Homemade Vinyl Cleaner for Boat Seats: Ingredients Needed

homemade vinyl cleaner for boat seats

When your boat first left the showroom, it probably looked nothing less than a pristine, polished watercraft. But give that boat a few spins on the local lake or shore, and you’ll find that stains, discoloration, and dirt become inevitable. Of course, the rest of your boat might be pretty easy to clean. But what about those delicate vinyl upholstered seats?

Stained seats can be uninviting. So it’s important that you clean them regularly to prevent discoloration and blemishes that might make your guests think twice about having a seat. And while you might be able to buy effective cleaners, you can also make homemade vinyl cleaner for boat seats with what you have at home.

Store-Bought Cleaners for Vinyl Boat Seats

If you don’t really have time to mix ingredients together and you want to get the job done as quickly and easily as possible, you can always cop a few cleaning products at your local grocery or online. Here are some of the best products for cleaning vinyl boat seats:

Mold and Mildew Stain Remover

mildew stain remover for vinyl seats

Here’s a formula you can try if you’re dealing with mold and mildew stains. The formulation comes in a spray bottle and works to get rid of stubborn black flecks and discoloration caused by mold and mildew.

It works great on younger stains and provides a smooth finish after use. For more stubborn stains, the blend can work just as well if you apply generously more than once per cleaning session.

We recommend the Star Brite Mildew Stain Remover.

Magic Eraser

magic eraser to clean vinyl seats on pontoon

This stuff is more of a last resort since it can cause damage when used excessively. But if you want to get rid of really deep seated stains, then Magic Eraser would be the solution.

The stuff buffs out all sorts of contamination and works to get rid of dirt and stains even in the tightest crevices, nooks, and crannies of your vinyl upholstery. Keep in mind though that it can be abrasive, so using it with gentle strokes should be ideal.

We like the Mr Clean Magic Eraser.

Vinyl Cleaner

vinyl cleaner

Of course, vinyl cleaners already exist. This stuff helps protect vinyl, prevent stains, and get rid of cosmetic issues that might make it look tired and worn.

It makes a great choice if you’re looking for a store-bought solution that you can use regularly without having to worry about damaging your upholstery. Keep in mind though that it might not be as effective on tougher stains caused by mold and mildew.

Check out the Star Brite Ultimate Vinyl Cleaner.

Ingredients for Homemade Vinyl Boat Seat Cleaner

Not everything in your kitchen can work to clean vinyl. In fact, a lot of the ingredients you can use to clean your boat seats might not be the ingredients that are first in your mind. So to help you formulate the right cleaner blend, here are a list of home essentials you can use:


White vinegar contains lots of acetic acid which melts away all sorts of contamination. While it might not be great for cleaning vinyl seats on its own, a diluted vinegar formula should help you achieve those squeaky clean outcomes you’ve been dreaming of.

Liquid Dish Soap

If you’re not really dealing with stubborn stains and you really just need to give your boat seats a routine wash, then liquid dish soap might be all you need. With just the right cleansing power, and zero harsh chemicals, liquid dish soap is the perfect mild cleanser for getting vinyl seats up to code.

Distilled Water

Most people think they can use any clean water to clean a boat. But experts will tell you that distilled is best. The distillation process gets rid of any minerals in the water. That means that when you use it to clean your boat, it won’t add to or exacerbate any existing hard water spots that might have developed as a result of minerals in water.

Club Soda

Club soda, also known as seltzer water, carbonated water, or sparkling water - is essentially water with carbon dioxide. It does contain some salts, which helps it work as a weak acid. The bubbly, fizzy formula can help dissolve certain contaminants, which is why it’s been known as a suitable cleaner for boat and car seats.

Cleaners to Avoid Using on Boat Seats

There are a few obvious cleaners you have at home that you might want to try on your boat seats. But before you grab that bottle of chemical, make sure it’s not on this list to avoid damaging your vinyl upholstery.


Bleach is probably the firs thing on anyone’s mind when faced with a cleaning task. But the harsh chemicals in bleach can melt away the outermost surface of your vinyl upholstery, causing bacteria, contaminants, and dirt to cling more easily to the surfaces underneath. This doesn’t only make it easier for your seats to look dirty but also shortens the lifespan of your vinyl.


Ethyl, isopropyl, methyl - what have you. Rubbing alcohol might be great for disinfecting surfaces around your home, or even your hands. But that stuff can erode your seats and even exacerbate certain types of contaminants. As a general rule, harsh chemicals should be a no-no for cleaning vinyl boat seats.

Detergent Powder

Or any powder for that matter. Most often, powders leave a grainy feel because they don’t always dissolve completely. As you rub your boat seats, you actually end up scratching off the surface with the suds, eroding the material and making it more prone to stains and damage down the line.

Making Homemade Vinyl Cleaner for Boat Seats

You can pretty much get away with using just the ingredients listed above for cleaning your vinyl boat seats. With a proper cleaning schedule and appropriate technique, all of these household ingredients can be more than enough to keep your boat seats looking clean and fresh.

To make a vinyl cleaner with vinegar, follow these steps:

  1. Measure 1 part vinegar and 1 part distilled water
  2. Mix together until fully combined
  3. Add to a spray bottle for easy application

If you’re using dish soap, you can try this formula:

  1. Measure 1 gallon of water and 1/4 cup of dish soap
  2. Mix together until fully combined
  3. Add to a spray bottle for easy application

As for club soda, you won’t really need to dilute it in water so you can use it as is straight from the bottle or can. Club soda is often reserved for spot treatment, but it might be able to work as a general, all-purpose vinyl boat seat cleaner nonetheless.

How to Use Homemade Vinyl Cleaner

cleaning vinyl boat seats

In general, you’re going to follow the same steps to use your homemade vinyl cleaner to get rid of stains and discoloration, and to get your seats looking clean. If you’re not quite sure what to do or how to use your homemade solution whether its vinegar, club soda, or dish soap, just follow these steps:

Wipe Your Seats

You’re going to want to get rid of any debris or dirt that might be on the seats. Use a clean microfiber cloth to get rid of any dust or contamination that might not need anything more than just a wipe down. Try to get off any dirt that could impede the cleaning power of your homemade solution.

Spray Generously

Once your seats are free from debris, spray generously with your homemade cleaner. Pull away the cushions where they fold together so you can reach into crevices, nooks, and crannies that might be out of reach.

Leave it On

After you spray your solution, leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes so it can completely work its magic and get rid of any stains or discoloration on the material. For more stubborn stains, you can extend your wait time up to 25 or 30 minutes, depending how long you think your seats might need it.

Work Away Stains

With a soft bristle brush or a microfiber towel, gently rub away any problem areas. Work with small circular motions to effectively remove stains without damaging the vinyl. Remember to use soft materials when rubbing the upholstery since stiff bristles and rough cloths can erode the outermost surface of your vinyl.

Repeat the Process

You should be able to see results with the first cycle of cleaning. But if you feel like you could get your seats looking even cleaner and brighter with a second cycle, then go ahead and give it a whirl. For maintenance, you should try to clean your vinyl seats at least twice a month to prevent stubborn stains from forming.

Bright and Shiny

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as looking at a set of freshly cleaned boat seats. But if it’s time to clean your seats and you’re all out of store-bought cleaner, then you might be able to whip up homemade vinyl cleaner for boat seats with the stuff in your kitchen. Of course, it might not be able to remove really, really stubborn stains. But for the purpose of routine cleaning, these DIY formulations should be more than enough.

Scroll to Top