The bimini top is perhaps one of the most indispensable pontoon boating essentials that you have. Protecting you from heat and sun, a bimini top makes the boating experience just that much more enjoyable - and comfortable. But just like any other part of your boat, that top is going to need some TLC.
Take a quick look at your bimini top, and you’ll find that thing covered in stains, dirt, and yup, bird droppings. So if you find that it’s high time for a wash, here’s what you need to know about how to clean a bimini top.
What You’ll Need
Just like installing a bimini top , the cleaning process isn’t quite as tedious or intricate as it may seem. It’s actually something you could do in under an hour if you’ve got the right stuff. Because bimini tops are made from unique material, it’s important that you make sure you have the right gear to get them all cleaned out. Here’s what you’ll need:
If you don’t want to get gunk all of over you, then you could wear some work gloves and goggles. It also doesn’t hurt to wear an apron or work overalls since a pressure washer can generate some splash.
While these essentials might be enough to do a regular cleaning job, other boat owners might prefer going the extra mile. In that case, you might also want to consider preparing some soft rags, mild soap, and a soft-bristle brush to achieve a deeper clean.
How To Do It
Now that you’ve got everything you need, you can get started on the process. It should be fairly straightforward, and might not take more than an hour or two if you’re working on a smaller bimini top.
1 - Remove the Bimini Top
This should be pretty simple. Just take the bimini top off of the frame and dust off (or use a boat vacuum to suck up) any loose debris.
Make sure you take your time since some bimini tops might not be as durable, and may rip or tear with improper handling. This is especially true for larger bimini tops that weigh more than average or for those that might be a little older, touting weak seams and edges that have become flimsy due to extended hours of sun exposure.
2 - Lay It Out
Once the bimini top is off of the frame, you should go ahead and lay it out on the floor. This would be the perfect opportunity to shirk off any clumps of dirt that might come off with your bare hands. You could also use a soft bristle brush to gently dust off the surfaces and dislodge any dirt.
Keep in mind that we highly discourage using abrasive, hard-bristle brushes when cleaning a bimini top. That fabric can be damaged with cleaning materials that are too harsh, so see to it that you’re using something soft. You can also just try to dust off clumps of dirt with a clean rag.
When you’re done, see to it that you set a few weights on the edges to keep the bimini top from blasting off when you get to work with your pressure washer. Rocks, dumbbells, or pretty much anything with enough weight should be fine.
3 - Use Your Pressure Washer
Now would be the perfect time to wear your gloves, goggles, and work overalls, if you plan on wearing them. Set up your pressure washer and start at the outermost, uppermost edges working your way down. Return back to the top and move to the next section, then pressure wash down.
With just a few up and down strokes, you should see the dirt and debris flying off of your bimini top. Mold and mildew should also be no match for the blast of a pressure washer.
Some people have said that they use a very, very small amount of bleach when pressure washing their bimini top. Others even say that they add bleach to pressure washer itself, which most pressure washer manufacturers advise against.
While we don’t really recommend bleach, you might be able to leverage its cleaning power by placing a small amount in a spray bottle and diluting it with water. We’re talking a ratio of 1:5 bleach to water or even more.
Spray your target areas and then blast with your pressure washer so that the bleach doesn’t sit for too long on your bimini top’s surface.
Another thing about operating your pressure washer is that you might want to dial down the pressure settings to start. If you’re not sure how durable your bimini top is, or if you’re not entirely aware of how strong your pressure washer can be, setting to the highest blast might cause some serious damage. Work your way up to a higher setting as needed.
4 - Let It Dry
Once you’re happy with the quality of your clean, you can hang your bimini top out in the sun to dry. Depending on its size, it could take a few hours or a whole day to completely dry out.
When it’s partially dry, you should be able to see any problem areas that weren’t completely cleaned by your efforts. Most of the time, these are harder mold and mildew stains that have been around for a while. On average though, you should be able to clean out up to 95% of existing stains.
5 - Apply Protectant
An all-purpose protectant just makes it possible for you to prevent future stains. Aside from giving your bimini top a protective barrier, it also helps keep UV damage at bay so your bimini top won’t give in to discoloration over time. Applying protectant over the seams also helps reduce potential wear and tear to these susceptible areas.
There are lots of different protectant sprays for bimin tops on the market, but you should make it a point to choose a spray that’s developed to protect bimini top material. Don’t hesitate to spray on as much as you’re comfortable using, and double spray areas that are particularly prone to damage like the seams and edges.
We recommend the 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray as it's suitable for vinyl, plastic, rubber, fibreglass and leather.
How to Clean Mold and Mildew Off of a Bimini Top
If you did the previous steps right, then you should have been able to remove more than 90% of the mold and mildew stains on your bimini top. But if that just wasn’t enough, then you could always just repeat the process. The more you clean your bimini top, the less chance mold and mildew have to thrive and worsen.
But if you still feel like you want to really get those stains out, then you can use a mild soap diluted in water. Use a soft rag to apply it into the problem areas and let it sit for a few minutes. You can then blast off the soap and rinse with your pressure washer.
While you might be tempted to get into it with some bleach and a brush, it’s important to know that this harsh method of cleaning could damage your bimini top material. With mold and mildew, the best way to clean would be to simply clean often. Spot treatment is okay, but make sure you’re using mild methods.
Can You Machine Wash a Bimini Top?
Unless you’ve got a big enough washing machine at home, then it might seem unlikely to wash your canvas bimini top in a machine. But that doesn’t make it impossible. Commercial laundromats often have large drums that can accommodate the size and weight of a bimini top for a more thorough cleaning.
Keep in mind though, these laundromats aren’t always available at every corner, so you’ll have to ask around who has the capacity to clean something so big. The best place to ask around would be laundromats located near marinas and docks.
If you walk in with your bimini top, they’ll probably already know what you want, and they should be able to accommodate your request. The service shouldn’t cost more than $40, which is pretty cheap if you consider how much it costs to buy a replacement bimini top if you don’t take care of the one you already have.
Just Like New
The bimini top serves the purpose of protection, but in doing so, it often becomes the barrier between you and a world’s worth of dirt, debris, and bird poop. So you really shouldn’t be surprised to see it in such bad shape after a few weeks or months of regular boating.
Fortunately, cleaning a bimini top shouldn’t be too hard. While boat owners will generally have different ideas and opinions when it comes to how to clean a bimini top, our simple guide should help you get rid of most stains and dirt. But hey, if you’re really interested in a thorough clean, you might want to pay your local laundromat a visit to see if they can machine wash your bimini top for you.