How To Clean A Boat Carpet

You love your boat, and it runs like a Swiss watch. You ensure everything necessary to keep it running well and staying afloat. But when you shift your attention to its accommodations, the carpet may be a bit overlooked. 

So how do you go about cleaning them? Here’s a guide on how to clean the carpets in your boat.

Boat Carpet Cleaning: An Overview

Boat carpets take quite a beating, often exposed to wet and muddy footwear, dirt, debris, and any other fluids that drip onto them. While nautical rugs are made of tough, stain-resistant materials built to take much more abuse than the average domestic or automobile carpet, they are not invincible.

Preventative Maintenance

  • Regularly vacuum your carpets with your wet-and-dry vacuum cleaner, as this will reduce the need for intensive deep cleaning. Ensure the carpet is as dry as possible.
  • If you spill any toxic or corrosive liquids on the carpet, try and clean the spot as soon as possible. This is especially crucial for oils, gasoline, paints, solvents, and other colored substances — even tomato sauce and red wine!

Use The Right Chemicals

Regular carpet cleaning materials will suffice in a pinch, but you need specialized, marine-dedicated chemicals like Boat Cleaner for intense clean-ups. These are designed to both clean and protect marine carpets. While some mainstream chemicals can clean, they do little to maintain the protective layers on marine carpets. Some household remedies such as vinegar work well on spot stains, but first, try them out on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure they do not cause any color changes.

Start With The Vacuum Cleaner

Pick a nice, sunny day. Ensure that the carpet is relatively dry and start with the vacuum cleaner. You should use a heavy-duty, wet-and-dry model as there may be some dampness within the rug that will inevitably get sucked up and ruin the average household machine. Most recreational boaters invest in a heavy-duty machine dedicated to this task. It is the same thought process as sweeping and vacuuming your house’s floors before scrubbing and mopping them! Vacuuming helps remove loose dirt and dust, sand, grit, and other solid waste, making the scrubbing part much more manageable.

Use The Right Tools And Mixing Ratios

Scrubbing comes next, and it is admittedly the most labor-intensive part of the process.

First, mix your chemicals properly, using the recommended chemical to water ratios to get the best blend of cleaning and spreading action. Next, select a long-handled brush so that you don’t have to arch your back or work on your knees for the larger areas. Only get down on them to clean hard-to-reach areas such as under the bunks or around the fixtures, with a smaller brush. Ideally, you should have a dedicated set of brushes and equipment for your boat.

Plan Your Path Before You Start

Have a plan. Before you start, work out the sections and direction in which you are going to work. It is all too easy to pick the dirtiest or largest spot and work your way around, only to find yourself trapped in a corner, faced with the prospect of walking over a freshly cleaned carpet with your dirty paws to escape.

Safety First

Read the labels on all the chemicals to ensure they can be used safely. If they are industrial grade, you may want to consider wearing a pair of gloves and safety goggles when using these compounds to clean your carpet.

Pay Attention To Your Posture

Pay particular attention to your posture. It is all too easy to strain your back or pull a muscle when working in tighter confines, so ensure that you are comfortable at all times. Remember, it is not a race, so you don’t have to work in a hurry.

Pressure Matters

Experiment with the pressure you exert on the carpet with brushes. Start with light to moderate pressure and increase only if necessary for stubborn stains. You don’t want to damage the expensive carpet after all. It is always better to work carefully rather than quickly and regret it later. If you are thinking of using a pressure washer, you should think twice. Pressure washing can cause more harm than good, and it may even rip off the glued carpet, causing expensive repairs.

Don’t Be Afraid To Get The Carpet Wet

Carpets should be dry, except when you are cleaning them. Don’t be stingy with the cleaning solution, as the liquid should do much of the work rather than the brushing action. After all, you will be drying the carpet once the job is complete. So while you shouldn’t flood the cabin, don’t be afraid to pour on a healthy puddle of cleaning solution before brushing it all around. Once you have thoroughly brushed the carpet, rinse it with plenty of clean water to remove as much soap as possible as leftover soap can act as an adhesive once dried, attracting dirt and dust. A regular garden hose may come in useful.

Drying The Carpet

First, you should have plenty of towels on hand to soak up as much moisture as possible. Use the towels to soak up as much surface moisture while frequently wringing them into a bucket. Once you have soaked up as much moisture as possible with the towels, leave the carpet exposed (ideally, get some fans blowing on it).

If your boat’s deck is open and exposed to the sunshine, this should be sufficient in itself. If it is a closed or semi-closed cabin, some strategically placed fans to blow on the carpet are the best option. Leave the cabin windows open to allow the moisture-laden air to escape.

Final Checks

If you have removed any bilge plugs during the process, don’t forget to replace them, as well as any other items that you may have moved or disconnected to aid the cleaning process.

  • Do not take your boat through a car wash, as it will damage the carpet and possibly other parts of the boat as well.
  • Do not use a pressure washer, as mentioned earlier, even if it has a low-pressure setting.
  • Do not scrub old carpets with too much force, as the glue may have hardened and deteriorated over time, causing them to ripple, lift or even tear.


While cleaning your boat’s carpets may not be as straightforward as home or automotive applications, they are just as pertinent to ensuring the cleanliness of your seacraft — not to mention the added visual appeal they bring to the table. With a little bit of hard work and some specialized products, the job can be an afternoon’s worth of DIY, saving you hundreds, if not thousands, in cleaning costs.