Spring is (finally) in the air for much of the country, and we know many of you are getting ready to wash, wax and detail your customers’ vehicles. Our favorite? Open-air vehicles — specifically ones with soft-tops.

As you know, proactive care will help prolong the life of any soft-top material. This means it will withstand the elements better, for longer, and leave consumers with impeccable soft-tops for many years. A program of keeping the fabric clean through regular washings, before it gets dirty, will enhance the life and beauty of the top and make successive cleanings easier. As always, the first stop for information specific to a top’s cleaning can be found in the vehicle owner manual.

However, when it comes to open-air vehicles, there’s something major to consider before the cleaning even begins: the material of the soft-top — vinyl versus cloth. Here are seven tips to ensure your customers’ vehicles will look top notch all year long for both top materials.

  1. For a cloth top, start by removing dirt and pollen from the top with a vacuum brush attachment. Airborne debris is an archenemy of soft-tops — by using a softer vacuum brush, it can be dealt with easily.
  2. Use a soft bristle brush to aid the lifting of soil out of the material during washing.
    • For cloth tops, stiff brushes can abrade the fiber, distort the weave and shorten the life of the roof.
    • For vinyl tops with a unique grain on the outer surface, we recommend gentle scrubbing to avoid abrading the embossed pattern.
  3. Hand wash the soft-top in the shade for the best results. A sunny spot won’t allow an even cleaning or drying process.
  4. Keeping the top up to air dry will help maintain the best appearance. Similarly to how you don’t recommend a customer roll down their windows right after a wash, when a soft-top gets washed, it only makes sense to let it air dry, rather than having it fold up damp.
  5. Act fast. It’s important to remove bird and tree droppings, etc. as soon as possible.
  6. Do not use top dressing cleaners or conditioners containing silicones, organic solvents, petroleum distillates or plasticizers, as these may permanently harm the top material’s vinyl coating.
  7. For all roof types, partially open the convertible top to clean below the vehicle beltline. This way, every nook and cranny can be reached. If cleaning occurs without this unfastening, it’s easy to miss out on stains from the weather elements that are concealed.

Matthew Williams, director of business development for The Haartz Corporation (Haartz) has worked in various areas of the company with multiple responsibilities, including research and development engineer; research and development manager; and now his current role as director of business development, where he oversees all sales and R&D activities for the automotive exteriors and non-automotive businesses.