Tips on Storing Your Inflatable Dinghy This Winter

Tips on Storing Your Inflatable Dinghy This Winter

Our harbor and dinghy dock are full of inflatable boats, all of which will be pulled out of the water for storage in the next several weeks. If you’re caring for your own boat, we have some suggestions (as you might expect we would).

The buoyancy tube of your inflatable boat is made of fabric using plastomer PVC or neoprene/hypalon rubber. Because it’s a fabric, it is somewhat delicate and easy to damage if you treat it improperly.

Rule number one: Never use solvents, MEK, toluene, acetone, bleach, ammonia, highly alkaline cleaners (anything with a pH greater than 11.5), abrasive scrub pads or steel wool to clean your inflatable. These products will weaken, damage and discolor the fabric and attack the adhesives that hold your boat together. Soaps and detergents also leave a sticky residue (soap scum) which attract and hold dirt. Soap scum is also food for mold and mildew. Your marine store carries products designed specifically for cleaning these boats. We stock and recommend the MDR Inflatable Dinghy Cleaner and UV Protector Kit for around $20.

No matter how thick with growth your bottom may be after spending the summer in the water, never use high-pressure cleaning equipment (pressure washers) because they can rip your boat’s seams apart. Got barnacles? Our parts guru and lifelong boater, Deb, recommends that you scrub the bottom with a stiff brush, rinse thoroughly with fresh water and let it dry for the winter. The barnacles will dry out and most will just pop off when you move the boat around in the spring.

When storing your inflatable boat, keep it in a clean, dry place that is not affected by major variations in temperature and other damaging environmental factors. When choosing a storage location, keep in mind that rodents like to chew on fabric, including inflatable boat material.

If space permits, store the boat spread out with some air in the tubes. If this is not possible, store loosely rolled with the natural air remaining in the tubes. Do not use a vacuum to suck out the remaining air unless packing absolutely requires it. Make sure all valve caps are in place before storing.


Comments (7)

  1. Jim Chandler

    Is there any way to remove anti fouling paint from the bottom of an inflatable without damaging the material?

  2. Scott Zeien

    We’re not aware of any good, safe way to remove dried bottom paint from an inflatable. Dinghy manufacturers will say that any solvent you use will degrade the fabric, and any paint removers we know of will fall under the category of “solvents.”
    Best to give the bottom a very light sanding and apply a new coat of paint.

  3. Charles Dzwonkowski

    We have a Zodiac 7 Person center console. Our Boat Club will be storing this boat outside for the winter. We do have a cover for it. My question is this Should we remove the tubes from the boat and store it inside or keep the tube inflated and cover for the winter?

    1. Scott Zeien

      We store most of our inflatables indoors (unheated) with the tubes full. Since tubes will deflate slightly in colder weather, there is little danger in over-inflation and little reason to deflate. Hope this helps!

  4. David Sobolewski

    We have a RIB (hypalon) and need to store it outside up here in Port Townsend, Wa. It freezes in these parts but doesn’t normally get large amounts of snow. I plan on storing the dingy under the boat as we are on the hard and this should give it some protection from snow and rain but it won’t be water proof. My plan is to leave it inflated stored hull down with supports under the contact points and cover it with two layers of tarps. My question is does it matter if it is inflated or deflated ? You may have answered this in a previous comment but we are storing it outside and I didn’t know if that would matter. Thanks – s/v Sidewinder

    1. Scott Zeien

      In our opinion, deflating and re-inflating your dinghy puts unneeded stress on the seams. Since colder winter weather will cause the pressure in your inflatable tubes to drop anyway, we’s suggest letting a bit of air out and covering it to prevent UV impact on the fabric.

  5. David Sobolewski

    Thanks for your input – It was my opinion that storing the dingy with a little air in it was the best way to go but not being experienced in these cold conditions wanted to get a second opinion. I got it and will do as you suggest. Now I need to figure out how to protect my pickled water maker ? When living on a boat it’s always something –

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