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Can Boat Covers Be Washed?

Let’s get this out of the way now: yes, you can wash a boat cover. However, as you can probably guess, the full answer is going to be more complicated than that. There are plenty of factors to consider, from washing techniques to environmental concerns to age to how well-made the boat cover is. Here’s what you need to know.

Use the Right Cleaning Supplies

First off, never use harsh chemicals or cleaners on your boat cover.

Industrial-strength cleaners might seem like a quick way to get rid of spots and stains, but they’ll also harm the fabric’s structural integrity. Instead, stick to mild soap and water, only getting specific cover cleaners if there are stubborn stains that won’t go away.

As for your other supplies, use soft-bristle brushes to avoid tearing or scuffing the cover. Abrasives can wear right through in surprisingly little time. If you have to focus on a specific spot, don’t put too much elbow grease into it — just scrub gently.

Also, remember to wear gloves. This isn’t so much to protect your boat cover but rather to protect your hands. That way, you can avoid dishpan hands if you need to spend extra time on a spot that refuses to get clean.

Rinse and Air-Dry

After you’re done washing the boat cover, rinse it off with the hose. You’re not just getting rid of all the scrubbed-off dirt and grime. You’re getting rid of soap residue, too. The point of a boat cover is to repel water and keep other substances from sticking. Soap residue will reduce the cover’s ability to do both of those things. 

When you’ve finished rinsing the cover, let it air-dry. You want to ensure that mold or mildew doesn’t form due to standing water or moisture. If you’re concerned it will rain, find a well-sheltered place to hang your cover. Once it’s dry, you can fold it and store it. Don’t fold it if there’s any moisture still on the surface!

It’s important to fold your boat cover properly — don’t ball it or scrunch it. Areas with creases will lose structural integrity over time, like folding a piece of paper in half over and over.

Don’t Be Afraid to Clean Twice

You might notice there are still areas of dirt, grime, or mold left after rinsing. If that’s the case, you’ll need to start the process over again.

You can apply a special boat cover cleaner and use a soft brush to work the solution into any remaining stains. If you notice there’s still dirt and grime in the cover's seams, make sure you tackle them as well. Let the solution sit on the cover for about an hour to give it time to set in and loosen dirt and debris for easier cleaning.

If your boat cover has zippers, make it a point to clean them thoroughly. Even if they have the latest rustproofing technology, they can still be damaged by sea salt and other contaminants. Clean them with soap and water, and don’t forget to rinse them.

Store Your Cover Safely and Check Up on It Periodically

Once your cover is neatly folded, you can put it away. Store your cover in a temperature-controlled area. It should be cool and dry.

Don’t let the cover sit in direct sunlight or extreme temperatures, as these can fade and damage the cover. If you can store your cover in an area with good ventilation, it will keep condensation from accumulating and causing issues.

Take time every few days to examine the cover. If you see signs that it’s building up mold or getting damaged, remove it and address the problem immediately. Catching these issues early will ensure that your cover has a long lifespan. 

What Not to Do

Here are some things to avoid in order to keep your boat cover in good condition:

  • Never wash your boat cover in the washing machine
  • Don’t let environmental messes, such as bird droppings or tree sap, sit on your boat cover — clean them as soon as you notice them
  • Keep harmful substances like battery acid or gasoline away from your boat cover, and clean them off immediately if they make contact
  • Don’t let the cover bend at extreme angles; add foam padding to avoid creasing in areas with sharp bends, such as the corners of the windshield

Remember, the better you care for your boat cover, the longer it will last and the better it will do its job.

Give Your Boat Cover the Best

Cleaning and maintaining your boat cover may seem like a menial task, but it’s a critical one. With proper care and the right tools, like Captain’s Preferred Products’ chenille microfiber wash mitts and cleaners, you can keep your cover in top shape for years to come.

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