How to Clean Boat Seats? A Beginners Guide

Whether it is your profession or merely a hobby you enjoy, an essential part of owning boats is taking care of the seats.

While this may seem obvious for any vehicle, for boats it becomes particularly important given the amount of wear and tear they suffer from their use. Boats have to deal with the sea, grime, and all other manners of abuse from the environment. 

So, in this article, we are gonna show you exactly how to clean the boat seats.

Let’s dive in.

Things to Know

Here, we’ll tell you about the things you need to know about cleaning boat seats

Marine Grade Vinyl

One key step is usually taken at the point of manufacturing. Boat seats are often covered with marine-grade vinyl, a material that is extremely resistant against environmental factors such as moisture.

However, even with this added layer of protection, seats will nonetheless accumulate dirt, mildew, and other forms of wear making it critical for you to provide constant care to your precious vehicle.

To get straight into it, to ensure the health of your seats, you need to start becoming cautious from the point of buying them. The term marine-grade, as mentioned previously, can get thrown around a bit.

Meaning every material claiming to be marine-grade, may not necessarily give you what you want.

You gotta be careful while choosing seat quality.

Seat Quality Measurement

Vinyl is measured using something called ounces per square foot. The higher this value, the more heavy-duty the vinyl is likely to be. Boating Magazine recommends 20 as an acceptable value for marine-grade vinyl.


Furthermore, there are sub-categories within marine-grade vinyl that are often based on what kind of use and conditions the boat will encounter. It is best advised to speak with your manufacturer and communicate to them about what your requirements are.


The second thing you need to be aware of is the single greatest threat to your seats, mildew. This is a kind of fungus that often grows on surfaces such as boat seats. Helped by the moisture and humidity, of course. Unfortunately, if your boat has succumbed to mildew, it might already be on borrowed time.

Yes, rigorous cleaning may help somewhat, along with applying disinfectant to kill the spores, but chances are that your seats will require replacing within two seasons. The reason is that this problem is very much likely not to be a one-time thing.

In the case of disinfectants, a number of brands are available on the market. Also, you could use a homemade mixture of water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio. It is advised to avoid very strong agents such as bleach. Above all, it is strongly recommended to keep your boat covered whenever it is not in use.

Relevant Boat Resources:

Repair a Fiberglass Boat

How Do Boats Float: Step By Ste Guide?

Key Factor Determines a Boat’s Required Equipment?

How to Build a Wooden Boat?

Other Problems

Aside from mildew, more common problems that are likely to affect the cleanliness of your boat seats can be dealt with in a straightforward but committed way. Grimes, for example, can be dealt with by bringing out the cleaning tools.

Requirements for the Cleaning Process

Here are the things you will need to clean the boat seats

  • Marine Grade Vinyl Cleaner
  • Towel
  • 2 Pieces of Damp Clothes
  • Brush

The Cleaning Process

Once you have decided on your brand of choice for the cleaner, you need to follow the below step-by-step guide.  

Step 1: Apply the Cleaner 

You should begin by spraying the cleaner onto a small area of the seat and allowing it to stay there for a minute. It is essential to divide the seat into smaller parts that you clean individually, one at a time.

Step 2: Gently Brush the Areas

After the cleaner has set, start brushing the area gently. Ideally, you should brush in a circular pattern.

Step 3: Remove the Grimes with Damp Clothes

Afterwards, use a damp cloth to wipe and remove the grimes once the action of the cleaner has dislodged them. Use a second wet cloth to remove any excess cleaner left on the seats.

Step 4: Use a Dry Towel

And finally, use a dry towel to wipe away any water from the seat. Take special care to ensure that the cracks have been wiped dry.

Dealing with Mildew

Here’s how you need to deal with the mildew.

Magic Erasers

As mentioned, dealing with mildew, or in fact stains resulting from the long-time build-up of grimes, proves to be a greater challenge. Cleaners will no longer be enough to get the job done.

Thankfully though, a number of other tools are available to help you. For stains that have formed over time, one such tool is a magic eraser.

These are basically specialized sponges. The way to use them is simple. You simply wet one of the pads and use it to remove the stains. Once you are done, you should again use a damp piece of cloth to wipe the seat dry.

Mildew Stain Removers

As for mildew, you will require a mildew stain remover for marine vinyl. The method for using these is identical to the more regular cleaners that were described previously. Divide the seat into smaller areas, apply the stain remover, wait a minute, brush in a circle, wipe with a damp cloth, wipe with a dry towel.


Other Issues

Here are other seat-related issues you might face:


UV rays, in particular, can cause significant damage by causing the vinyl to crack and come off. The best means of protection against UV are bimini tops and UV protectants. The former is a structural modification that provides shade from sunlight, while the latter is a chemical that must be applied to the seats.

Physical Damage

Finally, there is the possibility of physical damage from accidents and mishaps. Such as seats being damaged by pieces of equipment on board. In these cases, it is advisable to have a Vinyl Repair Kit on board. This kit will have all you need to repair tears and other damage quickly before fungal infections can develop.

Vigilance Is Key

Vigilance and dedication both are of utmost necessity when it comes to looking after your boat seats. Be sure to be as regular and thorough with your routine cleaning as possible and respond quickly to any damage. If you give it the right care, you will undoubtedly be traversing the waters with that boat for a very long time.

Last Updated on March 9, 2021