Inflatable Boat Maintenance Guide: How to Clean, Protect, & Care for Your Watercraft

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Inflatable Boat Maintenance Guide: How to Clean, Protect, & Care for Your Watercraft

You've done all the hard work to find the best inflatable boat possible, and now the real fun begins. You're ready to break in your inflatable sailboat, dinghy, canoe, or kayak. But actually using your boat is just one piece of the ownership puzzle: you need to take care of your boat to preserve its life and keep it working as intended. 

No matter what type of inflatable boat you own, you want to keep it looking and performing like new for as long as possible. And if you're not entirely sure what sort of routine maintenance or care you should be doing, you've come to the right place. Red Beard Sailing is your expert authority on all things inflatable watercraft. And today, we're going to share our complete guide to inflatable boat care. This article will encompass the two most important aspects of caring for your inflatable boat: 

  1. Cleaning inflatable boats
  2. Maintaining inflatable boats

Learning how to take care of an inflatable boat requires an in-depth understanding of both. Fortunately, we're going to take a deep dive into each of them so you can feel confident in inflatable boat care maintenance. Before we get into the "how to" section of this blog post, allow us to explain why learning how to clean an inflatable boat and take care of it is so important in the first place.

The Importance of Inflatable Boat Protection & Care

You might be wondering: why does my inflatable boat need protection and care in the first place? After all, these boats are designed to withstand some pretty tough conditions. And while it's true that inflatable boats are built to last, they still require regular maintenance and cleaning just like any other type of boat. 

One of the most important reasons you need to take care of your inflatable boat is because of its material composition. Most inflatable boats are made out of PVC or Hypalon, both of which are susceptible to degradation over time. Make no mistake - inflatable boats are incredibly durable and can withstand more than fiberglass or tin boats. However, UV rays can cause serious damage to PVC and Hypalon, making it important to protect your boat when it's not in use. The same is true of certain water types - salt water or brackish water.

inflatable boat protection

Caring for an inflatable boat also helps to preserve its resale value. If you decide to sell your inflatable boat down the road, a well-maintained vessel will fetch a higher price than one that's been neglected. 

Finally, taking care of your inflatable boat is important for safety reasons. A clean and well-cared-for boat is more likely to perform as intended in an emergency situation. Say you have an inflatable dinghy you use as a tender for your yacht - if someone needs to be taken to shore, you need to be able to count on your boat.

When you buy an inflatable boat, you need to commit to putting in the work to keep it in good shape. Now - with all that said, let's talk about how often inflatable boat care should be done.

How Often Should Inflatable Boat Maintenance Be Done?

As with any type of vehicle, the frequency of your inflatable boat maintenance will depend on how often you use it. If you take your inflatable dinghy out for a sail every weekend, you'll need to do some basic cleaning and care tasks every week. As you'll learn down below, we recommend certain tasks be done every time the boat gets in the water. But if your inflatable kayak only sees the light of day a few times each year, you can get away with doing more intensive cleaning and maintenance tasks less frequently. 

Similarly, the type of boat will dictate how often maintenance should be done - and the extent of that maintenance. For example, cleaning an inflatable sailboat, greasing the masts, and storing it safely is far more intensive than with an inflatable kayak. 

Inflatable Boat Care: The Two Keys to Longevity

Ready to learn how to take care of an inflatable boat? As discussed earlier, there are two key pillars to inflatable boat care: 

  1. Cleaning
  2. Maintenance & Protection

We'll cover all this for you down below. But let's start with one of the most important forms of inflatable boat protection: learning how to clean an inflatable boat.

How to Clean an Inflatable Boat: Step by Step Guide

The first and most important topic in our inflatable boat care guide is cleaning.

Happy Cat Sailboat with Screecher

After all, keeping a clean boat will extend the life of your boat by preventing the degradation of the material. This is a form of inflatable boat protection all on its own. 

When it comes to inflatable boat cleaning, there are a few instances in which you should consider cleaning your inflatable boat. Let's start with cleaning inflatable boats after they've been exposed to salt or brackish water - as this can wreak serious havoc on your vessel.

Cleaning Salt or Brackish Water Off Your Boat

Anytime you take your boat in salt water or brackish water, it needs to be rinsed as soon as it's taken out - ideally, while it is still wet. Doing so will prevent invasive species from sticking to the hull. But, rinsing this harmful water off your boat also prevents salt crystals from forming on the exterior of your watercraft. 

If salt crystals are left to form, they can eventually eat through the fabric of your boat. As you might imagine, this will cause serious damage and leaks. To clean salt or brackish water off your boat, simply rinse it with fresh water from a hose. You can also use a pressure washer - just be sure not to get too close or use too much pressure, as this could damage the fabric of your inflatable boat.

Cleaning the Interior of Your Boat

In addition to regularly cleaning the exterior of your vessel, it's important to occasionally clean the interior as well. This is especially true if you use your boat for fishing, as fish blood and other debris can quickly build up inside. 

To clean the interior of your inflatable boat, start by removing all loose debris. You can then vacuum the floor and seats to remove any remaining dirt or debris. If there are any tough stains, you can scrub them with a mild soap or cleaning solution. Once you've cleaned the interior of your vessel, be sure to dry it completely before storing or using it again. 

Routine Inflatable Boat Maintenance & Protection Tips

Now that you know all about how to clean an inflatable boat, we're ready to talk about the next aspect of inflatable boat care - the actual routine maintenance you should perform.

how to maintain inflatable boat

We touched on this a bit earlier, but we do want to point out again that not all these inflatable boat maintenance requirements will apply to your specific vessel. Inflatable sailboat maintenance is far more intensive than inflatable canoe maintenance. However, all inflatable boats can benefit from some routine maintenance - so, let's get into what you need to know.

Apply Marine Grease or Lubricant to Mast Components & Other Boat Parts

If you own an inflatable sailboat, it's important to regularly apply marine grease or lubricant to the mast components and other moving parts of your vessel. This will help prevent corrosion and keep everything running smoothly. 

To apply marine grease or lubricant, start by removing any debris from the area. You can then use a cloth to apply a thin layer of grease or lubricant to the moving parts of your boat. Once you've applied the grease or lubricant, be sure to wipe away excess before using or storing your vessel.  

You're probably wondering exactly which components should be greased. It depends on the type of boat you have and the specific make/model. So, be sure to consult your owner's manual for specific instructions. With that said, using Sail Coat (by McLube) in the sail tracks and the TakaCat Boats MiniCat frame connections is a great idea. This dry lubricant is entirely safe to use on sails. Here are some other areas grease should be applied:

  • The mast step - this is the part of your mast that rests on the deck of your boat. 
  • The gooseneck - this is the joint that connects your boom to your mast. 
  • The traveler - this is a horizontal bar that runs across the cockpit of your sailboat, and it's used to adjust the position of your mainsail. 
  • The blocks - these are pulleys that are used to raise or lower sails, and they're typically made of metal. 
  • The cleats - these are also made of metal, and they're used to secure lines on your sailboat. 

Extend the Life of Your Inflatable Boat With Marine Protectant Application

While all inflatable boats can benefit from regular application of marine protectants, this is especially important for PVC boats and Hypalon boats. We love 303 Products Marine Protectant. By using this on your boat a few times a year, you'll extend the life you get out of it by at least a few years!

Clean your boat, and then spray this stuff on the surface of your boat. Wipe it completely dry, and follow with a damp cloth to remove any excess. You don't want to let this stuff dry on your boat - you want to wipe it clean immediately. You can get the most out of this inflatable boat maintenance tip by buffing it with a dry cloth - this increases bonding, repellency, and longevity. 

Tips for Inflatable Boats With Motors

This section won’t apply to all inflatable boats - particularly sailboats, canoes, and kayaks. This one is for those with an inflatable dinghy or raft. If you’ve added a motor to your boat, there is much more maintenance that goes into keeping your vessel dialed in. Here are some quick tips:

  • Try not to store your boat with fuel. Ideally, you’d use most of the fuel out on the water. If not, you can consider flushing the fuel out of the engine. This isn’t necessary if you get out on the water every few days. But if you’re storing your boat for winter - or anything long-term - we recommend flushing. 
  • Keep the oil topped off. Adding an outboard motor to your boat can get expensive. The last thing you want is to deal with it overheating because you forgot to keep it topped off with oil. Whether you have a separate oil compartment or you add oil in with your fuel, don’t overlook this step.
  • Check up on fuel filters. If your outboard motor has a fuel filter, it’s imperative that you replace it on a regular basis. Otherwise, dirty fuel could make its way into your motor.

Inflatable Boat Protection & Storage Tips

Along with the protectant we just described, the manner in which you store your boat plays a big role in how long it lasts and how it looks. One of the best pieces of inflatable boat care advice we can offer is to store your boat in the bag and out of direct sunlight. This will prevent unnecessary UV damage to the material. If you have to store it outdoors in the sun, we encourage you to cover it up and let some of the air out of the boat to avoid over-pressurization.

Regularly Inspect Your Boat for Signs of Wear or Damage

Inflatable boats are durable and built to withstand even the most intense waters. However, things happen. And to prevent small wear and tear from snowballing into something more serious - like a puncture - you should regularly inspect your boat for signs of wear or damage. You can fix the issue easily. The good news is that any part that needs replacing can be sourced easily and affordably with an inflatable boat - this is not the case with other types!

Final Thoughts on Inflatable Boat Protection, Maintenance, & Care

Now that you know all about cleaning inflatable boats and inflatable boat protection, you can feel confident in caring for your watercraft. Remember - inflatable boat care requires you to diligently clean your vessel anytime you take it in salt or brackish water. But really, getting in the habit of cleaning your boat after any excursion isn’t a bad idea. And, for boats with moving parts, routine greasing and lubrication cannot be overlooked. Any type of inflatable boat can benefit from the regular application of marine protectant, too.

With all this said, we’re ready to bring our inflatable boat protection and care guide to a close. We hope this helps you enjoy years and years of reliable, safe boating. If you’re looking to upgrade to a new vessel, head over to Red Beard Sailing. We have the premier selection of inflatable boats online - no matter the style you’re on the hunt for. From small catamarans for sale to inflatable canoes for sale, we’ve got it all. 

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