Using appropriate products and techniques gained from many years of experience, Ultimate Finish has published a series of car care guides with the car enthusiast in mind. With careful application and attention to detail, you too can correctly look after your car, make it look amazing and then keep it that way. Protecting your investment starts here …
3. Cabriolet Roofs (Fabric, Vinyl & Hard Top)
Whether you have a cabriolet fabric roof or a vinyl hard top, environmental fallout and road grime will collect on the roof and will therefore require attention. In certain conditions, such as when stored in a damp and dark garage or permanently in shade, mildew growth can also be an issue. Contaminants in rain, bird droppings, road tar and dirt all combine to embed into soft tops and textured vinyl which left untreated will cause unsightly marks and eventually affect their performance. This makes periodic cleaning of cabriolet and convertible roofs an absolute must in order to preserve water proof performance and their ability to protect against harmful UV rays.
Cleaning a soft top is imperative to maintain the function of the material as well as the overall appearance of the car. Due to the sensitive nature of the material, it’s best to opt for a cleaner specific to the job to ensure any chemicals in the cleaner will not adversely affect the colour of the fabric. It is important to note that thorough rinsing is absolutely vital as any cleaner residue may cause staining on the cabriolet’s fabric roof.
- Fabric cleaning solution in bottle with trigger spray head
- Soft-bristled brush
- Hosepipe connected to mains water
- Step 1 – Dampen the cabriolet fabric roof with water
- Step 2 – Spray the cleaner over the soft top paying particular attention to any specific problem areas, i.e. bird dropping staining, mildew growth, etc.
- Step 3 – Using a soft-bristled brush (to avoid damage or cause ‘pulls’ in the fabric) work the solution into the fabric
- Step 4 – Agitate the solution into specific problem areas
- Step 5 – Rinse thoroughly with clear running water, ensuring all foam residue is completely removed
Drying a cabriolet soft top is absolutely vital prior to applying a water proofer or fabric sealant. Once a final step product has been applied any moisture remaining in the soft top will become trapped causing the material to rot and disintegrate from the inside. Residual moisture will also encourage the formation of mildew.
- Sunshine, or
- Garage (preferably with dehumidifier), or
- Hot Air Blower / Hair dryer
- Leave the vehicle in sunshine with the soft top in the ‘up’ position for a few hours (the air temperature and humidity will affect evaporation times). Do not leave the soft top in sunshine for longer than necessary as the material is yet to be protected (see 3.3. Protecting & Sealing Cabriolet Fabric Roofs).
- Place the car in a garage and depending on ambient air temperature, leave to dry for several hours and preferably overnight
- Having a dehumidifier will help to draw moisture out of the material fibres quicker and more effectively
Hot Air Blower / Hair Dryer Method:
- Switch the hair dryer on and set it to warm / hot
- Keep the nozzle 8-12 inches from the surface of the fabric, work in long strokes
- Be careful not to overheat rubber trim, paintwork or plastic windows
Of course, a combination of any of the above can be used, for example, allowing the soft top to dry in the garage overnight, then ensuring it is completely dry by using a hair dryer for a few minutes.
Once your soft top is clean and completely dry, the important last step is to protect the surface from water ingress, colour fade as a result of UV rays and staining from environmental fallout. Most sealants will re-weatherproof and offer UV protection in one product. Most products are not harmful to trim or windows, but if in doubt use detailing masking tape to protect any sensitive areas.
- Cabriolet water proofer / fabric sealant
- Detailing masking tape (optional)
- Step 1 – Ensure fabric soft top is completely dry
- Step 2 – Apply water proofer / fabric sealant liberally, ensuring complete coverage, right up to the edges of the soft top
- Step 3 – Allow to dry according to the manufacturers instructions listed on the product
- Step 4 – A second application may be required depending on the product used
Note: This article refers to vinyl roofs. For painted hard top roofs such as those found on convertibles where the roof retracts into the boot, please see articles on paintwork care.
The textured nature of some convertible vinyl roofs means dirt and grime become embedded in the grain and can be tricky to remove. Whilst All Purpose Cleaners will work to remove these contaminants, their formulation can be quite strong, so sticking to products specifically formulated to treat convertible roofs is recommended in order to prevent premature fading of the vinyl.
- Convertible vinyl roof cleaner in a bottle with a trigger spray head
- Soft bristle brush
- Hosepipe connected to mains water or pressure washer
- Soft drying towel
- Step 1 – Rinse vinyl roof with water to remove loose dirt
- Step 2 – Spray convertible vinyl roof cleaner all over the roof
- Step 3 – Gently agitate the solution on the roof using the soft bristle brush to loosen any stubborn dirt and staining
- Step 4 – Rinse roof using clean water
- Step 5 – Dry roof using soft drying towel. A waffle-weave drying towel is recommended rather than a microfibre drying towel in order to prevent lint catching on the textured surface
Most vinyl roofs are inherently waterproof but they still require protection from UV rays, otherwise the colour may start to fade. Resist the temptation to use trim dressings as typically these products contain silicones, plasticisers and petroleum distillates which can magnify the effects of the sun, particularly as the roof is in prime ‘sun bathing’ position!
- Convertible vinyl roof protectant – usually in a trigger spray bottle or an aerosol
- Step 1 – Ensure roof is completely dry – the product will not properly adhere to a wet roof
- Step 2 – Spray roof with protectant carefully and evenly
- Step 3 – Allow application to dry (see manufacturers recommended time)
Mohair soft tops are inherently sensitive but this doesn’t prevent chemical fallout raining down on them or birds from depositing their business – it just makes cleaning them a little more delicate. Dust collects in the weave and over time can start to weaken the fabric so it’s important to ensure this is removed periodically. The easiest way to do this is with a vacuum cleaner but care should be taken with classic vehicles where the mohair is ‘fluffier’ – vacuuming may not be advisable as it may pull too strongly at the weave.
A protectant can take the form of a trigger spray, aerosol or a paint-on product. Spray on products are faster to use but there is the question of overspray particularly if you’re applying it outside and it’s a bit breezy! Paint-on products give you more control over application but take longer to apply.
- Cabriolet soft top cleaner in bottle with a trigger spray head
- Vacuum cleaner (optional)
- Soft bristle brush (2 if you’re brushing the dust off rather than vacuuming)
- Hosepipe connected to running water
- Cabriolet fabric protectant
- Step 1 – Remove dust build up either by vacuuming the roof or by using a soft bristled brush
- Step 2 – Dampen roof completely
- Step 3 – Apply product all over the roof
- Step 4 – Using a soft bristle brush work product into the fabric taking care to concentrate on any problem areas of staining or mildew
- Step 5 – Rinse thoroughly taking care to ensure that all remnants of suds are completely removed – staining can occur if this stage is not completed properly
- Step 6 – Allow to dry thoroughly (see section 3.2. Drying Your Cabriolet Soft Top)
- Step 7 – Apply the protectant as per the manufacturer’s instructions and allow to cure