How to Clean White Vinyl Boat Seats (Snow White Results)

how to clean white vinyl boat seats

You probably didn’t really have time to think about the whole cleaning thing when you decided to go with white vinyl upholstery for your boat. The problem is, white seats tend to look dirtier than other colors. Well, you’re here now and those dirty seats aren’t going to clean themselves.

Before you haul your boat in for an expensive professional cleaning, you might want to consider doing it yourself. Heck, you might even have all of the essentials waiting for you right in your cupboard. Wondering how to clean white vinyl boat seats? Here’s a quick guide.

What You’ll Need

Now you might be tempted to just reach into your cleaning cabinet and grab the first cleanser your hands get a hold of (see homemade vinyl boat seat cleaner). After all - it’s white vinyl, what could go wrong?

The unpopular truth though is that vinyl boat seats that’s white will require slightly more delicate care than other colors (which we’ll explain later.) For that reason, you’re probably better off with these cleaners:

Mild Dish Soap

mild dishwashing soap

This is perhaps one of the most used cleansers in the history of boat seat maintenance. Mild dish soap provides just enough cleaning power without causing any damage to vinyl. It’s also completely non-toxic so there’s no need to worry about fumes and residue.

We like using Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap.


Two buckets should be enough to get the cleaning job done. You’re going to need them at the ready for mixing your cleaners and for rinsing your seats once you’re done scrubbing.

Soft Bristle Brush

soft bristle brush

On the topic of scrubbing, you’re going to want to steer clear of anything that’s too harsh. Hard bristles and stiff wire can scuff up your vinyl, damage the surface, and make it easier for dirt and residue to cling.

Check out the Scrub Brush from JEISHKE.

Microfiber Towels

microfiber cloth

Microfiber towels are the perfect cleaning partner because they’re soft and they attract and cling to dirt and dust. Keep a few towels at the ready for when you need to wipe those seats. If you don’t have any, you could always use a sponge as a replacement.

Try these Microfiber Cleaning Cloths from AmazonBasics.


Yup, you read that right. Vinegar has long been used as a cleaning agent for vinyl boat seats because of its acidic properties. Of course, you’re going to dilute it beforehand to tone down the unpleasant smell.

Mold and Mildew Remover

mold and mildew stain remover

Mold and mildew stains are going to be much harder to remove because of their stubborn, staying power. A dedicated remover should make it easier for you to fade the stains without applying too much pressure.

We recommend the Star Brite Mold Stain & Mildew Stain Remover.

Protectant Spray

Protectant spray for marine-grade vinyl can help keep your boat seats looking cleaner for longer, and also reduces the chances of stubborn stains. Applying protectant after each cleaning should be a standard part of the process.

Before we move on to the cleaning proper, it’s important that we mention a few seemingly okay cleaning products that might be tugging at your curiosity. While they might seem like okay products on the surface, they’re generally not discouraged for cleaning vinyl boat seats:


Harsh chemicals like bleach degrade the vinyl material. When this happens, dirt, mold, mildew, and other contaminants can form and cling more aggressively. Bleach can also dull down your vinyl’s sheen.


Any products that contain alcohol should be avoided. If you’re planning on keeping wet wipes on board to wipe up minor spills off of your seats, read the labels and make sure they don’t contain alcohol.

Magic Eraser

While you can definitely use Magic Eraser to clean vinyl boat seats, the issue is that they can be pretty abrasive when used with excessive force. If you find really, really stubborn stains that won’t come out, you might be able to use Magic Eraser but with caution.

How do you Clean White Vinyl Boat Seats

mold and mildew on white vinyl boat seats

Now it’s time to get to the actual cleaning. Remember that when cleaning white vinyl boat seats, you’re going to want to handle with extra care since it’s easier to get carried away especially when you’re working with stubborn stains.

1. Perform a Preliminary Cleaning

Before you actually apply any cleaning products, you’re going to want to perform a preliminary cleaning. This lets you get rid of any dirt or residue that might get in the way of the cleaning product. To do this, it’s really just as simple as using a wet rag to wipe your seats.

Get a clean microfiber towel and moisten it up with some water. Then wipe all of your pontoon boat seat surfaces to clean away any dirt and contamination that might not require too much effort or cleaning power.

*If you want to be extra thorough you can use a marine vacuum cleaner to suck up everything up.

2. Start with Dish Soap and Water

Once your boat seats have gone through that preliminary cleaning, you can move on to the actual process. Take a cup of dish soap and mix it in with a gallon of water. Then put some in a spray bottle and apply over sections of your boat seats.

Leave the solution to soak for around 5 minutes then get to scrubbing with your soft bristle brush. Don’t apply too much pressure and just lightly go around in circular motions to work away any stains. Rinse off when you’re done, and feel free to repeat if necessary.

3. Use Vinegar for Tougher Stains

So if you’ve got a few tougher stains that your dish soap can’t remove, you can try a vinegar solution. Take one part distilled water and white vinegar and mix them together in a spray bottle. Then apply over the problem areas you want to target.

You can leave the solution to soak for about 10 to 15 minutes before working away the stains with your soft bristle brush. When you’re done, you can reapply the dish soap formula to neutralize the smell of vinegar, and then rinse with clean water.

4. Apply Mold and Mildew Stain Remover

Mold and mildew stains are unlikely to come off with the previous steps, so it’s best to use a mold and mildew stain remover to target those stubborn black flecks. Do note that these formulations are intended for spot treatment. There’s no need to apply the solution all over your seats especially if the stains are isolated.

Read the directions and let the solution soak for as long as the manufacturer intended. Then wipe away the residue with a microfiber cloth. As a general rule, you should not leave this solution to dry up on its own. So make sure you wipe it all off when you’re done waiting for it take effect.

5. Protect Your Seats

When you’re done with all the cleaning, and your boat seats look bright and brand new, see to it that you apply a generous amount of protectant. This stuff seals all of your hardwork, keeping your vinyl safe from future stains, mold, and mildew. Well, at least for a longer time.

Again, read the directions and don’t skimp on the serving. It’s also important that you pull away the seats to get into nooks and crannies, like the spaces between the seat and the backrests to make sure you’re covering as much of the upholstery as possible.

6. Clean Regularly

With white boat seats, there’s really no such thing as waiting for them to look all stained and dirty before you start cleaning. See to it that you at least wipe your seats up after every use so dirt and grime don’t stay on long enough to produce stains.

Have some wet wipes at the ready to clean up spills and other contaminants before they stick to your seats. And see to it that you perform a general cleaning at least once a month, especially if you’re trying to maintain the integrity of your white upholstery.

7. Store Your Boat Properly

And lastly, a lot of boat owners don’t immediately realize this, but boat storage plays a major role in how clean (or how dirty) your upholstery and other parts of your boat will become. Moist, humid storage conditions are a breeding ground for mold and mildew. So see to it that your garage (or whatever storage facility you’re using) is well-ventilated at all times.

You’re also going to want to make sure that your boat is as dry as possible before popping it into storage. Even just one drop of moisture can cause mold and mildew to start. So if you don’t want to deal with those stubborn stains, dry your boat or leave it in the sun to dry before you keep it.

Whiter Than Snow

It’s true that white seats require slightly more care than other upholstery colors. But when you know how to clean white vinyl boat seats on your own, it becomes a piece of cake and saves you from the need to replace them. Care for your seats the right way and keep those unsightly stains at bay by trying these cleaning tips the next time your boat starts begging for a well-deserved deep clean.

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