Cleaning Your Inflatable Boat

Everyone has their own way of cleaning their inflatable boat and their own favorite products. Today I’ll be talking about three of them.

Starbrite RIB & Inflatable Boat Cleaner & Protectant 32oz.

Marykate Silicone-Free Cleaner For Inflatable Boats Tubes & Towables 32oz.

Aurora Inflatable Boat Cleaner 20oz.

First let me just say there are no wrong answers here, we only sell what we use ourselves so any of the three are awesome and safe to use on your inflatable boat or RIB.

Of the three only the Aurora product states it’s bio-degradable on the label. All of the cleaners mention not getting it in your eyes or on your skin and all of them recommend rinsing with water after. Don’t spay cleaning products into the wind with your mouth and eyes wide open or it will be unpleasant for you.

In the rinse category the Marykate brings the most bubbles with second place going to Star brite and last with the least bubbles Aurora. These stats may be interpreted as backwards because using less water seems better to me. After the rinsing phase all of the products left a clean fabric surface with the Star brite being the slipperiest to the touch. No doubt due to it’s PTEF component in the formulation.

In overspray tests all left a residue on the fiberglass that when wiped dry left a visible film that remained until rinsing. In the showroom that’s not an option so a moist rag followed by a dry rag gets the job done with the Aurora product leading the way slightly over the others.

In the smell category none of them are pleasant to smell, especially if a field day cleaning session is in your showroom’s lists of “to dos” . No clear winner could be ascertained but outside where people clean boats it doesn’t matter.

In fine particulate testing in areas such as the foot wells and on the tops of tubes the Star brite takes the lead effortlessly lifting fine particulate into suspension allowing easy wiping clean with a rag. You’ll need to rinse or change your rag more frequently but Star brite seemed to do better than the rest in amount of effort needed vs amount of loose dirt removed.

Moving underneath to the bottom fabric and fiberglass hull where road grime and tars can accumulate the Aurora product did the most work with the least effort and the least amount of rags. The remaining two were a tie but the Star brite rags came out looking the dirtiest, with second dirtiest being Marykate and least dirty being Aurora. Over all cleanliness appeared to be the same for all three.

I don’t really recommend cleaning the windshield with any of the products mentioned because of the film left behind will leave streaks in the viewable area. The key to getting past the film is judicious use of rinsing water until all the suds are gone from the overflow followed by a soft non-abrasive cloth. I like an old rig spun cotton T-shirt or chamois cloth.

All of the products clean marine vinyl upholstery well but I seem to lean towards the Star brite, or the Marykate followed by a treatment of Polyguard or 303 Protectant. Actual fabric upholstery should be cleaned with a dedicated upholstery product of which there are several.

Cost wise the clear winner is the Marykate product, it works, comes in 32oz. size, and does everything you need it to do with just a bit more rinsing. Second place I’d have to go with Aurora’s product, it’s slightly more money and comes in a smaller 20 oz. size but takes less water and work. Third place is Star brite’s product, while being just barely the most expensive it falls in the middle of the rinse category but leads in the particulate category plus it has a protectant built in.

After you pull your inflatable boat or RIB out of the water it’s a good idea to figure out what you need to do to clean and protect your investment. Keeping a boat showroom clean is hard but with a little secret sauce it’s easy to keep it looking good for the time you own it. A few minutes is all it takes when you use any of the three cleaners we used, but those minutes may add years to your boat.

It all comes down to personal preference or what’s available and as long as you’re taking care of your boat it’ll take care of you. After cleaning you should always use a conditioner/protectant with no silicone. When the season ends you want to be sure you’re putting away your boat clean and dry whether it’s rolled up or inflated on a trailer. Anything you put off until next year will be tougher to clean and could possibly harm your tubes.

If I had to pick a winner it’d be you because you’ve taken the time to look at cleaners for your inflatable boat/RIB and landed here. We’ve used a lot of cleaners over the years but these three seem to be the best of the bunch There’s one for every budget so you won’t have an excuse to take good care of your boat. Not all boat cleaners are good for your inflatable boat so before you spend your hard earned cash for the wrong stuff take a minute to see if any of these three cleaners are in your local shop. You’ll be glad you did!