How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew

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What if I tell you that prolonged exposure to mildew can cause health problems for any age group?

This may include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Eye redness
  • Congestion
  • Throat infection
  • Nose bleeding
  • Asthma
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes

Alarming – isn’t it?

I will tell you how mere spots and stains on your vinyl boat seats affect your well-being.

Mildew – the Basics You Should Know

Mildew is a type of fungus that usually grows on the surface due to moisture. It usually begins in yellow, white or grey color, but turns into brown or black afterward.

Since its growth is flat on the surface, it can be easily removed.

You can come into contact by touching fungus-stricken surfaces. And you know that dirty hands are the primary source to get yourself infected.

Mildew causes bad odor for the travelers, and it seems offensive to sit on mildew-infested boat seats. 

Well, you must be thinking about how to get rid of mildew from your vinyl boat seats. Otherwise, you would decide to replace not only vinyl coverings but also the seat foam.

Don’t worry!

I would be your helping hand to get your stress away and save some money.

Take a look at the stepwise tips below to keep your boat clean and ready to sail wherever you go. 

Factors Behind Mildew

Before getting into the steps, understand what factors trigger mildew to appear and grow on vinyl boat seats.

Too Much Moisture in the Air

The probability of growing mildew on vinyl boat seats is very high where the air has a higher percentage of moisture. Since boats are water vessels, it’s inevitable for you to avoid the moisturizing air.

So, it’s an uncontrollable thing for you. What you can only do here is to be cautious whenever mildew starts appearing on your vinyl coverings.

Hot Weather

Some microorganisms are livable in winter while some in summer. Mildew likes to grow in quite hot weather. So, it’s likely to hit your seats on hot summer days.

Also, the sweat of the body in the hot weather makes a breeding ground for mildew.

But, being vigilant and taking proactive steps would stop the mildew’s growth.

How to Clean Mildew: A Stepwise Procedure

No matter which vinyl material you choose for your boat seats, the above two factors would remain beyond your control.

Mildew is a recurring thing which you might face twice in the summer, depending upon the humidity and temperature.

How to get rid of this fungus, keeping in view the low-cost budget and on-the-spot results?

Let’s dive in the much-awaited steps to clean your vinyl boat seats.

Spraying by Vinyl Cleaner

Roll up your sleeves and get to work.  

Get the cleaner spray that is specially made for vinyl. It’s better to use non-greasy spray being readily available in the market.

The chemical substances in the spray would help in restoring the colour and luster of vinyl coverings. Also, the spray contains ingredients that are not harmful to vinyl material.

All you need to do is to spray all over the boat seats without dilution. Leave it for about 10 minutes or longer so that chemical particles penetrate the vinyl completely.

Some people attempt to use regular household detergents or bleach to clean the vinyl seats. But believe me, this would turn into a complete mess. Bleach contains powerful chemical substances that can destroy your seat’s appearance.

Don’t get yourself involved in experimenting by making a mixture of different detergents and bleach.

Trying to save a little amount of money would drag you to a blind alley.

Scrubbing Softly With a Brush

When you feel that spray has taken enough time to take its effect on vinyl, it’s the right time to move into the next step.

Apply a flexible brush on vinyl and make sure that the spray fumes cover every inch of your seat covers. I would recommend that the brush should have:

  • non-scratch scrubber
  • non-slip handle
  • comfortable grip

Now start scrubbing softly with a brush on the affected patches. Don’t get rough while doing so. Otherwise, you may end up damaging the boat seat’s surface.

Don’t use a Drill Brush on vinyl seats, even if it has the fast rotary power. Nevertheless, it helps in cleaning fast with little effort.

Some people would suggest using a hard-pointed brush for scrubbing instead of a delicate brush. However, I won’t.

Scrubbing with a hard-pointed brush would create much friction, and there is a higher chance of damaging the vinyl.

Wiping off Mildew With a Microfiber Cloth

Once you’ve done scrubbing, the next step is quite unpleasant but viable.

Wipe off the mildew patches by using a microfiber cloth. Apply a piece of cloth firmly on your boat seats in a circular motion. Using fingers would also help in increasing penetration on mildew.

Repeat the process over and over again unless there are no remaining fumes on the vinyl surface.

This step requires soft hands to deal with. If you exert too much force on your seats, you will have to pay the price.

Why should you use a microfiber cloth? Let me get you into the details.

The microfiber fabric is made of polyester and nylon fiber. It’s about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair. Its smaller diameter, as compared to human hair, penetrates and removes germs so well that cotton and silk cloths can’t compete.

It’s made to wipe off the germs and stains without leaving any scratch or spot on the vinyl surface.

There is no need to throw out the used microfiber cloths because they’re washable and can be reused many times. They absorb water and any other liquid as well.

Most importantly, the microfiber cloths are highly preferred over cotton and silk due to their durability and low pricing.

That’s how the use of microfiber serves as a better tool for removing stains and patches.

Using Magic Eraser Just in Case

I’m pretty hopeful that you would manage to get rid of mildew if you follow the above steps. In case any stubborn mildew patch remains intact on your vinyl boat seats, this step will do the rest. 

Sometimes you need powerful cleaning tools to counter the stubborn stains. Magic Eraser is one of the cleaning products that would eliminate mildew once and for all.

Apply Magic Eraser on your vinyl boat seats to deal with remaining tough mildew patches. As and when you wipe it, you would see that mildew had never been there.

Afterward, use a clean microfiber cloth again to wipe off the remaining cleaning fluid, if any.

Spraying Ultraviolet Protectant

In my opinion, this step is as useful as the previous ones.

Once you get mildew-free vinyl boat seats, using an Ultraviolet protectant spray would hit the right chord.

The spray forms a protective layer on vinyl to offset the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. It would also help in restoring the new look on your boat seats.

Your vinyl boat seats have direct exposure to sun rays. The sun rays usually cause the vinyl seat’s original color to fade and get dull. But, the UV spray blocks the rays, which help in restoring color and luster.

So, I highly recommend you to use UV spray more often because it helps in preventing fading and cracking as well.

Not-To-Do Steps

While dealing with mildew on vinyl boat seats, I recommend not to replace vinyl coverings and seat foam with new ones. Instead, you should buy the cleaning stuff and get cleaning done by yourself.

Now, I will give you a precise list of steps that you should avoid while cleaning vinyl boat seats.

  • Using bleach or soap as a vinyl cleaner
  • Using home-made vinyl cleaner
  • Scrubbing with a hard brush
  • Rubbing with a cotton cloths
  • Using pointed cleaning tools
  • Splashing water onto the vinyl surface

Can You Prevent Mildew for a Lifetime?

Well, the simplest solution to prevent mildew from your vinyl boat seats for a lifetime is to keep your boat in dry space and never go sailing. But, you know it’s unrealistic.

What you can do is to be alert and take proactive steps whenever you see any mildew patches on vinyl boat seats. Don’t let mildew worsen the situation.

A little effort would save your boat, and there would be no health problems for travelers as well.


No one likes to travel in a boat with seats infested by mildew or any other microorganisms. The nasty grey, yellow or white patches might be enough to make travelers avoid using the boat.

This untoward situation would not only lead to embarrassment but also shorten the lifespan of the vinyl coverings.

If you decided not to go for the replacement, then spending a little amount of money can give you everything that you desire.

Just spray, brush and wipe off before you take a seat back.

And I believe you must be taking your boat back in the water soon.

In the end, keep a famous saying in your mind – One who maintains cleanliness keeps away from diseases.

Happy boating!