Convertible fabric soft top cleaning & protection.
Drop top, soft top, rag top and convertible roofs.
For many car fanatics, a drive in an open top car can be something religious, with the open car sensation when being more exposed to the outdoor wind, speed and sound elements of the car adding a whole new level of enjoyment to any drive.
The soft top roofs on these cars are generally made from a more pliable fabric or even vinyl and even though they can add a lot of enjoyment to your driving experience, if they aren't looked after correctly, the smiles can quickly turn to a frown when looked after incorrectly, especially if any neglect means you'll be potentially paying for a new roof down the track.
So, we have put this quick guide together on how to deep clean and then protect your roof to keep it looking its best over the long term.
The fabric material used in soft tops are all treated with protective products when new, as the material can be easily damaged by long term exposure to the outdoor environmental elements like the sun’s rays, grime and water. Over time, this protection slowly dissipates, so regular maintenance to top this up is required, preventing their premature ageing.
With the products we use and the way they work, you need to stringently follow the following different techniques and procedures to make sure they can work their best and you don't do accidental and irrepairable damage to the roof whilst you're trying to clean and protect it.
For this job you will need the following products: Sublime Clean, Fabratection, the Plush Brush, The Foursome detailing brush set, a Big Green Sucker, the Square Bear microfibre applicator, a good bucket, and finally a quality low pile microfibre cloth like our Dirty Deeds.
Step 1: The Deep Clean
It's important before you apply any type of protection that you give the fabric a real good deep clean. You'll want to do this job on a warmer, dry day. Begin by parking outside in the shade, and thoroughly rinse the roof down with your hose.
For this job we use our Sublime Clean, which is a pH neutral, bleach free and environmentally friendly exterior fabric and vinyl cleaner. It was formulated to help clean, brighten and importantly not bleach the colour of the fabric it is used on. It also has a nice level of deep cleaning power as well as being free rinsing too, so it will easily wash out and not leave any residue in the fabric.
Use Sublime Clean with a super soft bristle brush like our Plush Brush. Work on a section at a time, spraying the Sublime Clean liberally into the wet roof and very gently scrub the roof in a side to side motion, east-west and then north-south directions. Never use a circular motion or be overly aggressive on the material as this can fray and permanently affect the look of the roof's fibres.
It’s important to pay extra attention to cleaning all the stitching and seams of the roof as well, get right in there with a nice soft bristle detailing brush like our Big Boy Brett brush. This brush is part of our Foursome round detailing brush set.
After you've done the section, quickly rinse it down with the hose and then move to the next section of the roof. We like to split the roof into quarters on bigger cars, or do one side and then the other on smaller sports cars. Biggest thing is to not let the Sublime Clean dry in the fabric.
If your roof is one that’s been poorly looked after with lots of embedded grime, or affected by mould and mildew, the Sublime Clean and Plush Brush combination will safely clean it from the fabric. If the roof is in really bad shape you may need to clean it twice.
Once you’ve finished the roof, give it a final thorough hose down, so there are no signs of any suds coming from the fabric anymore.
Rinse your brushes out with fresh water and then we move onto our subtley different way to dry it.
Step 2: Drying
We use a little bit of a different technique for drying, with our super plush Big Green Sucker drying towel.
Open the towel up and then lie it down on the fabric surface. Gently pat the towel as it's on the material, so the towel sucks and draws in the water from the roof. Then, turn it over to the other side and place it on the next section to again repeat the patting process. Use this pat and turn technique till the whole roof is done.
Then, leave it for an hour or two for the roof to completely dry. If you were after a good deep clean, this is where you finish up, but if you wish to now protect the roof as well, please continue reading.
Step 3: Fabratection
1. Move the car indoors and then vacuum the roof down, being sure to use its soft brush attachment, removing any final dust or residue. Then, run over it with a household lint roller which you can get from any supermarket store. This will pick up any remaining errant fibres, lint or hairs from the brushes.
2. It’s now time to apply our Fabratection fabric protectant. This is a water-based protectant that uses the latest nanotechnology to coat fabrics and help them resist water and staining. Unlike many other older fabric protectant formulas, this one uses ingredients that are biodegradable and environmentally friendly. It also gives great UV protection, which makes it ideal for protecting fabric convertible tops.
We reccomend you wear some nitrile gloves, as the product can get a bit sticky on your hands if it dries on them between the coats. It’s also important that the day is both dry and warm for Fabratection to work its best. Doing it on a cold and wet day wont give you a good result.
3. Holding a Square Bear low pile microfibre pad above the roof, lightly mist 4 to 5 sprays of Fabratection into it and then mist a couple of sprays onto the roof area you will be doing as well. Gently work it in, with very little pressure on a small section in an east-west, and then north-south overlapping motion.
4. Do a couple of passes in each direction, to ensure you get good coverage over all the material. Work a little extra into the seams and stitching to ensure it really gets into those areas.
5. Apply a little extra product to the applicator if there are any dry patches for this first application. But, be careful to not use too much Fabratection and oversaturate the material. Keep applying to the roof in a section at a time till completed. On a bigger roof we split it into 6 parts - a smaller roof will have 4.
6. Dampen a Dirty Deeds microfibre cloth in fresh water, fold it and wipe down any glass, paint or other areas you accidently got product residue onto. Try to not touch the fabric you have just treated. After the first coat is completed, you need to wait 20 minutes before applying a 2nd coat the same as the first.
It’s a good idea to have a bucket full of fresh water handy to rinse both the applicator and cloth out in between applications. Otherwise the Fabratection can begin to cure in these and make them unusable later as they will repel liquids.
7. Follow it up once more another 20 mins later with a third, and final coat. On the final section, turn the bottle upside down when spraying it into the applicator. This is so the trigger won’t get blocked afterwards. Give the edges a final wipe down with the wet cloth and then follow it with a dry microfibre cloth. Rinse out the Square Bear applicator and wet Dirty Deeds microfibre cloth before putting them in the washing machine with our Microfibre Wash.
Don’t disturb the roof for 5 to 6 hours, or allow it to get wet for 48 to 72 hours, so it can totally cure. Once cured, Fabratection makes the surface nicely hydrophobic. More importantly, the roof is now UV protected, a lot easier to clean and more resistant to staining from the many wonderful outdoor elements.
Some tips to care and maintain the fabric roof.
After this is all done you can easily maintain the roof by washing it with any of our pH neutral washes like Auto Body Gel, Nanolicious Wash and Wax Wash - even our Snow Job (read the next section on pressure washers). We recommend using a low pile microfibre wash tool like our Love Glove and don't be aggressive on the fabric. Use a gentle side-to-side motion to release any dirt and grime from the fabric surface. Don't ever wash in a circular motion or be aggressive on it, as it can and will affect the roof fibres over time.
Pressure washers can be a contentious issue for fabric tops, mainly as many people use them incorrectly. You can use them, but NEVER hold them close to the fabric surface. A distance of 50cm to 1 metre from the end of the water jet to the roof is as close as you want to get. If you cannot trust yourself to do this, then do not use one on the roof, use a hose instead.
Another thing to note is how Fabratection works with waterproofing. Like all water or even the older not so great for the enviroment solvent based fabric protectants, it has its limits and it can become oversaturated with enough liquid going on or being pushed into it. This does not mean it will stop preventing stains or UV damage, as you will note that once the roof is dry again, it will still repel water, and bead. Most importantly, even when wet, the Fabratection will still help stop any potential staining elements getting into the fibres. This is because the important protective elements still stay bonded to the fabric’s fibres. If something does land on the roof (dirt, mud, bird poo etc) simply remove it from the surface by wetting the roof, spraying Sublime Clean on the mark and using the Big Boy Brett round soft detailing brush to agitate/clean that area, before hosing it off.
You can find these products at our many retailers nationwide using our store finder link here.
If you have any questions about anything in this article, especially about using the Sublime Clean or Fabratection, please drop me a line for further information. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 351 308 during office hours.
We also have other guides in the interior section that include a whole heap about using Fabratection on Alcantara, carpet and cloth trims as well.
Love your car,