Venerable Vinyl

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How to properly maintain the vinyl on your boat

Vinyl was discovered by chance in 1926 by Waldo Semon who was working for the BF Goodrich Company. During his research and development he stumbled across PVC or vinyl. It was soon realised that the vinyl material had many practical applications and huge market potential. Vinyl has been used in numerous applications and one of those is the use in boats for seat coverings.
A vinyl’s topcoat holds in plasticisers, softening agents which keep vinyl supple. Another benefit of vinyl is that it is UV sensitive and this is particularly handy for boats that spend a lot of time in the sun. To turn raw PVC into vinyl, plasticisers are added, making it pliable and moldable. A major function of the topcoat of vinyl is its ability to lock in the palsticisers. A damaged topcoat will eventually lead to the escape of the plasticisers and lead to the vinyl becoming brittle and cracking. This is why it is so important to maintain the topcoat of the vinyl on your boat. Vinyl manufacturers agree on and recommend the following cleaning methods.

boat interior

Do not use strong household cleaners, abrasive scourers, industrial cleaning agents, solvents, bleach or detergents to clean the vinyl on your boat as they will simply do damage. Use a soft or medium-soft brush with warm soapy water when cleaning and rinse with cool water before drying.

Where there is water, there is often mildew. To kill the mildew bacteria, use a medium-soft brush and scrub the offending area vigorously with a 4-to-1 mixture of water to ammonia. When the mildew has been removed, rinse with cool water. Tougher mildew stains can be combated with a mixture made up of one teaspoon ammonia, ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide and ¾ cup of distilled water and rinse after scrubbing with cool water. Abrasives should never be used on vinyl as they damage the outer layer of the vinyl which will lead to the eventual breakdown of it. Petroleum distillates should not be used on vinyl and waxes of any kind should also not be used as they contain petroleum. Wax is also a build-up product and holds in absorbed heat, accelerating damage. Silicone oil formulations should also not be used on vinyl as they attack the top coat of the vinyl, they don’t offer UV screening ingredients and they attract dust and dirt more quickly. If the label suggests you need to apply more than one coat for the best effect, then it is invariably a build-up cosmetic enhancement product which is not good for vinyl.

To stop the vinyl from getting scratched, always rinse the vinyl with water to loosen the dirt and mildew before you start washing with soap, using a soft cloth. Rinse the cleaned vinyl with water and allow it to dry. Using a spray bottle filled with water is an easy way to loosen dirt and mildew before applying the soapy mixture. The soapy mixture can be made up simply of dishwashing liquid and water.

Dirt and moisture are essential components that allow for the propagation of mildew and this means that keeping vinyl clean and dry is crucial to preventing it.

There are products on the market that will assist the cleaning and care of vinyl and these products have been specifically designed for vinyl care. Using products that are not designed for vinyl will simply dry out the vinyl and result in cracking and damage to the materials.


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