How to Clean Boat Seats and Marine Vinyl: 5 Tips for Success

August 27, 2022

Wondering how to clean boat seats and marine vinyl like the pros? Here are our top five tips for making marine vinyl fabric look as good as new.

Recreational fishing is a cherished pastime in the United States. Spending an early morning casting a line is a rite of passage for many Americans, and it’s a hobby passed down through the generations. At least 55 million Americans went fishing in 2020, including 13.9 million kids, according to a report from the American Sportfishing Association. A whopping 39.32 million fishing licenses, permits, and tags were sold in 2021.

While fishing from a folding chair or off the dock can be fun, hitting the open water on a boat is ideal. Pre-owned and new boat sales are skyrocketing as people embrace the outdoor lifestyle as a safe and healthy alternative during this unique time. New powerboat sales exceeded 300,000 units, and 1.1 million pre-owned boats were sold last year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Even if you only spring for a jon boat, purchasing a watercraft is a big investment, and keeping your boat in tip-top shape is important. Adding a fish finder, portable light, and rod racks may make catching the big one easier, but regular interior maintenance should be your first priority. If the interior of your boat shows signs of wear and tear, especially mildew, it may detract from your fishing excursion and put a dent in the value of your boat.

The Marine-Grade Vinyl Advantage
Most boat seats are upholstered with marine-grade vinyl. Although vinyl was invented in 1835, a use for it wasn’t discovered until Waldo Semon, a scientist for B.F. Goodrich, was tasked with finding a way to bond rubber to metal. By combining a variety of ingredients with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, he created the flexible, waterproof fabric we know today as vinyl. Nearly 44 billion pounds of vinyl are produced each year.

Marine-grade vinyl is UV-stabilized to prevent fading from the sun’s powerful rays. It is durable, waterproof, and long-lasting. With proper care, marine-grade vinyl can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Even though marine-grade vinyl is the ideal option for boat seats, the elements can still do a number on a boat’s interior. Mildew is often inevitable because your boat seats are constantly exposed to moisture. The more you take your boat out this summer, the more likely you may see traces of mildew on your boat upholstery.

How to Clean Boat Seats
Taking proper care of your boat seat upholstery can help maintain its resale value and enable you to have years of fun casting your line. Creative Colors International is the mobile leader in leather and vinyl cleaning and restoration. Here are some tips from CCI on how to clean boat seats to keep your marine-grade vinyl in good condition.

  1. Wash Seats After Each Trip. After your fishing trip, give your seats a quick scrub before heading in to clean your catch. Use a combination of mild dish detergent and a soft microfiber cloth to give the seats a glow-up. Make sure to dry the seats with a cloth after you clean them to prevent mildew from forming.
  2. Avoid Harsh Cleaners. If you do see mildew on your boat seats, never use a harsh cleaner. Bleach can damage your marine-grade vinyl. CCI recommends using a mild soap or a cleaner designed for boat seats to remove stubborn stains.
  3. Apply a Sealant. Applying a vinyl treatment on a regular basis can help protect your seats and prevent mold and mildew from forming. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for frequency of application.
  4. Ventilation is Key. Make sure your boat is stored in a well-ventilated place. A boat cover can protect your boat from the elements, but it should have proper ventilation to inhibit the growth of mildew and mold. Polyester and acrylic boat covers cost a bit more, but they breathe better than less expensive fabrics. It’s also a good idea to pick a light-colored cover with greater UV resistance.
  5. Make Timely Repairs. Despite regular maintenance, your boat seat upholstery will inevitably get damaged. Whether it's a rip from a fishing lure or a tear from your car keys, getting the repair fixed in a timely manner will prevent further damage. CCI service technicians can take care of marine vinyl and leather repair to help marinas, boat dealers, and boat owners get the job done. Our on-site inspection, repair, and restoration of leather, vinyl, fabrics, and plastics can save up to 90% of replacement costs.

We Can Fix That!
CCI has more than 42 years of experience in leather and vinyl restoration. Our certified service technicians at CCI help businesses and local customers restore damaged items to make them look like new again. Request a free quote from one of CCI’s mobile technicians before your next fishing trip.