How To Clean Tonneau Cover? 10 Simple Easy Steps

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Written By Waylon Joe

Hey, It’s Waylon “Joe” Kite here. I am a West Virginia native and a die-hard pickup truck fan. My story with trucks started with my dad’s 1989 Ford F-150, and it's still going on. I'll share all my trucking experiences (both great and gross ones) with you. I have a garage full of tools to fix and renovate trucks and a freezer full of ales. Do you want to join me?

Cleaning a tonneau cover is a quite simple task and it can be achieved with the right knowledge and a little effort. The tonneau cover is something that needs cleaning on a regular basis.

It gets dirty quickly from both the tracks caused by everyday driving, as well as from debris that riding alongside it. So you need to know how to clean your tonneau cover properly? Well, this is what we are going to be telling you.

How To Clean Tonneau Cover?

How To Clean Tonneau Cover

Here are 10 useful steps you can use to clean your tonneau cover properly.

1. Clean your truck bed

Clean your truck bed properly

First, you need to clean your truck bed. Remove all the loose stuff and dirt from it. Use some cleaning solution or a piece of cloth with plain water to soak the dirt before you wash it off completely.

2. Wash your cover

Wash your tonneau cover

Next, wash the exterior side of your tonneau cover after removing all its fasteners and clips. If there is any paint left on it (the older models), scrub them using an old toothbrush or a piece of rough fabric.

Be very careful when washing around the tailgate handle area since these are made out of plastic that easily gets scratched if rubbed too hard against them.

3. Clean inside part

Clean inside part

Now, move towards the inside part of your tonneau cover and carefully scrub it using a special tonneau cover cleaning solution or any other detergent that is used for cleaning fabric. This will remove all those old stains and help your bed cover to stay away from mildew.

4. Rinse Off Properly

Rinse Off Properly With A Clean Cloth

After washing, take a clean cloth and squeeze out all the excess water so you won’t spread the soap throughout your bed cover which makes scrubbing easier later on.  Then rinse off the cleanser with plain water till there are no traces of residue left behind anymore.

Repeat this step two more times (or as instructed by the label) just to make sure that everything has been removed including dirt, grime, and grease that may have stuck with the cleanser on your tonneau cover making it look dull and grey.

5. Wipe Off Your Truck Bed Cover

Wipe Off Your Truck Bed Cover

After that, take a clean cloth and wipe off the water so it’ll dry faster. Don’t worry if there are still traces of moisture here and there on its surface as this is perfectly normal especially if you’ve left your cover to soak in clean water for an extended period of time (overnight). Let it dry completely before proceeding to the other steps below.

6. Treat it with fabric protector

Treat it with fabric protector

While waiting for your tonneau cover to completely dry, mix up some “fiberglass reinforced” or “fabric conditioner” based spray treatment using 3 parts water and 1 part of the cleaner in a bottle which will make application easier later on.

Once it dries, spray the tonneau cover evenly using an Upholstery or Spray Bottle Sprayer in a sweeping motion (back and forth for 4-5 times). 

Read More: Best Tonneau Cover Protectant And Cleaner Review

7. Let It Dry Completely

Let It Dry Completely

Wait at least 48 hours before exposing your truck bed to any kind of weather since this cleaner isn’t resistant to water and could wear off easily when exposed to heat if you do this step during summertime.

Make sure that there are no traces of moisture left behind after spraying on your cover as well as the product label advises not to expose the product to sunlight while drying so. Better be safe than sorry right? Better yet, let it dry overnight just to make sure.

8. Apply Second Coat If Necessary

Apply Second Coat If Necessary

If you still see some stubborn stains or streaks left behind, get a clean cloth and apply another coat on top of the area you’ve sprayed before. This will seal in any leftover dirt so it won’t be visible again later.

9. Buff off residue

Buff off residue

After applying the 2nd coat, take a wheel buffer or an electric orbital sander and rub it back and forth for 4-5 times using a piece of paper towel to buff off the sticky layer that results from spray cleaning only if there are traces of polymer residue left on your cover (this is normal).

This step isn’t necessary but your tonneau cover should look better than before after doing this. The best way to make sure that there is no oily/sticky residue left behind is by rubbing it against the paper towel, if there is, do the step above.

10. Reinstall

Reinstall the tonneau cover

Finally, reinstall your lock (which has been removed during the cleaning process) in its place and install all parts that you have detached during cleaning so you can use your bed cover again with pride for years to come.

If you discover that there are still some stains left behind after washing it in water then let it dry once more.

Before spraying another coat of cleaner over it followed by buffing off the residue using a wheel buffer or an electric orbital sander.

You may also consider washing your tonneau cover regularly like every 3-4 months just to make sure that dirt won’t stick easily on its surface without causing any damage since this will save you the time and effort that is involved in cleaning your cover regularly as well as make it look like new.

What Should I Use To Clean My Tonneau Cover?

Look, we don’t blame you for being confused. There are a lot of different products out there, and many claims to be the best. So it can be tough to make sense of which one is really the best.

You can easily spend hundreds of dollars on various cleaning chemicals and companies will gladly sell them to you. But do you really need all that stuff?

Here’s a quick tip that may help you avoid getting overcharged, and more importantly, may save your vinyl tonneau cover from potential damage.

The first thing to know about the best way to clean a tonneau cover is that it’s typically not necessary to use chemicals. Sure, you can spend lots of money on specialized cleaners. But we’re here to tell you that soap and water will work just as well.

In fact, these days you don’t even need to use soap. Many tonneau covers are made from vinyl or polycarbonate, which are both naturally resistant to dirt and grime. If you have one of these types of covers chances are soap won’t do any more good for you than it would for your shower curtains.

But we understand that some people feel better about using soap. So if you insist on using detergent we would recommend using something designed specifically for cleaning vinyl since this is the most likely type of tonneau cover you have.

One thing to be aware of though is that you should never mix cleaning chemicals with your tonneau cover. This may seem like common sense, but many people are under the impression that they should try and clean their cover as much as possible, and won’t hesitate to mix cleaning products in an effort to do so.

But the truth is, cleaners and chemicals of any kind can have a negative effect on the appearance and durability of your cover, not to mention the inside of your truck bed.

Also, if you simply need to wipe away surface dirt or grime from your cover and don’t want to get out the hose and bucket you may be able to save yourself some time by using just plain water.

There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, you may have noticed that if the water is warm enough it will actually evaporate on its own without leaving anything behind except for a slightly damp surface. If you’re only looking to get rid of some light dust or dirt, this can be a much quicker and easier process than rinsing off the cover.

One thing to be aware of though, especially if you live in a colder climate, is that there’s a chance that your cover may freeze if you don’t use soap or water. If this happens, just leave the cover outside to dry completely before covering it back up in your truck bed.

Why You Should Clean Your Tonneau Cover?

Top 5 reasons to clean your Tonneau Cover regularly:

1) Having a dirty, grungy cover is just plain UGLY!

2) Dirt will cause damage to your cover.

3) Smells are caused by dirt and moisture staying on the truck bed for long periods of time.

4) Your valuable cargo (luggage, sporting goods, etc.) may be covered in grime which can stain the items.

5) Salt from snow or ice melting off the truck eats away at your tonneau cover. This will result in holes developing over time making the cover useless. And it is very expensive to replace!

How to Maintain A Tonneau Cover?

Here are the 15 steps to a quick and easy way to ensure your truck bed cover is performing up to par.

#1. Regular Inspections

It is important that you inspect and maintain your tonneau cover. The bedrails may require fresh wood screws or bolts, the weather stripping may need to be replaced and make sure that it’s still tight due to exposure to the elements.

#2. Use the Right Chemicals to Clean it

To thoroughly clean the tonneau cover, use a mild soap solution and water. Use a soft bristle brush to remove dirt and smoother to wipe away smudges. Don’t spray any chemicals directly onto the vinyl material.

#3. Ensure Every Component is Properly Fastened

Make sure all the bolts and screws are fastened tightly to the tonneau cover. The metal brackets should also be well-secured as they can rust if not properly maintained.

#4. No Heavy Objects on the Cover

It is important to note that the tonneau cover should be used for its intended purpose only. Do not place heavy objects or tools on it as this can affect the integrity of the structure and cause permanent damage over time.

#5. Lubricate the Moving Parts

One important tip is lubricating its moving parts. This ensures a smooth opening and closing of the cover. If you cannot pull or push the locking mechanisms, this may be because they are not well maintained. Lubricate them with graphite for quick results.

#6. Apply Rust Inhibitors

Where there is exposure to salt, sand and grime, it is important that you apply rust inhibitors. This will help reduce the risk of corrosion caused by moisture getting inside the tonneau cover’s structure.

#7. Replace Damaged Parts as Soon as Possible

If one part or component is damaged, especially if it has been torn or stretched, you need to replace it immediately. This is to prevent further damage from occurring.

#8. Store the Cover Properly when not in Use

When you are not using your tonneau cover, it is best that you store it away properly so as to protect its structure and material from exposure to rainfall or sunlight. If possible, keep it inside a storage unit to keep it away from the elements.

#9. Clean it Regularly and Monitor its Condition

It’s important that you find a time that you are able to clean your tonneau cover regularly so as to prevent corrosion. You should also check for signs of wear and tear on the cover because this can affect how well it performs over time.

#10. Don’t Drive in the Rain

Never drive with the tonneau cover installed when it’s raining. Water can seep inside and cause damage to its structure, especially if the seams are rusted or damaged.

#11. Replace Damaged Screws and Bolts

If one of the screws or bolts is damaged, you need to replace it as soon as possible. Using a damaged screw can cause the tonneau cover to fall from your pickup truck due to its weight or rigidity.

#12. Make Sure It’s Securely Installed

If you have had the tonneau cover for some time now and are not sure if it’s properly installed, you may need to contact a professional for assistance. This is particularly true if you have never installed one before or are unsure of its proper installation process.

#13. Keep it Clean and Dry

You should make sure that you clean and dry your tonneau every after use so as to prevent moisture from collecting inside the cover. Moisture can cause the vinyl to crack and deteriorate over time, especially if it is used regularly during rainy periods.

#14. Protect the Bedrails from Damage

When you install your tonneau cover, make sure that you protect the bedrails of your pickup truck from damage in order to maintain its structural integrity. Keep the cover tightly closed when not in use.

#15. Replace Damaged Straps

If the straps of your tonneau cover are damaged, it is best you replace them immediately to prevent further damage caused by the elements or wear and tear brought about by regular use. You can do so by upgrading with more durable straps that are better suited to your needs.

Read also: Bakflip Mx4 Problems


1. Can You Use Tire Shine On A Tonneau Cover?

Yes, but you’ll have to be careful. The important thing is not to use anything that will create a coating on the plastic. Most tire shine products will create a plastic coating that can inhibit the operation of the snaps. So, if you’re going to use tire shine, be sure to only spray it on the tires.

2. Can You Use Armor All On Tonneau Covers?

Armor All is typically not a great product to use on your tonneau cover. It is more of a cleaning agent than anything else, and you should avoid cleaning the covers with it. It is a slick agent, and that can actually impede its ability to do its job properly, which is lifting water. It can be used, but only in moderation, and only on the canvas part of your cover. Never put it directly on the Velcro or rails.

3. What do you clean a tonneau cover with?

The answer is simple, soap and water! To clean your tonneau cover wipe it down with a damp cloth. If you have stubborn stains use mild dish soap to get the job done. Don’t worry about using harsh chemicals on your tonneau cover as this will only cause more damage in the long run.

4. what can I use to protect my tonneau cover?

You can use a car cover for it. I recommend using one that has a waterproof fabric.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to clean a tonneau cover. Your truck bed will be clear of debris like leaves and water. This means less time spent cleaning the inside of your vehicle after traveling long distances on roads with poor visibility such as in winter or springtime rain storms.

To keep this car accessory looking new for years to come, simply wipe it down with soap and warm water every couple of weeks during dry weather conditions. If any grease spots are present from cooking meals while tailgating, use dishwashing liquid instead of soap because it is more effective at removing these stubborn stains!

Read also: How To Keep Dust Out Of Tonneau Cover?

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