Boat covers are an important tool for protecting your boat from water damage, falling debris, and other environmental factors. But if you want to extend the life of your cover, you need to know how to clean a boat cover.
First, you need to start by finding the right boat cover for your pontoon boat or ski boat if you don’t have one already. Using and maintaining a boat cover is essential for regular maintenance, as well as properly storing your boat for winter.
How to Clean a Boat Cover
Over time, the moisture and debris your cover keeps out of your boat can lead to mold and mildew growth. So cleaning your boat cover should be part of your annual boat maintenance routine. Let’s cover the basics!
1. Select the Right Boat Cover Cleaner and Cleaning Supplies
The most common materials for boat covers are polyester, acrylic, nylon, or some blend of the three. Fortunately, most can be cleaned with a simple solution of warm water and mild soap. However, more stubborn spots may require a heavy-duty cleaning solution that can be mixed using the following ingredients:
- Two cups of warm water
- One cup of powdered Borax
- One cup of white vinegar
It’s best to mix these in a spray bottle for easier application. For mold and mildew spots, you may also employ something like this 303 Mold and Mildew Cleaner and Blocker, which is safe for use on most fabrics.
In terms of cleaning supplies, utilize a soft-bristle brush for the actual scrubbing. You’ll also need a bucket to mix your cleaning solution, a hose connected to a water source, and gloves to protect your hands.
2. Secure the Cover
Boat covers can be cleaned on the ground, but it’s easiest to reach all the nooks and crannies while the cover is secured on your boat. Utilizing a boat cover support is a good idea, especially for larger boats, as it will prevent low spots from accumulating water as you’re cleaning.
3. Remove Loose Dirt and Debris
You may proceed straight to spraying your boat cover with water to remove loose debris, but some accumulations may be harder to remove once wet. Use a brush to remove dry debris or even a leaf blower to remove the first layer. Then hose it down thoroughly.
4. Apply the Boat Cleaning Solution
Pre-application tip: You can always apply the solution to a small, discrete corner of your cover to test before applying it to the entire cover. Leave it for about an hour and check for discoloration before continuing.
Using your spray bottle, apply your cleaning solution to the entire cover. Work in small sections because you’ll want to use your soft-bristle brush to work the solution into the fabric as you go.
Apply a little extra solution to the cover’s seams, as they tend to accumulate more grime and debris than other areas. Let the cleaning solution soak into the cover for at least an hour, longer if your cover is really dirty.
5. Rinse and Repeat if Necessary
Once the boat cover cleaner has soaked in, you’ll need to rinse thoroughly until you no longer see soap residue coming out of the cover. Be sure to rinse your boat’s hull as well, so you don’t leave any soap residue on the exterior.
Depending on the severity of the grime, mold, or mildew on your cover, you may need to repeat this process to clean it thoroughly. You can also focus more closely on any remaining stains after performing this initial clean and rinse cycle.
6. Let Your Boat Cover Dry Completely
If you took our recommendation and cleaned your cover while it was secured on your boat, simply leave it in place until it dries completely. Otherwise, hang it to dry before packing it away, as storing a wet cover will only encourage more growth of the mold you just worked hard to remove.
How to Keep Your Boat Cover in Good Condition
While boat cover cleaning should be a regular part of your boat maintenance schedule, these tips will reduce wear and tear so that cleaning it is easier.
- Make sure water doesn’t pool on top of the cover. Boat cover fabric is naturally a little stretchy, allowing water to pool in the center. Pooling water stresses your cover’s seams and invites mold growth. Use boat cover supports to prevent this.
- Secure it properly. Use your cover manufacturer’s instructions to ensure your straps or tie-downs are secure to prevent ripping and tearing on windy days.
- Add padding in high-stress areas. Place padding between the cover and windshield corners, depth finders, trolling motors, and other boat accessories that are most likely to tear your cover. Life jackets can be used for padding to avoid buying something new.
- Avoid harmful substances. Fluids like battery acid, gasoline, grease, tree sap, and even bird droppings can cause cover discoloration. Remove them quickly if dropped on your cover, or avoid them entirely.
- Never store your cover wet. Even after the lightest rain, your boat cover should be dried completely before being stored. Storing a wet cover is just asking to find mold and mildew accumulation next time you unpack it.
- Protect your cover’s water-repellent finish. Over time, even the most durable of boat covers can lose their water-resistant qualities. Periodically apply a waterproofing solution to ensure that water beads and runs off your cover instead of soaking through.
- Reduce moisture and humidity under the cover. Sometimes the sealed nature of boat covers can create humid conditions underneath. Place a moisture absorber or dehumidifier inside your boat to reduce moisture and humidity under your cover.
Maintaining the integrity of your boat cover is vital to keeping your boat in good condition. For more tips on keeping your boat healthy, check out these resources:
- How to Prepare your Boat for Storm Season
- 7 Boat Sun Protection Tips
- How to Properly Maintain your Pontoon Boat for Winter
If you want to get out on the water next summer easily, fall is a great time to shop for deals on the best pontoon boats!
Do you have any other tips for cleaning a boat cover? Share them in the comments below!