Combating Mold And Mildew On Boats
Cowl-style vents help to circulate air below decks.
Mold, mildew and the odor they create can be a problem even on boats that appear to be clean and well ventilated. This is because, apart from the visible areas in a boats cabin, there are many areas that offer the dark, moist environment that these fungi crave. Think under quarter berths, v-berths, settees, hanging lockers, lazarettes, under cockpit seats, chain lockers, and a host of other hidden areas, many of which are barely accessible, if at all.
This Advisor discusses tactics and measures you can employ in what amounts to a continuous fight. Once you get a handle on it, your cabin will smell a whole lot fresherand those itchy eyes and that mysterious cough that you may have been experiencing might just go away too.
What To Do If You Already Have Mold Or Mildew
If youve already experienced a mold or mildew problem, your first priority is to get rid of it. These fungi can cause permanent damage to a boat if left alone for even a short period of time. Although it seems like theres an endless list of tasks to address on a boat, this one should be moved to the top.
Mold and mildew removal can be hazardous to your health, so youll want to follow proper procedure when youre around it. Youll also need to know effective solutions to combat it. We recommend an 8-step process.
Reduce Moisture With Calcium Chloride Crystals
Star brite, DampRid and MaryKate all make dehumidifiers that use calcium chloride crystals to remove moisture from the air. In some cases, the moisture gets deposited into a reservoir, as with DampRids Easy-Fill Moisture Absorber or the No Damp Ultra Dome by Star brite. These systems are effective, but are prone to spillage unless emptied on time. A better choice for hanging lockers and areas underneath settees and berthing areas are DampRids Moisture Absorbing Sachets or MaryKates Moisture Control Bag, both of which retain the condensed water in a bag or pouch.
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How Do You Remove Black Mold From Canvas
Canvass materials are known for being tough and durable thus they are used in a variety of environments. Just like your other equipment, they also need proper maintenance to prolong their service life.
Molds are fungus. They do not require the sun to thrive but they are inclined to flourish from degrading organic matter. They help in Mother Natures recycling projects thus making them one of the essential components of our planet. They can be found everywhere and can reproduce in large numbers. This is the reason why you need to find a way to deal with them as soon as possible.
When you see the evidence of tiny black, blue or green specks on your canvas, those are molds that need to be removed. You can spray the spot with distilled vinegar to kill it. You may also use a combination of salt, lemon, and hot water with a soft scrubbing brush to clean the canvas. Avoid using bleach and detergent as they are harsh on canvas and difficult to rinse. They also can diminish the water-repellent capability of your canvas. Let your canvas dry completely.
Regular cleaning is a must yet it can take its toll on your canvas as they are exposed to the elements. After a thorough cleaning, use the 303 Marine Fabric Guard to help restore the water repellency of your canvas. Dont forget to dry your canvas before folding and storing them to avoid black molds from developing.
Use Magic Erasers On Stubborn Stains
Magic eraser sponges come with special cleaners inside that are ready to tackle messes that stick. What’s also helpful about them is that you don’t have to scrub too hard to see results, so they make for an excellent relief if you’ve been having trouble with a problem area. All you need to do is get them wet and get to wiping.
Because of their size, too, magic erasers are more likely to be able to fit into any gaps and seams your brush can’t manage to get into because of the size. You may need to take a couple of passes with the eraser to get up all the stains, but you will start to see results.
Like with your brush, you don’t want to scrub too hard with magic erasers since they can potentially cause damage to your vinyl. Take your process easy, and you’ll be in good shape to clean up your remaining mildew mess.
You could start with magic erasers if you like, but you don’t need all that power for all stains. Save them for things you can’t get rid of with the above steps.
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Whats The Difference Between Mold And Mildew
When addressing mold and mildew issues, its helpful to know how theyre similar and how they differ. Mold and mildew are fungi that share many of the same characteristics: Both thrive in moist, dark areas, and they can grow on a wide variety of surfaces from food, to shower stalls, to paper.
Mold is usually black or green and is a result of a large infestation of spores. It can appear either fuzzy or slimy. Mildew, on the other hand, most often looks like white or gray powder dusting the surface of an area.
Mold is tough to control once it starts. And surprisingly, mold doesnt require warmth to survive. Mold can withstand cold climates, since freezing temperatures dont kill spores. When the weather warms back up, the mold will take off growing again.
Mildew is easier to treat than mold, since its not as hardy. But it can cover wide swaths of surface area, and if it gets into fabrics or paper , youre better off just tossing those items.
Prevent Mold By Reducing The Likelihood Of Damp Conditions
Mold thrives when boats are closed up. Air that is trapped inside holds moisture that cant escape. And with water, air and hull temperatures changing at different rates, condensation forms. Add people living on board and theres even a higher chance for moisture.
There are a couple major actions a boat owner can take to prevent damp. You can either use a dehumidifier and/or maximize ventilation.
A dehumidifier reduces the level of humidity in the air allowing the boat to dry out.
Dehumidifiers work well when a boat is sealed up and left unattended. Many boat owners reduce humidity by using the boats air-conditioning system or you can set up a stand-alone dehumidifier in the galley sink or place one in the bilge so that the water run-off can exit the boat.
The key with dehumidifiers is that the boat must be well sealed. The objective is to take the moisture out of the air within the boat to reduce the likelihood of damp.
The other major action you can take to minimize damp is to make sure the air within the boat is circulated
This can be done by ensuring the boat is well ventilated in addition to having electric vents or fans move the air around.
The ultimate aim, therefore, is to remove the moisture in the air and/or constantly circulate the air so that the possibility for dampness is eliminated.
This leads us to the third main priority to prevent mold and mildew
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Iosso Mold & Mildew Stain Remover
This option is the solution to your cleaning problem if youre concerned with discoloration. Unlike most mildew removers, the IOSSO Mold & Mildew Stain Remover is a versatile and color-safe agent that works well with the fabric, carpets, sail covers, and canvas. It doesnt only remove mold and mildew but also stains from food, algae, leaves, among others.
Another unique aspect of this product is that it comes in powder form which will be mixed with warm water to form the cleaning solution. Now, this may sound complicated but the instructions written on its packaging are pretty clear and straightforward. The container also comes with a scooper to help you mix in the adequate amount for your needs.
The packaging may seem small but this concentrated powder can make gallons of solution. Just one 12-ounce jar can make three gallons, enough to cover up to 100 square feet of dirty surfaces. It is highly useful and convenient to take along, making it a favorite cleaning agent among boaters and campers.
Best of all, it is biodegradable and contains no chlorine. This explains its weaker smell and gentler effect upon skin contact, thus minimizing potential health hazards. It is quite a relief to use an agent that is safe for you and the environment.
- Convenient to carry, use and store anywhere
- May need multiple applications and longer soaking time to remove stains
Boat Cover Cleaning Basics
The best method of cleaning a boat cover is to use a hose and a soft bristle brush. If you are suffering from stubborn spots and stings youll need to mix up a cleaning solution. You can use a mild soap, but a properly formulated cleaning solution will work better.
You need to first make sure that your boat cover is properly secured. It also needs to be elevated. This prevents water from pooling. Ideally you would have secure your boat cover in place with some poles to allow for this. With your boat cover in the position you need it in you can simply brush off loose dirt. Spray it down with a hose. Use the soft bristle brush to scrub off any dirt or mildew growth.
If your boat canvas was not badly stained, the water and brush should be enough to clean it. You will need to let it air dry completely before you fold it up for storage. That will prevent any further mildew growth.
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Apply Protectant To The Canvas
When your Bimini is dry, add some protective marine grade 303 to it. I buy one that has a UV cover in it as well since it will help shield the canvas from the light. For obvious reasons, I did put extra on the seams.
To help avoid premature aging, cracking, and fading, products have a great product that contains strong UV blockers, I use marine grade 303 product.
Removing Mold And Mildew Using White Vinegar
If its really too difficult to get the mold and mildew out, you can use white vinegar and bleach to clean your fabric, bimini frame, and boat seats. This type of mix will make a good bleach solution although the Environmental Protection Agency does not recommend using this. Bleach is known to kill only surface mold and will eventually come back. This means it will still grow back on the fabric.
For outdoor fabric, you can try to fill a spray bottle with water and white vinegar in equal parts. Its important to note that you have to use white vinegar and not the other types. Using soft brushes, you can gently rub the vinegar mixture until the surfaces are free of dirt. Be sure to have it completely dried under the sunshine to prevent moisture. If not, this will only lead to mold and mildew growing back.
If you are having a hard time checking which part of your fabric has stains, you can simply lay it flat on a small area. This will make it easier to clean and visually check remaining spores. Avoid laying the fabric on wood surfaces when you wash it. Vinegar and bleach can be strong when combined and can cause damage to the wood. Anyhow, a vinegar solution is a good choice to clean the fabric rather than taking the last resort of using bleach alone. Good luck in cleaning!
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Dont Create Additional Work For Yourself
Many people start out by cleaning their boat seats with a low-grade, low-intensity cleaner such as dish detergent solution to see if that does the job. Unless your problem is very minor, you may as well skip this step. If your mildew or mold problem is serious enough to cause odor, theres a good chance its already deep-set in your boat seats. Youre going to need a cleaner with a little more heft to make quick work of it.
How I Clean Bimini Tops Instead
Now Ive given you a great reason to not use bleach, its time to give you the best method in my opinion. And the great thing is, its simple, cheap, and effective.
1. Remove the Bimini canvas from the frame and boat
Take care to unclip and pull the Bimini top and canvas away from the frame. This is relatively simple on my pontoon boat two bow frame set-up.
Dont rush this part, as you could tear and rip the canvas.
2. Lay the boat canvas down on a flat surface
Lay the Bimini top out on your driveway or patio so its flat.
Put some weights down on the edges to stop the canvas from lifting in the wind and getting dirtier. I use a few rocks, but you might use some fitness weights instead.
3. Use a pressure washer to clean the mildew and dirt away
If you dont have a pressure washer, get one now. They are great for any type of pontoon boat cleaning jobs, and I regularly use mine on the deck and pontoons.
I have a Sun Joe. Its cheap and does a great job. .
With a few up and down strokes, you should be able to blast away all the mildew and mold in just a couple of minutes.
Handy Hint: Dont use the most powerful setting. Start off with low pressure, gradually increasing until it removes the mildew and mold. If its set on too high a pressure, you might tear the canvas, especially if the jet hits a weak spot.
I know a local Bimini restorer who uses this exact method. Interestingly, he did mention that he does a very small amount of bleach into the water mix.
How To Clean A Boat Bimini Top Without Bleach
First up, why do I hate bleach so much for Bimini cleaning. Simple the bleaching chemicals can degrade the thread in the canvas stitches and can also fade the Bimini over time.
Bleach might be good for countertops, but it can be very destructive on vinyl, canvas, and cloth materials everything a Bimini top might have in it!
This is why you see so many photos online of seams in boat seats that have started to come apart. Its the harsh bleach that has done this.
Bimini tops arent cheap. You can buy a replacement , but if you can clean up the mold and mildew from the canvas cover, you save yourself some money.
What Are The Different Types Of Boat Mildew Removers
Liquid boat mildew remover
Liquid forms are typically found in Walmart and other stores. Liquid sprays are especially preferred because they are convenient to carry and ready to use.
Those bought in bottles and gallons can also be directly applied or diluted with water if necessary. However, they take up more space because of their large containers.
Powder boat mildew remover
Powder boat stain cleaners require extra time to make the right mixture. It may also be a bit messy to do. You may be anxious to keep the measurements accurate, but its product instructions will guide you through it.
On the good side, storage will not be a problem because of their relatively smaller containers. You can keep the rest in the cabinet after scooping out a portion for mixing. Nonetheless, the powdered mold remover is as effective as the liquid form.
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Star Brite Mildew Stain Remover
If your boat seats have suffered from massive mildew, then this Star Brite Mildew Stain Remover is destined for you. We personally love this product because of how easy it is to apply. Just spray it on the affected surface, leave it on for a minute, and rinse when the stain magically disappears.
Aside from saving time, you also conserve energy as mildew is removed on contact. This means that there is no need for heavy brushing, making boat mold removal less laborious.
What makes this product suitable for your boats is that it is particularly made for marine use. Moreover, you wont have to worry about your boat seats delicate threads and upholstery as this vinyl mildew cleaner, as tough as it may be, is friendly with them. If you have already used multiple items and spent a considerable time scrubbing without any satisfying outcome, then it must be time to shift to this.
In addition to vinyl, this boat mildew remover works on many surfaces, including wood, awnings, concrete, fiberglass, and other outdoor acrylic materials. Unlike other commercial brands, its buffered-bleach formula can eliminate any filth instantly. Then again, it is ideal to test it first on inconspicuous areas before use.
- Troublefree application by spraying, waiting and rinsing
- Quickly takes away mildew stain on contact
- Works on many types of surfaces
- Scientifically made for marine upholstery
- Needs second application for stubborn stains to come off