Best Ways to Clean Your Convertible’s Soft Top

Summer is here, which means it's prime time for a road trip with your significant other, family or BFFs. If you were to ask each and every motorist in this world what's the perfect vehicle to enjoy the warmest and most anticipated season of the year, most would take a snazzy convertible over any other auto body style.
Porsche Boxster S 1 photo
Anyone that has driven or has been driven in a roadster knows how cool the experience is: there's lots of fresh air, wind in your hair, 3,984 gazillion miles of blue sky above you and a direct soundtrack coming from the engine. Incidentally, cabriolets come in all shapes and sizes.

Excluding the far too uncomfortable Caterham Seven, one of the purest soft tops around is the Mazda MX-5/Miata. It delivers that top-down experience at a fraction of the price of a Porsche Boxster S, it's propelled by a reliable naturally-aspirated four-pot that makes an enjoyable sound if you give it the beans and boasts great resale value.

There are some pretty awful convertibles on the cheap end of the scale as well, while more financially secure buyers opt for high-end models such as the Audi R8 V10 Spyder, Bentley Continental GT Convertible or the jaw-dropping Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster. But let's not get ahead of ourselves dreaming about that winning lottery ticket just yet.

An overwhelming majority of convertible drivers own cars in the $25,000 to $50,000 price bracket, which gets you anything between the back-to-basics Mazda Miata to the more contemporary and plush BMW 4 Series Convertible. Most of these cars don't come with fancy retractable hard tops, but your usual fabric or vinyl roof.

The biggest issue with ragtops is that they can deteriorate easily if you don't care for them properly, especially during the scorching hot temperatures of the summer. That's why we've put together a little guide comprising of the most important dos and don'ts you should take into consideration if you're the type that enjoys cleaning your soft top convertible with your own two hands.

First thing's first, so let's start directly with the washing procedure. Convertible cars should be washed at least once a month especially if you don't own a garage and if you live in hot, dusty places such as Arizona or Dubai. Brits don't really have anything to worry about thanks to their specific weather conditions. Anyhow, during summertime, car cleaning experts recommend to wash your cabriolet at least once a month because the wear and tear is especially hard on the soft top this time of the year.

Before washing the entire car, start with the ragtop. Try not to clean your top in direct sunlight, because water plus the sun's UV rays equals premature wear. In the shade, fill a bucket with water and a bit of pH balanced shampoo, start the cleaning process by using a soft sponge to scrub away the dirt and bird droppings without putting too much muscle into it, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

After initial cleaning is over, repeat the process using special soft top cleaning products that don't contain abrasive or scouring powders or chlorine-based bleaching agents. "Cheap and cheerful" detergents can seriously hurt your car's fabric roof, including seam threads and the plastic rear window as well. Try to stay away from products found on the shelves of your local supermarket and don't be too cheap about it. Buy premium stuff for the best results.

With specialized cleaning over, spray the textile roof with clean water once again and wait for it to dry off completely. At this stage, you need to take care of the top's rubber seals and fabric. For the top, you can use lots of care products ranging from your typical spray can to protective creams in fancy shaped jars.

Anything will do only if you don't buy cheap and the composition doesn't include harmful compounds. As a general rule, cloth tops need a product with fluorocarbon repellants, while vinyl roofs need to be protected with a product that will repel the sun's UV rays. Last but not least, to avoid premature rubber seal wear and those nasty squeaks typical to most soft top convertibles, apply specific oily products to the rubber with a clean piece of cloth and let it dry.

If your convertible's roof has a plastic rear window, don't be tempted to use glass cleaning products. On a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet that's not the case because most premium drop tops are equipped with glass rear windows. But the cheaper end of the spectrum still uses plastic ones, so you need to drop a few bucks on a plastic window cleaning spray.

After spraying the window with the specialized product, use a microfiber cloth and wipe using a back-and-forth motion in order to minimize scratches and discoloration, which ultimately translate to the distortion of rearward visibility. The specialized cleaning product removes dust, oil and other yucky stuff more thoroughly than your typical detergent. Repeat the process a second time, rinse thoroughly and use a different microfiber cloth to wipe cleaning product residue and remaining water from the plastic rear window. Job done, now enjoy the ride!


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