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How do I Care for Boat Upholstery?

By Nychole Price
Updated May 23, 2024
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Boat upholstery suffers more wear and tear than that of a car or house. This is because the boat is exposed to the elements, to include direct sunlight and water, and is usually stored outside on the water. Caring for your boat upholstery involves regularly cleaning it and keeping it protected.

Proper storage of your boat is key to protecting the upholstery. If a boat sits outside in the sun all day, fabric upholstery may become sun bleached while leather and vinyl upholstery may dry out and crack. Caring for boat upholstery involves storing your boat in a garage, or under a carport. If you must store your boat on the water or in a driveway, cover the upholstery with a plastic drop cloth and envelope the upholstered end of the boat with a fitted cover. During the fall and winter months, if you don't plan on taking out your boat, consider placing it in a storage facility.

When taking your boat out on the water, try to keep the upholstery as dry as possible. Although it is inevitable that you will get your upholstery wet from time to time, you don't want it to soak into the foaming. When the foam gets wet, the upholstery begins to rot. Wet people should sit on towels to avoid saturating the upholstery and spills should be wiped up immediately.

Cleaning your boat upholstery regularly will extend the life of it by several years. Boat upholstery comes in fabric, vinyl and leather materials. The type of material you have determines how it should be cleaned.

Fabric boat upholstery is the most difficult to care for. It soaks up water like a sponge, which will quickly penetrate to the foam. Applying a fabric protectant will extend the life of the upholstery, as water and other spilled liquids will bead up and roll off. Clean the upholstery with standard fabric cleaner every couple of weeks, depending on use. After cleaning, spray the upholstery with a UV protectant to prevent sun damage.

Vinyl boat upholstery is one of the easiest types to care for. Spills wipe right off, preventing stains from developing. When cleaning this type of upholstery, use a specific vinyl cleaner, to prevent the material from becoming dry. Spray the upholstery and wipe it down with a cloth that has been barely dampened. Spray the vinyl a special vinyl protective finish to prevent sun damage.

Very few boats have leather upholstery, as it is easily damaged by the sun. To prevent over-drying, leather upholstery must be cleaned with a neutral soap, or one that has a pH balance of seven. Spray the leather with the cleaner and wipe it with a dry cloth. Apply a leather conditioner that contains a UV protectant at least once a week, to keep it soft and pliable. Avoid keeping the leather upholstery in direct sunlight for longer than necessary.

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Discussion Comments
By anon317991 — On Feb 05, 2013

My boat upholstery has faded from white to beige in one area. Can I bleach it white again, carefully, with a diluted bleach?

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