Keep Upholstery Looking New

The single area of my boat that takes a beating the most is my upholstery. Not only does it endure sun, salt water, dampness and heat, it also gets rough treatment from me and the guests. To keep my upholstery shining I follow these preventive and repair maintenance steps:

* I don't use my upholstered seats as a step when getting in and out of the boat. You can install your own steps. They're available at marine hardware stores in a variety of models: folding permanent or even ladder style. If you don't have space for a permanent step make a protective pad for stepping on your seats. Using a square of 3 /4-inch marine plywood, staple some scarp carpeting to cover both the top and bottom. Put this on the seat area where people step.

* To protect and restore my vinyl upholstery, I use Starbrite Vinyl Shampoo as a first step because it removes dirt, stains and embedded grime. Follow that up with Starbrite Vinyl Brite, which not only prevents the vinyl from cracking and fading, but also restores it to near-new appearance and that original "soft" feel.

* The best protection for my upholstery is good maintenance. Keep it covered for protection against sun (which dries and cracks the material) dirt (which stains it), and dampness (which causes black mildew stains). Always clean upholstery thoroughly after a day on the water, using fresh water and a towel for drying it.

* Vinyl repair kits can handle most small tears and rips. A small tear can be glued together using only the vinyl repair kit. Larger tears are likely to require professional repair services. If the upholstery can be removed from the boat, take it to a marine or auto upholstery specialist who can sew the upholstery properly. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, then a do-it yourself reupholstery project is for you. A sewing machine will be needed, but the basic skills are easily learned, and there are excellent books on auto upholstery that provide all the tips you need.

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