How to Clean Your Convertible Top (Soft Top & Hard Top)

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to clean your convertible top

A convertible is a very cool car to drive. To be able to keep it looking fantastic and have an enjoyable experience of riding it, you must know how to clean your convertible top, especially if your car has a soft top, as this type of roof requires much caution.

In a nutshell, providing good care for a convertible top involves using the appropriate cleaning products and tools as well as applying a protectant. Read below for specifics on carrying out this task.


What to Prepare for Cleaning Fabric & Vinyl Convertible Tops

  • Garden hose or pressure washer
  • Specialized cleaner for fabric or vinyl convertible top
  • Horsehair brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Convertible top protectant

Steps for Cleaning a Fabric & Vinyl Convertible Top

Step 1: Choose a Shaded Area for Cleaning

Washing a car under the sun usually leaves water spots due to the heat quickly evaporating moisture on the surface. Not only that, it’s a waste of water and the cleaning product.

Whether you’re going to clean cloth convertible top or a hardtop, it’s best to do it in a shaded area.

Step 2: Pre-rinse the Convertible Top

Pre-rinse the convertible top to get rid of most of the loose contaminants. Using a hose with a spray attachment would make the job more efficient.

Or you can also use a pressure washer. Just be careful to keep the water force under 1500 PSI.

Make the surface thoroughly wet to prepare it for the next step.

Step 3: Apply a Specialized Cleaner


  • The best way to do the job is to use a cleaner specially designed for cleaning a fabric or vinyl convertible top, depending on your car’s roof material.

It would effectively clean convertible top mildew, stains, dirt, and dust without causing damage.

  • Moreover, there are some products in the market that can clean both soft-top types. One good example is Meguiars Convertible Top Cleaner.
  • It may seem practical to also use a car shampoo on the convertible top. But it could actually cause the roof to attract more contaminants because most car shampoos have gloss enhancers, which often leave a sticky residue.
  • Using a homemade solution to clean convertible soft top may also seem like a good idea to save money. But it actually has adverse effects on the roof, so avoid the use of household cleaners.

Alcohol and ammonia, for example, can make a vinyl top cloudy and a fabric top dry. Meanwhile, bleach, detergents, vinegar, and other harsh acids can distress both fabric and vinyl.

  • Before cleaning with a solution, test it on a small hidden area to see if it won’t ruin the soft top. If it doesn’t, apply it and gently scrub the roof with a soft horsehair brush to not cause any damage.
  • The roof must not be spot cleaned but washed entirely all at once, as focusing on one section at a time would make it discolored.

If you need to get stains out of convertible top that are hard to clean, the cleaner may be sprayed and left on the affected areas for 15 to 20 minutes before being scrubbed.

Step 4: Rinse the Convertible Top


Thoroughly rinse the convertible top. Make sure that no cleaner and contaminants are left behind.

Step 5: Pat Dry the Surface and Let It Completely Dry Overnight

To properly dry a convertible soft top, pat off the moisture with a microfiber towel. Do not wipe the surface aggressively to avoid damaging the roof.

The surface must be completely dried after you wash a convertible car roof to prepare it for the protectant.

Steps for Applying Protectant

Step 1: Avoid Windy Weather

Windy weather can interfere with the protectant application. That’s because the breeze can blow away the product as you spray it on the soft top.

It can even make the convertible top you just cleaned dirty again, as it can also blow contaminants towards the surface during application.

If the weather isn’t cooperating with you when you have to do the much-needed convertible top treatment, you can keep away from the wind by doing car care in the garage.

Step 2: Shake the Bottle of Protectant Then Spray the Product on the Surface

  • For a Fabric Convertible Top

You must shake the bottle to get an efficient mixture of the product’s contents. A fabric convertible top usually requires several coatings, so shaking it constantly throughout the process would be necessary.

You must apply the protectant lightly and evenly in an upright position at a distance of 16 to 18 inches using gentle sweeping motions. Make sure that the surface has completely dried before applying another coat.

You may take advantage of the sun for drying. Usually, you can expect the roof to be dry after 10 minutes or more, but the drying time would also depend on the weather in your area.

You may use a blower to make the car dry faster. As many as three coats of protectant can be applied.

  • For a Vinyl Convertible Top

For a vinyl top, one coating of the vinyl protectant would suffice. So just give the bottle a thorough shake once. The protectant can be applied either by spraying it directly onto the roof or by using a microfiber towel.

Going for the direct application would be easier, as you would simply spray the product on the surface. Just don’t spray it too close but rather 8 to 12 inches to spread the product lightly and evenly.

Also, use gentle sweeping motions upon application to ensure the entire roof is covered while not getting too soaked.

Choosing to use a microfiber towel would make the application much more controlled, as you would spray the product onto the microfiber towel and rub it on the surface.

Step 3: Wipe off the Overspray

If there’s protectant where you don’t want it applied, don’t forget to wipe the substance off with a microfiber towel.



How to Clean a Convertible Hardtop

Unlike a convertible soft top, which requires a lot of caution in regards to water pressure, type of cleaning product, and cleaning product application, a hardtop has an easier cleaning process.

That’s because of the similarity of its materials to those of the body of the car. You can clean the hard top as you would clean the rest of its body.

Basically, you can use a car wash soap and a soft cloth. Follow the two-bucket method, with one bucket for soapy water and another for rinsing the cloth, both equipped with grit guards.

Using this method would prevent the spread of contaminants and inflicting scratches with abrasive contaminants that may get dragged along the paintwork.

After washing and drying the hardtop, it would be necessary to apply some protection to it. Again, you can protect it the same way as you would the rest of its body, which is with the use of wax. Don’t use paste wax though, as it would be best to use spray wax.

How Would You Know if a Soft Top is Fabric or Vinyl?

To properly care for convertible soft top without causing damage, you need to clean it in accordance with its material.

But if you’re unaware of what it’s made of, you can find out by splashing a bit of water onto the car top and observing what happens.

Here’s a tip on how to identify a soft top’s material: vinyl is a water-resistant material so it would make the water roll off; fabric, on the other hand, would absorb the water.

How Often Should You Clean Your Convertible Top?

A convertible top must be cleaned as often as once a month or any time it accumulates a noticeable amount of contaminants.

How Should You Clean the Plastic/vinyl Window?

When it comes to cleaning a plastic or vinyl window, glass cleaners must be avoided, as they contain ingredients that are too harsh for the window.

It’s best to use a product specially designed for plastic window care. A recommendable product is McKee’s 37 Plex-All Plastic Cleaner, Polish, and Protectant, which would not only clean but also prevent the window from fogging, getting scratched, and deteriorating.

Scrubbing the convertible windows with a brush must also be avoided, as they’re quite delicate. You must only use a microfiber towel for cleaning these parts.

How Can You Safely Clean a Tan Convertible Top?

Stains on a tan soft top are not only unsightly but may lead to the roof getting degraded when improperly cleaned with aggressive scrubbing. To safely clean stains off a tan soft top, you can combine the use of a good soft-top cleaner with Mr. Clean erasers.

Mr. Clean erasers will help you scrub away the stains and won’t damage the roof.

How Often Should You Apply a Convertible Top Protectant?

For a fabric convertible top, it’s advisable to apply a protectant every six to eight weeks, while for a vinyl top, you may apply a protectant every four to five weeks.

In the case of the convertible hardtop, it was earlier mentioned that it should be protected with spray wax, which typically should be applied after every wash.

Furthermore, this guide will explain if it’s safe for you to take your convertible through the car wash.


With the use of the right methods and materials for how to clean your convertible top, your car will look good and damage-free.

Remember to do your maintenance regularly so you’ll always have a striking vehicle that you’ll enjoy driving. Plus, a dirty vehicle will reduce the lifespan of your car, which we all want to avoid.

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