Your boat upholstery is an intrinsic part of the comfort of your boating outings. Not only does it provide a comfortable place to relax, it also allows you to impart your own sense of style to your boat. Whether your style is new age, retro, classic, or modern it always looks better clean! Today we're going to go over a few of the dos and don'ts for keeping your marine upholstery in tip top condition for years to come.


Prevention should always be first and foremost in your thoughts when you're talking about maintaining your boat upholstery. The very environment in which your upholstery resides is its worst enemy. Sun, water, dirt, and debris are all damaging to your boat's upholstery. Make sure you keep it protected by purchasing, maintaining, and USING a quality boat cover. Upholstery is expensive to replace and a boat cover is a simple way to extend its longevity. Don’t forget to store your boat properly during the winter as well. Snow and ice, melting and freezing on your upholstery is a sure way to cracks and mildew in the vinyl. Furthermore, the activities that your boat is used for are potentially damaging to vinyl. Bronzing oil leaves stains, while dirt, skin oil, and fish slime coats all contribute to the slow destruction of your upholstery. Mitigate the damage by taking a few seconds at the end of every excursion to quickly wipe down the upholstery. You don't need to do anything special, just a soft cloth and clean water will do the trick nicely. In the case of sunbathers, make sure they are using towels between themselves and the upholstery to reduce the risk of stains.


Now that you're protecting your boat upholstery from the elements, it's time to make sure you are cleaning it properly. Vinyl is a porous material, much like leather, so it needs to breathe. While created to be hardy due to its environment, it cannot handle being cleaned with harsh or abrasive chemicals. Most household cleansers should never be used on marine upholstery. Bleach may give it a momentarily clean appearance, but it's actually degrading the vinyl, as well as its protective coatings, leaving it more vulnerable to the elements. Other household chemicals have the same effect on marine vinyl. Abrasive brushes or clothes also have no place near your boat's vinyl. Always use soft cloths and brushes when cleaning your upholstery and make sure you aren't scrubbing extremely hard. If you follow the below steps for cleaning and care you shouldn't have to deal with any harsh cleaning anyways.


First we're going to discuss your routine cleaning. These are a little more involved than your wipe downs after use, but still shouldn't take you too long. Mix a mild soap such as, Dawn, Ivory, or Dreft, with clean, lukewarm water. Using a soft cloth, wet the cloth, and wipe the mixture over your upholstery, making sure to avoid pooling in the seams. Now rinse your upholstery with another soft cloth dipped in clean water. Last of all, dry your upholstery with another soft cloth. That's it! Pretty simple, right? These routine cleanings will really depend on how much you use your boat. If you only make it out a couple days a month, you can go longer between these types of cleaning. If you're one of the lucky ones who gets to be on the lake regularly, you'll want to use this cleaning method more regularly. Especially if you have sun worshippers on your boat, suntan oil is terrible for clogging the vinyl's pores.


Next we'll move onto deep cleaning. This is something you want to do once or twice a year, definitely complete a thorough deep cleaning before storing your boat for the winter. The last thing you want is to allow all that dirt, grime, and grease to sit on your boat upholstery all winter long. First you'll want to complete a routine cleaning to get all of the surface dirt off. Next, you will want a vinyl cleaner, we recommend either 303 Fabric & Vinyl Cleaner or Starbright Vinyl Cleaner. Wipe your chosen cleaner into the boat's upholstery using a soft clean cloth or a soft bristled brush. Lastly you'll remove the excess cleaner with another clean soft cloth. After you've finished deep cleaning you have one last step to protect your boat's upholstery.


UV protection. Your marine vinyl is embedded with its own UV protectants, however those degrade over time and are not replaced. Using a product to replace the UV protectant on your boat upholstery will extend its lifespan beyond what it would be naturally. We recommended 303 Aerospace Protectant, the directions are on the bottle, but we'll go over them briefly here. You want to make sure that you are applying the protectant out of the sun and using a drop cloth to protect the surrounding area. Now spray the surface you are wanting to protect, making sure to not apply too much product. Proceed to wiping the protectant until it is completely dry, it will not air dry. Make sure that you dry the surface completely, the buffing and rubbing action with a soft, dry cloth helps the protectant to bond with the vinyl, providing longer lasting protection from UV rays. The manufacturer recommends using it every 3-5 weeks to provide maximum UV protection.


So your upholstery is clean and protected, you're using the proper preventative medicine, but somehow you still manage to get a bit of mold on it. We recommend using Solution IOSSO Mold and Mildew to remove the staining. Follow the directions on the package, but essentially mix it according to the manufacturer's instructions, spray the stained area, allow it to soak for 15 minutes, then scrub gently with a soft bristled brush. After the stain is removed rinse the area well and then dry with a soft cloth.


Now you have the information you need to keep your upholstery clean and protected for years to come, extending its lifespan, saving you money, and making your boat look great! Boat upholstery is expensive to replace, so a little bit of maintenance is a great way to make it last longer.