Boating Basics Online is reader-supported. When you buy via our links, we may earn a commission at no cost to you. Learn more

How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew – Easy Care Guide

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how to clean vinyl boat seats of mildew

Have you ever had that experience of pulling your vessel out of storage after a long break then immediately finding mildew on boat seats that have already marred your once-beautiful seat covers? If yes, you’re not alone.

The good news? There’s more than one effective way to remove mildew stains from vinyl boat seats. The best approach in my experience is to use one or two mildew removing and cleaning products. You can spray the solution, wipe the mildew off, and the seats will be like new!

Other viable methods include using vinegar or Borax, and I’ve outlined how to clean vinyl boat seats of mildew below.

Items To Prepare Before Cleaning


I recommend this bleach-based procedure because of the sheer zero hassles involved. You’ll need:

  • Clorox Clean-Up Bleach Cleaner
  • MiracleMist Mildew Stain Remover
  • Clean Magic Eraser
  • Vinyl-friendly or soft-scrub brush
  • Clean cloth or towel
  • A protectant like 303 Aerospace

It is also my favorite method for removing mildew from vinyl boat seats because it can handle even the most severe cases. Plus, the tools are dirt-cheap compared to professional services.

Also, I’m referring to vinyl seats that have been extremely neglected here when I say this. These are cases that vinegar and Borax usually can’t handle that well, even though they do work in mild to moderate cases.

If you’re going for the latter process to remove mildew from boat seats, then you’ll need to prepare:

  • White vinegar
  • Borax powder
  • Warm or hot water
  • Cotton cloth

I’ve used this to clean mildew from boat seats because it works like some store-bought products made for this purpose. If you’re still having qualms about using bleach on vinyl seats I suggest you stick to this step.

How to Clean Vinyl Boat Seats of Mildew Using Bleach Cleaning Solution

This procedure is considerably straightforward and is substantially derived from a video shared by the YouTube channel Better Boating. I was sold by the video series showing the result through before and after snippets spanning six months.

I’ve stuck to this method for removing mildew from boat seats ever since. I’ve cleaned six vessels with this, each one with varying mildew damage. Each one is now good as new. Without further ado, these are the steps:

Step 1. Spray the Cleaner

Choose between the Clorox Clean-Up Bleach Cleaner or MiracleMist Mildew Stain Remover. I prefer the former because it has never let me down and is always available. You just have to spray the cleaner onto the mildew stains. Do so until you’re sure that you’ve at least covered the entire blemish.

Step 2. Start Brushing and Spreading It

Once you’ve applied a generous amount, take either a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or a small brush to spread the cleaner lightly. I need to emphasize the word “lightly”—there should be minimal pressure when you start brushing. The goal is to let the cleaner work its magic of eating the mildew—and not damaging the vinyl.

Your job is to make sure it gets to where it needs to be. Even so, the brush and Magic Eraser are still necessary because they fulfill their respective functions of dislodging the mildew stains.

Take note: Some people shun Mr. Clean Magic Eraser because it’s like sandpaper and may damage the covers. If you don’t like to use it, you can always opt for the brush.

Step 3. Wipe It Off, Rinse then Apply a UV Protectant

After a few minutes of soft brushing, the mildew should have dislodged to the point that it can easily be wiped off with a clean cloth. Assuming this is what you’re seeing, you can do this step. If the stain lingers, you may need to brush it more until you’re sure that the stain is taken care of.

Afterward, thoroughly rinse the boat seats to avoid any possibility of the bleach causing damage. To me, it’s crucial to apply a layer of UV protectant because vinyl seats tend to lose their protection over time. For this, I rely on 303 Aerospace.

I spray it onto a microfiber applicator then spread it out as evenly as possible on the seats. I then wait up to 15 minutes before wiping the seats with a clean towel.

You can view a video of the entire cleaning method here:

Regarding The Possibility Of Damaging Vinyl Seats With Bleach-Based Cleaners

Worrying about bleach solutions damaging your precious vinyl seats? Based on my experience, I don’t get this issue if I thoroughly rinse off the bleach from the seats after cleaning.

I’m not too sure whether the protectant plays a role here. I guess it does to a certain extent because I’ve never had any issues with damaged vinyl seats even when I use the Mr. Clean Magic Cleaner. Many people worry about the threads deteriorating, but I inspect each seat closely every time, and I have never seen such signs of damage.

The Borax And Vinegar Method


I use this if I don’t have the bleach cleaner available. It’s tremendously easy to do, and you can grab most of the materials from your local grocery store or supermarket. Here are the steps:

Step 1. Prepare and Combine the Needed Materials

Get at least 2 cups of hot or warm water. I’ve compared it to cold or lukewarm mixtures before and have found I can get rid of the mildew faster if I use warmer water. Mix it with 1 teaspoon of borax powder and 3 tablespoons of white vinegar. Place the mixture inside a sprayer, then shake it up so that all the liquid is combined.

Step 2. Spray, Wait, then Wipe It off

You can now start spraying this solution to the most stubborn mildew stains you have on your vinyl seats. I make sure to cover each blemish thoroughly since I typically skip the brushing if I use this method.

I let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Afterward, I carefully wipe everything off with a cotton cloth; the softer, the better since you don’t want to unintentionally damage the surface of the vinyl.

Step 3. For Milder Cases, Try Using Only Borax

Incidentally, if you think you can do without the vinegar, know that you can also see good results by using just borax powder. If you’re worried about the vinegar leaving a lingering scent, this won’t happen if you take the time to wipe it off.

Anyway, if you think your mildew problem is not that major, try using ½ cup of borax powder instead. Mix it with the same portion of 2 cups of warm water. It works for me if I wait longer before wiping it off. If you have the patience to wait for a few hours or an entire day before wiping, then I can guarantee that this will remove the mildew.


Did you enjoy my guide on how to clean vinyl boat seats of mildew? These methods are the only ones that have given me consistently astounding results, so I had no second thoughts about sharing them here. They’ve also saved me tons of money in maintaining my boats. If you’ve given them a try or agree with me, please share what you think and any feedback in the comments section below! Also, you may want to know the best tips to prevent mildew on your boat seats!

5/5 - (3 votes)