Cleaning a convertible top: Care done right

When caring for a convertible top, there are a few things to keep in mind. Because as you surely know, the top of your classic car can be quite sensitive. In order to preserve the old shine and keep it fresh on the road, this guide provides you with valuable tips on how to clean and care for a convertible top. So you can enjoy your classic for a long time.

Author: Brian Bennet
Position: Sales
Updated on: 21.11.2023

Caring for fabric and vinyl tops

The be-all and end-all of a fresh appearance for classic cars is, of course, regular care. If done correctly, this can enhance the aesthetics of an already sleek car. In principle, there are two types of soft top materials that can be treated quite differently:

  1. Soft tops with a textile surface: the fabrics consist of three layers of material. Textile layers on the inside and outside enclose a rubber layer on the inside. These fabrics are today's standard, but are also available for many classic vehicles.
  2. Vinyl tops: These have been the standard for a long time, especially for English vehicles. These tops are made of very strong PVC foil. Sometimes the inside is textile laminated.

Cleaning the convertible top? Hand wash is best

The best way to clean a textile convertible top is still to hand wash it. If this is done regularly, you can remove even stubborn contaminants such as pollen, bird droppings, soot, salt, limescale, dead insects and resin residue before they soak into and perpetuate themselves in your soft top.

Dry cleaning: Brush the soft top dry. Use soft natural bristles for this. Be careful not to brush against the grain, i.e. always in the direction of the fabric fibres.

Wet wash: Use only cold, clean water at first. If you want to use a detergent, please do not use a conventional detergent, but use a gentle soft top cleaner.

Vinyl tops are best cleaned with a special cleaner for vinyl tops. Vinyl tops need to be cleaned regularly and quickly because bird droppings or berries can discolour the material.

Tip: We recommend our special soft top cleaner for vinyl soft tops and window cleaner for plastic windows: Autoglym windscreen cleaner contains no abrasives and is therefore suitable for glass windows, acrylic, Perspex and plastic windows. It is also suitable for removing insect remains and bird droppings from painted surfaces.

Cleaning the convertible top in 6 steps

The following steps have proven to be effective for gentle convertible roof care:

  1. Lock the convertible top and close all windows. Then you can start with the plastic or fabric soft top care.
  2. Test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area and only use it if it passes the test and leaves no stains.
  3. If you only want to dry clean (for light soiling such as dust), brush the soft top with a soft natural brush. For a wet wash, the soft top should be well moistened - e.g. with a garden hose. The soft top should be damp enough for the cleaner to foam well.
  4. Use the soft top cleaner with a soft brush, cloth or gentle sponge. Apply as little pressure as possible and let the cleaner work according to the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to clean the entire convertible roof, otherwise the cleaned and uncleaned areas may be different and the roof may look patchy. 
  5. Rinse the cleaner thoroughly until no more foam is formed. 
  6. Dry in two steps: First, pick up most of the wetness with a microfibre cloth or wet vacuum. Then dry the remaining moisture in the fresh air.

Care of the plastic windows

The plastic windows should be cleaned regularly. Loose dirt particles should be removed carefully. Then wash the discs again with clear water or mild soapy water. Use a soft sponge or cloth, never a scouring pad. Sunlight in combination with other environmental influences will impair the clarity of your plastic pane.
To maintain the original condition for as long as possible, be sure to clean it regularly, as you would the soft top.

Cleaning the convertible top in the car wash? Only in the right one!

Whether or not you can have your convertible top cleaned in a car wash depends on certain factors: For plastic tops, car washes are normally no problem at all. The situation is different for fabric tops, which react sensitively to the brushes.

In principle, you should consider whether it makes sense to take your classic convertible to the car wash. Modern car washes work with high water pressure. Especially on the side windows, the water reaches the inside of the car almost unchecked. Only vehicles from the mid-1990s onwards are suitable for use in car washes to a limited extent. (Indication: lowered windscreen)

Alternatively, there are car washes that offer convertible-friendly wash programmes with lower brush pressure. The most suitable are those that use soft textile strips for fabric top care and use a special detergent. If you clean the soft top in the wash box, make sure the equipment is clean, as encrusted foam brushes also cause scratches.

Caution: Do not use the high-pressure jet at all in the car wash, as this places a lot of stress on the convertible roof and usually also loses the effect of the impregnation.

Caring for a textile convertible roof: Impregnation helps

The impregnation has a double effect: on the one hand, it protects against dust and thus ensures a clean look, on the other hand, it also protects against moisture and refreshes the colours.  Since cleaning can strain or reduce the function of the impregnation, it may be useful to refresh the impregnation of your textile roof.

Caution: If you want to maintain your textile convertible roof yourself, you should make sure that you use a product that is compatible with the roof of your convertible. Vehicle manufacturers often offer their own products for this purpose. It is also important to note that plastic roofs must not be impregnated. Thorough cleaning is sufficient to care for the roof.

For optimum impregnation performance after cleaning, you should only do this when the soft top is completely dry. Also cover all windows before spraying (e.g. with foil or cardboard) so that they do not come into contact with the agent. Once dry, it is very difficult to remove. Alternatively, you can wipe the agent off the window pane with a cloth as long as it has not yet dried.
Then apply the impregnation protection to the closed roof according to the manufacturer's instructions and allow the product to dry completely.

Tip: To prevent fading in the sun, there are also impregnation agents with UV protection. The flexibility of the rubber seals can be maintained with glycerine or silicone-based care products.

Cleaning the rear window properly

The rear window is either made of glass or plastic and folds in with the soft top. Rear windows made of glass get clean with normal window cleaner. Most dirt is usually on the inside. Window cleaner also helps here.

If the rear window is made of PVC, the main focus should be on preventing the window from scratching. It does this when cleaned with a dry cloth as well as when folded up in the soft top compartment. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to prevent the windscreen from becoming frosted. To prevent the window from becoming the limiting factor for the life of your soft top, here are a few tips:

  • There are special polishes for PVC convertible top windows. As a rule, this will restore the glass to a good level. Again, most dirt and damage is on the inside.
  • Many soft tops offer the possibility of replacing the glass individually. Ask for a suitable replacement from our specialist advisors: 02683-9799-0.
  • For more complex soft tops, the saddler can sew in a new window - for a fraction of the price of a new soft top.
  • It is often possible to exchange the soft top with a plastic rear window for one with a glass rear window, sometimes even heatable. Ask our technical advisors about the possibilities: 02683-9799-0.
  • If the glued glass rear window comes off the soft top fabric, this is a repair for the car upholsterer. DIY repair attempts, possibly with unsuitable adhesives, often prevent a proper repair by a specialist.

Tips for care and storage of the convertible top

To repeat: Be sure to consider the following points when caring for the convertible top:

  • Under no circumstances: use aggressive cleaners, use only clear water and a mild detergent.
  • Under no circumstances: use commercial vinyl care products or glass cleaners. These usually contain alcohol or silicone, both chemicals attack the plastic pane.
  • Under no circumstances: rub the plastic windscreen dry, this will definitely cause scratches.
  • Under no circumstances: store the soft top with dirty windows, this will definitely cause scratches.
  • Under no circumstances should the soft top be stored in a damp place, as this will result in fabric leaks and mould. The same applies to the soft top compartment. A damp soft top remains closed. The soft top can only be opened after it is completely dry.

Note: Please follow the vehicle manufacturer's instructions regarding folding and stowing the assembled soft top. Carry out all the necessary actions in the correct order, otherwise the soft top may be damaged. We cannot accept any claims for compensation for damage resulting from incorrect operation or poor care.

Conclusion: Why regular care makes sense

With convertible tops in particular, it is unfortunately easy to see when regular care is lacking. But it is not only the appearance that speaks for a close eye when caring for your classic car, but also the functionality: with regular maintenance, the convertible top remains absolutely leak-proof and lasts longer. When cleaning the convertible top, also pay attention to ...

  • ... the rubber seals and the rear window,
  • ... the roof box,
  • ... the seals of the window frames.

Dirt or fine sand tends to collect in these places. It is best to clean these areas with a wet cloth.
A well-fitted three-layer textile soft top can last a good 30 years. So if you want to keep the soft top for a long time, you need to give your classic car a thorough beauty session every now and then.


Here you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions at a glance.

How do I care for a convertible soft top?

The best way is to wash it by hand and use care products that are specially made for fabric roof care. Never use conventional household cleaners or soaps. First brush gently in the direction of the fabric grain with a soft brush made of natural fibres and use damp cloths or gentle sponges without an abrasive surface for wet washing. If you want to impregnate the fabric top, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

How long does the impregnation last on the convertible?

The impregnation lasts up to a few years, depending on the wear and tear caused by frequent washing or similar. If you like to look after your classic car, you can refresh the impregnation from time to time. However, this is not absolutely necessary.

How long does a convertible top last?

A convertible top made of vinyl will last a good 10 years on average.  A high-quality three-layer textile top will also last 30 years. The top needs cleaning and care throughout its life. It also helps not to constantly expose the top to sunlight or weather. A secure garage space is therefore an advantage here.

How do I get green film off the convertible roof?

The only way to get rid of green film on textile soft top materials is frequent cleaning. Green film is extremely stubborn. It is usually mosses and lichens that settle in the fabric.

How often should a convertible roof be impregnated?

Since the impregnation is stressed every time you clean the convertible top, it can be refreshed afterwards. However, this is sufficient once every few years and, if really necessary, should best be done in consultation with a professional.

Can a convertible with a fabric roof be washed in a car wash?

It can, but it is not recommended. Under certain circumstances, a fabric roof can survive treatment in a car wash without damage - however, it is essential to use a car wash with a special detergent and a particularly gentle programme or soft brushes that are gentle on the fabric. However, a gentle hand wash is more advisable.

What does it cost to impregnate a convertible top?

The costs vary depending on the convertible top and its size. If you do the impregnation yourself, the products cost between 10 and 30 euros. However, please make sure to use high-quality agents, because impregnations often contain a lot of solvents that can cause irreversible damage to the outer roof layer.