A Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Boat's Interior

Cleaning your boat's interior maintains its water-resistant, antimicrobial and nonskid properties while preventing mold and mildew growth. Using the right cleaning solutions and supplies is essential to preventing damage to your boat's interior surfaces. Before cleaning your boat, gather the proper cleaners and learn about the correct process for each interior surface.

Your boat's interior is exposed to engine exhaust, foot traffic, humidity, ultraviolet (UV) rays, rain and salt water each time you use it, but consistent cleaning keeps the interior's fine details shining and beautiful. 

Maintaining interior components and surfaces benefits your boat in the following ways:

  • Appearance and comfort: A clean boat is attractive and comfortable. Cleaning the interior helps maintain its gorgeous craftsmanship. Scrubbing and polishing surfaces brings out their shine, and keeping your upholstery clean makes the boat a comfortable place to relax on the water. Cleaning also helps your boat's interior smell fresh by eliminating odors.
  • Mold and rust prevention: You can prevent mold and rust by maintaining your boat's interior components. A boat's upholstery and metal surfaces are exposed to rain, salt water and humidity, which can gradually corrode a surface or facilitate mold growth. Cleaning each surface protects it from rust and mold.
  • Longevity: Cleaning your boat's interior also increases its longevity. Maintaining a consistent cleaning schedule reduces the frequency you need to reupholster your boat's seating, replace carpeting or schedule repairs.
  • Return on investment: Maintaining a clean boat interior can help you receive a higher return on investment if you decide to eventually upgrade. Potential buyers are more likely to pay a higher price for a boat that is well-maintained, attractive and in excellent condition.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Boat's Interior

What You Need to Clean Your Boat's Interior

Before you begin cleaning, have the following items nearby:

  • A stiff bristle brush
  • A standard vacuum and wet-vacuum
  • Fans
  • Soft cloths or microfiber wash mitts
  • Gentle soap
  • An all-purpose cleaner
  • Gentle cleaner for high-gloss and varnished surfaces
  • Marine vinyl cleaner for stained vinyl surfaces
  • Vinyl protectant to apply after removing tough stains from upholstered surfaces
  • Vinegar and baking soda for fabric cushions
  • A no-bristle plastic scrubber
  • A stiff bristle brush for nonslip fiberglass surfaces
  • Oil-based soap for teak surfaces
  • Metal cleaner

You can use antibacterial solutions or all-purpose cleaners on hard surfaces, but you should use specific, gentle cleaners for special surfaces such as teak, vinyl and nonskid fiberglass. Make sure the cleaner you use for these surfaces contains no harsh chemicals. If you're cleaning a part of your boat that comes into contact with water, remember to choose an environmentally safe cleaning agent.

How to Clean Boat Interior Fabric Upholstery

Your boat's interior most likely contains vinyl upholstery, but you may also have some fabric cushions for additional comfort. Fabric and vinyl materials require different cleaning solutions and processes, so consider the following steps for each material:

Fabric Cushions

You can clean your boat's fabric cushions with the following steps:

  1. Remove the covers and wash them in a machine on the cold cycle.
  2. Hang the covers to dry to avoid shrinkage.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda on each side of the foam cushions.
  4. Leave the baking soda on the cushions for a few hours.
  5. Shake the cushions to remove the baking soda.
  6. Fill a spray bottle halfway with water and the remaining half with vinegar, then mist the cushions.
  7. Place the cushions in a well-ventilated area until the vinegar odor dissipates.
  8. Spray the cushions with a hose and squeeze the water out several times until the water runs clear.
  9. Let the cushions air-dry before replacing the covers.

Vinyl Upholstery

Most factories that manufacture vinyl upholstery for boating purposes treat the vinyl with antimicrobial substances — substances that eliminate or slow microorganisms such as mold, mildew, viruses and bacteria from growing. Antimicrobial-treated vinyl provides long-term mold and mildew defense, so it's important to maintain your vinyl upholstery's antimicrobial properties. 

Avoid using cleaners with harsh chemicals because they can strip your vinyl seats of their antimicrobial surfaces. Instead, wipe your vinyl seats clean with water, gentle soap and a soft rag or microfiber wash mitt approximately once a month. Address any significant stains with the following steps:

How to Clean Interior Boat Carpet

How to Clean Interior Boat Carpet

Most boat interiors contain marine carpet, which is water-resistant and easier to clean than a home's carpeting. You can clean your boat's carpet effectively with the following steps:

  • Park your boat on an incline so water can flow off the carpet via gravity if possible.
  • Remove dirt using a vacuum.
  • Use soap, water and a stiff bristle brush to scrub the carpet.
  • Use a wet-vacuum to suction excess water from the carpet.
  • Turn the air conditioning system and fans on to accelerate drying.

Vacuum your boat's carpet after each boat trip and deep clean it two to three times a year or as needed, like after any gas or oil spills.

How to Clean Interior Teak on a Boat

Teak is a stable, rot-resistant wood that requires gentle cleaning to maintain its durability. Rinse particles from the teak deck with water each day or each time you use the boat. Rinsing removes particles and prevents wear and tear from foot traffic. 

You should also scrub teak surfaces gently with a no-bristle plastic scrubber, oil-based soap and water before each spring commissioning. Soap may leave some teak with a slightly gray appearance, but it is more gentle than chemical-based cleaners and will not damage the surface or seam compound. Only replenish the teak's natural oils with teak oil if necessary. Limiting your use of teak oil prevents the oil's solvents from damaging the seam compound.

How to Clean Fiberglass

While you can wax most fiberglass surfaces, you should avoid waxing nonslip fiberglass. Nonslip fiberglass surfaces have a molded, nonskid gel coat that can lose its nonslip properties when waxed. To clean this type of surface, scrub it with soap, water and a stiff bristle brush. Only use a cleaner containing bleach if necessary to tackle tough stains, and make sure to rinse it thoroughly.

Follow fiberglass nonslip surface cleaning with a specialized nonskid treatment solution, which helps nonslip surfaces shine without making them slippery.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew

You can also prevent mold and mildew in your boat's interior with the following strategies:

  • Disinfectant wipes: Wipe any hard, nonporous surfaces with disinfectant wipes to eliminate mold spores.
  • Dehumidifiers: Another excellent way to prevent mold and mildew in your boat's interior is to place a couple of dehumidifiers in spaces that are most prone to humidity, such as the galley or shower.
  • Dehumidifier buckets: A dehumidifier bucket contains pellets that absorb moisture to help control humidity and prevent musty odors. Place a dehumidifier bucket in each room of your boat's interior to decrease humidity levels and prevent mold and mildew growth.

Purchase Quality Cleaning Solutions From Fawcett Boat Supplies

Purchase Quality Cleaning Solutions From Fawcett Boat Supplies

Cleaning your boat's interior maintains its comfort, appearance and longevity. Using safe, gentle cleaners on your boat's surfaces is essential to protecting their specialized antimicrobial, nonskid or water-resistant properties. Fawcett Boat Supplies offers high-quality cleaning solutions to clean your boat safely and effectively. Browse our wide selection of cleaning solutions, compounds and supplies made specifically for boat surfaces.

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