How to Clean A Boat Cover – Top Effective Cleaning Procedure & Tips

No doubt, boat covers keep dirt and spot out of your boat, but what do you do when your boat cover gets dirty? Of course, you clean it, but the question is how and with what? Boat covers are available in various materials, and if you want them to remain in good shape, you must clean them correctly. In this article, I will explain how to clean a boat cover and many other useful tips.

Sounds good? If so, let’s get started.

Post Updated: 30.04.2023

Why Clean a Boat Cover?

It sounds pretty obvious why should clean your boat cover. However, it’s always good to have a little reminder. Here are the two main reasons:

Prolong the life of the boat cover: Regularly cleaning your boat cover is vital to keep it looking great and lasting longer. Caring for your cover can prevent dirt, grime, and other debris from building up and causing damage. Plus, a well-maintained cover is less likely to develop mold or mildew, which can be harmful and shorten its lifespan.

Prevent damage to the boat:  Dirt, mold, and debris can cause staining, scratching, discoloration, and even weaken the cover material over time. So it’s crucial to provide good care to your boat cover if you want your boat to remain in good condition for years to come.

Materials You’ll Need to Clean Your Boat Cover.

To clean your boat cover top, you’ll need a few materials before you start the process. So, below is a list of some of the equipment and tools you must have to clean your boat cover.

  • · Natural Soap
  • . Clorox
  • · Soft, Dry Brush
  • · Water
  • · Bucket
  • · Air Dryer (Optional)

Steps To Clean Your Boat Cover

Now that you’ve gathered the materials and tools, you can start cleaning. Follow this easy step-by-step guide so your boat canvases remain clean, fresh, and well-maintained all year round.

1. Take off Your Boat Cover

Take the boat cover off and place it on a flat surface that’s clean and elevated. This will allow water to flow out easily and prevent any possible back strain.

2. Remove Dirt and Dust Using a Dry Brush

To start, grab a soft-bristled brush or broom and gently sweep away any loose dirt or leaves that may have accumulated on the cover’s surface. Take your time and be careful not to damage the cover.

3. Wet out the boat cover.

Prepare the cover for cleaning by rinsing it thoroughly with cold water using a hose. This will help remove any remaining dirt and debris.

4. Apply a cleaning solution

Here you have three options. Use the one that meets your needs.

  • Spray a cleanser straight onto the boat cover after having wetted it.
  • You can also mix a gentle soap or detergent in a bucket filled with Luker warm water and apply the solution with a soft brush.
  • If there are persistent stains and spots, a good technique is to add 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of powdered Borax mixed with 1/5l of warm water.

5. Scrub the Material with the cleaning solution

Regardless of the option you choose, make sure to give your boat cover a good scrub with a gentle brush, especially on stubborn stains. Then, let the cleaning solution sit for a few minutes to really soak in.

6. Rinse with Clean Water

Once you’ve scrubbed the entire cover, rinse it thoroughly with water to remove all the soap and suds. Don’t forget to flip it over and repeat this process.

7. Completely Air Dry

After having cleaned the cover, hang it and let it air out in the sun. If the cover is too heavy, have another person to help you carry it. Although some people may prefer using an air-drying machine to speed up the process, which also works. Still, it’s not recommended at all. However, avoid exposing the cover to too long in the sun, as it can cause the material to fade.

8. Re-Treat Your Boat Cover

Once the cover is clean and completely dry, evenly apply a waterproofing spray like 303 Fabric Guard to the entire surface, with extra attention to seams and high-use areas. Wait for the spray to fully dry before using the boat cover again.

For the best care of your boat cover, it’s a good idea to treat it with a water-repelling spray after each cleaning and whenever you see that it’s not repelling water anymore.

It’s also a good idea to test it every few months. Just flick a little water on the material to see if it beads and runs off smoothly. If it soaks in, it’s a sign you have to re-treat it.

Frequently Asked Questions

When cleaning a boat cover, several common questions may come to mind. These include whether it is safe to wash the cover in a washing machine, how to remove stubborn stains, and whether the cover’s water repellency will be affected by cleaning. In the following section, you’ll find all the answers to these queries.

Q. What to do if Stubborn stains persist?

Getting rid of mildew and hard stains from your boat cover materials can be a daunting task. However, as I mentioned above, there’s a useful tip that can simplify the process. Mixing Clorox and soap can effectively eliminate dirt and stains from the fabric, resulting in a clean and fresh boat cover.

Q. Can I wash a Boat Cover in a Washing machine?

Boat companies generally advise against washing boat covers as it can harm the material and its water-repellent properties. However, if you do so, ensure the cover fits in your washing machine and use cold water and natural soap instead of detergent. Remember that you must reapply the water-repellent treatment to the cover after washing.

Q. When Should I re-treat my boat cover?

To keep your boat cover in good condition, it is important to apply a new protective coating when you notice that water is no longer beading up on the surface. The elements can wear down the coating and make it less effective in repelling water and other substances. If you live in a country with particularly harsh weather conditions or use your boat often, you’ll need to apply a new coating more frequently. It is generally recommended to apply a new coating at least once a year, ideally at the beginning of boating season, to ensure your boat is well-protected.

What Not to Do With a Boat Cover?

You want to avoid a few things to keep your boat canopy cover in good shape. But first, let’s take a look at some of the does and don’t.

– When you clean your boat cover, avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals; they can harm the material and remove its protective coating. Opt only for a mild soap and water solution.

– Don’t use abrasive materials like steel wool; it can scratch and damage the fabric. Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge and gentle pressure to clean the cover.

-Do not machine dry the boat cover. This will damage the material and cause shrinkage. It’s safer to air-dry the cover by hanging it, preferably in a shaded area. Keep it away from direct sunlight to prevent any fading or damage. 

Final Words!

Cleaning a boat cover is simple; You just need to use the proper cleaning solution and procedure, and you are good to go. However, make sure to retreat your boat cover after each cleaning with a waterproofing agent, especially if it’s not new.

How do you clean your boat cover? Do you have a special technique? If so, you are welcome to share it in the comments below.

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8 thoughts on “How to Clean A Boat Cover – Top Effective Cleaning Procedure & Tips”

  1. Hi, thanks for the information about how to clean my boat! It impressed me that air dryers are not recommended, I always used it thinking that sun light could harm the material, but now I can see I was totally wrong about it. How about fabric dry? Should I also let it dry with the sun?


    • Hi Johnny,

      The surest way to dry a boat cover is by airing it out in the sun. If you plan to store it, just make sure it’s completely dry.
      Let me know if you have questions, I’ll be more than happy to help.
      Thank you for the comment and I wish you a fantastic day.

  2. Unfortunately, I live in an area that does not have much water so this article is something I cannot relate to. I will say that it is well-written and very easy to read. I have friends that stay around the ocean that love to go on boats so I will provide them with this article. 

    • Hi Daniel,

      Great idea to share the article with your friends:) If you need any help, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.

  3. I already started cleaning my boat cover today. I just used a broom to remove all the loose surface dirt. And thoroughly brushed the fabric with clean fresh water. But I found your suggestions so helpful. I will continue cleaning the boat cover tomorrow. And apply what I learned from your post.

    • Hi Paolo,

      I am glad you’ve found the article useful, and I hope you’ll have a clean boat cover tomorrow:)

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a great day.

  4. I am glad I do not own a boat because cleaning the cover is one more thing to worry about. However, if I did own a boat, I would want to have the protection of a cover. The reasons you mentioned sound good to me. 

    One thought though. Is it possible to clean the boat cover while is it covering the boat? To me, the cover is already stretched out well. Why not clean it without removing it? I would think that the underside of the boat cover would be pretty clean, to begin with. 

    In some ways, this is like cleaning the cover for a car. 

    Thanks for the tips.


    • Hi Edwin,

      Yes, you are right. It’s even easier to clean a boat cover when it’s on the boat:) But make sure to dry it thoroughly to avoid any moisture issues.

      Thank you for the comment, and if you need any help, I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.


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