How to Clean and Detail a Soft Top Convertible


In this article, you will learn:

  • How to wash your convertible top as part of routine cleaning and as part of a full detailing

  • The two things you should never use to clean your soft top convertible roof

  • How to protect your fabric top from fading

Over the years, car makers have come a long way with convertible tops. Today’s softer materials are more durable and more beautiful than ever, but soft tops require a little special care to keep them looking their best.

To understand the best way to care for your convertible top, you only need to stop and think about the basics of the material you’re working on. That’s the only real variable. Otherwise, your soft top roof gets exposed to all the same things as the rest of your car exterior. The same dust, dirt, road film, tree sap, bird droppings and more. But, unlike smooth, nonporous, clear-coated paint and glass, the material of your drop top contains millions of synthetic fibers. Much more of the dirt, pollen, mud and grime that your car encounters can work its way into the weave of these fibers, and once they’re in there, you may need to do a little extra work to get them out.

So let’s dive in! In no time, you’ll know exactly how to keep your convertible sports car looking showroom-new!

Let’s start at the…top

The good news about convertible tops is that they’ve never been easier to live with or to care for. They’ve never been better at insulating road noise when the roof is closed. And, as long as you keep them clean and protected, you can avoid premature fading or cracking.

For regular cleaning, every couple of weeks, a basic wash should work just fine to maintain the soft top of your daily driver.

Beginning with the closed top, rinse your entire car with a strong stream of clean water. Break up and rinse away any loose soils from the convertible material and every plastic window. Work your way down and around the car. Just as you would any other vehicle, use a solution of car wash soap, water and a microfiber wash mitt to clean your entire car. Again, start at the top, then move on to the hood and trunk and continue cleaning down and around the car. Rinse clean, taking care to flush all the car wash soap from the fibers, seams and seals of your top. Dry the entire car with a microfiber towel, again starting with the roof. Gently blot the top to wick the moisture from the fabric.

ceramic wash & wax

Detailing a convertible top

If you run across a stubborn soil or stain, if your top starts to look a little faded, or if it’s just time for complete, total-car detailing job, it’s time to go deep – deeper into the weave of the fabric of your top. Remember, you’re not trying to clean dirt off a smooth, flat surface. You want to get between the billions of tiny fibers that make up your convertible top and wrestle that dirt out of there. You need a cleaning product made for that kind of job, an upholstery cleaner. We recommend Power Out! Upholstery Cleaner.

You may have always thought of upholstery cleaners as car care products for your interior, but the high-foaming action of these cleaners is perfect for penetrating deep into synthetic materials to break up soils in the weave. And once you get that foam in there to work its magic, detailing your convertible top is a breeze.

Start your exterior detailing with the tires and wheels first. Then, do your convertible top. Lightly wet the fabric with a hose. Then, saturate a 2’ x 2’ section of the top with upholstery cleaner. Using a microfiber towel, foam applicator or sponge, massage the cleaner into the weave with a gentle, circular motion. Focus on any heavily soiled areas. You can spot these by the amount of soil you see in the foam as you work.

Make sure you work the cleaner consistently and evenly into the top for a consistent finish and use enough foam cleaner to keep the entire top damp as you work. Don’t allow the cleaner to dry in the fabric.

Lastly, use a flooding hose to rinse the entire top, then switch your hose to a spray so the water penetrates and rinses all the fibers clean. Gently dry the entire top with microfiber towels.

power out! upholstery cleaner

Avoid this and that

In general, modern convertible tops are easy to clean and care for, but, for the best results, you should avoid using two cleaning tools in particular. Never use a brush on the fabric of your convertible top. Brushes can cause the material to pill, making the top look old and worn. Second, avoid using any kind of towel that may leave lint on the surface of your top. The lint can get permanently intertwined with the fibers in the material, ruining the look of your top. Cotton towels are especially problematic. Always use microfiber instead.

inside & out protectant

The finishing touch

A proper detailing job isn’t just about cleaning. It’s also about restoring and protecting the surfaces of your car. There’s no better way to restore a clean soft top than by applying a very light coating of vinyl protectant, such as Inside & Out Protectant. To apply it, mist a foam applicator or clean microfiber with a light spray of protectant and massage evenly over the top. Immediately, you’ll notice a deeper, richer color, and, over the long run, treating your convertible top like this will help preserve the color and guard against fading and premature cracking and aging.


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