Choosing the Right Protectant for Your Tonneau Cover

Best Soft tonneau covers

Keeping your tonneau cover looking new involves selecting the right protectant. With that in mind, let’s look at some considerations when you choose between products. 

Who are the bad guys here?

The biggest danger to your tonneau cover is UV rays from the sun. UV rays accelerate the aging process, causing things to break down more quickly. As it turns out, just about everything on your truck’s exterior, or the exterior of any car, for that matter, is sensitive to UV rays. We’re talking about the paint job, the tires and, of course, your tonneau cover. The best thing you can do is park your car in the garage, out of the elements, but we know that’s not always practical.

The other two natural enemies of your tonneau cover are bird droppings and tree sap. Bird droppings have acids that penetrate into your cover, possibly staining it permanently (they can do the same thing to the clear coat on your truck or car’s paint job, too). The best thing you can do is remove the first droppings as soon as you can. This is not always possible, though. 

Tree sap, the droppings you get when you park under a tree, are also a problem, but for a different reason. They are tacky and easily attract dirt and other debris. If these droppings are large enough and stay on your tonneau cover for any length of time, they are difficult to remove, and get dirtier, too. Worse yet, if you roll up your soft tonneau cover, or if it is a tri-fold, or even a retractable model, then you risk transferring that sticky sap onto other places on the cover. Again, remove tree sap, even the smaller spots, as soon as you can. 


Choosing a Product

In choosing a protectant, there are some things you should consider:

Be skeptical of combination products

If a product says it does two things, such as a cleaner/protectant, know that it is a compromise. It likely will not do either one of them really well. If you want a product that performs, then use a product developed specifically for that use. 

When it comes to tonneau covers, this means using one product for cleaning, and another product for enhancing the look and preserving it. 

Read through the paperwork that came with your tonneau cover

See if the manufacturer makes any recommendations about cleaners and preservatives. More importantly, pay attention to any warnings about products you should not use. You may have purchased a tonneau cover based on its unique look or performance. Using the wrong product might destroy or damage that look. Your tonneau cover might have come with a UV protectant on it that is designed to work long-term. Putting the wrong type of cleaner on it might damage that look and maybe even damage the tonneau cover. 

Consider the material and the finish of the tonneau cover

Soft tonneau covers, and some of the tri-folds, are made from marine-grade vinyl or canvas. The upper-end tri-folds and retractable tonneau covers are made from aluminum with a powder-coated finish. Use products specifically made for various materials. Also, consider the finish. Powder-coated aluminum tonneau covers typically come with a grained finish. You don’t want to use a product like a paste wax that will get embedded in the grain and is difficult, if not impossible, to get out. Some tonneau covers have a gloss finish. You don’t want to damage that finish or destroy it. 

Don’t use abrasive polishes on powder-coated finishes

You can use a car wax on a glossy powder-coated surface and get good results, but be careful that you don’t use a cleaner wax or polish. Polishes work by using microscopic abrasives to remove blemishes. On a glossy finish powder-coat surface you can dull the finish with an abrasive cleaner. 

Use a family of products from the same manufacturers

Manufacturers of protectants and cleaners often formulate their products to work as a system. One project prepares the surface for the next product. If you are using a specific cleaner to clean your tonneau cover and remove dirt and grime, and if that manufacturer also has a protectant, then you should use the protectant.  Mixing products does not always give you the final result you want. 

Don’t use too much or leave lots of residue to “soak in”

It’s tempting to see how good your tonneau cover looks after you have applied the protectant and think, “Shoot, I can leave this stuff on a little longer. It will look even better.” At some point, that product will reach its maximum effectiveness. Meanwhile, you will forget and get in your truck later and drive away, only to have that residue turn into a Venus flytrap for every kind of airborne dirt and debris flying through the air.  

Ask other truck owners

If you own a truck with a tonneau cover, you’ve probably realized that you are now a member of a brotherhood. This group is full of information and tips about how to care for your truck. Ask around and find out what works for other owners of tonneau covers. You’ll get some great advice.


A Quick Look at Some of the Leading Cleaners and Protectants for the Soft Tonneau Cover

The selection of cleaners and protectants available for your soft tonneau cover can be overwhelming. Let’s take a few minutes to look at some of the leading brands and see what they offer. Keep in mind that your local auto parts store or big box retailer only shelves the products that sell the most, not necessarily those that work the best. You may have to go to Amazon or the manufacturer’s website and order these products online


Wolfstiens Pro-Series

Wolfsteins Tonneau Cover Care Kit
  • 16 oz. Wolfsteins Tonneau Cover Cleaner
  • 16 oz. Wolfsteins Tonneau Cover Vinyl Protectant
  • Complete Care for weather-beaten tonneau covers
  • Long term beauty

Wolfstiens offers a tonneau cover cleaner and protectant package in one purchase that’s specially formulated for vinyl and plastics, two materials you will find on your soft vinyl tonneau cover. Use this product to treat everything on your truck with plastics and rubber, including bed protectors, dashboards, and rubber and plastic trim. 


  • Ingredients are friendly to metal, wood, and other adjacent surfaces of your truck. Nothing gets damaged.
  • Easy application means a quick job with maximum results. 


  • The manufacturer recommends that you apply the product every three to five weeks for best results. That ends up being a lot of product and repeat purchases.  


Mother’s Speed ® All-Purpose Cleaner and Mother’s Protectant

Mothers 18924 Speed All-Purpose Cleaner, 24 Fl. Oz.
  • All-purpose cleaner safe to use on exterior and interior surfaces
  • Strong enough to clean under the hood, and gentle enough on carpet, upholstery and more
  • Effectively removes oil, dirt, grime and other tough stains
  • Safe for fabrics, vinyl, engine compartments, fender wells, door jambs, factory/OEM coated wheels,...

Mother’s is one of the top names in automotive care, and many consider the brand a sure bet. The Speed ® All-Purpose cleaner is strong enough to work on engines, yet delicate enough to also be part of your tonneau cover care package. And since it is a degreaser, it’s perfect for those trucks that need to be parked outside and are subject to all the grime from passing street traffic.


  • The all-purpose cleaner is a multi-application product that can be used on a number of different surfaces of your truck, including the engine. 
  • Spray-and-wipe application means saved time for you. 


  • A multi-use product often means that the product is a compromise, which might reduce its effectiveness on just one specialized task. 
  • Mother’s advertises 30-day protection. Again, that’s a lot of product. 


Meguiar’s® Mirror Glaze ® Professional Vinyl Rubber Cleaner and Conditioner

Meguiar's M4016 Mirror Glaze Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner/Conditioner, Restores Life and Color - 16 Oz Spray Bottle
  • VINYL AND RUBBER CLEANER: Cleans, penetrates and rejuvenates unpainted vinyl and rubber surfaces
  • UV PROTECTION: Durable protection screens out damaging ultraviolet rays
  • RICH NATURAL SHEEN: Leaves vinyl and rubber with a clean, rich natural sheen instead of a greasy or...
  • BRIGHTENS AND REFRESHES: Restores life and color to your vehicle's rubber and vinyl surfaces
  • CONVENIENT SPRAY BOTTLE: Easy-to-use spray trigger lets you spray on and wipe off for quick and...

If you are considering a combination product, then go with Meguiar’s. Their leather and vinyl cleaner is developed specifically for that purpose. Meguiar’s has been around for a long time, and they have a good name with automotive enthusiasts in every category, including the discerning truck owner who wants the best for their tonneau cover. 


  • Saves you the time of applying one product and then the next. 
  • Meguiar’s advertises that the product leaves no residue, so you can apply it, let it soak in, and you’re good to go. 


  • A multi-use product often means that the product is a compromise, which might reduce its effectiveness on just one specialized task. 
  • Some complaints about the smell. 


Truxedo Pro-Tex Protectant Spray

RealTruck TruXedo Pro-TeX | 1704511 | Pro-TeX Protectant Spray 20oz.
  • PROTEX AGAINST THE ELEMENTS | TruXedo Pro-TeX Protectant Spray cleans, conditions, protects, and...
  • MAINTAIN & REGAIN | Other silicon and alcohol-based products can be harmful to tonneau covers and...
  • EASY & EFFECTIVE | Pro-TeX comes in a 20 oz bottle with an easy to use trigger spray handle. Simply...
  • TRUXPERIENCED | Since its introduction in 2000, TruXedo has been an industry leader in quality truck...
  • WHERE TO USE | Pro-TeX is safe and effective for the uses mentioned above, but it’s not meant for...

Truxedo has name recognition in tonneau covers, and they’ve developed this product so that owners can keep it all in the family. You can be the judge, but the nice thing about using a manufacturer’s product is that you can rest easy that it will work for anything bearing their name. 


  • Developed specifically for Truxedo tonneau covers. 
  • An all-in-one product can save you a lot of time and money. 


  • Product description promotes this essentially as a protectant, so if you have a real cleaning challenge on your tonneau cover, you need to source a cleaner someplace else. 


Chemical Guys Nonsense All Purpose Cleaner and Chemical Guys Silk Shine Dressing

Chemical Guys SPI_993_16 Nonsense Colorless & Odorless All Surface Super Cleaner (For Vinyl, Rubber, Plastic, Carpet) Safe for Home, Garage, Cars, Trucks, SUVs, RVs & More, 16 fl oz, Unscented
  • WE MEAN BUSINESS, NO NONSENSE - A powerful, versatile solution for all your cleaning needs. Removes...
  • CLEAN ANY SURFACE IN SECONDS - Say goodbye to stubborn stains Chemical Guys Nonsense Cleaner. Its...
  • TRANSPARENT CLEANING TECHNOLOGY - Nonsense Invinsible Super Cleaner's fast-acting formula works on...
  • EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE CLEANING POWER - With Chemical Guys Nonsense Invinsible Super Cleaner; Its...
  • THE GO TO BRAND IN CAR CARE - Car lovers choose Chemical Guys, not only for the finest car care...

Another respected company when it comes to car care. The Chemical Guys products are a regular sight at car shows, and anyplace else you find vinyl. This is a company dedicated to car and truck car products, so you can depend on them.


  • Both products are easy to apply. Wipe on and wipe off. 
  • No troublesome residue. 


  •  Some complaints that product results are short-lived.


How often?

Don’t be surprised when you come across directions that recommend an application every three months. A good practice is to thoroughly clean and apply protectant when the seasons change. That’s the best way to keep your tonneau cover looking like new. 

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Last update on 2024-04-14. Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

David Patterson

Our editor, who brings a wealth of experience in tonneau covers and truck accessories sales to our editorial team. With over a decade in the industry, David has a deep understanding of the products and a knack for helping customers find the perfect fit for their trucks.

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