning product specifically designed for automotive surfaces onto the cover and wipe it over with a clean, dry cloth. This will help protect against corrosion and other weather-related damage as well as keep UV rays at bay.

Using Homemade and Commercial Cleaning Solutions

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Bug, Tar, Paint, and Decal Remover

What’s the best cleaner for tonneau cover stains and regular washes? There isn’t one particular solution that works for all situations, but these are some good home remedies and commercially-available cleaners.

  • Vinegar and water. This relatively mild solution neutralizes and breaks up several kinds of materials, and it’s particularly helpful for caustic substances like bird droppings.
  • Lemon juice. This citrusy-fresh liquid busts up sticky stuff like bug guts and sap.
  • Dish soap. Tough dirt and oily stains can be dissolved with dish soap, in many cases, just like it would from pots and pans.
  • Bug, tar, paint, and decal remover. These liquids work wonders on tough gooey messes so they can be washed away.
  • Leather care or vinyl cleaner wipes. For spot treatments, a single wipe can do wonders to prevent tonneau cover messes from becoming permanent.

When you know how to clean tonneau cover messes and stains, all you need are the products to do the job. At AutoZone, you’ll find detailing products and car wash soaps to keep your whole truck looking great, including your tonneau cover.

FAQ/People Also Ask

What are the different types of tonneau covers and what materials are they made of?

Tonneau covers can be soft roll-up, soft or hard folding, and retractable rolling covers. Typically, they’re made of painted aluminum, fiberglass, or ABS plastic, or from vinyl.

How do I clean water stains from my tonneau cover?

Detailing sprays or wipes are an excellent solution for water stains on surfaces like tonneau covers. Dry your tonneau cover after a car wash to prevent them from forming.

How do I remove dirt and grime from my tonneau cover?

Your favorite car wash soap and warm water are often enough to get rid of dirt and grime, then rinse it well to carry it away.

What should I do if my tonneau cover has mold?

Mold and other organic stains form on surfaces that are constantly exposed to moisture and heat. A convertible top cleaner or vinyl cleaner often treats mold and mildew.

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