How to Clean and Care for a Convertible Top

How to Clean and Care for a Convertible Top

Convertible enthusiasts love the freedom of riding with their tops down on the open road, but unfortunately, many don’t properly care for their convertible tops. Pollution, precipitation, and the elements can wreak havoc on hard and soft convertible tops, and proper care is crucial to their appearance and longevity.

All the moving components on a convertible might make you think maintenance will be complicated, but cleaning a convertible top can be done relatively easily. In this post, we’ll touch on the proper techniques for cleaning a convertible top and share additional steps to protect it long-term. 

Cleaning varies depending on whether you have a hard or soft convertible top:

For hard-top convertible tops, rinse with water, cleanse with foaming car shampoo and wash mitt, rinse lifted debris and cleaning solution with water, dry with microfiber, and apply a protectant if needed. 

For soft tops, rinse with water, use a pH-neutral car shampoo, scrub in small circles with a medium bristle brush, rinse thoroughly, dry with microfiber towels, and apply a rain repellent if needed. 

Tools and materials 

For hard tops, you’ll need the following: 

  • A foaming car shampoo
  • Wash mitt (or a foam cannon/gun)
  • Water buckets 
  • Microfiber towels
  • A standard hose 
  • A protectant, your choice of a wax or sealant

For soft tops, use the following: 

  • A standard hose 
  • pH-neutral car shampoo 
  • Medium bristle bush 
  • Microfiber towels 
  • Rain repellent product  

Follow the cleaning procedure that applies to your hard- or soft-top convertible. 

Cleaning Hard Tops

Take time to prepare to detail. Plan to clean in a cool, shaded area, and ensure that your hard top is securely shut before applying any products. 

Rinse with water

Spray your vehicle’s roof with a standard garden hose. The water will carry away light debris, such as dust or pollen, that might create micro scratches if wiped.

Apply a gentle car shampoo with a wash mitt

Use a foaming car shampoo, such as Stoner’s MOAB, for a deep and thorough clean. Car roofs have steep slopes with vertical surfaces on all sides, and foaming car shampoos allow the soap to cling, increasing dwell time and cleaning effectiveness. 

You can use a standard wash mitt to apply the high-foaming car shampoo; or, if you prefer, apply with a foam cannon/gun. Use straight, long strokes to wipe your convertible top with a wash mitt. Avoid small, circular motions for this step. Once you’ve cleaned the entire roof, move on to the next step. 

Rinse lifted debris and cleaning solution with water

Thoroughly rinse away any lifted grime and soap with a standard hose. Ensure that no soap or dirt spots remain. Dried soap can lead to spotting and an unsightly appearance. 

Dry with a microfiber towel

Always reach for a microfiber towel when drying any vehicle surface. These towels are engineered for absorbency and use thousands of tiny fibers to snag any lifted debris. They’re soft, inexpensive, and withstand hundreds of uses with proper care, making them a must-have for any detailer. 

Apply a protectant as needed 

Protecting your convertible top is crucial to shield it from the elements, precipitation, pollution, and other contaminants that may cause it to deteriorate. If you haven’t done so already, apply a wax or sealant product to your roof to protect against pollutants, road debris, and harsh UV rays from the sun. Additionally, these products add a hydrophobic layer to repel water, making it less likely that water will run into your car when you put the top down.

Cleaning Soft Tops

Choose a cool, shaded area to detail. The pollutants, dirt, pollen, and road grime your vehicle encounters will settle into your convertible’s fabric, so the millions of synthetic fibers that make up your soft top may take some elbow grease to clean.

Rinse with water

Begin by rinsing with water to increase lubricity and remove light debris, dust, and other contaminants. Use your garden hose to spray your top down thoroughly.

Use a pH-neutral car shampoo to cleanse

Be sure to choose a pH-neutral car shampoo for cleaning fabric. A neutral formula will be strong enough to move most debris without risking damage to your soft-top fabric.  

Evenly apply the neutral pH car soap with a wash mitt.

Scrub in small circles with a medium bristle brush

Standard convertible top fabric is strong, but even small debris can become embedded deep within its fibers. Remove residue using a medium bristled brush; it’s strong enough to lift deep grime but gentle enough that you will not risk tearing your convertible top. 

Scrub with a tight circular motion when cleaning the fabric. Work in one small area before moving on to the next, and apply additional water and cleaner as needed. 

Rinse with water

Rinse thoroughly with water to remove all soapy residue and lifted debris. Soap that remains on the fabric could cause spotting or haziness.

Dry with microfiber towels

Gently dry your soft-top cover with clean microfiber towels. Wipe away all moisture and swap out towels as necessary.

Apply fabric protectant if needed

Fabric protectants were developed to shield soft convertible tops from liquids, dirt, strains, and UV solar rays. They’ll keep your soft top looking and working like new by forming micro bonds to strengthen and protect the fabric. Spray on a coat or two of the product, and wait for drying. Always read usage information before applying any auto product to your vehicle.

Enjoy the road, top up or down! 

Regardless of your top type, routine cleaning will help keep it looking good and functioning well for the long haul. Refer to the charts below and follow the steps appropriate to your top material to ensure a clean convertible top. 


1.       Rinse with water.

2.       Cleanse with foaming car shampoo and a wash mitt.

3.       Rinse lifted debris and cleaning solution with water.

4.       Dry with microfiber towels.

5.       Apply a protectant product if needed.



1.       Rinse with water.

2.       Use a pH-neutral car shampoo and scrub in small circles with a medium-bristle brush to clean.

3.       Rinse lifted debris and cleaning solution with water.

4.       Dry with microfiber towels.

5.       Apply a rain-repellent product if needed.


Reap all the benefits of having a convertible while keeping your top in great shape for miles to come. Enjoy the clean, and enjoy the ride!

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