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3 Easy Steps to Clean & Protect a Spare Tire Cover

In case you haven’t noticed, spare tire covers get pretty filthy and need cleaning in order to last. If you have a Hummer or really any other vehicle that has a spare tire cover on the back, you need to know how to clean it properly to avoid dry-rotting, fading, or even cracking (if you have a plastic cover).

In this blog post, I’ll break down how to clean a plastic or canvas spare tire cover and a few best practices from an auto detailing perspective to keep them in optimal shape.

Note: If you have an older Jeep Wrangler, Bronco, or older vehicle you likely have a canvas or twill spare tire cover. These are very similar to soft tops and convertible tops and can be used with convertible top or canvas cleaners and protectants.

Step 1. Wash the dirt off

bucket with suds

No matter what type of cover you have, the first thing you want to do is to use dish liquid and a soft-bristled brush to knock the loose dirt off. I like to use auto detailing brushes since they are great for textured plastic, but you can use a wider tire brush with soft bristles. Whatever brush you use just make sure that the bristles are clean.

The reason I like to use dish soap to start is because it doesn’t contain waxes or anything meant to protect your vehicle like many car wash soaps do.

Dish liquid is great for removing stuck on substances like grease and wax and are perfect for this type of application.

Once the tire cover is free of surface dirt, you can then begin removing stains or any other imperfections.

Step 2: Use a dedicated cleaner to remove dried dirt and stains

If you’re noticing dirt and other substances that still may be on the cover, you’ll need to make sure you use the right product depending on if your cover has a plastic shell or is made of a canvas type material.

Canvas tire covers

If you’re noticing staining or embedded dirt, you may want to step up to a dedicated convertible top cleaner or canvas cleaner. These products are formulated to restore these types of materials, and can be applied using a damp cloth.

If you have a convertible, a Jeep Wrangler, or other vehicle, I would highly recommend the Bestop Soft Top Care Kit. These products clean and protect this canvas-type of material and leaves no residue. You can learn more about this kit here on Amazon and read the reviews.

Bestop Soft Top Care Kit

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bestop top cleaner

If you also have a soft top, you can check out this post I wrote on cleaning/protecting it (which is similar)

Can you place spare tire covers in the washing machine?

Believe it or not many of these tire covers are machine washable, however I would not recommend washing these in a machine if they can become stretched out over time. You’re really better off washing them by hand with a soft bristled brush since many vinyl covers are quite bulky as well.

Cleaning a plastic tire cover

If you have a plastic tire cover that has any type of design on it, you’ll want to protect it to avoid fading. One product I like to use for cleaning plastic is M39 Mirror Glaze by Meguiar’s (they make a great line of professional products for plastics). This is a heavy-duty plastic cleaner and great for removing soiled plastic surfaces like a tire cover.

Why many people choose to use Armor All and other interior protectants on their tire covers, protectants really don’t do much to actually clean the pores of the plastic surface.

Have a faded plastic tire cover?

You can even go to the route of painting your spare tire cover if it’s an extremely bad shape assuming that it’s plastic.

Check out the video I created below that outlines how I like to clean prep and paint plastic surfaces:

Step 3: Apply a protectant or dressing

The last step is to protect your tire cover from the sun, rain, snow and other elements. Even though spare tire covers aren’t as close to the ground as your tires are, in my experience they are the first thing that dirty water contacts when running off your roof.

Protecting canvas and neoprene tire covers

If you have a fabric cover (neoprene or canvas) I would recommend a spray-on product like RaggTopp Fabric and Vinyl Convertable Top Protectant you can find here on Amazon. It is a pretty expensive product since it is professional-grade and contains UV protectants.

Protecting plastic or vinyl tire covers

Once you have your tire cover to a natural finish, a product like VRP by Chemical Guys can be used to apply a glossy finish that will really bring out the black color of most plastic tire covers.

Any soft foam sponge will work great as an applicator for this product, and can also be used on your trim to both protect and bring out the true color of the plastic.


When it comes to cleaning your vehicle’s spare tire cover, you obviously want to make sure you use the right product. For fiberglass or painted tire covers, a simple spray-on car wax that you use to wash the rest of your vehicle will be just fine.

Over time, traditional canvas tire covers can get pretty faded out due to the sun’s UV rays, but if you clean and protect it regularly, you really can help avoid it looking faded and gross.

The more you protect your tire cover (like anything) the less difficult it will be to clean each time you wash the rest of your vehicle.

Hope it helps!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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