How to Clean Boat Seats – Easy Step by Step Guide


how to clean boat seats

It’s no secret that storage and frequent use can turn even the most beautiful boats to dirty, mildewed covered heaps of metal and plastic. All the dirt you’ve been ignoring piles up and you eventually have to scrub the entire boat down.

So how do you clean boat seats?

Cleaning boat seats is not quite as simple as cleaning the pontoon boat carpet or the rest of the boat. And this guide will make sure you get it right the first time. 

The cleaning process is very standard. You just need to get the cleaning solution, apply it, brush the surface until it is clean and then wipe the solution off. But before you leave this article and go off on your own, here are a few things that I think you should know first.

How to Clean Boat Seats

Cleaning your boat seats or boat seat covers comes in layers.

You can’t just buy any kind of cleaner. You need to identify the type of marine vinyl you are currently using. Then shape the cleaning process around this single piece of information.

This article will teach you how to clean boat seats the right way and make sure you don’t make any mistakes that could be catastrophic for your seats.

Identify the Type of Vinyl Your Seats are Made of

Not all vinyl is the same. There are at least three types of vinyl that I can think of right now and I am just talking about non-graduated vinyl. There are many other types of vinyl fabrics that have been used in the manufacturing of products like automobile trims and restaurant furniture. Everything comes in different colors and textures.

This is the same for marine vinyl too. They might appear similar to normal vinyl but they are very different. They feel different and have different needs. That is why I think it would be wise to consort with your boat’s manufacturer before you start the cleaning process.

You need this information because there might be certain guidelines or products that are required to properly take care of your seats. Trying to solve the problem with a “one product fits all type of approach” might just damage your seats.

When you’ve found out about the do’s and don’ts of your vinyl fabric, then proceed to buy the appropriate cleaning solutions. This is important to combat the type of dirt you have on the fabric.

Create a Game Plan

You can’t just go cleaning whenever you feel like, you need to have a schedule.  This might not seem that important to most people but I think this part is really important.

A schedule or game plan is important because cleaning your seats on a whim is just prolonging the inevitable. You need to have a routine and stick to it.  This will help you take care of your seats on days when you don’t even particularly want to or feel like.

Once a month or so, should do. Although how frequently you clean your seats is largely dependent on how frequently you go boating, I’d like to think a little routine cleaning without any specific reason never killed anyone.

Get Everything on Your List

When you have figured out your schedule, its time to get the tools you will be using to clean your vinyl seats. You’ll need a small hand vacuum, clean clothes, some cleaner, a clean soft brush, and a smaller brush to get into all the places that the big one can’t quite get into.

Using the Vacuum and a Cleaning Cloth

The Vacuum is step one in the cleaning process. You need to vacuum in between the seats and under them to get all the dust before you begin. Since the seats can’t really be vacuumed, you need to dust them carefully.  You want the seats to be clean for when you apply the cleaner.

Cleaning Normal Seat Stains

After the purchase of the appropriate solution, you need to look over the instructions that come with the product. Although the guidelines almost never vary, you need to look at them nonetheless to make sure you are doing everything right.

  • When cleaning you want to make sure that you work one seat at a time or in sections. This way the cleaning solutions don’t dry on the seats and you don’t have to reapply when you are coming back to that seat.
  • The cleaning process usually starts with the application of the cleaning solution to the seat you want to start with.
  • You let the solution sink in for a minute or two and then you clean it off with the brush
  • You want to go to the seats soft and gently. The cleaning solution already does a bulk of the work so you don’t need to put in that much of an effort.
  • When you have cleaned the entire seat, wipe off with a clean damp cloth, and repeat with the next seat.
  • Make sure you use the smaller brush as frequently as you need to. Take your time and go through all the small creases and cracks.
  • When you have cleaned the cracks, try to get the clean cloth in there and wipe them dry. You don’t any moisture to remain in the cracks long term as it can cause mildew.

How to Clean Mildew

Before we get into all the scrubbing that cleaning a mildewed seat involves, I think it is important to mention that if your seats have been infected with mildew, expect the fungus to come back eventually.

It might leave your seats alone for a season or two but surely enough they will resurface within favorable temperature or humidity. Mildew is a fungus and unless you change the seat and foam, you should expect a return sooner or later.

Mildew stains are easy to get rid of. But most methods involve applying harsh solutions that can destroy the vinyl long-term.  

There are the traditional methods like the home-made mix of white vinegar and water or the use of bleach as needed, but your best bet is probably using a mold remover.

These traditional methods might work but they will definitely wear down the vinyl destroy it eventually since mildew is a reoccurring threat.

Buying a Bleach-Free Mold Remover and Mr. Magic Eraser

The only way you are getting rid of without damaging your seats is to go for a cleaner or remover that doesn’t use bleach. Some removers are better than others, so do your due diligence before you go ahead to purchase one.

Sometimes the remover might not be enough, having some backup in the shape of a Mr. Magic Eraser isn’t such a bad thing. It is made of Melamine foam which can sometimes get as hard as glass, so some restraint is advised. Mr. Magic Eraser is like your secret weapon. it should only be used only when you really needed it.

Getting Rid of the Mildew

The mildew remover functions like any other cleaner on the market. All you need to do is apply some on the mildewed surface and wait as long as you feel it’s necessary. After waiting long enough, you should scrub in a circular motion until its clean enough.

Wipe off the solution with a clean damp cloth and then repeat the process again as many as needed.

You can bust out the Mr. Magic Eraser if you aren’t able to get all the mildew out with the solution.

Get the cleaner in some solution and then take a go at it slowly and in a circular motion. As I said, the cleaner can be very abrasive, so try not to make your scrubs so aggressive. Dealing with stains

Dealing with stains is nothing if you are using the Mr. Magic Eraser. All you need to do is apply it after you have gone at it for a while with your regular sponge and clean until you feel satisfied.

The Extra Protectant

Although it might not be for everyone, there are protectants that supposedly protect the vinyl from UV rays and other fungi.

Although every product comes with their separate sets of instructions, these steps are usually universal and work regardless of the product you are going with.

  • Wipe the surface and make sure that it is clean and dry.
  • Spray the product onto a clean microfiber cloth and apply it.
  • You should apply slowly and evenly.
  • When all the surfaces have been covered totally, allow it to dry for a minute or two.
  • Clean the excess solution off with a separate cloth and buff until you are comfortable.

These protectants are the real thing and they might prevent future outbreaks. But we’d still recommend changing the seats altogether. it’s just safer that way.

In this article, we have gone through all the methods and tips that you need to clean and keep your vinyl boat seats mildew and altogether stain free. Although I’ve mentioned this a couple of times at least, I feel the need to reiterate. You need to brush slowly and remember to have a schedule; they might just save you from having to deal with mildew in the future.

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