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Cleaning a Boat: How to Care for the Interior


You work hard to keep your boat looking beautiful. You routinely take it out of the water, give it a thorough washing, apply wax, and do your best to protect the exterior paint job on the hull—the paint job that has made your boat resemble the boat of your dreams. Then the unexpected happens—someone spills juice all over the interior carpet.

Any proud boat owner knows that feeling. Your work isn’t quite done until you’ve mastered the art of cleaning the interior of your boat as well as the exterior. And while we at BoatLIFE have a lot to say on this particular issue, we thought a quick overview was in order for beginners.

The Boat Bilge: A Review

Perhaps the most conspicuous of all the interior sections of your boat is the bilge. Not only does this area see frequent exposure to water, but it’s exposed to all sorts of other things that necessitate thorough and regular cleaning.

Last time, we offered a simple three-step program for cleaning out your bilge, and it boils down to:

  • Acquiring the proper cleaners, especially a dedicated bilge cleaner
  • Applying the cleaner and letting it soak
  • Scrubbing and rinsing

Of course, there are more subtleties to the entire process that warrant your further investigation. But remember this: before you clean your bilge, do the proper research, because the process you use will ultimately be not only more effective, but far easier.

Vinyl Upholstery

Short of splash water itself, vinyl is one of the most common materials you’ll see inside of boat. As such, it pays to know exactly how to handle it.

  • Clean off vinyl with a damp cloth first, removing salt, grime, dirt, and other debris.
  • Apply a thin layer of VinyLIFE vinyl cleaner.
  • Rinse with fresh water, dry, and repeat as needed.

Additional steps may be needed if you have deep mildew stains—a good firm brush including a 4-1 water-ammonia solution is recommended at AmericanBoating.org.


With teak, it’s all about proper maintenance. You’ll want to wash off teak with the same mild detergent you would use for your hull. Once rinsed and dried, you can apply Teak Brite for the long-term protection of your teak.

If your teak has degraded over the years, you may want to think about sanding it down before a proper cleaning, just to refurbish the teak to a higher quality and ensure that the sealer works into the teak itself.

These three challenges represent some of the most labor-intensive cleanings you’ll have to do on your boat; but if you do them properly, then not only will you maximize the effectiveness of each clean, but your proper maintenance will help keep materials like vinyl and teak well-protected…although you might want to rethink that putting an end to that darn orange juice policy.

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