How to Make a Tonneau Cover Look New?

by Chris Lewis.

Tonneau covers often look terrible because of dirt. The reason they accumulate so much dirt is their location at the back of your pickup truck.

While the cover protects the tonneau from the external environment, it accumulates all kinds of dirt such as bird poop, grime, dust, etc.

After accumulating these things for some time, it becomes a terrible sight to behold. Someone might even see your tonneau cover and advise you to change it, thinking it's old. In such a condition, you must take some necessary actions to make it look new again.

So in this article, we will explore some of the available methods to make the tonneau cover look new.

We will also share a step-wise guide on how to implement the cleaning process. If you’re ready to get to work, check them below.

Pre-cleaning Steps to take

Pre-cleaning Steps to take
Pre-cleaning Steps to take

Before you jump into the cleaning proper, there are certain things you must do to be on the safe side.

  • Inspection

Before you do anything on the cover, first inspect it thoroughly. You have to check if the latches are easy to open, close and still functional.

To do that, go to the side rails and inspect them. You must do this to know if they have rusted and can’t open anymore.

If they have rusted, apply a small amount of mineral oil to the joints holding the latches together. Then, keep working on them until you can open them freely.

  • Quick Checks

After inspection, check the clamps, bolts, and hardware to ensure they're still secure in their positions.

If they have shifted in any way, adjust them rightly to avoid scratching or breaking them while cleaning.

After these preliminary checks, you’re set to start the cleaning process.

Cleaning Steps to Take

Cleaning Steps to Take
Cleaning Steps to Take

Before you start the cleaning process, you must understand that tonneau covers can be soft or hard.

The soft covers come in vinyl material, while the hardcovers can be of plastic, metal, etc. So, the texture of the cover determines the materials and approach you'll use.

Let’s explore our options below.

1. Cleaning a soft Tonneau Cover

Cleaning a soft Tonneau Cover
Cleaning a soft Tonneau Cover

If your Tonneau cover is soft, you must be more careful when cleaning it. The brush you will use, the cleaner you will use, and the amount of pressure to apply will be milder to avoid damages. So, to clean the softcover, get the following:


  • A cleaner (vinyl)
  • Vinyl cover protector
  • Wheel brush
  • Drying towel (microfiber)
  • Cloth material for the solution
  • Drying towel (microfiber)
  • Water hose
  • Boar hairbrush

Cleaning process

  • To start the cleaning, find a shade where you can pack the car. This is to protect the vinyl cover from the sun as it can expand when exposed.
  • Use the fire hose to wash the tonneau cover thoroughly to rid it of debris or surface dirt.
  • Get the cleaner and spray it all over the surface.
  • Now, use the boar hair brush and agitate any area that houses the thicker dirt.
  • After the entire cover is saturated with the vinyl cleaner, use the same brush and scrub the whole surface.
  • While scrubbing, try to check if your boar hairbrush does not work as you expect on some spots. If it is not, get the wheel brush and scrub those areas. But make sure that the pressure you exert is not going to damage the cover.
  • After scrubbing, use the hose and rinse the entire tonneau cover.
  • Then get the microfiber towel to dry off the water on the cover.
  • When the cover is a bit dry, get the cover protector and apply it to the surface. Use the cloth to spread it thoroughly.
  • Allow the tonneau cover to dry naturally for 5 minutes.

2. Cleaning a hard Tonneau Cover

If your tonneau cover is hard, you're going to take a different approach to clean it. The good news is that anyone can do it, even kids, without damaging it because it is a tough nail. So, let's go through the process step by step.


  • A water hose
  • A bucket of warm water, if possible
  • Soap or any solution for washing cars
  • Microfiber scrubber and a towel

Cleaning process

  • Find a shade to park your car but avoid under a tree if you don’t want more dirt or damages on the cover.
  • Use the hose to clean off the surface dirt.
  • Dry off the water with a towel after the first washing.
  • Now, mix the solution adding the car-wash solution to the bucket of warm water. You can use half a cup of solution for the mix.
  • Divide the entire tonneau cover into four with a marker or masking tape.
  • Start scrubbing the sections with the scrubber, and you soak them with the warm solution. Tackle one section after another to be more efficient.
  • Use mild pressure since you're already using warm water. If some spots are not as soft as they should be, allow the solution to sit on the cover for five more minutes before continuing with the scrubbing.
  • After the process, remove the markers and rinse the entire surface.
  • Allow drying naturally.

Tonneau Cover maintenance

Now that you’ve restored the tonneau cover to a beautiful appearance, it’s time to step up your maintenance practices.

If you’ve not been doing anything to protect it or keep it clean for longer periods, check the following tips below.

  • Always remove any stain or dirt on the cover at the end of every day.
  • When you clean the cover, add a protectant on the surface to extend the beautiful appearance.
  • Don’t allow grimes or dirt to accumulate and harden on the surface
  • Protect your vinyl cover from too much exposure to the sun to avoid damages from the UV rays and heat
  • Allow the cover some air from time to time, even when you're not using it to avoid mildew.


The tonneau won’t maintain its appearance without the cover. However, if the cover is dirty and repulsive, it changes the appearance of your truck.

So, try to keep it clean always and also create a maintenance schedule to protect it from too much dirt.

About Chris Lewis.

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