How to Clean a Mustang Convertible TopLast Updated August 8, 2023 | Alison Smith
Convertible soft tops usually have some UV protection and waterproofing for days when you have to ride with the top up. But over time, this protective coating becomes less effective, resulting in fading and premature wear. Neglecting your convertible top can also cause nasty mold and mildew growth.
Whether you have a new or classic Mustang, regular cleaning and maintenance will help your convertible top last longer. In fact, it's recommended that you clean your convertible top at least every few months.
This guide will show you how to keep your Mustang convertible clean and protected for years to come.
Determine Whether You Have a Vinyl or Fabric Top
You don’t need a lot of products to clean your Mustang’s convertible top. But since convertible top cleaners are made for specific materials, you do need to use the right chemicals. Most of the factory convertible tops on Mustangs are vinyl. However, there’s a simple test you can do if you aren’t sure whether yours is vinyl or fabric.
Pour a little clean water on the top and spread it around. If the water soaks through the top, then you have a canvas or fabric top. The water will pool on the surface if the convertible top is vinyl.
If you plan on using a cleaning chemical or product, make sure you select one that’s approved for use with whatever material your top is made of.
How to Wash a Convertible Top
In the following steps, we’ll walk you through how to clean your Mustang’s convertible top. While the actual products may vary if you have a fabric top rather than vinyl, the process is basically the same.
- Vacuum with Soft Bristle Brush Attachment
- Lint Roller
- Water Hose & Water
- Non-Detergent Car Wash
- Soft Bristle Brush or Terry Cloth Towel
- Convertible Cleaning Spray (Optional)
- Microfiber Towel
- Air Mover (Optional)
- Convertible Protectant
1. Vacuum Top with Soft Bristle Brush
Start by vacuuming the top with a soft bristle brush attachment to remove any dust or dirt. Hosing down the convertible top before cleaning could cause the dirt to permeate the top. You can also use a lint roller if the vacuum didn’t get everything. Be sure to get the seams really well to get all the dirt that gets stuck in the creases.
2. Spray Down Convertible Top
Rinse the convertible top thoroughly with a water hose. You want to get rid of any dirt or debris you didn’t catch with the vacuum or lint roller.
3. Scrub with Non-Detergent Soap
For the next step, you’ll need a non-detergent soap and a terry cloth towel or soft bristle brush. Don’t use stiff brushes or abrasive materials or cleaners as they can damage the fabric. Ideally, you should use a horsehair, boar’s hair, or nylon brush. Apply the soap gently in a circular motion using the towel or soft brush.
Pro Tip: You might need to use convertible top spray for dirt or grime that’s hard to remove. Just be sure to get the right cleaning spray for your material, whether it’s fabric or vinyl.
4. Rinse Clean
Rinse the convertible top again with water to remove all the soap residue. Be sure to do this before the soap or cleaner dries.
5. Let Top Dry Completely
Let the top dry completely before folding it. Otherwise, mold or mildew could develop and cause discoloration. The top also needs to be bone dry before adding any protectant.
You can help speed up the drying process by parking the car in direct sunlight or by using microfiber towels. Blot gently with the towel to soak up excess water instead of wiping. You could also use air movers, like fans, leaf blowers, or compressed air to speed up the process. Make sure it’s completely dry before moving on to the next step.
6. Prep Top and Car for Protectant
Before applying the protectant, clean off any leftover brush bristles or lint with a lint roller. You may also want to cover the windows to protect against overspray. Some products wipe off easier than others.
7. Apply Protectant
Once you get your convertible top clean, adding protectant can help repel water, dirt, and keep it clean longer. It’s even more important for fabric tops as they don’t repel water like vinyl. Protectant also prevents fading and damage from UV rays.
You’ll want to use short bursts of spray from the recommended distance (typically eight inches). Make slow and even passes, overlapping each one by about 50%. Be sure to coat the stitching as well. Multiple coats are usually required for the best protection.
8. Wait for Protectant to Dry
Protectants usually need to cure in a dry covered space for a certain time period, from a few hours to overnight. The product you choose will have more specific instructions.
What to Avoid When Washing Your Convertible Top
So you’re probably wondering, “Can’t I just take my convertible Mustang to a car wash?” The short answer is no.
Commercial car washes with high-pressure sprayers and hot wax can damage the top’s material and prevent effective cleaning. In a pinch, a touchless car wash can work, but be sure to refer to the owner's manual to see if your car’s top is suitable first.
It’s always best to wash your convertible top by hand, but it’s important that you use the right chemicals as well. Avoid products that include alcohol, detergent, and vinegar. Any cleaner that is high in acid can cause deterioration and lead to expensive repairs.
You should also exercise a degree of caution when selecting a brush. Avoid cloth materials, lamb’s wool mitts, and anything else that can leave behind lint. Instead, it’s best to use a soft scrub brush when washing the top of your Mustang convertible.
If you have an older Mustang with a vinyl top beyond cleaning or repair, you may need to pick up a new soft top instead.