Cleaning your Jeep’s soft top can be a real chore—you’d rather be out wheeling in the dirt. But if you don’t get your Jeep Wrangler’s soft top cleaned, it can start to stink and break down. If you neglect your soft top for too long, you might have to replace it with a whole new kit, which can be expensive and make you think twice about your next off-roading adventure. Plus, you want your Jeep to be its beautiful self. So cleaning is essential. Here are some tips to get started.
General Recommendations for Jeep Soft Top Care
Try To Clean Them When They Are Dry And Not Dirty
You don’t want to be just moving mud around. Wait until your soft top is dry before you apply your water and cleaners. Remove any obvious debris or dirt clinging to your top. You might even use a vacuum with a brush attachment first before washing.
Use Vinegar And Water For A Very Effective Cleaning
You could splurge and buy expensive cleaning products to clean your Jeep soft top and vinyl windows but the truth is that good old water and vinegar will do just fine. The acidic nature of vinegar will kill bacteria and dissolve dirt and grime but it’s not harsh enough to damage your soft top fabric. We recommend using a 1:3 vinegar to water ratio.
Avoid Using Strong Chemicals
Using strong chemicals might do more harm than good. Household cleaners like Windex, Formula 409, or Fantastik contain alcohol and ammonia and will dry out the material, leading to cracks, yellowing, and other discoloration. Bleach will remove the natural properties of the vinyl windows. Best to use more gentle cleaning solutions like vinegar and water, a mild soap, or specialized kits for your soft top.
Clean Zippers With WD-40
Your zippers can jam if they’re too dirty. You want to make sure these are clean and lubricated. Again, you might buy a specialized zipper lubricant but good old WD-40 will do just fine. First get a small brush to clean out the zippers and make sure there’s no dirt or grime. Then apply good old WD-40 down the teeth. The lubricant should help keep your zippers unstuck.
Clean Windows With Vinegar
Vinegar also works great on your Jeep Wrangler’s plastic or vinyl windows. Dirt clings onto plastic windows more often than glass because of static. Again, we recommend using 1 cup of water with a 1/3rd cup of vinegar and a microfiber cloth. Avoid paper towels (and even standard towels) or anything that could scratch the windows.
1: Preparing To Clean
After a weekend of camping in your Jeep Wrangler, your Jeep’s soft top is going to need a rigorous cleaning to get rid of gravel, dirt, and dust. You don’t want to do this when it’s very cold outside or in direct sunlight. Find some shade outside on a nice, mild day. First thing you want to do is get your cleaning kit together: you can buy an expensive cleaning kit or make your own cleaners. Gather a bucket, microfiber cloth, some sponges, a soft bristle brush, and some soft towels. Get your vinegar, water, mild soap, and a protectant. You’ll want to be near a hose. And make sure all your windows are shut and all your zippers are closed. Don’t spray water inside your Jeep!
2: Cleaning The Top
The next step is to rinse off the roof of your Jeep’s soft top as best you can. If you leave your Jeep outside, this area is the most affected by the sun’s UV rays. Then go after it with a soft brush and get rid of the surface debris, like pollen and mud. Get all that nasty stuff out of the way so the soap can do its job later. Next, get your cleaner out. You can use an expensive cleaning kit or you can just use gentle vinegar and water or a mild soap. Apply gently to your car wash sponge or mitt and then apply it to the soft top’s vinyl material. If certain areas are really dirty or stained, leave the cleaner on for 10-20 minutes. You can finish cleaning the rest of the vehicle and then come back to rinse off these dirt-covered areas. Remember: a few gentle cleanings are better than one harsh clean.
3: Cleaning The Frame
If you’re using an expensive cleaner, keep the cleaner off the soft top’s plastic or vinyl windows and keep it off the body of your vehicle. You just want the cleaner on the soft top’s vinyl material. If it drips down, it could stain. Keep it off the glass and paint. Again, if certain areas are really dirty, leave the cleaner on for 10-20 minutes. Once you're finished applying the vinyl cleaner or your vinegar solution, break out your brush and begin the scrubbing process again to get all that dirt off. Now grab your hose. This is a great time to rinse off the body of your vehicle, too. As you’re spraying, you might notice a white foam coming off, if you’re using a commercial cleaner. Spray your Jeep with the hose until the white foam of the cleaner stops coming off the vehicle. After the vehicle dries, you’re going to want to apply a protectant. Do not get the protectant on the windows. Get a cloth and dab some protectant on. You want to almost buff it into the fabric until it’s dry. Start on the roof and work your way down and around the soft top. Make sure to get a nice even coverage with the protectant. Now go ahead and wipe away any excess protectant, and you’re done. You should apply a protectant three to five times a year to prevent future fading.
4: Cleaning The Windows & Gasket
Make sure you have a clean, new microfiber cloth or towel for this part of the cleaning process. Standard towels are too rough and can scratch your Jeep’s delicate plastic or vinyl windows. Use a mild soap and warm water, or a vinegar and warm water solution. The soap will create a bit of a fog as you’re applying it. Now pick a dry portion of the cloth and buff from front to back or top to bottom until the fog disappears. Don’t wipe in circles or you might scratch the surface. Don’t use an alcohol or ammonia-based cleaner on your Jeep’s plastic or vinyl windows, and don’t use paper towels or anything that could scratch the windows. This step should take about five minutes. This is going to make your Jeep safer, too, because it’s going to be easier to see out of the windows. If your windows are heavily scratched, look into purchasing a heavy-duty scratch remover.
5: Cleaning The Hardware
Use a lubricant. We recommend WD-40 but you also might use a specialized zipper cleaner. Use a brush to clean dirt or debris from the zipper. Then apply the cleaner. Squeeze or spray a little out and use a brush to go up and down along each side of the zipper. Squirt or spray a little out every so often. It’ll foam a bit as it spreads out. Take your zipper head and run it up and down to spread the zipper lube around. It should feel much better than it did. Once your zippers are lubed up, you’re done and ready to roll! Try to do this kind of deep clean on your Jeep Wrangler about once a month.
How To Spot Clean
Sometimes a stain can be particularly stubborn. All you need to do is give it extra love. Use a mild foaming cleaner and scrub the stain vigorously with a cloth or mitt while supporting the top from underneath. You will probably have to do it a few times. You might even use a brush if the stain is particularly clingy but be careful that you don’t scratch your fabric.
What can I use to clean my Jeep soft top?
We’re recommending water and vinegar here. You might also use a mild soap. If you want to go the extra mile, you could splurge for a specialized soft top cleaner. We recommend Bestop, which is the manufacturer for factory Jeep Wrangler soft tops. Mopar soft top cleaner and RaggTopp are also great choices. But you can also use any auto shampoo designed for soft tops.
Can you use Windex on Jeep soft top windows?
We don’t recommend it. Windex is an alcohol-based cleaner, which will dry out the plastic and lead to cracking and discoloration. Avoid cleaners with alcohol or ammonia.
How can I make my Jeep soft top look new?
The best way to keep your soft top looking new is regular love and care. Try to wash your soft top once a month and store your Jeep in a shady spot or garage to minimize damage from UV rays and the elements. But if you’re looking to restore your soft top to its previous pristine state, you can invest in some auto care products. We recommend Bestop Soft Top and Accessory Care kit. It comes with Vinyl Window Cleaner/Polish, which will remove haze and minor scratches from your windows. The Vinyl Protectant will help your Jeep’s soft top keep its color and prevent mildew and sun damage.
Can you pressure wash a Jeep soft top?
Probably not. A power washer might damage the soft top. It can look like you’ve traced lines into your fabric and it can damage stitching and seals. But if your set on blasting away, make sure you are at least two feet back from your Jeep to reduce the pressure and minimize the risk of damage.
Can you use Armor All on a Jeep soft top?
No. Armor All tends to collect dust and dirt on your soft top and, over the long term, will make your soft top fabric quality worse. However, you might use it to spiff up your Jeep interior.
Can you wash a soft top Jeep in a car wash?
We wouldn’t trust your precious Jeep Wrangler to those burly automated brushes and high-powered sprays of your standard car washes. The brushes can easily scratch your Jeep’s soft plastic or vinyl windows and the high-pressure nozzles might spray water into your vehicle, leaking through the seams. Best to save yourself the hassle and wash your Jeep yourself.