Boat Seat Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

One of the most frustrating parts of boat ownership is cleaning boat seats, and keeping them free of mold and mildew stains. After all, water plus moisture and humidity breeds mold, so naturally boat seats are especially vulnerable to deterioration.

Boat seat cleaning tips

Black mold spots on seats are very unsightly, and can decrease the resale value of your boat. Protecting boat seat vinyl comes down to regular maintenance, prevention, and using the right cleaners and treatments. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for cleaning and maintaining vinyl boat seats.

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Boat Seat Cleaning Do’s

  • DO keep alcohol wipes on board at all times to quickly wipe off food and drink spills, as well as dirt, sweat, and chemicals like sunscreen and bug spray.
  • DO use mild dish soap and fresh water, and a cloth or a soft brush, to wash and wipe boat seats after every ride.
  • DO wipe the seats down in a circular motion to prevent water from pooling in the seats.
  • DO rinse the seats off with fresh water after washing them to get rid of excess soap, then use a clean cloth to dry them.
  • DO use a quality mold-and-mildew cleaner to treat existing fungus and prevent future growth. Make sure it’s specially formulated for marine use, not household use, and that it’s safe for vinyl.
  • DO use a marine vinyl cleaner made specifically for boat seats, and apply it with a clean cloth.
  • DO store your boat in a well-ventilated area after you’ve properly cleaned and dried your boat’s seats, if you keep it indoors.
  • DO cover your boat seats to protect them from the elements, including sunlight, which can fade and crack seats.
  • DO remove seat covers after wet bottoms or gear have been on the seat to prevent dampening.

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Boat Seat Cleaning Don’ts

  • DON’T skip washing the seats after every ride. If you’re short on time, at least give them a quick once-over before you leave.
  • DON’T let the seats air dry after cleaning them. Wipe them completely dry to prevent moisture buildup.
  • DON’T use harsh cleaners that contain ammonia or bleach to treat mold and mildew. While these chemicals can kill mold, they can also damage the upholstery.
  • DON’T expect an easy solution for set-in mildew stains. Preventing mold and mildew requires regular cleaning, so if the fungus has deeply penetrated your boat seat cushions, a mold-and-mildew cleaner may not be enough to salvage the cushions, and you may need to replace them.
  • DON’T cover wet boat seats, as this will promote mold and mildew growth. Dry the seats completely and use breathable, vented covers.
  • DON’T leave anything on the seats. Clean up everything you can see like food and drink stains, and don’t forget about the things you might not see, like sunscreen, sweat and bug spray. 
  • DON’T use a power washer on boat seats, as it could rip the upholstery.
  • DON’T use degreasers, as they can wipe away protective layers of coating. 
  • DON’T use gasoline to clean boat seats. This should be obvious, but it’s flammable and dangerous.
  • DON’T use household cleaners, which aren’t formulated for use on marine vinyl.

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Just because the marine grade vinyl on most boat seats is pre-treated with UV and anti-microbial protectants, it doesn’t mean they don’t require maintenance. In case you skipped over those bullet points above, here’s the gist of it: 

The key to preserving boat seats is regular cleaning. That means frequent soap-and-water washes, at least once a week as a bare minimum. Anytime something gets spilled on the seats, wipe it off immediately. 

Boat seat cleaning tips

And of course, dry off damp seats after every ride. Finally, use only dedicated marine mold-and-mildew and vinyl cleaners and treatments, not household products, to treat boat seats. Do these simple tasks and your boat seats will look like new and last longer.   




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