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How to Clean a Convertible Soft Top Roof (Without Causing Damage)

Last Updated on August 19, 2022 by

Cleaning a Convertible Soft Top Car Roof

For car enthusiasts, there are few things quite as exhilarating as breaking out your sports car, taking the top down, and feeling the wind whip through your hair as you race along the sun-kissed summer pavement.

While some of the more modern vehicles come with sport steel and glass in their retractable roof, the classic cars have vinyl and canvas for their convertible roof top material. This can create a few different challenges for soft top roof owners, including how to properly clean the material.

Different Materials

Knowing the materials at a deeper level is important when trying to determine how to properly clean them. Today, most modern convertibles and roadsters have soft tops that are made from a durable polyester/polyacrylic vinyl or canvas.

The canvas tops feel like fabric, look beautiful, and feel even better. Vinyl tops might not look as good as their canvas counterparts, but they tend to be a bit more economical and far easier to maintain over the duration of the vehicle’s life.

One last thing to consider about the materials is that vinyl tops are generally waterproof, whereas canvas tops are not. You can and should treat the latter, as the canvas tops can be susceptible to staining and leaking.

Vinyl also has the ability to absorb materials that can turn it yellow over time if it is not properly maintained. Treating your vinyl roof will also give it some protection from other pollutants as well as the sun. Protection is the key.

Avoid Common Cleaners

While it might seem like an easy solution to use a household cleaner on your convertible soft top, it can actually be quite harmful to the soft top. These include products that feature bleach, ammonia, alcohol, detergent, and vinegar, and they will quickly deteriorate a canvas top. The ammonia and the alcohol, meanwhile, will dry out and cloud a vinyl top.

Remember that the goal here is to clean the soft top, not to break it down in short order. You may mean well by using those household items, but it will be of great detriment to the rest of your car in short order.

Time to Clean

What you might not know is that the soft top of your car is generally subject to the same kind of environmental conditions as the rest of your car. It might also be easy to see when there is a buildup of dust and dirt on the body of your car, but it is often not as obvious when a top is dirty, so it takes some paying attention to.

Perhaps the biggest wear factor for canvas tops is dust. This is because it can settle into the weave of the fabric. Once it does this, it basically begins to act as sandpaper, slowly wearing down the canvas roof top.

Vinyl tops, meanwhile, can also experience premature wearing. This generally occurs from excessive dirt, but it isn’t as readily an issue as dust is for a canvas top. Whenever you wash your car, take extra care with the roof but don’t go overboard with the amount of scrubbing time that you put in.

Generally speaking, if you follow this how-to guide for keeping your convertible tops clean, you should be able to enjoy your ride each time you bring it out.

First, make sure to wash the soft top at least once a month or whenever it becomes excessively dusty or duty. Use a non-detergent-based auto shampoo unless the top isn’t that dirty, in which case all you need to do is rinse it thoroughly with cool water. If you do use a shampoo, make sure that it doesn’t contain any gloss-enhancing oils because the top will absorb it and collect more dust as a result.

If you do need to perform a complete wash on the soft top, use a soft scrub brush. Absolutely do not use a cloth, a lamb’s wool mitt, or a chenille-covered sponge because they can leave unsightly lint in their wake.

When it comes to stains, soil marks, or bird droppings, use a small, stiff upholstery brush for scrubbing purposes. A general rule of thumb to know if a sponge is safe to use or not is if it can be rubbed on the back of your hand without the brush scratching your skin.

It is also imperative to note that you should absolutely not use a scrub brush on the vinyl window. By doing this, you could leave scratches on the surface that are difficult to remove if not impossible. Again, rinse the top thoroughly with a somewhat stiff stream of water in order to remove all of the dirt and shampoo.

That’s really all there is to the entire process. A quality microfiber towel or synthetic chamois can make for great wiping options on a canvas roof, with the former working best for the vinyl part.

Taking Stains Out

Stains are an awful eyesore, no one wants to have to deal with one on their otherwise beautiful vehicle. For common stains like tree sap, bird droppings or grease of any kind, finding the right cleaner means getting one that can penetrate and get rid of that foreign matter.

Above all else, do not scrub. Fight the temptation to do so, as it can lead to further damage to your vehicle’s roof. A reliable cleaner will do the job for you, so all you need to do is lightly wipe it away after it has been properly utilised.

When cleaning your convertible soft top, perhaps the most important thing to remember is not to overdo it. Doing this will only serve to break down the material more quickly, leaving you in need of a new convertible soft top.

A keen eye, a little TLC, and a few soft microfiber cloths should help you keep your vehicle clean and shining for a long time to come. Anything more than that and you might be looking for a patch or a total replacement.