Caring for Your Formula’s Vinyl

Caring for Your Formula’s Vinyl

November 10, 1997

By Scott Smith, Regional Service Manager

If you were to ask a boat owner what he or she would consider to be important in regularly maintaining their boat, you would probably hear things like, “checking the motor oil,” “waxing the gelcoat,” or “inspecting the shaft seals.” True enough; all of these tasks should be part of the maintenance routine… but how many do you hear say, “take care of the vinyl!”?

Admittedly, good-looking cockpit upholstery will never prevent engine failure, nor will it plug a leaking underwater fitting, but consider this: My guess is that one of the reasons you decided on Formula is the beautifully designed and craft cockpit. It is a large part of the value of your boat, and you should consider it as much an investment as the engine or the graphics. Many (if not most) of you have financed your boat, and it is not unusual for loans to run as long as ten, fifteen or even twenty years. How will you feel going out on the water for a day and lounging around on seats that have been neglected? Believe me, you won’t be getting the enjoyment you deserve, and it’ll really start bugging you when you sit down to send your monthly “greeting” to the bank. The beauty of this is that it really isn’t all that difficult to keep your upholstery in pristine condition. Common sense and vigilance are really all that are necessary.

First and foremost, you must protect your vinyl from the elements. Use your canvas! A cockpit cover or full storage cover is the best thing you do for your vinyl, and using one of them in conjunction with indoor storage, such as a covered slip or a dry stack, is much better. Constant exposure to moisture will often lead to mold and mildew, and unrelenting exposure to the sun over the years is as damaging to vinyl as it is to gelcoat or your own skin. Also, if dirt and dust are allowed to settle into the vinyl, you cushion “skins” will become grimy, resulting in a dull and lusterless cockpit (have you ever seen a gelcoat on a boat that spends its winters without a full cover or shrinkwrap?). You may be under the impression that your cockpit upholstery, since it is built for an expensive marine vehicle, should be impervious to weathering, but you wouldn’t leave a Rolls-Royce convertible out in a thunderstorm with the top down. Remember, you have luxury powerboat that deserves careful maintenance.

In Addition to keeping the interior sheltered, regular cleaning is also a must. When an owner asks about cleaning, I advise getting the jump on a potential stain right away. Except for the most vicious staining agents (such as permanent marker, for instance), most messes will come up quickly with soap and water. Simply follow these instructions taken from the “Nautolex Marine Vinyl Products Care and Cleaning.” Regular care will help keep your Nautolex vinyl upholstery looking good. However, some stains can become permanent if not removed quickly. We recommend cleaning as soon as possible after a stain is discovered.

Weekly Cleaning

Each week, wipe Nautolex surfaces with a soft, damp cloth and towel dry. In very rainy weather, cover or remove since seams can trap and absorb moisture. Cushions should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated place.

Special Cleaning Instructions

For dirt or stains that cannot be removed with a damp cloth:

  • Begin by using a mild soap and water solution and, if necessary, a soft-bristle brush.
  • Any stains still remaining should be immediately cleaned with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. After using mild soap or isopropyl alcohol, rinse off any remaining residue with a damp cloth and towel dry.

Do Not Use

Abrasive powders, steel wool, industrial strength or solvent cleaners, vinyl “conditioners” or “protectants.” Undiluted bleach and lacquer solvents can dull or damage the vinyl. If in doubt about a detergent or cleaner test a patch in an inconspicuous place before applying in a larger area.

Further, Nautolex warns about staining agents which you may not normally recognize as such:


Suntan lotion and insect repellents can cause rapid staining and deterioration of the vinyl surface. Remove these products immediately after contact, wash the area with a mild soap solution, rinse with clean, warm water, then towel dry.

Yes, suntan lotion or sun block and insect repellent are no doubt on your checklist of items to have aboard. You certainly shouldn’t discontinue the use of these products to save your vinyl, but you should take simple preventive measures. Put a towel down to avoid direct contact with your upholstery and wash affected areas as instructed as soon as possible.

If you find yourself working on a particularly stubborn stain, refer to the following table, using the numbered instructions listed under “Special Cleaning Instructions.”

Recommended Cleaning Steps for Nautolex Vinyl

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As you can see, regular care and maintenance will keep your vinyl in excellent condition. There is no reason that your vinyl cannot remain beautiful for many years. You will avoid expensive repairs and replacement, your boat will better retain its value, and you can proudly display your Formula upholstery, season after season.

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