Before we talk about maintenance, let's first talk about the two different tube materials: PVC and CSM (hypalon).
PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride. A tough, pliable & relatively inexpensive fabric that make up the majority of inflatable boats in northern latitudes. IF well maintained & cared for, a PVC boat will last for years & years. Having said that, it is very difficult to properly maintain a PVC boat in southern locations (say SouthCarolina & further south on the east coast). Therefore North Atlantic Inflatables recommends CSM/Hypalon if you plan on spending a lot of time in southern locations.
CSM (Hypalon): Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene Rubber. Definitely the more expensive option...however it is worth the money if you plan on boating for long periods of time in an intensive heat/sunlight environment. Arbitrarily, North Atlantic Inflatables draws the line at the North Carolina/South Carolina border on the east coast. South of this border, you are best off to go with hypalon/CSM.
Now..on to care & maintenance:
If you maintain your boat properly and regularly from the day you buy it and invest in the best quality products, it should last you 20 to 30 years and look great during its lifetime, whether it’s made from Hypalon or PVC. You’ll get your investment in quality maintenance products back many times over when you go to sell or trade it. If not, you could be junking it in as little as 2 to 3 years and loose your boating investment. Besides, a clean, shiny inflatable boat is not only a beautiful thing, but a reflection of your personality.
How should you clean inflatable boat?
Cleaning Hypalon (CSM) or PVC fabrics requires the same cleaners and techniques to get great results. Using the wrong inflatable boat cleaners or tools can have disastrous results and sometimes result in destroying the boat. Remember that inflatable boats are more delicate than fiberglass or aluminum boats and the same cleaners and protectors can not be used on both.
Products to NEVER use for cleaning your inflatable are: solvents, MEK, toluene, acetone, bleach, ammonia, highly alkaline cleaners, abrasive scrub pads, steel wool. They will weaken, damage and discolor the fabric and attack the adhesives. Soaps and detergents leave a sticky residue (soap scum) which attracts and hold dirt. Soap scum is also food for mold and mildew.
Most inflatable boats and RIBs in North America are used as tenders and are subjected to some pretty tough conditions. It’s difficult to keep them high, dry and covered and still have them at your beck and call. Keeping them in good shape is basically a 2 step process:
First step: remove all the pollutants, surface damage, stains and scuffs and restore the tube and rigid hull to as close to new as possible. We recommend Mary Kate Inflatable Boat Cleaner.
Second step: apply the best protector that you can, to prevent damage from the elements. The amount and type of protector that you use will be dependent on the way that you plan to use your boat. We recommend 303 Aerospace Protectant http://www.northatlanticinflatables.com/303-Aerospace-Protectant_p_189.html
Special Note to NEW boat owners:
New boat owners think that because their boat is brand new that they don’t have to do any maintenance but nothing is further from the truth. Sometimes the fabric manufacturers don’t clean off the lubricants used in the manufacturing process...and the fabrication factory might not provide any protection for the tube or fiberglass hull. The lubricants can react with the environment and cause damage to the tube. The results are brown, sticky PVC, chalky, faded Hypalon, mildew and waterline stains, osmosis blisters in the fiberglass hull, barnacles and marine growth on the bottom that is almost impossible to remove without destroying the tube, leaky seams, porous tubes, and more.