Are Car Covers Washable?

A car cover is one of the best ways to protect your pride and joy during long-term storage. Covers keep the dust, dirt, and grime from settling on the paint; they also mitigate scratches and – for those who leave their covered car outside – stymie the effects of the elements. In short, they keep your car looking sharp through long winters, heavy rains, and relentless sun.

It’s a comforting thought to know your car is properly protected from the ravages of weather and time. But when it comes time to pull off the cover, you might be wondering whether or not to clean it. After all, it’s likely accumulated a season worth of germs and dirt, and you don’t want to just fold it up and stow it away. But are car covers washable?

Luckily, they are. In fact, most car covers use fabric that is especially susceptible to getting dirty, and routinely washing it is critical to safe usage – otherwise, you might do more harm than good the next time you go to cover your car.

There’s a chance your car cover came with instructions regarding proper washing procedures. Don’t forget the fact that different car covers use different fabrics that can handle washing differently.1 If so, don’t dismiss it – follow what it says. If not, keep reading. We’ll go over how to safely wash your car cover.

Can Car Covers Go in the Washing Machine?

Washing Machine Safe?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Yes, they can – but only those washing machines without a central agitator, which is the upright cylindrical part found in top-load washing machines. Side-load machines don’t use central agitators and are thus the recommended choice for car covers.

Even if you own a side-load washing machine, we suggest you take a trip to the local laundromat. The commercial-grade units used in those facilities are much larger than a residential machine, which most times will not be able to even fit something as large and bulky as a car cover.

Before heading to the laundromat, make sure to purchase some detergent-free soap. One highly recommended soap for cleaning car covers is Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner; mixing a ¼ cup of the stuff with one cup of water should suffice for most covers.

You’ll want to wash in cold water – unless the care instructions say otherwise, hot water is a no-go when it comes to cleaning car covers. Also, be sure to use the gentlest wash cycle available and ensure the cover goes through the rinse cycle at least twice. Refrain from using fabric softener, which can adversely affect the durability of the cover.2

After the cover is washed, let it dry naturally – do not put it in a dryer, as a dryer may shrink the cover or ruin the material. The best option is to run a clothesline well off the ground and drape the car cover over it. With full sun, it should dry reasonably quickly.

Can I Hand-Wash My Car Cover?

Hand Wash Only

Image courtesy of Pixabay

If visiting a laundromat isn’t feasible or you don’t want to risk putting your cover in a washing machine, you can also wash the cover by hand.

There are two primary options to wash a car cover by hand: you can either dunk the cover in an extra-large bucket and scrub, or you can put the cover on the car and wash it directly on the car. The first is simple enough, but let’s talk a bit more about the latter option.

Washing a Car Cover on Your Car

To wash your cover while install, the first step is to install the cover. Be sure to pull the cover tight and eliminate as much slack as you can.

Once the cover is installed, rinse it thoroughly with cold water. The best option is to use a garden nozzle set to a gentle shower setting that offers lower water pressure and soaks a wider surface area. Rinse until the whole cover is properly wet.

Using a mild detergent – such as the aforementioned Simple Green – you can scrub the cover with a gentle brush. Don’t use too stiff of a brush, as the coarse bristles may be too rough on the gentle fabric. It’s best to use something that won’t aggressively agitate the cover, such as this utility brush.

Once you’ve scrubbed the cover thoroughly, give it another good rinse or two to ensure you’ve hosed off all the grime. Then remove the cover and dry it naturally. Do not let the cover dry on the car.

How Often Should I Wash my Car Cover?

About once a year is best, as washing too frequently may thin out the material and prematurely wear out the cover. If you cover your car for long periods of time, such as six months or more, you’ll likely want to wash it once you’ve removed the cover for the driving season. If you cover and uncover your car frequently, it is better to choose an annual wash date to stay consistent on schedule.

You can also mitigate dirt and grime by practicing the proper handling of a car cover. Ensure the cover touches as few surfaces as possible and, with the help of a willing friend, giving it a good shake before and after each use. These two simple tips can keep a cover surprisingly clean for a surprisingly long time.

Parting Thoughts

Keeping your car cover clean is important – if you neglect to periodically remove the dirt and dust that builds up on the fabric, you may inadvertently scratch the car’s finish the next time you go to install the cover.3 Protect your car and lengthen the life of your cover by gently washing your car cover once a year and shaking your cover thoroughly each time you install and remove it. It’s the best way to get the best protection most life from your car cover.

Article Sources

Ride Digest uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Hasan, Atif A. Suggestion of New Double Layers Car Covers to Reduce the Environment Effect on Car Cabin through Parked Unshaded Area. Al-Rafidain University College For Sciences. 2020; (47), 59-76. Accessed 24 Sept 2021.
  2. CAR COVER CARE. Calcarcover.com. Published 11 Oct 2017. Accessed 27 Sept 2021.
  3. Question Answered: Can Car Covers Scratch or Damage Paint? CarwashCountry.com. Accessed 24 Sept 2021.