Boat Seat Cleaning 101


Dirty seats can be a deal-breaker when it comes to boats. You can get the exterior looking all good and polished. However, most customers will look first at the seats and then open up the compartments.

So, you better get those seats squeaky clean while protecting them from future stains.

In this article, you’ll find all the information you need about boat seat cleaning. Let’s begin!

How to Clean Boat Seats

Here’s how to clean both leather and vinyl seats in your boat.

Vinyl Seats 

Most boat seats are made of vinyl. Luckily, it’s an easy-to-clean material, and many cleaning products work well on it.

When it comes to cleaning vinyl boat seats, being gentle is the first thing you need to consider. Don’t use super harsh degreasers or bleach as they can damage the vinyl.

Instead, use Dawn dishwashing soap diluted with warm water. It’s recommended to use about a quarter cup of mild soap per gallon of water.

A product like 303 Marine Multi-Surface Cleaner cleans vinyl well, too, without causing any damage.

Another thing to consider is using the correct type of cleaning brushes. A nylon bristle brush can be harsh on vinyl. 

It’s recommended to use a soft bristle brush, microfiber rag, or detail brush. These are soft on vinyl but still clean it really well. 

Cleaning Routine

So, how to actually clean vinyl seats? Follow these steps to get your vinyl boat seats looking brand new again:

  1. Brush any debris or loose dirt off of the seats
  2. Spray your vinyl seats with your cleaning product of choice
  3. Work the product well into the fabric with a detail brush or a soft bristle brush and scrub all the stains off.
  4. Rinse the seats well and make sure not to leave any product residue
  5. Let the seats air dry if they’re in a well-ventilated area. If not, vacuum the seats or wipe them with a dry microfiber rag.

It’s essential to do this deep cleaning routine regularly during the season. This will prevent mold from forming and keep your seats looking clean.

In addition, you need to rinse your vinyl boat seats with water after each use. Your body oils and sunscreen can leave stains that can become stubborn if left untreated for an extended period. 

Rinsing it with water can be enough to remove these stains in the early stages and prevent them from turning into a bigger problem. It’s better to be safe than sorry later.

Removing Stubborn Stains

Sometimes, your simple cleaning routine can’t remove stubborn stains. If this is the case with your vinyl boat seats, a Magic Eraser can be the solution to your problem.

Magic Erasers are slightly abrasive; they scrub a tiny layer of your vinyl seats off to reveal a new, clean layer. So, it changes the grain of your vinyl seats.

That’s why it gives impressive results, but that’s also why it’s not recommended to use it regularly. It’s best to only use it as a last resort.

Here’s how to remove stubborn stains from vinyl boat seats safely:

  1. Spray the stain with your degreaser of choice or a diluted bleach mixture
  2. Work the product into the fabric with a detail brush or a soft bristle brush
  3. Scrub the stain with a Magic Eraser in circular motions. Remember to be gentle in this step to avoid damaging your vinyl seats
  4. Rinse the stain with water or wipe it off with a wet microfiber rag

Protecting/Sealing Routine

Just like you need to wax or seal the exterior of your boat, you need to seal your boat seats as well. This protects your boat seats from growing mold and makes them more resistant to UV damage and stains.

Sealing your boat seats must be done after every deep clean. Degreasers and dishwashing soaps remove the sealant layer off of vinyl and leave it vulnerable to the sun and mold.

It’s important to invest in a high-quality sealant. Cheap sealants leave a greasy, oil-like coating on top of your seats that can’t be easily wiped off.

The best type of sealant to use is ceramic sealants, but they come with a high price tag.

A good alternative is the 303 Marine Aerospace Protectant. This sealant lasts a long period and leaves a matte finish without this greasy coating that sits on top of your vinyl seat.

To successfully seal your vinyl boat seats:

  1. Spray the sealant on your seats
  2. Wipe them down with a clean, dry microfiber cloth to allow the vinyl to absorb the sealant

Leather Seats

Leather always gives a luxurious look to everything, from shoes to cars to boats. If you have leather seats in your boat, you’re in for a treat, but you need to be careful when cleaning them.

Similar to vinyl seats, you need to have a cleaning and sealing routine for your leather seats. 

Cleaning Routine

When it comes to cleaning leather fabrics, you have to be extra gentle. You can easily remove the leather dye or scar the fabric because of an abrasive brush or a harsh cleaner.

It’s important to only use soft bristle brushes on leather boat seats. As for the cleaner, it’s highly recommended to use a commercial leather cleaner.

303 Leather Cleaner works well on leather boat seats. Another product that is efficient as well is Leather Honey. Just make sure to follow the package instructions to use them the right way. 

To successfully clean leather boat seats:

  1. Vacuum the seats well and use the thin, edged attachment to remove all debris and dirt from every nook and cranny
  2. Dilute the leather cleaning product of your choice following the instructions on the package
  3. Spray the cleaning product on a small section and work it into the fabric with a soft-bristle detail brush
  4. With a damp microfiber rag, wipe off the product.
  5. Repeat the same process on all the seats working in small sections

It’s best to work in small sections to prevent the product from drying on the leather. If this happens, it can cause discoloration.

Note that you might need to repeat the cleaning process a couple of times to get the results you’re looking for.

Removing Stubborn Stains

You can try letting your leather cleaning product sit for a minute on the seats before scrubbing it with a soft bristle brush.

If this doesn’t work, then it’s time for your Magic Eraser to shine. However, this time, you need to soften it.

To do that, soak it in water until it becomes soft and flexible. This way, it won’t be too harsh on your leather boat seats.

When you’re cleaning your leather seats with a softened Magic Eraser, it’s important to scrub in a gentle circular motion. You should also apply the product to the Magic Eraser instead of directly on the leather.

This method should remove any stubborn stains from your leather boat seats. 

Protecting/Sealing Routine

If you want to keep your leather boat seats clean, you have to treat them with a sealant after every deep cleaning session. This step will make future stains way easier to clean.

All you need to do is to spray the sealant on a microfiber rag or pad and work it onto the fabric.

To Wrap Up

With a regular rinse after each use, you can maintain your boat seats. This is in addition to wiping them dry and keeping them in a well-ventilated area to avoid mold infestations.

Besides, you need to deep clean your boat seats regularly during the season, as well as reapply their protective coating to keep them looking brand new and prevent future stains.

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