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Good tip on treating/conditioning vinyl boat upholstery

DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 382 Crazy Baller
I don't know if most people know this or not but in case it's not well known I thought I'd pass along this tip I got from a 30+ year experienced boat upholstery guy that did a little upholstery work on my boat a few years ago. I figured that with all of the years he's been restoring and repairing boat upholstery he'd know what he's talking about so I followed his advice and it has worked very well for me. As such, I can personally attest to this advice being good. He said the best product out there for keeping vinyl upholstery supple and to prevent it from drying and cracking and fading over time is good ol' WD40. I found that news to be very surprising but he said WD40 has a number of oils in it that vinyl loves and absorbs very well. He said to apply it in the cool shade by spraying it over a small section, allow it to soak in for a minute or so and wiping the area down with a rag to rub more of the oils into the material and wipe away any excess. Or you can spray one rag with lots of WD40, rub it into one small area of the upholstery, let it soak in for a bit and then wipe it off with another rag. Go along patch by patch until you've done all of the vinyl. If you have one person moving along applying it and another following behind doing the wiping and buffing, you can get a whole boat done very quickly.

Where I have my boat, once a year is plenty. Those of you who live in areas with a much longer boating season may want to do it a couple or more times a year, depending on the need. He said if you keep applying the WD40 year after year, your boat upholstery will look better and last much longer than it otherwise would and that in his experience, WD40 works as well or better than any expensive vinyl upholstery product out there but at a way lower cost.

I have applied WD40 to my boat's vinyl upholstery once a year for 3 or 4 years now and it has worked great for me. The vinyl has stayed very supple and lustrous and the colors still pop like when the boat was new. I know someone is going to ask about the smell and it's been my experience that the vinyl may smell a little like WD40 right at first but that goes away very quickly - like within an hour or less. The upholstery may also feel a little oily right after the WD40 has been applied but that also goes away very quickly. Thereafter, the vinyl just feels "fresh" and supple - like new vinyl.

The great thing about it is that it's incredibly cheap for how effective it is. Get one of those big economy sized cans and you probably won't use more than a buck or two's worth of WD40 to do your whole boat once over. Tough to beat for the price. If you're skeptical about this tip then just try it out in one small out-of-the-way spot and see how it goes.

Has anyone else used WD40 for treating/conditioning vinyl upholstery?
I can take anything apart


  • keithh2oskierkeithh2oskier Posts: 679 Crazy Baller
    Not saying it won't work. But I'll continue to use 303 protectant after a detail and use babes to help in between.

    My go to for a full detail is the dollar store Totally awesome with a soft upholstery brush that I found really cleans the texture of the vinyl. Then follow up with 303.

    I usually do that annually and use babes after every 2-3 times out. 20 year old seats still are super soft. I also store in my garage and that helps more than anything.
  • braindamagebraindamage Posts: 214 Baller
    It’s hard to determine if the OP is just playing a sick joke or if this is really a thing. It would take a lot of reviews and validation through sites like planetnautique, Themalibucrew, and MC teamtalk for me to try it.
  • DavidNDavidN Posts: 505 Crazy Baller
    Appreciate the “tip”, but the smell alone would prevent me from using that stuff on my upholstery.
    I clean with Babe’s seat soap and occasionally treat with Babe’s seat saver.
    That worked very well for me since 2006 or so.
    If in doubt, check the upholstery condition of my ~700hrs, 10 year old previous boat:
  • GloersenGloersen Posts: 1,089 Mega Baller
    Chemistry 101 comes to mind; "likes dissolve likes". Staying with Aerospace 303 here too.
  • DangerBoyDangerBoy Posts: 382 Crazy Baller
    edited April 4
    @braindamage No, this is not a sick joke; it's for real. I take a little offence (not a lot but a little) at the insinuation that I would try to do something like that. I'm just reporting what I was told by a very experienced boat and RV upholstery guy and reporting on the results I've had with it.

    @Gloersen WD40 does not dissolve or harm vinyl in any way. It contains a number of oils that vinyl readily absorbs and that help preserve and condition it. From my experience, it works really well so I'll continue to use it. Those of you who have commented can choose not to try it if you don't want to but others who may be a little more open minded might be willing to give it a try and see for themselves.

    I was a little skeptical too at first but curiosity got me and I tried it out on a small out-of-the-way area on my boat's upholstery and was quite surprised and pleased with the results. I've since done all of the vinyl upholstery in my boat once a year for the last 4 or 5 years and the results have been excellent. If any of you don't want to try it then fine, don't. That's your choice to make. Again, I'm simply reporting what I was told by someone who knows a LOT about conditioning and maintaining vinyl upholstery and what I've found from using it so that people have the information and can consider trying it themselves. If you're not open to hearing the information and/or trying it for yourself that's fine, don't try it but please keep in mind that no one who hasn't actually tried it is in a position to make any sort of comment or judgement on how well it may or may not work (not saying that anyone has done that) because they simply have no data. I do and I'm telling you it works very well and I'll happily continue using it. I haven't used these other products that people have mentioned so I can't say anything about how well WD40 works in comparison to those products. It may work better or it may not work as well. I simply don't know. I can only say from experience that WD40 works very well as a conditioner and preservative for vinyl boat upholstery and the cost of using it is minimal.
    I can take anything apart
  • hammerskihammerski Posts: 89 Baller
    edited April 4
    G&T vinyls makes most of the upholstery these days. They have recommended 303 with UV protectant for over 25 years. I use Babes for cleanup then 303 again, apply monthly. I’ve seen upholstery with 25 years on it that still looks new from regular 303 use. That’s good enough for me! With 20 years of selling ski boats, I’ve also seen what happens long term with using 409, simple green, armor all. No bueno! You’re replacing upholstery sooner than later. 303 quick wax works great on the gelcoat and also provides UV protection. Hope that helps!
    Jim Hammer
    Jim Hammer Insurance
    Winlock, WA
  • Mateo_VargasMateo_Vargas Posts: 912 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @dave2ball you still using the lemon Pledge?
    Success is failure that just hasn't happened yet
  • braindamagebraindamage Posts: 214 Baller
    @DangerBoy i didn’t mean to offend!! It just seemed so weird. Thanks for sharing!!
  • RednucleusRednucleus Posts: 591 Crazy Baller
    From Wikipedia:
    WD-40's main ingredients as supplied in aerosol cans, according to the US Material Safety Data Sheet information,[16] and with the CAS numbers interpreted:[17]

    45-50 % low vapor pressure aliphatic hydrocarbon (isoparaffin)
    <35% petroleum base oil (non hazardous heavy paraffins)
    <25% aliphatic hydrocarbons (same CAS number as the first item, but flammable)
    2-3% carbon dioxide (propellant)

    WD40 is not an oil/lubricant, it is a water displacing spray; maybe that's why it protects vinyl. It may be great for vinyl but one "expert opinion" would not get me to use it vs approved vinyl products - and I like the smell!!
  • PatMPatM Posts: 792 Crazy Baller
    Could you use it then use 303 over it? I do love the protection you get with 303
  • oldjeepoldjeep Posts: 3,793 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I use wd40 to clean my motorcycle chains, it is a great solvent. I think I will stick with the 303 cleaner and protectant.
    Chuck P
    Not a mechanic but I play one at home
  • dave2balldave2ball Posts: 806 Crazy Baller
    I have used pledge furniture polish for years. It give a shine with no slickness and puts wax on the stitching. Works great on the hull for a quick polish.
  • GloersenGloersen Posts: 1,089 Mega Baller
    WD-40 Fact or Fiction
    A bus driver in Asia used WD-40® to remove a python, which had coiled itself around the undercarriage of his bus.
    Police officers used WD-40® to remove a naked burglar trapped in an air conditioning vent.
    Know an old-school skier who uses it on his D3 Leverage bindings in place of soap.
    Over 2000 WD-40 Uses

  • 2Valve2Valve Posts: 378 Crazy Baller
    @DangerBoy I'll add that I use a good 'ol Magic Eraser to get the white vinyl to "pop" and it removes just about any kind of dis-coloration.
  • oldjeepoldjeep Posts: 3,793 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @2Valve - a magic eraser is a sanding sponge, and removes vinyl.
    Chuck P
    Not a mechanic but I play one at home
  • 2Valve2Valve Posts: 378 Crazy Baller
    @oldjeep not if used gingerly.
  • igkyaigkya Posts: 739 Crazy Baller
    I've used Magic erasers in the past on stubborn stains/dirt/grime and they worked great. Just remember to apply a protectant afterwards (i.e. 303)
  • jjackkrashjjackkrash Posts: 864 Crazy Baller
    Magic eraser can be a useful tool, but it is a tool of absolute last resort. It is effectively sand paper and it will take the surface protection off the vinyl.
  • BoozeBooze Posts: 442 Crazy Baller
    Hey, if WD40 works on the %^#$%^#^%#!!!!! mildew stains that keep reappearing every year, I'll use it in a heartbeat.
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