Tips and advice

Best soft-top cleaner to buy 2021

Convertible cars are meant to be stylish, but a mouldy fabric roof can look tatty if you don’t use a soft-top cleaner

Maintaining your car’s paintwork requires time and effort but has its rewards, and the same goes for maintaining the fabric roof of a convertible. It’s best to keep on top of your soft-top maintenance, as all it can take is a winter or two of neglect to leave it mouldy, mucky or faded, ruining how it looks and potentially how it works.

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Luckily, there’s a wide selection of convertible top cleaners available to keep yours in good condition. With so many convertible-loving Brits, there’s as much of a market for products to keep your soft-top in good condition as there is for any other car maintenance issue.

The majority of convertible tops are made of the same materials, making these products effective for almost any car with a folding roof made of fabric, old or new. We’ve tested some of the most popular products for your convertible to produce our list of the best soft-top cleaners.

How we tested them

Car Hood Warehouse supplied us with a used soft-top roof on which to test the products. We left the roof in wintry weather conditions for 10 weeks, exposing it to the elements. This allowed the soft-top to accumulate grime and dirt in the same way it might during the winter months and allow for a realistic test. Once the 10 weeks passed, we sectioned off parts of the roof and used a different cleaner on each to see which fared better.

To test each product fairly, we followed the instructions completely, then left the roof out in the weather again for another three weeks to test the endurance of the products. We also took value into account, basing our verdicts on which were the best for the money.

Gtechniq W5 Citrus All Purpose Cleaner Concentrate & Smart Fabric V2 review

Price: Around £6 + £20 (500ml/500ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £26  Rating: 5/5

This biodegradable offering from Gtechniq isn’t actually specific to fabric roofs but can be used without diluting for really difficult stains. However, it’s worth taking care by testing on some hidden areas first.

When we used it in a more typical medium-strength 5:1 dilution, we used less product which effectively brought it down to a lower price. It did a great job of lifting off stains and mildew without much effort. The Smart Fabric V2 performed well at the end of the test, repelling water very well over the whole area.

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BAS Hood Cleaning Kit review

Price: Around £13 (250ml/250ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £26 Rating: 4.5/5

The BAS Hood Cleaning spray packs were half the size of most competitors, meaning you may need to stock up on more when you buy them. They were one of the most expensive options but the difference in performance wasn’t that great. The kit did come bundled with a rough sponge applicator for use with the cleaner, which worked well, pulling up the mildew and stains well, if not as effectively as the Gtechniq. The roof protector was applied once the soft-top had dried out and we were impressed with the results after two months. There was plenty of beading, on par with the Smart Fabric.

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Protex Canvas Cleaner & Waterproofer review

Price: Around £23 (500ml/500ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £23 Rating: 4/5

The Protex is a newcomer to our test and did well considering it was the cheapest we tested (not including the diluted Gtechniq). The instructions recommended the use of a hard brush to get the cleaner deep into stubborn stains.

It performed well on the mildew but getting out the deeper stains was much more difficult. The waterproofer initially performed well in terms of beading but this had started to wane by the end of the test. The Protex performed similarly to the other products but its competitive price put it ahead of some rivals.

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Renovo Fabric Soft Top Cleaner & Ultraproofer review

Price: Around £15 + £15 (500ml/500ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £30 Rating: 4/5

The Renovo products we tested came in 500ml packs but the proofer also comes in at £21.95 for a litre pack. It didn’t come with a spray nozzle, so we had to use a separate container to brush the solution onto the roof; not as easy as a spray but an effective way to get full coverage.

Owing to the unique chemical composition of this cleaner, it had to be left for 10-20 minutes to soak in and then needed some agitation. The Renovo product brought out the mildew and stain well, and beading was still respectable at the end, but other products performed better overall.

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Car Gods 54 Helios Soft Top Cleaner & Water Seal review

Price: Around £12 + £15 (500ml/500ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £27 Rating: 4/5

The Car Gods 54 product was similar to most other products in that it suggested removing the loose dirt with a brush or vacuum first before applying the cleaner. We added cleaner to small areas at a time, then agitated and left it to soak in as per the instructions. The length of time was not stated, so we decided to leave it for two minutes.

The floral scent of this product was pleasant and it showed impressive cleaning power on the staining, mildew and bird lime, coming close to the Gtechniq. After four weeks the waterproofer was still repelling lots of water but the beading couldn’t keep up with our top picks.

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Autoglym Convertible Soft Top Clean & Protect Kit review

Price: Around £27 (500ml/500ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £27 Rating: 4/5

The Autoglym product performed exactly as it did in previous tests. Just like the BAS duo, it came with a sponge applicator that we used to get the cleaner into the dirty areas after dampening the hood. It worked particularly well on the mildew and reasonably well on the stains.

Autoglym advises covering particularly difficult-to-clean areas in plastic and leaving overnight. We applied the proofer as advised, and initially it seemed to be performing well. By the end of the test, however, the beading had slowed significantly, which left this product trailing behind the top two.

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Turtle Wax Soft Top Cleaner & Conditioner Kit review

Price: Around £11 (500ml/500ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £11 Rating: 3.5/5

The latest version of Turtle Wax’s convertible hood cleaning kit was similar to the Autoglym product in that it had a pair of 500ml sprays but unfortunately didn’t come with a sponge or applicator. We worked the cleaner well into the soft top using a clean paintbrush. It struggled with the stained area but the mildew came off more easily. 

We then sprayed it with the conditioner, resorting back to the brush when we needed to insure more widespread coverage. Again, the beading performance was good to begin with but eight weeks later had waned significantly.

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Meguiar’s Convertible Top Cleaner & Convertible & Cabriolet Weatherproofer review

Price: Around £12 + £16 (450ml/326ml) Approximate combined price per litre: £36 Rating: 3/5

Interestingly, the Meguiar’s proofer came packaged in an aerosol can, unlike the other brands’ traditional trigger bottles. This made the product a lot easier to apply, however, but you had to be careful not to get it on the windows and body panels. We also noted the warnings about flammable heptane.

The instructions were fiddly and not the easiest to follow but the cleaner worked reasonably well on the stain and mildew. There was great beading provided by the proofer, and it was still effective by the end of the test period, but the high price tag was our biggest issue, as it was the most expensive product in the test at the time of writing.

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If you’re giving your car a spring clean, our rundown of the best alloy wheel cleaners, car polishes and waxes and car leather cleaner could give your cleaning kit a serious boost.

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