How to Clean a Soft Top Convertible

how to clean a soft top convertible
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It’s great to own a convertible car and cruise along the coastline or countryside  with the top down and the wind in your hair. However, a soft top needs proper care at least twice a year if you don’t want it to deteriorate and fade. Although it’s tempting to quickly drive your convertible through a car wash or blast your soft top with a pressure washer when it’s dirty, that’s not the way to go if you want to enjoy that beautiful soft top for years to come. Because it is very expensive to have it replaced, you want to treat it with respect. 

In this easy step-by-step guide we’ll show you how to keep your soft top in perfect as-new condition with the right technique using specialized products and tools. This will help you save hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars not having to replace it and maintaining it yourself.

Here’s how to clean your convertible’s soft top the right way:

Which Material is Your Soft Top: Fabric or Vinyl?

First of all, you need to determine which kind of material your soft top is made of: fabric or vinyl. 

It is paramount to use the right products and technique to clean your soft top in order to get the best results without causing damage or discolorations to the soft top material. 

Fabric soft top

  • The material feels soft and looks like it’s woven, like textile
  • When you spill some drops of water on it, some water may be  absorbed by the material (depending on when and how it was waterproofed)
  • When the soft top is wet and you wipe it dry with a cloth, it will still feel humid to the touch for a while

Vinyl soft top

  • The material feels smooth, plastic-like. (sometimes with a faux-leather grain)
  • Drops of water run off without penetrating
  • When you dry it with a towel, it’s bone-dry instantly

How To Clean a Soft Top Convertible Like a Professional Detailer

Preparation

Always clean your soft top in the morning on a warm day, so your car has time to dry completely before being garaged. Work in a shaded area. There shouldn’t be too much wind because this will make spraying your products more difficult with more overspray. Also wind carries contaminants like dust and small debris.

Everything you need to clean your soft top

Optional:

Here’s How to Clean a Soft Top in 8 Easy Steps:

Step 1: Vacuum Your Soft Top 

Start by thoroughly vacuuming your dry soft top in gentle circular motions using a powerful car vacuum cleaner with a soft dust brush attachment to remove all loose, dry dust. 

Step 2: Rinse Your Soft Top

Use a water hose with a narrow, powerful jet to rinse your soft top with tap water. Don’t use a pressure washer, because the high pressure will damage the soft top material and may even rip the seams. 

Take care that there is no water getting into the car. 

For classic cars with a detachable top it may be safer to detach the top entirely and wash it on an outside bench or table. First check that it is clean, of course. 

Step 3: Spray Your Soft Top With Convertible Top Cleaner

Abundantly spray your soft top with Convertible Top Cleaner. You want to wear nitrile gloves to avoid skin contact. These products are formulated for car care, not skin care. 

Spray some extra product on the seams. Allow the cleaner to sit for a few minutes. If your soft top is very dirty, let it soak for up to 20 minutes.

Step 4: Scrub Your Soft Top

Gently agitate the Convertible Top Cleaner in circular motions using the Raggtopp brush, applying only moderate pressure. Make sure to get into the stitches and around the windows. If your soft top has a plastic window, stay clear of it with your brush, because it may scratch it.

Step 5: Rinse Your Soft Top

Use a water hose with a narrow, powerful jet to rinse your soft top until all product is gone.

Again: don’t use a pressure washer, because the high pressure will damage the soft top material and may even rip the seams. 

Just like before, take care that there is no water getting into the car. 

Step 6: Allow Your Soft Top to Dry Completely

Very gently wipe your soft top down with fresh microfiber towels. Use the least possible amount of pressure.

Allow the soft top to dry completely for at least a couple of hours, depending on weather conditions. You want to park your car away from direct sunlight on a hot summer’s day because it has no UV protection yet. 

In cold, humid weather conditions, the drying process may take up to 48 hours or longer. Yet, it is very important to allow the soft top to dry completely before applying protectant.

Optional Step: Cover Your Car With Blankets

Although not strictly necessary, you can cover your car with blankets and use masking tape to protect all car paint and glass around your soft top against overspray before applying protectant spray. However, the overspray won’t harm your car and can easily be washed off.

Step 7: Apply Fabric Protectant or Vinyl Protectant

Apply fabric or vinyl protectant to your soft top by spraying it in a steady overlapping spray pattern. Mist the material, it’s not necessary to saturate it. Make sure to get complete coverage around all stitches, seams and windows.

Allow the protectant to dry for about an hour and repeat this process up to 3 times for optimal results.

It’s perfectly fine to gently rub the mist in while wearing nitrile gloves like some users do. However, in our tests misting the protectant in several layers with approximately an hour of drying time in between resulted in the best weather proofing.

NOTE: If you skipped the “Optional Step” of covering your car, overspray on the windows can easily be removed with a Diamond Weave Glass Towel and some Stoner Invisible Glass spray.

Overspray on the car paint can easily be removed with Wash Wax All spray and edgeless microfiber towels.

Now that your soft top is looking showroom-fresh, you want to clean and protect it a couple of times a year to keep it looking that great. Cars that are garaged and only used sparingly will be protected for longer than daily drivers that are parked outside, of course.

Well, congratulations! Your soft top is now fully protected from the elements: it’s water repellent and UV protected! 

Happy Detailing!

FAQ:

How to Clean Soft Top Windows?

Stoner Invisible Glass spray works best to get those soft top windows cleaned. It’s safe to use on glass as well as on plastic ones. To get them completely streak-free, mist some Stoner on the glass and wipe it clean with a Diamond Weave Glass & Window Detailing Towel. Easy peasy!

Can I Use any Type of Cleaner on my Soft Top Convertible?

No, we do not recommend experimenting on your soft top with different cleaners. Chances are the color will fade or that a strong detergent will ruin it completely. Knowing that replacing a soft top will cost hundreds of dollars, you want to use a professional grade soft top cleaner and afterwards protect it with a specialized soft top protector to make the soft top water-repellent and UV protected. To keep your soft top protected from the elements and keep it looking its best, it should be cleaned and protected several times a year.

Can I Use a Pressure Washer to Clean my Soft Top Convertible ?

No, absolutely not. Using a pressure washer on a soft top is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. A pressure washer is much too powerful to use on soft top material. It might rip the seams, or destroy its internal watertight layer. It will also remove dirt unevenly, leaving pressure washer lines and swirls that are almost impossible to remove.

You want to use a simple car wash hose, set at its most powerful jet. That’s more than powerful enough to get things done.

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