Keeping your ship’s carpet and upholstery in tip top shape-Article for the Spinnaker Sheet newsletter

 boat fabric cleaning santa cruz

The old cliché of “An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure” never rings more true than when it comes to maintaining your textiles. Carpeting, rugs and upholstered furnishings are never cheap to replace so a little effort towards keeping your furnishings clean and fresh can save you a lot of money, time and headache down the line.

The simplest and effective way to extend the life of your fabric and carpet is by vacuuming as often as possible. Keeping dry soil from becoming embedded should be your number one goal If you use your boat on an occasional basis (a few times a month) vacuuming the surface areas of your upholstery one time a month. If you live on your boat, once a week for every person or pet on board is generally the best rule to follow.

Which vacuum is best? My favorite answer to that commonly asked question is “the one you enjoy using the most”.  If you are in need a new vacuum cleaner, make sure to shop for one in person and not over the internet, where size and ease of use can be confusing. If you don’t have somewhere to store a full size vacuum on your vessel, then obviously size is the number one concern. Don’t buy one so small that important features like a beater bar/brush roll, good dirt capacity and the ability to clean tight spaces and upholstery are compromised. A canister vacuum may be your best choice due to size and storage. Make sure the bags are not so expensive that you’ll put off replacing them due to the cost. Vacuum bags should be replaced when half full in most cases, due to lack of airflow as the pores in the bag clog up. Keep in mind, Shop Vacs are great for cleaning up both wet and dry messes, unplugging clogged sinks and spot cleaning carpet and upholstery but with no beater bar feature, they should not be used for maintenance cleaning of carpet.

Next up in importance is spot cleaning. Allowing spills and dragged in wet soil to dry and linger, greatly increases their chance of setting and becoming permanent. Most modern synthetic fabrics and carpet can easily be spot cleaned with just water but readily available mild detergents like “Woolite” or “Nylac” work great on tougher spills. Larger spills should be dealt with using a small extractor or shop vac. Removing the bulk of the spill first will make spot cleaning the left over discoloration much easier. I could go on for days on the subject but for sake of simplicity, we have an easy to follow spot cleaning guide on our website HERE. Follow these basic rules and you’ll stay out of trouble:


  • Blot don’t rub..
  • “Oxy” based products (all the rage these days) need to be rinsed out of the fibers in order to not bleach out color.
  • Less is more when it comes to spot cleaning agents. Resist the urge to mix diluted products stronger than recommended. Use heated soft or distilled water to dilute to boost cleaning performance.
  • Apply spot cleaning agents to the towel, not the carpet or fabric.
  • When in doubt call a professional for spot cleaning natural fibers.
  • Take your loose upholstery and carpet/rugs to a professional cleaner every year or so for a deeper cleaning.
  • Avoid unzipping cushions and running them through the laundry. Most cloth furniture is not double stitched at the seams and many have a latex backing, so damage may occur and you may not recognize what comes out of your machine.


Rough seas and tight spaces often lead to spilled drinks and food on a boat. Heavy concentration of foot traffic in confined areas is a problem as well. For these reasons, keeping your fabrics treated with a fiber protector is very beneficial. Spills are easily cleaned up, spot cleaning is easier and more effective, professional cleanings down the line always come out better, your vacuum will be far more efficient and UV fading and mold and mildew growth are greatly reduced. Will a can of Scotchgard from OSH help? Sure, a bit and for a little while, but if you treasure your investment, hire a fabric specialist to apply a professional grade product.

So in a nutshell, to extend the life of your fabrics and to brighten up your boat’s interior and improve the indoor air quality, follow these easy steps:

– Set aside some time to do some maintenance cleaning.

– Be prepared for the occasional spill cleanup. Act quickly! The longer a spill sits, the more chance that it will it become permanent.

– Keep a small vacuum with attachment tools and a beater-bar on board.

– You’ll also want small Shop Vacuum with attachments, a neutral pH spotter, Vinegar, Ammonia, Isopropyl Alcohol, Acetone, some clean white cotton towels and our spot cleaning guide printed out for ease of use.



Good luck and Bon Voyage!


Mike Pailliotet/Connoisseur Cleaning, Santa Cruz