How to Clean Boat Carpet

Tips and techniques for annual and monthly cleaning

Seasonal carpet cleaning

Fall is a great time to get your boat carpet clean and ready for storage. It’s also a good time to start your replacement boat carpet project if you decide it’s time for a change. Either way, if you do the work this fall, you will have a bright and tidy floor and be ready to drop your boat in the water that first warm day.

Inspect your boat carpet and make small repairs

Take a look around your boat carpet. If it is worn out or permanently stained, it might be time to replace your boat carpet while the weather is warm enough for the glue to set. If not, a good cleaning will prevent some old stains from “baking in” over those long months in storage. Look for areas that hold more dirt or look darker, or for obvious stains. If you have any frayed edges of your marine carpet, take a sharp knife or scissors and trim the edge of your boat carpet. You can also use spray contact adhesive to tack down any loose edges or areas. Our boat carpet spray adhesive is a high quality, multipurpose spray that is great for other household projects, too. Here is the link

Boat carpet cleaning basics

You don’t need a lot of tools to do an annual boat carpet cleaning. You will need a garden hose, a bucket, a soft brush and your favorite gentle dish soap or simple green or another gentle waterway safe cleaner. Expensive custom cleaning products are not necessary to clean boat carpeting. Stay away from any cleaners with bleach or harsh detergents. Boat carpet from resists stains from gas, oil, mold and mildew, so harsh cleaners aren’t necessary.

A good vacuum cleaner gets the sand and grit out of your dirty boat carpet before you start. A shop vac is easier because you can vacuum the dirt before you start and also remove water from your clean boat carpet at the end of the process and speed up the dry time.

If you decide to use a power washer on boat carpet know that it’s risky. Be very careful to use an extremely low setting and low power if you try this! It’s hard to know ahead of time if your boat carpet, boat carpet glue, and subfloor can tolerate the pressure. Avoiding a power washer except for extreme boat carpet cleaning circumstances where you have tested it out gently. Also do not take your stained boat carpet through a car wash and don’t use a do-it-yourself car wash. The heat from the water and the heated nozzles can damage your marine carpet. A bucket and a garden hose is the best choice 9 times out of 10 to clean boat carpet.

If you have an old piece of marine carpet left over, or an under seat boat carpeted area, that is the best place to test spot cleaners. Some are too harsh or could bleach or stain your boat carpet. Most of the time a spot cleaner is not needed, and sometimes they can even set a stain permanently if you can’t rinse it quickly. If you have a stubborn stain and you decide to try a spot cleaner, make sure to pretest it on an inconspicuous area. Rinse extremely throughly right away. Also allow several days between pre testing and using a spot cleaner on your main boat carpet as it may take a while for any issues to show up.

Older boat carpets will need to be treated extra gently as the glue bond between the backing and the boat does break down over time. Never use hard scrubbing or a power washer when cleaning old marine carpets.

Steps to clean your boat carpet

1. First remove all extra items in your boat that you do not want to get wet when you clean boat carpet. Keep in mind that you may have some leakage in floor lockers when you use the hose, too, so empty those out for sure. And pull your bilge plug if you are on dry land. Don’t forget to put it back in later! Place your bilge plug in an obvious spot – like taping it on the dash or placing next to the keys. You don’t want to search through pockets or go digging through all the cup holders later.

2. Next, do a thorough vacuuming of your boat carpet. You want to get out all the surface dirt before getting your marine carpet wet – otherwise you end up with muddy cleaning water and more work for you!

3. Working in medium sized sections, wet your boat carpet well. Apply some simple green or dish soap to a large sponge and blot it around, soaking the dirty marine carpet. Then scrub gently to remove debris and old stains. Follow the grain of the carpet, usually front to back, in large, gently sweeping motions. Rinse well, then move on to the next section to keep cleaning boat carpet.

4. Once you have finished each section, give your boat carpet one more final rinse over the entire surface. Removing all the old soap is important. Dried soap is hard to see, but it acts like a glue, attracting and holding dust and dirt to your clean boat carpet. Use your shop vac to remove the water, or let it dry in a warm, sunny area. If you have a clean shop broom, you can brush your marine carpet gently from back to front to fluff the marine carpet.

5. Replace your bilge plug. This deserves it’s own step for safety reasons. Extra credit to you if you’ve put the plug in an obvious area to remember it and not in your jacket pocket. As Murphy’s law would have it that jacket could be hanging in your closet when you discover the plug is missing.

Regular cleaning keeps stains at bay.

Cleaning boat carpet often will help prevent stains and discoloration. Regular vacuuming helps lift dirt from your marine carpet before it becomes ground in. This keeps your clean boat carpet bright and prevents grit and sand from wearing out the marine carpet backing and the bond. And acting quickly to boat carpet stains and spills when they happen is a good preventative strategy. Keep a few old white towels on hand. Use a towel to blot up as much of the spill on your stained boat carpet as you can. Then rinse with clean water and keep blotting until you absorb the water and the stain. When you get back to port, start the boat carpet cleaning process above. You do not want to try a spot cleaner while you are out for the day in the sun in case you cause a permanent discoloration.