Keep your boats’ vinyl in top shape

August 10, 2017 smccormick

How To Clean Vinyl Boat Seats & Upholstery

Marine grade vinyl is designed to endure harsh marine conditions, but without proper care and maintenance they will break down much faster. The best way to prolong the look, feel, and longevity of boat seats and other upholstered items is to keep them clean, dry, and out of the long exposure to the sun. Regular application of a UV inhibitor such is highly recommended.

Routine Cleaning

  • Hose off or remove any large dirt deposits, leaves, etc.
  • Make a solution of mild soap and water (¼ cup liquid soap to 1 gallon fresh, clean water)
    Using a clean rag, sponge, or very soft bristle brush, wash upholstery as normal. Try to avoid pooling water into the seams, as this leads to water soaking into the foam and will result in mold
  • Rinse the soap solution off the vinyl using fresh clean water with a light fan spray
    Wipe the vinyl dry with a soft, clean towel. Allow to sit in the sun if possible to assure complete drying

Deep Cleaning

  • When thoroughly dry, apply a vinyl cleaner, such as 303 Fabric & Vinyl Cleaner, and rub into the vinyl with a soft clean cloth or soft bristled brush. It may seem redundant to clean with mild soap first but that step is necessary to remove sunscreen, sweat residue, dirt and particles so the vinyl cleaner will penetrate the vinyl uninhibited.
  • Remove excess cleaner with a soft cloth.
  • UV Protection (highly recommended) Use 303 Areospace Protectant. Spray on vinyl completely wetting the surface.Using a soft, dry cloth, wipe until the vinyl is dry. Be sure to absorb all excess protectant by wiping and polishing until completely dry. This will provide a finish coating that repels stains and provides UV protection.
  • Apply every 3 to 5 weeks for maximum UV protection, if the boat is used with great frequency or is left uncovered in the weather
  • Highly recommended to prolong the life of your boat seats and marine upholstery. Follow label directions.

Mold Stains & Full Renewal

  • Magic Eraser often works quite well at removing stains from the surface of marine vinyl, but use of this product will remove the protective coating on the vinyl and will expedite the decay process as it is a micro-fine polisher. I highly recommend to AVOID the use of Magic Eraser products.
  • Mix a solution of IOSSO Mold & Mildew Stain Remover, Star-Brite mildew remover (or similar product) per instructions.
  • Wet the area with the mixture then let soak for about 5-10 min.
  • Scrub the area with a sponge or soft cloth. For stubborn stains, add ¼ cup Clorox bleach to the soap/water mixture. Having the vinyl warm from the sun may help in removing stubborn stains. Spot treatment of staining may be done with spray Clorox Clean-Up. Make sure if sprayed on stitched areas that they are rinsed well with fresh, clean water.
  • Grease, petroleum, or oil based stains can be removed with Goo Gone (citrus based cleaner)…DO NOT use Goof Off, which is an acetone based cleaner!


  • Use mild and specialized cleaners such as – Dreft Laundry Soap, IOSSO Stain Remover, Star-Brite cleaner, 303 Fabric & Vinyl Cleaner, 303 Aerospace Protectant.
  • Apply a UV inhibitor regularly to prolong the life and look of your marine vinyl upholstery
  • Clean thoroughly after using the boat. Sweat, sunscreen, and dirt are the major enemies of your interior. The simplest and easiest way to protect your interior during use is to place beach towels or other coverings on the seats while using them. Preventative maintenance is always easier than repair or replacement.

Do Not

  • Do not use harsh cleansers such as- Ammonia, Windex, Simple Green, etc., – while most of these won’t immediately effect the appearance, they slowly break down the vinyl reducing its lifespan.
  • Use a Magic Eraser to remove stains.
  • Use excessive amounts of bleach, especially pool bleach (chlorine), which is 10x the strength of household bleach


Note: Nothing will clean Sharpie marker and ink stains off of vinyl boat seats and upholstery with any true effectiveness. When the ink penetrates into the vinyl it cannot be removed. The mark may be dulled in color and become a little bit less noticeable by using a solvent but the solvent will permanently damage the vinyl in the process. The only way to fix it is to replace the affected panel in the upholstery.

This list was created by LMorgan a professional upholsterer in DeBary, Fl.