How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats [Remove Black Spots]

Vinyl boat seats are an interesting material, they hold up great to water, but over time will get dirty.

The dirt that forms on boat seats is not what most people are exposed to and can be very hard to clean. Simple cleaners can get rid of a lot of the stains that are on vinyl boat seats, but those little black spots, they look like mold, can be very hard to remove.

I want to go over the tricks I take to clean vinyl boat seats and the tips I’ve learned through the years.

How To Clean Vinyl Boat Seats

Cleaning a boat in general is super easy, but does require some time to do it.

All you need is boat soap (Amazon Link Ad), garden hose, brush and Simple Green.

Here are the steps to cleaning boat seats:

  1. Take the seats out of the boat and place them on a clean surface.
  2. Wet the seats down with the hose. Avoid pressure washers on seats as it does more damage than good.
  3. With a bucket of water, boat soap and a brush, clean the seats in a circle pattern.
  4. If the stain is not lifting off, spray Simple Green on the area and wipe it off with water and boat soap rag.
  5. Clean the area with clean water and let it dry before putting back in the boat.

How To Remove Black Dots And Mold From Vinyl Boat seats

The black dots that show up on the vinyl in your boat are often many things. Some of it’s just black dirt, some of it is mold and mildew, and some is damaged vinyl.

Most of the time the black dots will come off, but sometimes the vinyl is damaged, or has “freckled” due to being in the sun. Try these things below, but if nothing works then the vinyl is damaged, and you’ll need to go to the next section.

The best stuff I’ve found to clean the black spots and dirt off seats is this vinyl cleaner here (Amazon Link Ad). The trick is using a scrub brush and working it in.

Boat Vinyl Is Damaged, What To Do?

If you made it this far, it’s time for the hard truth, the dirt that won’t come off your boat’s vinyl seat will never come off. Those dots and black spots is kind of what happens to human skin, it has freckled, and it’s that way forever.

Sure, you can get lucky, and some cleaners will restore a seat like new, but I always run into a few stains that will never come off.

The good news is that there are two solutions you can take.

  1. Reupholster your boat seats
  2. Paint your boat seats

Reupholstering your boat seats will be the most expensive option, but they’ll be new again. If the seats are really old, this may be your only option, but I would give the painting a try first.

You can also paint your vinyl boat seats, but it requires a special vinyl spray paint!!!

You can buy White Vinyl Spray here. (Amazon Link Ad) Important: Make sure you get the correct color spray to match your seats!

Just make sure to really clean the seats and let them dry out before you apply the vinyl spray. Here is a great video going over how to do it:

What To Avoid When Cleaning Boat Seats

There are a few things you should avoid when cleaning vinyl boat seats.

Avoid this when cleaning boat seats:

  • Bleach and any cleaner with bleach in it, it wears out the seat protective layer.
  • Magic erasers – too abrasive and won’t clean as well as you’ll hope.
  • Pressure washers – They’re fine if you use low pressure and kept at a distance, but people always try to get closer and closer as the marks are not coming off and end up tearing the seat.
  • Gasoline – It doesn’t work and it’s dangerous.
  • Floor cleaners – leaves a wax layer and makes cleaning it off hard.
  • Car cleaners – Boats are made from different materials and experience different environments, so use boat cleaners.
  • Household cleaners – a lot of the things around your home doesn’t work that well.
  • Baking soda and vinegar – Just don’t. That fizzing you see is the acid being neutralized and the only thing left behind is salt water, which does not clean anything. This trend on the internet of using baking soda and vinegar needs to stop, as it’s not working.

How To Protect Boat Seats?

The two worst things for your boat is sun and water.

If you can’t avoid either, then you need to give it some protection, especially on your vinyl seats.

Much like your skin, boat seats will turn colors when exposed to the sun for too long and the water it just makes things worse.

You need to routinely apply vinyl seat protectant (Amazon Link Ad) to your boat seats and anything else that needs it. At least once a month when the boat is being used, you need to reapply the protectant.