How to Clean a Tonneau Cover

How to Clean a Tonneau Cover – DIY Guide

Whether you’re a truck owner, or simply someone driving a posh convertible vehicle, I assume you’re aware of tonneau covers and the amount of protection they offer to you and your luggage. During manufacture, these covers are treated to repel water and other contaminants. However, following extreme exposure to the elements, tonneau covers are likely to wear out. Due to this reason, regular maintenance is required to prolong their function and usage. So, to restore the amazing deep color and shine that’s accustomed to these covers, this short guide will discuss how to clean a tonneau cover without ruining its integrity.

Just like bed liners, chrome exhaust tips, and premium tires, tonneau covers too are aftermarket automotive accessories that enhance the integrity of your truck or convertible auto. Therefore, to maintain their natural shine, these accessories need to be cleaned and conditioned more regularly to remove dirt, debris, grime, and mold. So, whether it’s an A-Series, an E-Series, or an M-Series Rock-N-Lock tonneau cover, this article will discuss how to clean these covers faster and smoother.


How to Clean a Tonneau Cover: Step-by-Step Guide

Before Cleaning

Before you commence the cleaning process, it’s always recommended that you take some time to do a quick visual inspection of the tonneau cover. Check for any scratches, tears, and cases of wear. Inspect the mounting hardware, the bolts, and the clamps to ensure they’re secured in place. Check the side rails as well to ensure they can easily open and close.

If your truck is fitted with the Hard Tri-Fold cover, taking some time to inspect the hinges is necessary. You see, the reason why it’s necessary to inspect the tonneau cover is to guarantee there are no cases of corrosion or possible wear. Since you’ll be cleaning the cover using water and cleaning agents, these two can exacerbate wear leading to even greater damage in the long last.


Step One: Laying Down the Requirements

  • Several microfiber towels
  • Car washing solution
  • Water (avoid hot water)
  • Scrub brush with soft bristles
  • Microfiber applicator pads
  • Fire hose nozzle
  • Finally, the manual. This is what will guide you throughout the cleaning process. Always read the manual carefully as some of them might be more detailed depending on the specific model of your truck’s tonneau cover.


Step Two: Park your Truck Under a Shade

Just as the English man once said, “There are many ways to kill a rat”. The same principle applies here. While some people may prefer to remove the tonneau cover to clean it, others, especially in a car wash, may opt to clean the cover while it’s on the truck. All in all, you will first need to pack your truck/pick up in a shady area. This can be under a tree or in the garage just to ensure the cover is out of direct contact with sunlight.


Step Three: Spray the Cover With Water

After deciding whether to remove the cover or leave it on your truck, the next step is to spray it with water using the fire hose to remove dust and debris that have accumulated over time. Additionally, spraying the cover with water will help to increase the effectiveness of the cleaners once you start the actual cleaning.


Step Four: Prepare Your Cleaning Solution and Get Started

Preparing your cleaning solution is quite easy. All you need is a ½ cup of car washing solution which you’ll mix with lukewarm water inside a bucket. Now, whether your tonneau cover is made of hard or soft material, it’s highly recommended that you use gentle car shampoo. Using strong cleaning agents such as detergents, solvents, and bleaches will only corrode your cover causing it to fade.

For those covers made of vinyl, you should consider using specialized cleaners that are only intended for vinyl tonneau covers. Now that you’re ready, start by applying the cleaning solution on the cover then use a light bristled scrub brush, to scrub the cover.

For effective results, it’s always wise to start from the center moving outwards towards the edges. Make sure the motion is gentle without applying excessive force to avoid damaging or scuffing your delicate tonneau cover. In case of tough stains, simply allow the soapy cleaning solution to soak the area for about 5 minutes then try scrubbing the stains again.


Step Five: Rinse the Cover Thoroughly

So, once you’re done cleaning, the next step is to rinse the cover thoroughly using the fire hose. The best thing about a fire hose is that you can easily adjust the water pressure from a powerful spray to a gentle mist. Here, you need to apply a powerful spray to rinse the cover entirely without leaving any soapy solution on the surface.

Once you’re done, you will either hang the cover to dry up (in case you decided to remove it) or simply use a microfiber cloth to dry up the excess water. In case you opted to clean the tonneau cover while on the truck/pick up, then you’ll need to use several microfiber cloths to dry up the cover entirely.


Step Six: Time to Apply the Protectant

Before you apply the protectant, you’ll first need to leave your truck for some time to give the tonneau cover some time to cool off. Here, you’ll notice that the tonneau cover is quite faded and discolored. So, to restore its natural shine, you’ll need to apply a protectant. Although you can pick any protectant of your choice, some of the leading varieties that have made a name in this business are Maguiar’s M40 and the ExtangTonno Tonic cleaners and conditioners.

To apply, simply spray the protectant on the tonneau cover then wipe it gently using the microfiber cloth. When you’re done applying the protectant, leave the product to soak for about 30 minutes. After that, wipe the surface of the cover gently using a clean microfiber cloth to remove excess conditioner and give the surface a shiny look.



Most of the tonneau covers you’ll find in the market are treated right from the factory to withstand harsh environmental hazards. Although they’re marketed as so, that doesn’t make them entirely immune to damage. Therefore, to prevent them from wearing out quickly, these covers need to be cleaned and maintained regularly.

From the steps above, we have discussed in detail how you can effectively clean your tonneau cover without ruining its integrity. While most tutorials only cover the cleaning process, we’ve gone beyond that to include a bonus step on how to apply a vinyl protectant.

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