Like any other boat, inflatable boats need proper care and maintenance in order to function at their best and last a long time. When left unmaintained inflatable boats may only last for 2 to 3 years– a significant loss on your investment. But with regular cleaning you can expect to enjoy that boat for 20 or even 30 long years, and you could even trade or resell it.
The question now is, how to properly clean an inflatable boat?
The first and probably most important step to properly cleaning an inflatable boat is to choose the right cleaning products. Many inflatable boat owners make the costly mistake of choosing the wrong cleaners and end up damaging their boats instead.
While inflatable boats may be made of durable PVC or Hypalon, they are still susceptible to damage when exposed to harsh chemicals. They are not like fibreglass or aluminium boats and should therefore not be exposed to the same types of boat cleaners. Products you should never use to clean inflatable boats include solvents, toluene, acetone, bleach, ammonia, highly alkaline cleaners (anything with a pH greater than 11.5), abrasive scrub pads, and steel wool. These products can damage and discolour the fabric and attack the adhesives of your inflatable boat.
While you could simply use soaps or detergent, these can leave a sticky residue on the boat surface that attracts and holds dirt. Soap scum can also serve as food for mould and mildew, and you’ll have to figure out how to clean mould off your inflatable boat.
To properly clean your inflatables it’s best to use inflatable boat cleaners. These are made specifically for cleaning these boats and can effectively remove dirt, grime and stains without damaging the surface. Some of these cleaners can also protect boat surfaces from the elements, keeping them in the best condition.
Once you’ve got the right cleaning products and tools, cleaning your PVC boat becomes quite simple. Depending on the product you choose, you’ll probably need just a couple of clean cloths and some water, if the cleaner requires it. You may also need a soft brush for scrubbing, but it really depends on the cleaner you choose, so make sure you read the usage instructions carefully. Most cleaners only require you to apply the cleaner on the surface of the inflatable boat for a few minutes, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth.
When using any boat cleaner don’t forget to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands, and be sure to reach every nook and cranny with the cleaner and cloth. It would be good to use an all-in-one cleaner like Star Brite, as it not only cleans your boat but also leaves a tough coating that protects against salt and UV exposure.
A smart way to go about cleaning your inflatable boat would be to start from the boat floor and work in sections, moving outward while applying the boat cleaner. This would also make it easy for you to check for any damaged areas, and see where you’ll need to make some repairs. Don’t forget to flip the boat and apply the cleaner on the underside as well, as this area is most exposed to the water.
Once done, you should end up with a nice, glossy-looking inflatable boat. Take care when using your newly-cleaned boat as the surface may still be slippery due to the cleaner.
Cleaning your inflatable boat is something you should do regularly especially if you use your boat often. You should also make sure to clean your boat before and after storage. If you’ve just bought a used inflatable boat for sale, or even a brand new one like a Zodiac inflatable boat, it would be wise to clean these as well. You can never be too sure of where the boat has been or what hidden dirt or damage it may have; and with brand new boats there may be some lubricants left from the manufacturing process that you need to clean off before use.