How to Clean & Protect a Convertible Soft-Top Car Roof

Convertible soft-top roofs are not the easiest to clean, but with this step-by-step guide you’ll be able to get great results without spending ages. I’ll take you through the products you’ll need, some tips to avoid damaging the fabric and how to protect it so it’s easier to clean in the future.

What You’ll Need

  • Fabric cleaner/ automotive all-purpose-cleaner
  • Medium bristle brush
  • Garden hose with nozzle attachment
  • Microfiber towels
  • Soft-top protection chemical
  • Paint brush

This page contains product affiliate links. We may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links.

I usually go for a fabric cleaner on convertible roofs as I find them to be very effective. One of my favourites is the Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Fabric Cleaner (Amazon link). You can use an automotive all-purpose-cleaner (APC) though, as long as it says it’s safe for fabric and is diluted to the correct amount. I’d recommend Koch Chemie Greenstar (Amazon link) diluted to 5-10%.

The brush choice is very important. You can’t use something too soft, or it won’t effectively clean the fabric. Nor can you use something too stiff as it’ll cause damage. You just want the bristles to have a decent amount of flex to them. I really like The Rag Company Ultra Utility Brush (Amazon link) for this purpose. A smaller medium stiffness detail brush (Amazon link) is also useful for around the seals.

For rinsing the soft-top roof, go with a garden hose and nozzle attachment instead of a pressure washer (unless you are able to turn the pressure right down on your machine). You need to avoid using pressure as this will leave lines in the fabric that cannot be repaired.

In order to waterproof the fabric and make it easier to clean in the future and protect it from UV, you should use a soft-top protective chemical. My favourite is Fabsil Gold (Amazon link). This lasts around 6-12 months from my experience (dependent on the environmental conditions).

When using all these products, make sure to wear the recommended PPE as instructed by the chemical manufacture.

Step #1 Rinse the Convertible Roof

Start by using the garden hose to rinse the roof down and push any lose debris off the fabric. Don’t try and remove any stains or dirt by getting too close with the hose as it will be ineffective. Just make sure it’s thoroughly wet before moving on.

Step #2 Apply the Cleaner

Next, apply your fabric or all-purpose cleaner of choice liberally onto the fabric. If you are working on a larger roof or in warmer conditions, consider applying it to a smaller section and then moving to step #3.

Step #3 Agitate the Cleaner

Use your medium-stiff brush to agitate the fabric in straight-line motions. Avoid using circular motions as this puts the fabric under more stress and increases the risk of damage. Don’t press too hard either. Let the chemical do the work. You can always repeat this step later if necessary.

If you find that some stubborn algae, moss, or lichen can’t be shifted after a couple of tries using the medium-stiffness brush, then try using a stiffer brush. You need to be very cautious though and only agitate the areas that need it (using straight-line motions.

Tip: Be very careful not to make contact with the plastic rear window using your brush. This surface scratches very easily.

Step #4 Rinse the Fabric

Next, take your garden hose and rinse the fabric thoroughly. This can take a while, so be patient. You need to make sure the fabric has been completely flushed of all the chemical and dirt before moving onto step #5.

Step #5 Dry the Roof

It’s very hard to fully dry a convertible roof manually, but you can speed up the process by using your microfiber towels to blot the surface. If you can, park the car in the sun once you have washed the rest of the vehicle so the fabric dries out faster.

Tip: Make sure you cleaning the roof is the first thing you do on the car. Then when you clean the rest of the vehicle, avoid getting water or chemicals on it as much as you can. This way you’ll give it more time to dry out.

Step #6 Apply the Protection

Once the fabric is completely dry, you can then apply your protection. A lot of fabric protective products come in a spray however, I prefer to decant the chemical into a small tub and apply it using a paint brush.

This method does use more chemical, so ensure you have enough. Usually about 500 mL is sufficient for a single layer on a large canvas roof e.g. Mini. The benefits are that this method ensures more even coverage and prevents overspray onto the paintwork. However, you should keep a microfiber towel on hand to immediately remove any drips on the paint or glass.

If you have enough protector remaining, add a second layer once the first layer has fully dried. Then avoid exposing the fabric to water if possible for 24 hours.

How Often Should You Deep Clean a Convertible Roof

The deep cleaning process described above should typically be done every 6-months on a vehicle stored outdoors.

When performing your more regular maintenance washes on the vehicle, just spray a bit of weak dilution automotive all-purpose-cleaner (choose one safe for fabrics) and wipe the fabric with a microfiber towel or wash mitt to give it a light clean.

Soft-Top Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

Canvas roofs are not the easiest to clean and there are some things that can go wrong.

Do not use household cleaners or bleach on a convertible roof as it will damage the fabric.
Do not apply snow foam or traffic-film remover to the fabric, these chemicals can be too strong and promote fading. Only every use a fabric cleaner or automotive APC which explicitly says it’s safe for convertible roofs.
Do not use wax & wax shampoo on a convertible roof. This can clog the fabric.
Do not use a pressure washer on a convertible roof. It will leave lines in the roof which cannot be repaired.
Do not use a very stiff brush or work circular motions as this can damage the fabric.
Do not work in direct sunlight. The chemical will likely dry out too quickly leading to staining.
Never take a car with a soft-top roof through an automatic car wash.


Heather is a professional car detailer & valeter based in Cheshire and the owner of Auto Care HQ. A familiar face in the car detailing community, she has written over 200 car detailing guides on and has produced over 165 videos on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel.

Articles: 221