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Boat Seats

By Irene Vanina


Irina Vanina, a dedicated professional with over 20 years of expertise, established her company driven by a profound love for her craft. Specializing in handmade leather shoes and artisanal products, she leads a family-owned business that embodies meticulous attention to detail and a joyful approach.

Upholstery Advice

How to Clean Mildew from Vinyl Boat Seats in 6 Steps

Table of Content

There’s nothing like sailing through open waters on your very own boat. With all that freedom and adventure, however, comes great responsibility in the form of mildew on boats maintenance. Due to the combination of high heat and moisture, boat seats are susceptible to a buildup of mold and mildew. Removing mildew from boat seats is incredibly important to keeping your boat in good condition. 

Though it is possible to eliminate mildew on boats, it is important to learn how to get mold and mildew off of boat seats early so the damage does not go beyond repair. Getting to the point of having noticeable mildew is already a pretty serious sign, and seeing as mildew is a living thing, it will likely come back after cleaning off if not done properly. If removal isn’t an option or if removing mildew from boat vinyl seems a bit too complicated, you can always make the choice to reupholster. Reupholsering will give a clean appearance that helps your boat look good as new. 

As mentioned before, since mildew is a living thing, getting rid of it can often be an effort that doesn’t see results. Yes, you may scrub it off and see a difference, but the likelihood that it will come back is high. 

What You’ll Need to Get Rid of Mildew on Boat Vinyl Seats

Most manufacturers use vinyl as the material for their boat seats because it is known to withstand water and high heat, an environment that is very common when boating. However, even with this moisture-resistant material, it is still very possible to find mildew on boat cushions. 

If you do discover mold or mildew, you can attempt to address this issue with a few different materials. That being said, it is always best to turn to professionals, and more likely than not, they will recommend having your boat reupholstered.

Getting rid of mildew on vinyl boat seats will require the following items:

  • A soft brush
  • Bleach-free mold and mildew remover
  • Marine and UV protective spray
  • Magic eraser
  • Microfiber cloth.
Boat Vinyl Seat

How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew in 6 Steps

Once you’ve gathered all of your materials, it’s time to tackle the mold or mildew problem. These stains can develop and spread quickly, so there’s no time to waste in removing mildew from vinyl boat seats. As we said, scrubbing at mildew on your own may be a fruitless effort, and getting in touch with a professional team to reupholster your boat will be the best route. 

In the case you choose to try to clear your boat of mildew on your own, here are a few ideas to try to solve the issue. 

Step 1

To start removing mold from vinyl boat seats, you’ll need your bleach-free mold and mildew removing spray. Spray your cleaner onto the seats, and be sure to get into all the gaps between the seats. These spaces are easy to miss and hard to reach, but glossing over them will ensure that the mold or mildew problem comes back sooner than later. 

Once you’ve sprayed the seats, let the cleaner sink in for about five minutes, or longer for tougher stains. This will allow the chemical solution to break down the mold and mildew. Check the container instructions for the best results. 

Step 2

Now it’s time to scrub! To clean mildew from boat seats, it’s always best to use a soft brush, since it’s less likely to cause damage to the vinyl. Ideally, you’ll have used a high-quality mold and mildew remover that has already broken down much of the mold and mildew. Because of this, you don’t need much force to remove everything. Scrubbing too hard could also cause harm to the seats you’re aiming to preserve. As with spraying, don’t forget the gaps between the seats! Start with bigger sections that need it more, and then move on to smaller stains. 

Step 3

As you’re scrubbing, you’ll notice that mildew debris begins to accumulate on your seats. You’ll have to remove this next, and it would be best to do so with a microfiber cloth. If you can, you may even benefit from having multiple pieces of cloth ready. Microfiber material is much less likely to damage your vinyl seats. 

Once you have your microfiber cloth in hand, begin rubbing away the mildew debris in circular motions. Depending on the amount of mold or mildew, you may need multiple pieces of fabric to do this. You can also push the cloth with your finger to get into all the nooks and crannies of the seats. 

Step 4

Realistically, going through the first three steps of this process may not be enough to fully remove the stain in just one go. The steps for how to remove mildew from boat seats will likely need to be repeated some times before you achieve your desired result. Spray again and proceed with scrubbing and removing debris until you’re content with the appearance of the seat. If you’ve tried repeating the process a few times and the stain just won’t budge, there’s one more thing you can try — the magic eraser. 

Step 5

If you’ve gone over with a soft brush and microfiber cloth multiple times all to no avail, the magic eraser is your final line of defense. Even the most persistent, stubborn stains are no match for the cleaners in a magic eraser sponge, which makes removing mildew stains from boat seats much easier. 

Before using, wet the magic eraser. As with the soft brush, try not to press too hard with the eraser sponge, since this could cause damage to the vinyl material. Though you could certainly start the cleaning process with this step, not all stains require such heavy-duty cleaners, and it’s better to save the eraser for when you need it. 

Step 6

While it’s certainly important to know how to get mildew off of boat seats, preventative strategies are the best way to keep mold and mildew away. To prevent future mildew or mold growth, use a vinyl protectant spray that will shield your seats from future damage from UV rays and mildew. Some extra protectant can go a long way in making your seats look beautiful and good as new!

Clean Vinyl Boat Seats

Avoid Using Bleach Cleaning Boat Vinyl Seats

Because most boat seats are made from vinyl material, cleaning mildew on boat seats requires a bleach-free cleaner. You might be wondering why it’s so important to avoid using bleach on your seats. After all, isn’t bleach a well-known and highly effective cleaner? The answer is, yes, bleach is highly effective, but it’s also highly corrosive and damaging, particularly to vinyl. 

The reason manufacturers like vinyl for boat seats is that it is highly impervious to water. Bleach takes out the oils in the vinyl, which makes it less water-resistant and therefore more likely to develop mold or mildew in the future. Bleach can also affect the stitching of your seats, causing them to come apart much more quickly. 

How to Protect Vinyl Boat Seats from Mildew

In the long run, implementing good prevention and maintenance strategies will benefit you significantly. Fighting mildew on boats before it forms, whether your boat is brand new or recently reupholstered, is much easier than you might think. 

Mildew prevention in boats starts with the simple act of wiping down your wet seats before you leave them. Mold loves moisture, so going over your seats with a dry towel ensures you never give the mildew the right environment to form. Additionally, after drying it off, let the boat have time to dry off out of direct sunlight. It doesn’t hurt to get into the cracks every once in a while to make sure it’s dry. If your boat is in storage, maintaining a dry atmosphere and checking in occasionally is crucial. 


At Albo Restoration, we understand that nothing ruins the appearance of a boat like mold and mildew stains. By following a few simple steps, you can help prevent mildew from continuing to spread. However, in the case mildew is prevalent on your boat, it’s best to turn to an expert to reupholster your ship. Sometimes, even the most thorough cleaning isn’t enough to give you the finish you’re going for. If your vinyl seats look like they’re in need of reupholstering, contact Albo Restoration and get a quote today!

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