Cleaning a boat's interior will remove dirt, mold, mildew and stains from all interior surfaces of the vessel.
The boat interior surfaces that need to be cleaned include the bilge, seats, carpets, deck, storage areas and all interior hard top surfaces.
To clean the interior of a boat:
- Scrub the bilge area with a biodegradable bilge cleaner
- Clean the boat seats with seat-cleaning soap
- Scrub the boat deck with a deck cleaner
- Clean the interior boat carpets with a carpet spray
- Clean the interior storage areas & hard top surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner
Once these steps are complete, the interior of the vessel will look clean and smell great too.
1. Scrub The Interior Boat Bilge With A Bilge Cleaner
The first step in cleaning the interior of a boat is to scrub and wash the boat bilge area.
The boat bilge can fill up with mold, sludge, oil and rust. It can smell of foul odors too.
To clean the interior boat bilge:
- Get a biodegradable bilge cleaner: Get a 1-gallon biodegradable bilge cleaner to help clean the interior bilge area. A biodegradable cleaner is more environmentally friendly when cleaning the bilge
- Pour the cleaner into the bilge and let it soak: Pour the cleaner into the bilge area and let it soak. Let it soak for a minimum of 1 hour. The longer you allow it to soak, the easier it is to remove the dirt and sludge
- Scrub the bilge with a brush: Use a brush to scrub the walls of the bilge area and ensure you scrub those hard-to-reach areas too. This will loosen and remove any dirt buildup.
- Rinse the bilge and drain it: Use fresh water and a hose and rinse the soapy and scrubbed bilge area. Once rinsed, get a sealable container or bucket and drain the dirt and dirty water into it
- Dispose of the bilge waste: Safely dispose of the bilge waste at a waste management center
A boat owner should clean the boat bilge once per month.
Cleaning the boat bilge will remove the dirt and potential foul odors from the bilge.
The products needed to clean an interior boat bilge are a 1-gallon bilge cleaner, fresh water, a sealable bucket or container and a brush.
Use a biodegradable bilge cleaner to clean the interior boat bilge and remove all dirt and odors.
2. Clean The Interior Boat Seats With A Seat Cleaner
The second step in cleaning the interior of the boat is to clean the interior boat seats.
Boat seats can get stained or dirty and have their color fade due to UV damage.
To clean the boat's interior seats:
- Get a vacuum: Get a vacuum and use a narrow vacuum nozzle to remove the trapped dirt and dust in the seams of the boat seats
- Wipe the seats with a marine-grade seat cleaner: Use a marine-grade seat cleaner and spray it onto the dirty seats. Then, scrub the seats with warm water in a circular motion to remove the dirt and stains from the seat. For vinyl seats, use a top boat vinyl cleaner
- Dry the washed seats with a towel: After scrubbing the seats, use a towel and dry the entire seats with it. This will remove any remaining stubborn dirt or stains that were previously missed
If the boat is used regularly, clean the interior seats once per month.
For ongoing boat seat cleaning maintenance, a boat owner can use alcohol wipes to wipe down the seats, especially if the seats are not too dirty.
The products needed to clean the interior boat seats include a boat seat cleaner, a bucket of fresh water, alcohol wipes and a cloth or towel.
Our full guide on boat seat cleaning dives deeper into cleaning the marine seats.
Use a vacuum to clean the seams of the boat seats and then wash them down with a seat cleaner and warm water before drying them with a towel.
3. Scrub The Boat Deck With A Deck Cleaner
The third step of cleaning a boat's interior is to clean the boat deck.
Boat decks can get extremely dirty with dirt, grease, oil or stains and cleaning them can make a big difference to the boat's aesthetics.
To clean a boat's interior deck:
- Vacuum loose and bulky dirt: Use a vacuum to remove loose and heavy dirt from the boat deck surface. Use different size vacuum nozzles to get in between the corners of the deck
- Mix a boat deck cleaner with fresh water: Use a boat deck cleaner and mix it into a bucket of warm water. Only use a deck cleaner that matches your deck surface. For example, if you have a teak deck, use a teak deck cleaner or if you have a non-skid deck, use a non-skid deck cleaner
- Scrub the deck with a soft bristle brush: Pour the mixed water and cleaner onto the dirty deck and pour it onto the deck surface. Scrub the dirty area with a soft bristle brush. Scrub the deck in sections in a circular motion
- Rinse the deck with fresh water: Use a hose and fresh water to rinse the deck from the soapy water and dirt
- Dry it with a towel: Once the deck is rinsed, dry it with a towel or microfiber cloth to remove the final stubborn stains
The products needed to clean the interior boat deck are a deck cleaner, a vacuum, a bucket of fresh water and a deck brush.
A boat deck should be cleaned once per month to keep it clean.
Vacuum the boat seats to remove loose dirt. Wash the seats with a boat seat cleaner, warm water and a sponge. Then, dry it with a towel.
4. Clean The Interior Boat Carpets With A Carpet Spray
The fourth step of cleaning a boat's interior is to clean the boat carpets. The interior carpets can get dirty with dirt, stains and dirty greasy water.
To clean the interior boat carpets:
- Vacuum up the loose dirt from the marine carpet: Use a vacuum to remove all the loose dirt from every nook and cranny on the boat's interior carpet. Use different vacuum nozzles to reach those harder-to-reach areas
- Wash carpet with boat carpet cleaner: Use a boat carpet cleaner and warm water to scrub the marine carpet with a brush or cloth. For most boats, a 32-ounce carpet cleaner is enough to clean the interior carpets. This will loosen and remove stains and dirt. Scrubbing the carpet with a spray can really improve the overall aesthetics of the carpet once it's completed
- Let the carpets dry out by opening the windows/doors: Open all the windows and doors on your vessel to let the washed carpets dry out with fresh air. It will typically take 1 to 2 hours to dry out the carpets after washing them
The products needed to clean a boat's interior carpets are a vacuum, carpet cleaner and a bucket of warm water. Alternatively, a homemade solution is to clean the boat carpet with shaving cream.
The interior boat carpets will need to be vacuumed at least once a month. They should be washed with carpet cleaner once every three months.
When cleaning the interior boat carpets, do not overuse the carpet cleaner as it can stain the carpets. Instead, use one capsule of carpet cleaner per section of dirty carpet.
Vacuum the carpets to remove the loose dirt. Use a carpet cleaner spray and warm water to scrub the dirty carpet area and open windows and doors to dry out the cleaned carpet.
5. Clean The Interior Storage Areas & Hard Top Surfaces With An All-Purpose Cleaner
The fifth step of cleaning the boat interior is to clean the interior storage areas and hard top surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner.
An all-purpose marine cleaner is needed because it can be used on all interior surfaces without causing any harm to the interior surfaces whether it's fiberglass, rubber or plastic etc.
To clean the boat's interior storage areas and hard top surfaces:
- Get an all-purpose marine cleaner: Get a 16-ounce all-purpose marine cleaner. Typically, a 16-ounce cleaner is more than enough for cleaning the interior storage areas and hard surfaces on a boat
- Spray the cleaner on the surfaces in the storage areas: Spray the cleaner on the dirty storage area surfaces and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes
- Wipe away with a cloth or towel: Use a towel to wipe away the spray and dirt from the interior storage and hard surfaces
Cleaning the boat's interior storage areas and hard top surfaces should be done at least once per month, especially if the boat is used frequently.
The products needed to clean the boat's interior storage areas and hard top surfaces include a 16-ounce all-purpose cleaner and a towel or cloth.
Spray an all-purpose cleaner on the boat's interior storage areas and hard top surfaces. Wipe it away with a cloth or towel.
Products To Use When Cleaning Boat Interior
The products for cleaning boat interior areas are below.
- Boat Carpet Cleaner: A 32-ounce boat carpet cleaner is needed to help wash and clean the interior boat carpets
- Boat Bilge Cleaner: A 1-gallon biodegradable bilge cleaner is needed to clean the interior bilge area of the boat
- Alcohol wipes: These can be used to wipe down boat seats and hard top surfaces
- Vacuum: A vacuum with multiple-sized nozzles from small to large is needed to vacuum interior surfaces onboard the vessel
- Sponge: This is needed to wipe down the boat's interior storage areas and hard top surfaces
- Towels, Microfiber Cloth: This is needed for drying and wiping interior surfaces
- Brush: This is needed for scrubbing certain interior surfaces onboard a boat
- Bucket: This is needed to store the soapy water and for mixing cleaners with water
- Sealable bucket/container: This is needed to help drain and store waste from the boat bilge
- Boat Seat Cleaner: This is needed to clean the interior boat seats. Use a boat seat cleaner that matches your specific boat's seat material e.g use a vinyl seat cleaner for vinyl seats
- Carpet Stain Remover (Optional): For badly stained boat carpets, use a carpet stain remover to help remove the stains from the boat's interior carpets
- Marine All-Purpose Cleaner: Use a 16-ounce marine all-purpose cleaner to clean down the interior storage areas and hard top surfaces
The cost of all the products needed to clean the boat's interior is approximately $120. This excludes the vacuum cost.
Products To Avoid When Cleaning Boat Interior
The products to avoid when cleaning a boat's interior are:
- Bleach: Do not use bleach to clean the interior of the boat as it can cause color fading or damage to interior boat surfaces
- Gasoline: Do not use gasoline to tackle more stubborn dirt on the boat's interior as it will create a foul odor and cause the interior to be highly flammable
- Dirty cloth or towels: Do not use a dirty cloth or towel to dry or cleaner the interior parts of the boat as this may just cause the boat's interior to get even dirtier
- Wrong cleaners for the material of a boat: Do not use the wrong type of cleaner for the interior boat surface. For example, do not use an aluminum cleaner on a fiberglass surface
Hire A Professional Boat Interior Cleaning Company
An alternative option for cleaning the interior of a boat is to hire a professional cleaning service.
A boat cleaning service will:
- Remove all dirt from the interior
- Save time and hassle
- Apply the right cleaning products to the interior of the boat
This option is best for those that do not enjoy DIY projects and would rather outsource the cleaning work.
To find a boat interior cleaning company, contact your local marina.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning A Boat's Interior
Below are popular questions asked about cleaning a boat's interior.
How Often Should A Boat's Interior Be Cleaned?
A boat's interior should be cleaned once per month. This will ensure the interior aesthetics look great.
Can Bleach Be Used To Clean A Boat's Interior?
No, bleach should not be used to clean the boat's interior surface as it will cause damage like color fading or cracking to some of the surfaces onboard the boat.
How Long Does It Take To Clean A Boat's Interior?
For most recreational boats, it will take approximately 2 hours to clean the entire interior of a vessel.
However, this will vary substantially based on the size and condition of the boat's interior.
Can A Boat Buffer Be Used For Polish Interior Boat Surfaces?
Yes, a top polisher for boats like the DeWalt DWP849X can be used for polishing interior marine surfaces.