Maintaining marine upholstery requires one or two annual deep cleans and periodic surface wipe-downs. After a boat sits for long enough, its upholstery will get dirty. Whether due to dust, dirt or the accumulation of grime and mildew, the upholstery is one of the first places that will start to show wear. You should keep up on the maintenance or else you will risk faded, cracked or ruined marine upholstery that will require replacement more quickly.
Step 1 - Clean Mildew off the Marine Upholstery
First clean off any mildew or mold that has accumulated on the vinyl upholstery of your boat. Mold and mildew grow after a season of disuse. Even if the boat is covered, you may find unwanted growth on the seats. Considering the boat's marine use, it is typical that some water would have remained that gave rise to mildew.
Mix a small amount of ammonia with 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Wearing latex gloves, thoroughly scrub the seats, both on top and underneath. Scrub down all vinyl surfaces until you remove all of the mildew.
Step 2 - Mix and Use the Cleaner
In the bucket, mix 1/2 gallon of water with about 2 tbsp. of dishwashing liquid. Once again, scrub the surface of the marine upholstery, below the seats, and all of the seams on the vinyl upholstery. You can soak hard-to-clean dirt and grime for a few minutes with the solution. After you finish scrubbing, wipe down all upholstery with a clean rag.
Step 3 - Apply Vinyl Protectant
Apply the 303 Aerospace Vinyl Protectant. This product will protect the marine upholstery from drying and cracking in the sun. By no means should you use a cleaning product that is not designed for vinyl, for it could inadvertently dry out the surface.
Step 4 - Consider Any Necessary Vinyl Repair (Optional)
Should the marine upholstery on your boat be damaged more than a simple cleaning can handle, consider professional marine vinyl repair. The best way to find a reputable repair facility is to check your local Yellow Pages or visit the nearest marine supply shop. There you should be able to get a reference for a marine upholstery specialist.
A Word on Replacement Versus Maintenance
Any new boat will be equipped with quality marine upholstery made to withstand constant contact with water. You can sometimes obtain better upholstery on the aftermarket, but if you clean and maintain the original vinyl, you have little reason to upgrade to a product that might be of a higher quality. You will still need to maintain a higher-quality vinyl. If you keep your marine upholstery clean, it should last just as long.