How Do You Get Black Stains Out of Pontoon Carpet?

It takes a lot to keep your pontoon boat looking showroom ready. And if you’re pulling back the covers after a long winter in storage, you might find yourself facing a brand new cleaning conundrum - black spots on your expensive pontoon carpets. Unsightly and tough, these stains might look like they’re here to stay. But there are ways to get them out.

So, exactly how do you get black stains out of pontoon carpet? If you’re hoping to get this done DIY-style and you’ve got a free day, here’s everything you need to know about getting rid of those stubborn spots.

What You’ll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Two buckets
  • Warm water
  • A soft sponge or rag

Optional Items

  • Bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Pressure washer
  • Dry and wet vacuum 

Keep in mind that the bleach should come in as a last resort. That’s because some carpet materials might not take too well to such a harsh chemical. Because these black spots are caused by mold, some boat owners recommend using vinegar which is known to kill mold (on a side note - check out our thoughts on using vinegar to clean pontoons and vinegar for pontoon seats).

On the downside, vinegar can leave a rather pungent odor on carpet, which entails a secondary cleaning to get rid of the smell. If you’re dealing with really tough mold stains, then you might want to consider investing in a pressure washer or a dry and wet vacuum, which we’ll talk about more later in this guide.

How to Clean Black Stains on Pontoon Carpet

soft bristle brush to remove black stains from pontoon carpets

First assess your stains - do they look aged and stubborn, or are they fairly new? Newer stains might come off with milder techniques, which is why it helps to start off with a preliminary cleaning. Follow these steps to clean your carpet with as little damage as possible:

Prepare Your Cleaning Solution

Dilute some dish soap in a bucket of water so that it’s still bubbly but doesn’t produce a thick lather. Make sure you have a separate sponge for this soapy water mix. In the other bucket, set aside some clean warm water. Don’t mix anything in.

If you’re looking to try the vinegar hack, you can add one part vinegar with one part water and mix them together in a spray bottle. Set that aside for later. Make sure you have your bleach at the ready in case these solutions don’t produce the desired results.

Soak with Soapy Water

Take your bucket of soapy water and dab the solution on the black spots. Work it in with small, circular motions to make sure the water and soap really get into the material. Don’t worry about applying pressure since pontoon carpets are usually designed for high traffic. Leave it on to soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

Once that’s done, take your warm, clean water and rinse away the soap. You should see the stains fade as you dab away the soap with clean water. You can repeat the process if you feel like a second cycle would help lighten the stains further.

If it works, feel free to clean the entire carpet surface area with the same solution. This should help you achieve a nice, even clean, and may prevent other mildew spores from developing into mold stains.

Spray with Vinegar

If your soapy water mix didn’t quite do the job, then you might want to try your vinegar mix. Take your spray bottle and give a generous spritz directed at your target areas. Again, let the mix soak for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the vinegar to work its magic.

Take a soft bristle brush and scrub the stains away, making sure to work the vinegar mix into the material. Then take your warm water, dip in your sponge or rag, and use it to wipe away the residual vinegar. By now, your black stains should be significantly lightened.

We find this Scrub Brush with Soft Bristles to work a treat.

Try the Bleach

Again, bleach and vinegar are optional steps, which means you should only try them if the dishwashing soap didn’t work. When using bleach, mix four parts water with on part bleach to temper the strength of the cleaning agent. Again, work in spots to prevent damaging the whole of your carpet.

Let the solution soak for 5 to 10 minutes, and then rub away with a clean damp cloth. In most cases, this should completely get rid of those stubborn black stains. But then again, it’s not always a hundred percent effective.

What If the Stains Are Still There?

wet dry vacuum to clean black stains from pontoon carpet

If you’ve tried dish soap, vinegar, and bleach, and the stains are still there, then it might be time to pull out the big guns. A pressure washer can effectively blast out stubborn stains with a high pressure jet of water. They can be expensive, but if you’re looking to keep your pontoon in top shape, then a pressure washer can be a worthy investment.

The Sun Joe SPX3001 is a relatively affordable pressure washer that’s received lots of great reviews online. The machine works to blast off mold stains, taking away other contaminants and dirt with it. Do keep in mind though that a pressure washer will leave a lot of water on deck, which means you’ll have to use it on a relatively sunny day.

Check out the Sun Joe Electric Pressure Washer with Hose Reel.

While most boat owners have successfully dried out a carpet by simply leaving it out in the sun to dry, there’s really nothing stopping you from using a dry and wet vacuum. Aside from sucking out that excess moisture, this machine can also take spores and other contaminants with it, giving you a truly deep clean.

We like the DeWalt Wet Dry Vacuum.

Black Stains, Be Gone

So, how do you get black stains out of pontoon carpet? It’s as easy as dish soap, water, and a little bit of elbow grease. It’s true - flecks of mold can be tough to get rid of. But while those black spots can be particularly difficult to remove, that doesn’t mean your situation is hopeless.

And if you’re in the business of keeping your pontoon as clean as can be, you might want to invest in a few machines to help ease the process. A pressure washer and a dry and wet vacuum might seem a little pricey, but they should help streamline your boat cleaning experience for the long haul.