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.