Submitted by Rick Fedorchak
Thanks for all the input that I received recommending varous chemicals, compounds, cleaners , etc. for cleaning vinyl. After trying a bunch this weekend on my _not so white_ vinyl top , I can report the following:
Simple Green, 409, liquid laundry detergent, Castrol's super cleaner ( or whatever they call it ) ,various vinyl cleaners and most anything else I tried got quite a bit of the dirt off, but didn't FULLY clean the top and remove the ( mildew ? ) smudge and stains.
_The product that really made the difference was " X-14 Stain and Mildew remover " bathroom cleaner._ Application of this stuff with a wet bristle brush and not too much elbow grease got the top _ WHITE._
Two notes though:
( #1 ) I probably wouldn't be tempted to use this stuff on a car whose paint you really cared about ( just to be safe ) , or else I'd be REAL careful.
( #2) While this cleaner appeared to have no detrimental effect on my top, YMMV.
As an aside, the use of X-14 made the cleaning task a little less pleasant.....in the fact that the smell reminded me of performing the task for which this product was originally intended. :~)
Most of the cleaners mentioned above ( particularly the Castrol ) worked well on the interior, and I didn't have to resort to using X-14 there.
( 1 ) I used this stuff on a 2-door hardtop with a _vinyl top_ , not a convertible top.
( 2 ) This procedure did not appear to have any immediate detrimental effect, however it's not been proven over a period of time. ( i.e. I don't know for sure that my top won't rot to pieces a few months down the road. Obviously, I hope not ).
( 3 ) The use of this cleaner was a "last resort" maneuver. I would've preferred to use something milder, and "safer".
( 4 ) I immediately rinsed the top off with water, dried it, and then applied a vinyl conditioner / protectant product that claims to replace the plasticizers that evaporate out of vinyl over a period of time due to age and exposure to the sun.
(5) The instructions on the X-14 indicated that it could be used on vinyl as long as you didn't get any on the vinyl backing.
(6 ) As always..... YMMV !!
Followed by Roland Dudley's Warning
I would use this stuff very sparingly. It contains chlorine, which is a strong oxidizer and not very friendly to rubber or plastic, and, as you guessed, paint. Chlorine is also a rust catalyst.
While X-14 does kill mildew on contact, most likely what it did to your top was bleach it.
More from Rick:
X-14 Mildew Stain Remover contains Sodium Hypochlorite, as does my gallon jug of Clorox bleach. So this supports Roland's observations. Further investigation of the X-14 label also revealed that the manufacturer includes vinyl automobile and boat tops as items appropriate to be cleaned with their product.
I checked with one of our chemists. She claims that Hydorchloric acid consists of Hydrogen and Chlorine, and that _Hydorchlorite_ consists of Hydrogen, Chlorine, and Oxygen. ( and is less corrosive than Hydorchloric acid ) She also mentioned that a conservative approach to the use of this product would involve ( big surprise ) dilution with a small amount of water. She claims it would be just as effective, though it would take a bit longer to work.
For the record, X-14 also contains Sodium Carbonate.
Castrol Super Clean contains 2-Butoxyehtanol, Sodium Metasilicate, and Sodium Hydroxide.
Wesley's ( Blue Coral ) Bleche Wite contains Sodium Metasilicate and Sodium Orthosilicate.
While I realize there are no Alpines/Tigers running around with white Vinyl Hardtops ( at least I think there aren't ), I hope this information proves useful for other Sunbeam vinyl applications, and/or other vehicles our Sunbeam group may own.
From Jennifer Polk:
I'm not a Sunbeam Tiger owner, but found this site while doing a web search for tips on cleaning mildew from vinyl tops. I tried other tips, including ammonia solutions and peroxide solutions, which succeeded only in turning the black mildew stains a medium gray. I found the X-14 tip scary, since I do care about my paint job and X-14 is such a harsh cleaner. Here's something else that works and is probably gentler to both the top and the paint, although it may take much longer and require more effort. First give the top a thorough cleaning to remove dirt. Then, dilute 1/4 cup ordinary household bleach in 2 cups of water. Dampen the roof, and use a toothbrush to scrub the mildew stains with the bleach solution. The toothbrush will take longer to use, but will help avoid getting the bleach solution on paint or other surfaces. Also, a toothbrush is relatively soft-bristled and will help avoid abrading a textured vinyl surface. Work an area no bigger than 6 x 6 inches at a time, leaving the bleach solution on no longer than 2 or 3 minutes. Then rinse, rinse, and rinse some more. If the stain is particularly stubborn you may need to repeat the process - which is preferable to leaving it on longer than necessary and potentially damaging the vinyl or seam threads. This seems to do a good job of completely removing the mildew, it did not change the orginal color of my top (tan) and I didn't notice any paint damage at all. I think the diluted bleach solution is relatively gentle and will not damage the vinyl as long as it is thoroughly rinsed off - rinsing is the most important part of the process. Hope this will be useful to someone else out there.