How To Clean Vinyl Boat Seats

Paul Luisi
by Paul
Luisi

Cleaning vinyl boat seats from dirt and stains can make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of your vessel.

So how do you get the upholstery washed and prevent it from looking dull?

We'll show you some simple tips and some inexpensive boat cleaning spray and cleaning products to assist you with those routine cleanings.

Vinyl boat seats are most commonly found on sailboats, pontoons, yachts, speedboats and motorboats.

To clean vinyl boat seats, follow the steps: 

  1. Use a vacuum to remove trapped dirt in the seats
  2. Wash the dirty seats with warm water and soap
  3. Dry the seats with microfiber cloth
  4. Apply UV Protective Spray to the boat seats

Marine grade vinyl cleaner will help protect against damaging the seats when cleaning them.

Following these seat cleaning steps will remove dirt, mold, mildew and stains.

It will also protect the seats from future sun damage and water damage.


Step 1: Use a vacuum to remove trapped dirt in the seats

Use a vacuum to remove some of the excess dirt. This will help: 

  • Get rid of the larger dirt: Vacuuming the trapped dirt between the seats will help remove the excess and trickier dirt build up.
  • Remove dirt you might not have seen: Vacuums can reach dirty spots you might not have been able to reach otherwise.

Vacuuming the seats should take no longer than 10 - 15 minutes depending on the amount of seats.

Summary
Vacuuming the boat seats is an important first step to remove the unseen dirt build up in the harder to reach areas.

Step 2: Wash the seats with warm water, soap and a sponge

Get a bucket of warm water, a sponge and some soap. Clean in sections to make it easier.

Wash the seats in steps: 

  • Scrub the seats with warm water and soap: Use a sponge in a circular motion and wash the dirt away with soap and warm water.
  • Apply marine grade spray to wet seats: A mildew and mold remover spray like 3M will help easily wipe way tougher stains and dirt.  
  • Let the spray set on the seats before wiping away with alcohol wipes: Follow the instructions of the spray and let it set on the seats before wiping away with alcohol wipes. This will remove deep stains.
  • Wash remaining dirt with sponge: Gently wipe the remaining dirt with sponge.

Do not aggressively scrub seats. This will help avoid color fading or seat cracking.

Spraying the seats and wiping with alcohol wipes will help easily remove deep stains from the vinyl boat seats.

Washing the seats should take between 10 - 15 minutes depending on the amount of seats to clean.

Summary
Wash the boat seats with warm water, a sponge and marine grade mold remover in a circular motion to remove dirt. Wipe with alcohol wipes to remove deep stains.

Step 3: Dry Seats With Microfiber Cloth

After washing the seats, use a microfiber cloth to dry the wet areas.

This will remove the final bits of dirt, dust, mildew, mold and stains.

Drying the wet seats with a microfiber cloth will help prevent scratches.

Summary
Use a microfiber cloth to dry seats. This will remove the final dirt that was hard to remove.

Step 4: Apply UV Protective Spray

A big problem with vinyl boat seats is their exposure to the sun when out on a boating trip.

This exposure causes the seats to crack and the color to fade.

To help solve this, get a UV Protective Spray and spray it onto the seats.

This spray will help prevent color fading and cracks in the seats.

Summary
Spray UV Protective spray onto the vinyl seats to prevent seat cracking, color fading and protect against the sun damage.

Products To Use When Cleaning Vinyl Boat Seats

When cleaning vinyl boat seats, the products to use are: 

  • Bucket of warm water
  • Vinyl boat seat cleaner
  • A sponge or cloth
  • A towel

These items are enough to have the vinyl looking clean and like new.

The best vinyl cleaners to use include Meguiar's Marine Vinyl Cleaner and Star Brite Ultimate Vinyl Cleaner.

Alternatively, you can make a homemade vinyl seat cleaner with household items.

This is just as effective at cleaning the vinyl seats.

Summary
Use a marine grade vinyl boat cleaner, a bucket of warm water and a sponge or cloth to clean vinyl boat seats.

Products To Avoid When Cleaning Boat Seats

When cleaning vinyl boat seats: 

  • Do Not Use A Pressure Washer: There is too much pressure in a power washer. This will crack and damage the vinyl seats if used.
  • Do Not Regularly Clean With Bleach: Using bleach once is fine but using it regularly will remove protective layers from the seats.
  • Do Not Clean With Gasoline: Gasoline will cause the seats to smell and it's flammable.

These should be avoided when cleaning boat seats.

Summary
Using a power washer and regular household cleaning products is not the best option when cleaning vinyl boat seats.

Alternative Boat Seat Cleaning Options

When looking to clean boat seats, there are other options available: 

  • Hire an interior boat cleaning company: A boat cleaning company will come and clean the seats for you. This service costs $150 on average.
  • Hire a professional to clean the seats: Find a professional on thumbtack or Craigslist to wash and clean out the vinyl seats.

These options are best for those that want to outsource the cleaning work.

Summary
Hire a professional cleaning company or individual if you prefer to outsource the cleaning.

Ongoing Boat Seat Cleaning Maintenance

Periodic cleaning throughout a month of heavy use with lots of boating activities is a wise option to ensure superior cleaning, removal of water spots and other general stain removal.
Using alcohol wipes is a simple but effective way of cleaning the seats as part of ongoing maintenance.

If the seats have been damaged and cracked from excessive use and exposure to sea water and hot sun, a vinyl seat repair kit is an inexpensive solution.

You can restore faded vinyl boat seats with a vinyl paint restorer. This will ensure the seats look great on an ongoing basis.

Summary
During regular boat use, clean the seats at least once a month and use protective spray for protection against sun.

How To Clean Vinyl Boat Seats Video Instructions

Below is a video from Begin boating on cleaning and removing dirt from vinyl boat seats.