MILDEW OR MIL-DON’T?
When to fight mildew and when to give up
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