It’s that time of year for road grime from salt, sand and slushy roads, and tarps often bear the brunt of the mess. Cleaning a lumber tarp or steel tarp can be a pain simply due to its size and weight, but a thorough cleaning will also extend the working life of it, so it’s worth the time and effort. Removing any excess mud and muck can also lighten the load which is always a good thing.
Begin by laying the tarp as flat as possible. If you absolutely don’t have room for the full tarp to lie flat, you can work in sections. One tip we’ve gotten from the pro drivers is to simply lay the tarp on your flatbed when cleaning.
You can purchase a special cleaner made just for tarps and tents. These concentrated formulas are generally safe for all tarps and are excellent at removing road grime, grease and oils, insects, and even rust marks from some fabrics. If you’ll be cleaning your tarp on your grass or other area near landscaping, pets, etc. consider using a biodegradable cleaner like Simple Green. Another milder option is a dish washing soap like Dawn.
Dilute the cleaner with warm water as directed, and let it sit on the tarp for 10-15 minutes to loosen the top layer of grime. Apply additional cleaner and scrub. Using a wide push broom is a great way to scrub your tarp without sacrificing your back muscles. Using a power washer is also an option, but use on the lowest setting possible to minimize any risk of tears. Repeat the soaking/scrubbing as needed. Pay special attention to cleaning around any grommets, rings, and fabric insets.
Once clean, this is the best time to inspect your tarp for any weak spots that may require patching. Tarp repair kits include everything you need to make small repairs. Patches can also be fashioned out of older tarps, simply cut the pieces you need to size. Just be sure your tarp is dry before attempting to apply a patch.
If you’ll be storing your tarp after the cleaning, be sure it’s completely dried before folding. Any moisture left can result in mold and mildew forming.
Keep in mind, these are cleaning tips for vinyl steel and lumber tarps which are generally made of a tough PVC-coated polyester. Other types of tarps such as canvas may shrink or be susceptible to chemical cleaners and may shrink if used with water that is too hot.
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