When to fight mildew and when to give up

Boating - - BOAT DOCTOR | BOAT DOC SPECIAL - —Lenny Ru­dow

Noth­ing mars Mom’s Mink like mildew stains on the vinyl seats and cush­ions. Those black dots and blobs look un­sightly, may cause the crew to stand in­stead of sit, and cause your boat to di­min­ish in value.

UUn­for­tu­nately, mak­ing mildew-stained vinyl look like new proves nearly im­pos­si­ble — and in some ways, it’s a fool’s er­rand.

“Mildew is a fun­gus,” ex­plains Phillip Liber­son, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Marine Can­vas and Up­hol­stery in Mi­ami. “You can clean it off the vinyl’s sur­face and kill the spores with a dis­in­fec­tant, but un­less you re­place the seat’s foam as well as the vinyl cov­er­ing, it will come back. You’ll get one sea­son, maybe two de­pend­ing on hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­ture, but just clean­ing the stains off won’t end your mildew prob­lem.”

If you don’t want to spend the hard-earned cash on re­plac­ing your seats and you’re will­ing to clean and re­clean, there are a num­ber of prod­ucts you can choose

from de­signed for at­tack­ing mildew stains. You can also try clean­ing with a 50/50 home-brew mix of white vine­gar and wa­ter. But vir­tu­ally ev­ery vinyl man­u­fac­turer cau­tions against us­ing harsh chem­i­cals like bleach, which may dam­age both the vinyl and the thread stitch­ing it to­gether.

Plan B is to have new cush­ions, seats or coam­ing pads made. The boat­builder may sell re­place­ments. You also may be able to find re­place­ments at an on­line up­hol­stery shop that has your boat pre-pat­terned, and you can also find a sur­pris­ing num­ber of boat cush­ions on eBay. The more com­mon rem­edy in­volves hir­ing a lo­cal up­hol­stery shop (or ship­ping the cush­ions to one if there aren’t any in your area) to make what you need.

So that mildew isn’t a prob­lem in the fu­ture, ask for a re­place­ment ma­te­rial that has an anti-fun­gal or an­timi­cro­bial treat­ment. Ide­ally, it should meet Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Test­ing and Ma­te­ri­als G21 stan­dards, which rate the re­sis­tance of syn­thetic poly­meric ma­te­ri­als to fungi.

You’ll also want to make sure you get heavy-duty vinyl. The term “marine-grade” gets abused a bit, so don’t take it at face value. As a rule of thumb, you want vinyl with a min­i­mum rat­ing of 28 ounces (vinyl is ranked by ounces per square foot), and ex­pect heav­ier vinyls to cost more but last longer and have bet­ter punc­ture re­sis­tance.

FUN­GUS AMONG US The dif­fer­ence be­tween stained and stain-free seats

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