Keeping your boat running smoothly between professional service stops takes some DIY maintenance knowledge, but some repairs are always better left...
How to Keep Your Boat Windows Clean Between Trips
Keeping your boat windows looking great takes a commitment to simple, routine maintenance between trips. We lay out everything you need to know to keep the view ahead clear and crisp.
Maintaining crystal-clear boat windows should be important to boat-owners for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Stained or cloudy vinyl windows around your full boat enclosure or dodger make for a sub-par boating experience. Not only that, it can make navigation difficult, particularly in wet weather. The most common issue your boat windows face is diminished clarity, which leads to a hazy or cloudy appearance.
Your boat’s windows are like your skin – too much UV exposure without intervention can lead to a dry, brittle texture susceptible to cracking. Cleaning and maintaining your windows regularly alleviates many of the issues that affect vinyl boat windows. Knowing how to clean your boat windows is an important aspect of boat ownership.
Products Needed for Clear Boat Windows
Maintaining your clear vinyl boat windows requires just a few common home cleaning products and some brand-name chemicals which are specially-formulated for restoring and repairing windows. Clear vinyl is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a UV-sensitive material that’s susceptible to UV degradation. While most vinyl fabric has a topcoat that holds in plasticizers, clear vinyl doesn’t.
With some research and the right products, you’ll be able to reverse most haziness, clouding, stains, and cracking. In fact, some products like Aurora Marine’s Clear View can double the lifetime of your plastic boat windows. Other options for restoring your plastic boat windows are Star brite Clear Plastic Restorer or Meguiar’s Clear Plastic Cleaner. Use these products with a mist-and-wipe cleaner, which removes dirt and grime, enhancing visibility and creating a barrier to UV ray damage.
In addition to products you need for cleaning and restoring clear boat windows, be sure you know what products to avoid. Using the wrong product can void your manufacturer’s warranty and lead to further damage to the windows. These products typically include Windex, Rain-X, Simple Green, or any other harsh cleaner. Vinegar and solvents containing silicon, alcohol, or petroleum are to be avoided. Even everyday products like sunscreen and insect repellent can wreak havoc on vinyl windows.
Make Time for Cleanings Immediately After Every Trip
Timing your boat window cleanings regularly is just as important as knowing what products to use and how to use them. It’s easier to keep your boat windows looking nice than trying to restore clouded or spotted clear vinyl. Without proper regular cleaning and treatment, clear canvas can deteriorate quickly. Even neglecting to properly care for your windows for just a month can lead to yellowing, scratched, ugly windows.
Start the cleaning, polishing, and treatment process early in the life of the vinyl windows. This ensures the windows won’t suffer irreparable damage or costly reparation work. After every trip, gently wash the clear vinyl boat windows with fresh water and a soft, clean cloth before applying treatment. Only use soap if you absolutely must – soap can extract plasticizers from the window material.
Don’t allow your boat windows to air dry because this leads to mineral deposits, which can abrade the surface during the restoration, polishing, and treatment steps. Don’t use paper towels to wash or dry the windows because their abrasive surface will scratch the window. Any time you need to use a towel, whether for drying or applying polish, be sure it’s clean and made from microfiber.
After the window is cleaned, dried, polished, and buffed, you can apply a finish such as those mentioned in the section above. Apply the product to a soft, clean cloth and rub in with overlapping, circular motions. After it dries, buff out with a separate microfiber cloth.
Take Preventative Measures
In addition to frequent and regular cleaning, there are preventative measures you can take. Whether investing in a more durable material for your boat windows or buying a boat cover to shield them from the elements when in storage, these steps keep your boat windows looking better for longer.
Not all boat window material is the same. Most boat windows are made from clear vinyl that lacks a protective coating to trap in plasticizers, which keep the material supple and flexible. Strataglass has a protective outer layer that makes the material stronger, more flexible, and more resistant to UV rays, water stains, and mildew.
Another way to limit the material’s exposure to the elements when not in use is a boat cover. An all-weather fabric boat cover keeps UV rays from reaching the sensitive clear vinyl windows and blocks dirt and grime that accumulate on the boat windows. Choose your boat cover wisely because high quality material such as Weblon Regatta Marine Fabrics lasts longer and provides greater coverage for your boat.