How to Remove Mold/Mildew

How to Remove Mold/Mildew From Vinyl

Despite your best efforts, you may notice mold/mildew forming on your vinyl seats in Fall. For a boat to look its best, the seats require regular cleaning and maintenance. 

With any boat, you have opportunities to enjoy the waters of Wisconsin. At the same time, those opportunities come with constant exposure to moisture and the continuous UV rays.

image of mold/mildew


Seats are particularly susceptible to the risk of mildew and mold. With proper maintenance in Fall, your boat will be better prepared for Spring startup.

In Fall, if you notice dirt and mildew forming, it’s time to take action.

With the right tools and supplies, you can keep your seats free of mildew. 

What do You Need?

Most boat seats are made with vinyl since this material can stand up to wet conditions of regular use on boats.

However, vinyl is susceptible to mildew with the constant exposure moisture. You need to find the right materials to get started. We recommend:

  • Bleach-free mold and mildew stain remover
  • soft brush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Marine and UV protectant spray
  • Magic Eraser sponges

None of these supplies are expensive so that you can handle this cleaning job without much effort on your part.

Caution – Bleach and Vinyl don’t mix

Bleach is an excellent tool for cleaning up all sorts of messes. Mold/mildew are included in those messes. Nonetheless, keep bleach (and any cleaners that use it) away from your boat seats. 


Bleach, when used on vinyl, takes out the oils in the material. Those oils are essential for the resistance to water and the life of those same materials. 

Bleach can also impact the stitching that holds your seats together. It causes the seam to degrade and eventually come apart. Vinyl doesn’t last forever, but why make the end of life happen sooner. Save some money by cleaning it properly.

       CLR for mold/mildew removal

Check any mold and mildew stain remover to ensure these products do not include bleach as one of the ingredients. For a safe pick, try CLR mold remover. Now that you have the right cleaner take the extra step of cleaning a small area not readily seen to make sure you didn’t miss anything in the ingredients list.

Removing Mold/Mildew Stains from Seats

Follows these steps to remove mildew from your boat seats effectively.

Spray the Mold cleaner on the Seats

Start by spraying your mold remover on the seats. Also, spray into the gaps and seams, so there is no hidden damage from mold or mildew. Mold likes to form in those areas.

Next, let the cleaner sit for some time. Practice patience like you are telling the kids all the time.

How long should you wait?

Wait at least 5- 10 minutes to allow the spray to penetrate the material.  

Really stubborn stains?  

Soak it longer or repeat the process. Read the directions for the best results. (There I go again – reading the directions just like my wife tells me to.) With time, the cleaner can penetrate further and do a better job of breaking down the mold and mildew.

Next, Start Scrubbing

Now, after you have read the directions and patiently waited for the removal to work, it’s time to scrub. Always use a soft brush so that you don’t scratch your seats and cause damage. 

Do not use a lot of force to scrub the vinyl, or you’ll cause damage. Using the proper mold and mildew cleaner means you will not have to use too much elbow grease. You’ll still have clean seats.

The proper brush helps get the mold off your vinyl, but you can still expect to see some leftover debris. 

Remember the nooks and crannies too. 

Now, Wipe Away the Debris

With the problem areas scrubbed, you want to wipe off any mold debris still holding on. Using any type of cloth is fine, but a microfiber cloth is recommended. Microfibers are gentle and less likely to tear your vinyl.

Wipe in a circular motion – it’s the most effective way to do it. Reach down into those cracks and crevices too.  

Be prepared to use several cloths. Why use a dirty cloth when you are attempting to clean something? 

Repeat as Necessary

Massive mildew build-up may require additional applications to get the surfaces clean. Really stubborn stains may require a second application or more time to allow the cleaner to do its thing.

Have you tried multiple times to get rid of the mildew, and it’s still there, just reduced in size? It’s now time to bring out your last line of defense.

Use Magic Erasers on Stubborn Stains

Magic Eraser to remove mold/mildew

Magic erasers come with special cleaners inside that are ready to tackle messes that stick. A bonus, you don’t have to scrub hard – let the solutions do the work for you.

They are excellent for hard to reach or stubborn stains. Get the “eraser” wet and start wiping.

A couple of passes with the “eraser” and you will see the results. Be gentle and let the cleaners in the “eraser” do the job. Scrubbing too hard may damage your vinyl. 


You could start with the magic erasers, but you don’t need all that power for most stains. 

The last step – Use a Vinyl Protector

By applying a vinyl protector, you are doing preventative maintenance. Vinyl protectors protect your vinyl from UV rays and make your seats look great. Additionally, the protector prevents future mold and mildew from forming.

A word of warning- allow the vinyl to dry completely before applying the protectors.

 Prevent future mold and mildew 

  • Use a vinyl protector ( after they are thoroughly clean)
  • Wipe down your seats after use. Remove all sweat, moisture, and suntan lotions. Mold and mildew both require moisture to form, so wipe down those seats.*
  • Don’t let moisture form during winter storage. Check-in on your boat occasionally to help you catch a mess before it becomes a problem.
  • Purchase mildew-resistant seat material. While not 100% foolproof, mildew-resistant seat material can save you time and money in the long run. Why not reduce your chances of getting mold in the first place?

Keeping your seats clean will pay off when selling your boat, as mold and mildew can decrease your boat value.

*See this video for more information on mold and mildew. 

For another option see this video using another product.

Tell Your Friends & Family

Have friends or neighbors you believe should see this article? Email a link to this article – and Thank you!

You can visit Pier & Waterfront Solutions on Facebook also.

Don’t Forget –  PWS is the expert when you have a waterfront problem!

Where is Pier & Waterfront Solutions?

Located at 7325 St. Hwy 57, we are about 3 miles south of Sturgeon Bay, and 1 mile past the intersection of Cty MM (heading north). Look for the intersection of Idlewild Road and Hwy 57.