How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew and Mold (Steps) - Pontooners (2023)

If you’re wondering how to clean vinyl boat seats of mildew and mold to bring back that showroom shine, we’ve got all the info you need.

Vinyl has long been the material of choice for boat seat upholstery. Long lasting and durable, vinyl provides excellent protective performance that keeps cushions soft and comfortable for years. But for as resilient as vinyl might be, they’re not really impervious to the effects of mold and mildew.

Over time, those vinyl boat seats might start to look like a hot, discolored mess. Toss in a bunch of black mold freckles, and it might be tough to find the courage to take a seat. That's why this guide will show you the right way to clean vinyl boat seats and what you will need to get the job done.

Table of Contents

(Video) Clean Boat Seats - Cleaning Mildew Stains On Vinyl

What You’ll Need

How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew and Mold (Steps) - Pontooners (1)How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew and Mold (Steps) - Pontooners (2)

Browse the web and you’ll find a ton of DIY videos explaining how to clean vinyl boat seats. But don’t buy everything you see. A lot of those videos do it for the views and don’t really have the best interest of your boat seats at heart. That said, it’s important that you buy these essential cleaning products to guarantee optimal results.

Mold and Mildew Stain Remover

Make sure you read the labels. Not all mold and mildew stain removers were formulated for use on vinyl seats. See to it that you’re buying a product that can clean vinyl upholstery to prevent damage to your boat seats.

Check out the Star Brite Mold & Mildew Stain Remover + Surface Cleaner.

Soft Bristle Brush

Check the bristles to make sure they’re soft to the touch. Anything that’s even slightly stiff could damage your vinyl, cause scuffing, and make it easier for contamination to make its way into crevices.

We like the Scrub Brush from Jieshke.

Microfiber Cloth

It might be tempting to use something a little more abrasive, but rough cloths and brushes can damage your upholstery. Stick to microfiber to guarantee smooth and gentle cleaning.

We recommend the Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth Pack.

Protectant Spray

Protectant spray can help keep your vinyl seats shielded from the elements. The extra barrier should make it tougher for mold and mildew to develop, extending the lifespan of your upholstery.

(Video) EASY CLEAN MOLD MILDEW BOAT VINYL SEATS + CARPET 2020 | TOTALLY AWESOME CLEAN

Try using the 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray.

Magic Eraser

This stuff works, that’s for sure. But since it can cause some abrasion, it’s recommended that you save this as a last resort in case your stain remover could use a hand.

There are tons of different products and home solutions for vinyl cleaning that litter the market, but we recommend sticking to these vetted choice for the time being. While many others might offer impressive results, expert boat owners have stated time and time again that many of those solutions can damage the integrity of your upholstery.

We totally love the Mr Clean Magic Eraser.

Step-by-Step Guide on Cleaning Vinyl Boat Seats

Cleaning vinyl boat seats might seem straightforward, but it’s important that you take the time to follow the right sequence to guarantee a proper cleaning. To prevent damage to your upholstery, make sure you follow these steps.

Spray Mold and Mildew Stain Remover

Take your mold and mildew remover spray and give a liberal spritz all over your seats. Pull back cushions where the seats might fold so you can really get into those nooks and crannies. As a general rule, you’re going to want to be generous with your application to really get the stuff to work.

Once everything is nice and coated in the spray, leave it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. This should help the formula really work its magic and eat away at those stubborn stains. If your mold and mildew stains aren’t too old, this might be all you need to get the job done.

Use a Soft Bristle Brush

In most cases, you’re going to want to give that stain remover a hand. And the best way to do that would be with a soft bristle brush. Work in small areas and target places on your seats where stains are most prominent.

To protect your seats’ upholstery, you’re going to want to make sure you’re not applying too much pressure with your brush. Let the gentle motions do the work for you. You’ll know it’s working when you get a bunch of dirt and debris rubbed off as you go.

(Video) Best Boat Vinyl Cleaner - How to remove mildew from boat seats?

Wipe Away with Microfiber Cloth

With the residue of dirt sitting on vinyl, it’s going to be tough to see whether the stain remover actually worked. At this point, it’s time to pull out your microfiber cloth to reveal the upholstery underneath and see how well the remover took effect.

Now, if you find that the stains have become lighter but are still noticeable, you can go ahead and repeat the previous steps up to three times. By then, you should be able to see more significant results that might not call for much else. But if your stains are a little too pronounced, then you can move on to the next step.

Rub Stains Off with Magic Eraser

Magic Eraser can work wonders to get rid of stubborn stains on vinyl upholstery, but try not to overdo it. The stuff can abrade your seats and cause micro-scratches on the surface where dirt, stains, and other contaminants can settle later on. So it pays to work as gently as possible.

Unlike your brush or spray, Magic Eraser can more effectively work into nooks and crannies to get rid of deep seated dirt. As you work it into the material, you’ll notice it creates a grayish debris from all the contamination on your seats. When you’re done, it would help to take your microfiber cloth and wipe away the stuff to reveal the Eraser’s effects.

*See our guide on: how to clean boat seats with Magic Eraser

Spray with Protectant

Before you call it a job well done, you can go ahead and spray on that protectant. Make sure you really get into the crevices between the cushions to get the best results. Wipe the protectant with a clean microfiber cloth until dry to maximize its benefits.

What NOT to Do When Cleaning Vinyl Boat Seats

How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew and Mold (Steps) - Pontooners (3)

(Video) How To Boat/Marine: Easy clean mold mildew from vinyl boat seats & interior

All of those viral videos of people cleaning boat seats might make you want to try something new and daring, but there are loads of ‘hacks’ out there that might do more harm than good. Keep your boat seats clean and safe from damage by avoiding these potentially harmful cleaning hacks and products:

Bleach

Recognized as the ultimate cleaning agent, bleach is often the first thing you might have in mind when faced with a tough stain. But strong bleach can eat away at vinyl and degrade its layers making it more prone to staining down the line.

Hard Bristle Brushes

It might feel like you’re going nowhere cleaning a stubborn stain with a gentle, soft bristle brush. But hard bristle brushes can damage your vinyl, scuff up its surface, and shorten its lifespan.

Excessive Pressure

Sometimes, things just feel cleaner when you use more force to get your results. But excessive pressure produces the same destructive results as undiluted bleach and hard bristle brushes.

Tips for Keeping Vinyl Boat Seats Clean

While it might be easy to get rid of mold and mildew stains if you’ve got the right products on hand, no one really wants to go through the process too often. To prevent mold and mildew stains from developing in the first place, keep these handy tips in mind.

Never Air Dry Your Seats

It might seem a lot more convenient to just leave your boat under the sun after a well-deserved wash to leave the heat and open air to dry it up for you. But even just the smallest amount of moisture can produce the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.

That’s why it’s always recommended that you dry your seats yourself to make sure no moisture is left behind.

Store Your Boat Properly

Storing your boat in a humid garage invites moisture to sit on your upholstery. Inspect your storage space and check its humidity levels. If there’s too much moisture in the air, then you defeat the purpose of drying your seats down in the first place. If your area is just naturally humid, you can try setting up a dehumidifier or even just a few buckets of charcoal to absorb extra moisture in the air.

Check the Weather

If you’re cleaning your boat seats, make sure you check the weather. You want to schedule your little cleaning project on a sunny day to help the seats dry up more efficiently. Avoid performing any washing that involves water if you’re expecting a rainy day ahead as this can slow down the drying process and cause moisture to seep into the upholstery.

(Video) Clean & Protect Vinyl Boat Seats ( Properly )

As Good as New

Knowing how to clean vinyl boat seats of mildew can save you from expensive replacements (learn how to replace pontoon seats) and even extend the lifespan of your trusty upholstery. But since vinyl can be prone to certain damages, it pays to know the proper process and to use the right cleaning materials for the job. With appropriate cleansers and tools, and by following our step by step, you should be able to restore that showroom sheen to breathe new life into your vinyl boat seats - no matter how tired they might be.

FAQs

How do you remove mold and mildew from vinyl boat seats? ›

Alcohol wipes work well to remove mold and mildew stains from the surface of your vinyl seats. Avoid using harsh cleaners that contain ammonia, bleach, Windex or Simple Green. They can easily scrub off or sand down the material.

Can you use CLR mold and mildew remover on vinyl boat seats? ›

The CLR Mold & Mildew Clear was the only one that worked well on the vinyl seats and luckily NO SMELL!”I am happy that CLR Mold & Mildew Clear was able to clean your vinyl seats. Our stain remover is a bleach-free formula designed to eliminate tough mold and mildew surface stains from a variety of surfaces.

What kills black mold on vinyl? ›

Water And Vinegar Solution + Some Elbow Grease. 30% white vinegar mixed with 70% water, makes a great all-purpose vinyl siding cleaner that will remove light mold and mildew stains.

Will vinegar remove mold from boat seats? ›

If you don't want to spend the hard-earned cash on replacing your seats and you're willing to clean the white vinyl boat seats, there are a number of boat seat cleaners you can choose from designed for attacking mildew stains. You can also try cleaning with a 50/50 home-brew mix of white vinegar and water.

Can you use Magic Eraser on vinyl boat seats? ›

You can use Magic Eraser on vinyl floors, vinyl siding, and vinyl boats seats, and get amazing results as shown in the photo above. For example, in high traffic areas on your boat such as walkways and decks, you're going to get a lot of muddy footprints, dirt, grease, and more nasty stuff.

What is difference between mold and mildew? ›

Mildew refers to certain kinds of mold or fungus. The term mildew is often used generically to refer to mold growth, usually with a flat growth habit. Molds include all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments, called hyphae.

What is the best mold and mildew remover for vinyl boat seats? ›

1. Star Brite Mold & Mildew Stain Remover. The Star Brite Mold & Mildew Stain Remover is the answer to my question of how to clean white vinyl boat seats. This product works like magic as it not only whitens but also removes mold and mildew stains on my boat seats.

How do you remove mildew from boat upholstery? ›

Clean Boat Seats - Cleaning Mildew Stains On Vinyl - YouTube

Can you use bleach on vinyl boat seats? ›

When cleaning on your boat, avoid using bleach, as it can deteriorate the stitching on marine vinyl. Also avoid alcohol-based cleaners, which can cause dryness and cracking. To clean and deodorize your vinyl upholstery and boat seats, use a non-abrasive cleaner that won't damage the surface or clog the vinyl pores.

What is the best mold and mildew remover? ›

Our Top Picks
  • Best Overall: RMR-86 Instant Mold and Mildew Remover 11% OFF.
  • Runner Up: Star Brite Mold and Mildew Remover.
  • Honorable Mention: HOME ARMOR Mold and Mildew Remover 51% OFF.
  • Also Consider: CLR Mold and Mildew Remover.
  • Boater's EDGE Mold and Mildew Remover.
  • RMR-86 Pro Mold and Mildew Remover 13% OFF.
3 Aug 2021

How do you restore vinyl boat seats? ›

To restore faded vinyl boat seats:
  1. Vacuum up the loose dirt from the vinyl boat seats.
  2. Wash the seats with warm water, soap and a sponge.
  3. Dry the seats with a towel or cloth.
  4. Spray a marine vinyl paint restorer onto the vinyl seats.
  5. Softly wipe the seats with towel.

How do you remove mildew from vinyl fabric? ›

How to get mildew out of vinyl seats - YouTube

Will vinegar hurt vinyl seats? ›

Vinyl Seat Cleaner

Some vinyl upholstery cleaners are also formulated with water and stain resistant properties, like Scotchguard and Rustoleum, which can help protect your fabric over time. You can also opt for the all-natural route by cleaning vinyl seats with vinegar.

Is Dawn dish soap safe for boat seats? ›

The chemical compounds in standard dish soap can break down the cushion's materials and, over time, will permanently damage the vinyl. It is important to use a proper marine upholstery cleaner as they are formulated with marine-grade UV protection compounds that prevent long-term sun damage.

How do you remove mildew from vinyl chairs? ›

Kill Mold on Vinyl

Bleach is no more effective than alcohol or distilled white vinegar but is more toxic. It does, however, work faster (let it sit only a few minutes and wipe dry). It also lightens the remaining stains most effectively. Some customers have also reported success with Marine 31® Mildew Remover.

What is the best way to clean vinyl boat seats? ›

Soap and Water - Warm Dish Soap and Water is the best way to safely clean Marine Vinyl. It may take some elbow grease, but if you clean your material every few weeks this method is the safest.

Can you use Simple Green to clean boat vinyl? ›

To clean and deodorize your vinyl upholstery and boat seats, use a non-abrasive cleaner that won't damage the surface or clog the vinyl pores. Simple Green Marine All-Purpose Cleaner is biodegradable*, so it's safer for the environment than harsh chemical cleaners.

Will vinegar get rid of mildew? ›

Does vinegar kill mildew and mold? Vinegar has antifungal and antibacterial properties, and it can be a cheap and effective treatment for many types of mold. Household white vinegar typically contains about 5 to 8 percent acetic acid.

Which is worse mold or mildew? ›

Without a doubt, mold is worse than mildew. According to American Home Shield, “the difference between mold and mildew is that unlike mildew, certain types of toxic molds can result in serious health problems for you and your family.” Black mold, in particular, is dangerous for humans.

Does mold grow on vinyl? ›

Vinyl siding is a popular addition to the exterior of homes because it's known for being durable and affordable. But there is a downside to this material, and it's that mold and mildew tend to grow on vinyl siding.

Can you use bleach on vinyl boat seats? ›

When cleaning on your boat, avoid using bleach, as it can deteriorate the stitching on marine vinyl. Also avoid alcohol-based cleaners, which can cause dryness and cracking. To clean and deodorize your vinyl upholstery and boat seats, use a non-abrasive cleaner that won't damage the surface or clog the vinyl pores.

How do you get mold off vinyl car seats? ›

How to Remove Mold & Mildew from Car Seats • Cars Simplified - YouTube

How do you get black stains out of boat seats? ›

Spray CLR mold and mildew stain remover over the vinyl boat seats and leave for 5 minutes. Then take a soft brush, use scrub lightly to loosen up mold and dirt, and wipe away with a microfiber cloth. Repeat this step as many times as you can, then with any remaining stubborn mold, wipe gently with a Magic Eraser.

How do you restore vinyl boat seats? ›

To restore faded vinyl boat seats:
  1. Vacuum up the loose dirt from the vinyl boat seats.
  2. Wash the seats with warm water, soap and a sponge.
  3. Dry the seats with a towel or cloth.
  4. Spray a marine vinyl paint restorer onto the vinyl seats.
  5. Softly wipe the seats with towel.

What will take mold off boat seats? ›

Clean Boat Seats - Cleaning Mildew Stains On Vinyl - YouTube

Will vinegar hurt vinyl seats? ›

Vinyl Seat Cleaner

Some vinyl upholstery cleaners are also formulated with water and stain resistant properties, like Scotchguard and Rustoleum, which can help protect your fabric over time. You can also opt for the all-natural route by cleaning vinyl seats with vinegar.

What is the best way to clean vinyl boat seats? ›

Soap and Water - Warm Dish Soap and Water is the best way to safely clean Marine Vinyl. It may take some elbow grease, but if you clean your material every few weeks this method is the safest.

Is vinegar or bleach better for killing mold? ›

Is Vinegar More Effective Than Bleach? Vinegar truly is better than cleaning with bleach when it comes to killing mold. The EPA does not recommend using bleach to kill or remove mold, except in special circumstances. In most cases, “a background level of mold spores will remain” after the application of bleach.

Can I leave vinegar on mold overnight? ›

Spray vinegar onto the moldy surface and leave it for an hour. Then wipe the area clean with water and allow the surface to dry. Any smell should clear within a few hours. While it's safe to use on most surfaces, vinegar is unlikely to be effective at cleaning mold off of soft surfaces.

What kills mold on car upholstery? ›

Baking soda kills mold

Simply sprinkle the powder on the affected area and vacuum after several hours. If the mould is not visible, keeping a container of baking soda in your car will absorb excess moisture. If you do not have baking soda handy, you can use an open bag of rice. This method works on all types of seats.

Can you use hydrogen peroxide to clean boat seats? ›

Step 1 – Clean upholstery mold

It is advisable to avoid any cleaning solution with strong chemicals. Instead, use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and hot water in a one to one ratio.

What ingredients are in mold and mildew remover? ›

Ingredients from the label
  • Alcohols, C9-11, Ethoxylated. Alcohol ethoxylates (C9-11)
  • Lauramine Oxide. LAURAMINE OXIDE.
  • Tripropylene Glycol n-Butyl Ether. TRIPROPYLENE GLYCOL BUTYL ETHER.
  • Sodium Gluconate. SODIUM GLUCONATE.
  • Potassium Bicarbonate. ...
  • Methy Glycine Diacetic Acid, Trisodium Salt. ...
  • Sodium (S)-Lactate.

What is the black dots on boat seats? ›

Mold is a fungus that mars your perfectly white vinyl seats. The black dots ruin your boat's beauty and make it difficult for people to decide whether they should sit down or stay standing. Moreover, they also diminish the value of your boat.

How do you remove mildew from vinyl? ›

Kill Mold on Vinyl

Bleach is no more effective than alcohol or distilled white vinegar but is more toxic. It does, however, work faster (let it sit only a few minutes and wipe dry). It also lightens the remaining stains most effectively. Some customers have also reported success with Marine 31® Mildew Remover.

How do you make vinyl seats look new? ›

Step 1 – Apply vinyl cleaner (or any other cleaner mentioned above) with a soft cloth or brush to remove any dirt or debris that may be stuck to the surface and let dry. Step 2 – Use a soft cloth to apply oil into the vinyl surface until the vinyl begins to relax and become soft and moisturized.

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