Are you wondering how to care for your inflatable boat? Or maybe you’re helping someone else care for theirs?
Caring for inflatable boats is easy, as long as you know what to do. Here’s everything you need to know to maintain an inflatable boat well.
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How to Maintain and Take Care of a PVC or Hypalon Inflatable Boat
It’s important to know how to take care of your inflatable boat. That way, you can keep it looking great and working well. Boat care is usually simple and straightforward, so you don’t have to worry much about getting it done.
Here’s what you need to know to take care of your PVC or Hypalon inflatable boat.
How to Clean an Inflatable Boat
Don’t leave your inflatable boat dirty for extended periods. Dust, dirt, and general grime can eat away at some inflatable boat materials, causing damage.
Even if it doesn’t damage your boat, dirt and mud can contain chemicals that will stain your boat if you leave them on it for a long time. While you can still remove these stains, it will be a lot harder than just spraying off mud and dirt when you’re done using it.
You can start by spraying your boat off with water. This may remove more dirt and debris than you had thought. If dirt has dried on the boat or you have a particularly stubborn stain, you may need to scrub it clean.
If you do need to scrub your inflatable boat, use a product designed for marine use, like 3M Marine Cleaner and Wax. It can remove stains from oil to bird droppings and from blood to scuffs from dark shoes.
- Designed to remove light to medium oxidation
- Cleans, polishes and protects fiberglass/gelcoat
Never use a cleaner with solvents, ammonia, bleach, acetone, or MEK on your boat, and don’t scrub it with abrasive pads. Instead, use soft cloths and cleaners designed for use on boats like yours.
How to Protect an Inflatable Boat
Use a protectant spray specifically designed for the type of boat you have. Many people use 303 Marine UV Protectant Spray, on rubber, PVC, and Hypalon boats. However, you may want to see if your boat’s manufacturer recommends a specific cleaner.
- Powerful UV blockers prevent fading, cracking and premature aging
- Dries to a clear matte finish
Some manufacturers sell cleaners that they make specifically for use with their boats. You will need to buy this directly from them. Others recommend using cleaners like the one mentioned above.
Every boat protectant will come with different directions. Most require you to start with a clean, dry boat. Then you spray the product on all inflatable areas.
Once the product is on the areas that need to be cleaned, you can wipe it dry. Most sprays will protect against UV damage and stains, and may even repel dirt and other debris. Protecting your boat can make it last longer and keep it looking great throughout its lifetime.
You can also protect your inflatable boat by inflating it properly. Make sure you know the maximum PSI that your boat can withstand and do not inflate it beyond that point.
Remember that temperature changes can affect inflation levels. Be sure to check the PSI of your boat before each use to manage this variable.
How to Store an Inflatable Boat
Clean your boat before you put it away. This can mean anything from hosing it down to cleaning it as outlined above. Never put your inflatable boat away dirty because the dirt could damage or stain your boat.
Make sure you always store your boat dry. Whether you keep it mostly inflated, partially inflated, or you deflate it and fold it up, make sure that it is dry before you put it away.
If you don’t dry your inflatable boat, it can develop mildew, mold, and rot. This doesn’t mean that you have to dry your boat thoroughly after each use. It does mean that, before you put it in a garage for the winter or fold it up, you make sure it is completely dry.
If you can, store your inflatable boat away from other objects. While sharp points will do the most damage, even ropes or oars can rub against the boat’s material and weaken it over time.
How to Maintain and Take Care of a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB)
Caring for a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) is more complex than caring for a simple inflatable. While you will care for the inflatable parts as outlined above, you will also need to care for the rigid hull, any upholstery, and more.
Here’s what you need to know to keep your RIB in great shape!
How to Clean a RIB
You can get most dirt and debris off your rigid inflatable boat simply by hosing it down. If you do this while the boat is still wet or soon after you take it out of the water, you may not need to do more cleaning very often.
If you use your rigid inflatable boat in saltwater, make sure you hose it down after each use. Saltwater can damage most parts of a boat, including both the inflatable parts and the hard hull. Spraying it down mitigates this damage.
After that, clean the inflatable parts of your RIB as outlined above.
You should also wash the deck of your RIB. Get a deck brush designed for use on the material your deck is made of. You can get them with soft, medium, or stiff bristles, depending on the type of cleaning you do the most.
Use these alongside a deck cleaner to get your boat as clean as possible.
When it comes to upholstery, you’ll need to find out what yours is made of. Then find a cleaner specific to that type of upholstery and use it regularly.
Use a hull cleaner to get rid of stains, watermarks, and scum lines on your RIB’s hull.
How to Protect a RIB
You can protect the inflatable parts of your RIB as outlined above. Spray them with a protectant, then follow the directions on the specific product to wipe your boat down. This should protect from stains, UV rays, and more.
There are upholstery protection products available based on the material your upholstery is made out of. You may be able to use the same protectant that you use on your inflatable parts for this, or you may choose to purchase another one, like Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield.
- Creates durable Protection from the elements with just one application while maintaining fabric breathability
- Safe for use on polyester, Nylon, polypropylene, cotton, leather, suede and more
Upholstery can suffer damage from spills, prolonged exposure to UV rays, saltwater, and more. Using a protectant helps you keep it looking great and means you don’t have to replace it as often.
Wax the hard hull of your rigid inflatable boat regularly, just like you would on a traditional boat. This keeps microorganisms from attaching to the hull and growing there. It also makes it easier to clean your boat.
Always check the pressure in the inflatable parts of your RIB before you use it, especially if the boat has gone through some temperature fluctuations. This can change the pressure inside and you don’t want to use the boat when it is overinflated or underinflated.
How to Store a RIB
Like with a regular inflatable boat, you’ll want to store your RIB completely clean and dry. This gives the boat a great chance of coming out of storage in great condition.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure you do a few things when you store your RIB.
Keep your boat inflated. This prevents kinks and creases from forming in the inflatable parts, which can weaken them. If you’re worried about temperature-induced pressure fluctuations, you can store the boat slightly deflated.
Cover your boat when you store it. This keeps sunlight off, as well as preventing dust and debris buildup, so you’ll have a nice, clean boat the next time you want to take it out.
Make sure you store your boat without fuel in it. Otherwise, your fuel can separate into oil and gas, which causes problems later on. If you need help getting fuel out of your boat, bring in marine professionals to do the job.
If you use your boat in saltwater, flush your engine with fresh water to make sure there are no minerals in it that could cause corrosion. After all, you don’t want to have to replace your engine to use your boat again!
Disconnect your boat’s battery for storage, too. Some of your instruments may draw tiny bits of power even when not in use. This can damage your battery over time, and it may mean that you come back to a boat with a dead battery the next time you try to use it.
Check your hull whenever you have your boat out of the water. This allows you to see any damage and get it fixed before you want to use the boat again. Don’t store your boat with hull damage – instead, bring in experts to fix it ASAP.
Don’t store your boat where it will get too hot, and don’t put it under a dark cover that will draw in heat and sunlight. Heat can damage and deform the inflatable parts of your boat.
Once you know how to take care of an inflatable boat, you’ll be ready to get one of your own or to help a friend care for theirs. Taking care of an inflatable boat can help extend its lifespan so that it lasts as long as possible.
Enjoy using an inflatable boat for many years when you take good care of it and perform all necessary maintenance!