Assembly & Care of Inflatable Boats & RIBs
Like any other boat, inflatable boats need proper care and maintenance in order to function at their best and last a long time. Without maintenance, inflatable boats may only a few years - particularly in the south where the sun is intense 12 months/year. With regular cleaning, you can expect to enjoy your hypalon boat for 20 or even 30 years and your PVC boat for 12-15 years.
Downloadable Instructions for Assembling Your Aluminum Panel Floor in your Inflatable Keel Boat
Choosing the Right Cleaning Products
The first and probably most important step to properly cleaning an inflatable boat is to choose the right cleaning products. Using the wrong cleaners can end up damaging your boat/tubes instead.
While inflatable boats may be made of durable PVC or Hypalon, they are still susceptible to damage when exposed to harsh chemicals. They are not like fiberglass or aluminum boats and should therefore not be exposed to the same types of boat cleaners.
Products you should never use to clean inflatable boats include:
- highly alkaline cleaners (pH greater than 11.5)
- abrasive scrub pads
- steel wool
These products can damage and/or discolor the fabric and attack the adhesives of your inflatable boat.
Household soaps or detergents can leave a sticky residue on the boat surface that attracts and holds dirt. Soap scum can also serve as food for mold and mildew, and you’ll have to figure out how to clean mold off your inflatable.
To properly clean your inflatables it’s best to use inflatable boat cleaners. These are made specifically for cleaning inflatable boats and can effectively remove dirt, grime, and stains without damaging the tube material. Some of these cleaners can also protect boat surfaces from the elements, keeping them in the best condition.
Cleaning Your Inflatable Boat
Once you’ve got the right cleaning products and tools, cleaning your PVC boat becomes quite simple. You'll need a couple of clean cloths and some water. You might also need a soft brush for scrubbing. Most cleaners only require you to apply the cleaner on the surface of the inflatable boat for a few minutes, and then wipe it off with a clean cloth.
Start cleaning the boat floor and work in sections, moving outward while applying the boat cleaner. This will make it easy for you to check for any damaged areas, and see where you’ll need to make some repairs. Flip the boat and apply the cleaner on the underside as well, as this area is most exposed to the water.
You will end up with a nice, glossy-looking inflatable boat.
Once the boat is clean, you should apply a UV protector such as 303 AeroSpace Protectant to protect the fabric from the sun's UV rays. Typically 303 needs to get (re)applied every few weeks during the season - No worries, it only take about 5-10 minutes to treat a 10' boat. Click here to order. Click here to learn more about 303 AeroSpace Protectant
Cleaning your inflatable boat is something you should do regularly especially if you use your boat often. And even for brand new boats, there may be some lubricants left from the manufacturing process that you need to clean off before use.
Bottom Paint Suggestions
We suggest you put an anti-fouling paint on your boat bottom if you are concerned about organisms growing on the bottom of your boat.
For Aluminum RIBs, you must select paint that is Copper Free to avoid corrosion. We suggest Pettit's Hydrocoat Eco water-based paint.
For Fiber Glass RIBs, we suggest Aquagard Waterbased Bottom Paint for Inflatables.
For Inflatable bottom boats, we suggest Aquagard Waterbased Bottom Paint for Inflatables.
Here are suggested steps for prepping and painting your boat bottom:
Using painters tape (that will peel off easily later), tape off the area of your expected water line.
For RIB boats, sand the hard surface you plan to paint (do not sand the tubes.) Sand just enough to take the shine off and rough up the surface so paint adheres better
For RIB and Inflatable bottom boats, wipe the area you plan to paint, very lightly, with acetone. Include the area on the tubes you plan to paint. This removes any chemical residue from the PVC and RIB bottoms. DO NOT use acetone on any other part of your PVC or Hypalon tubes as acetone can damage the material.
Paint first coat and let it dry overnight
Paint 2nd coat, remove painters tape, and you are ready to go!
Boat Registration Numbers
We suggest stenciling on your boat registration numbers as they last longer than the stick on variety. Purchase stencils at any art or hardware store and use a paint marker to paint on the numbers.
Boat placards or number plates can be ordered from Boat Number Plate.
To extend the life of your boat, keep it covered from the beating sun when not in use. Even in a New England winter, boats should be covered if stored outside.
If you are storing your boat in a beautiful New England barn, or any spot where you may be prone to a few mice visitors, we suggest you wash off all saltwater (mice love the salt) and leave your boat inflated.