Best soft top cleaners 2018
Which of these fabric roof cleaners is best for keeping your convertible's soft top clean?
A conventional cabrio with a fabric roof needs more care than your average tin-top. Attacked by acid rain, detritus in the air, bird lime, tree sap and ultraviolet rays, it needs regular cleaning and reproofing, typically twice a year.
Always treat the whole fabric roof otherwise it will be patchy, and it’s advisable to wear eye and hand protection as some cleaners have aggressive chemicals and polymers. Before starting, check on a hidden part of the top for adverse reaction that could damage the colour. Never fold the roof when wet and don’t use the car in the rain until the proofer has dried.
How we tested them
We used an old, dirty hood from a specialist, and brushed off loose dirt before starting. Our cleaners and proofers were then applied as per the instructions, and we left the hood for seven weeks to the mercy of the rain, frost, wind, dust, dirt and sun.
Being spring, there was a lot of pollen, which formed a sticky ink with the rain. We gave marks for overall effectiveness and beading after a final rinse, balancing this againstthe cost on a price-per-litre basis.
The top three were narrowly separated by price, so the slightly cheaper Gtechniq products pulled out a small lead over the Autoglym kit, which in turn pushed BAS into third.
- 1. Gtechniq W2 Multi Purpose Cleaner Concentrate & I1 Smart Fabric V2
- 2. Autoglym Convertible Soft Top Clean & Protect Kit
- 3. BAS Hood Cleaning Kit
Gtechniq W2 Multi Purpose Cleaner Concentrate & I1 Smart Fabric V2
Price: Around £4 + £12 (100ml/250ml)Price per litre combined: Aorund £21Rating: 5.0
Gtechniq’s cleaner isn’t specifically for hoods, rather for stains on almost any material. The cost looks high until you realise it’s a concentrate, and for soft-tops, a mix of 5:1 is recommended, although we watered it down still further because it was too harsh for our hood. Predictably, it cleaned extremely well, making light work of the bird lime and tree sap on our sample top. Better still, the protector provided some of the strongest beading at the end of the test, and its dilution adjusted price gave it just enough of an edge over the Autoglym kit.
Autoglym Convertible Soft Top Clean & Protect Kit
Price: Around £25Price per litre combined: Around £25Rating: 4.5
Two-piece cleaner and proofer kit from Autoglym is more or less the byword for hood care. We used the cleaner and sponge supplied to prepare the hood for the protectant, and it took little effort. As usual, applying cleaner and proofer was simple with the trigger spray packs, and beading after seven weeks of exposure to the elements was arguably the best. A close-run thing for the win, although it lost a few points on price to the multi-tasking Gtechniq products.
BAS Hood Cleaning Kit
Price: Around £14Price per litre combined: Around £29Rating: 4.5
Even though it comes supplied in relatively small, 250ml, trigger packs, the less well-known BAS cleaner and proofer came out similar to many of the others on a per litre basis, thanks to its lower price. Included as part of the package as well is a sponge, which was quite rough, making it ideal for working the cleaner into areas with stubborn dirt and mildew. Cleaning power was impressive and, once the fabric was dry, the Hood Protector was easy to apply. The end result was very similar to the Autoglym and the Gtechniq, which made price the deciding factor.
Renovo Fabric Soft Top Cleaner & Ultra Proofer
Price: Around £13 + £13Price per litre combined: Around £27 Rating: 4.0
Renovo has been a specialist in the care of convertible tops for as long as we can remember, and we weren’t surprised to find that the cleaner did exactly what it said on the pack. The liquid had to be decanted into a separate container so that it could be applied on the damp hood with a clean paintbrush, at which point the dirt simply melted away. The Ultra Proofer was applied in much the same way as the other products tested here, and was allowed to dry out of the sunlight, to allow it to ‘cure’ properly and create the waterproof barrier. We were impressed overall, but the beading wasn’t quite as good as the top three after seven weeks.
Sonax Soft Top & Fabric Waterproofer
Price: Around £18Price per litre: Around £60Rating: 3.5
Sonax doesn’t offer a cleaner, so this was a test of the proofer. It came in an aerosol which produced a hair mousse-style foam, rather than a conventional spray, and we found it best not to use too much. You get a double-sided sponge, with one side soft and the other hard. The nature of the foam made it easy to push into the ‘grain’ of the hood and the all-important seams. The final result was extremely good – it was our best standalone proofer, beading superbly – but it’s pricey as you need to buy a separate cleaner.
Turtle Wax Soft Top Cleaner & Conditioner Kit
Price: £16Price per litre combined: £16Rating: 3.0
A really great price saw the Turtle Wax duo undercut the rest by some margin. As with Autoglym, you get two 500ml trigger packs, albeit with no sponge. Application was easy and we found it cleaned well using a paintbrush. It was handy that the proofer could be applied to a damp or dry roof and after the first three weeks, beading was good. But after seven weeks, it wasn’t so strong. Still, that price makes it one to think about, especially on rarely used or garaged cabrios.
Meguiar’s Convertible Top Cleaner & Convertible & Cabriolet Weatherproofer
Price: Around £13/£13Price per litre combined: Around £32Rating: 3.0
The separately available Meguiar’s pairing mixes a trigger pack and aerosol. The former contains the cleaner, which removed all the mess on its area of the hood, but having the fold-out instructions stuck to the pack was irritating. The aerosol proofer warned about flammable heptane and we applied it carefully. After four weeks, its beading was spot-on, but it lost some of its edge by the end of our test. Add that price, and it dropped down the order.
Nanolex Convertible Top Sealant NXCT01
Price: £21Price per litre: £84Rating: 2.5
This comes only as a sealant/proofer and not a cleaner, and contains C6 fluorocarbon polymers, plus it comes in a small, 250ml, pump-action bottle. We applied it to a cleaned section of hood, noting that the instructions recommend using nitrile gloves, so the chemical construction may react badly with skin. After the final rinse, the beading was reasonable, although not as good as the best. But at £84 per litre, price was its biggest drawback; that’s over five times more than the cheapest combined cleaner/proofer.
Never mind keeping the roof clean, why not just buy a new convertible? Read our best convertibles article here.