Weekend Project: The Best Way to Clean Your Pontoon Carpet

Weekend Project: The Best Way to Clean Your Pontoon Carpet

Since your pontoon’s deck is the heart of your on-the-water fun, you want to keep it looking brand new, don’t you?

If you’ve got carpeting on your pontoon’s deck, cleaning that carpet should be at the top of your to-do list.

The carpet is one of the first things on board to show its age with wear and tear. Wet feet, muddy sneakers, spilled food and drinks, saltwater splash, live bait and fish guts all take their toll. But keeping your pontoon carpet clean and spiffy doesn’t have to be hard. And you certainly don’t have to resort to replacing that carpeting with vinyl.

With these carpet cleaning tips, you’ll find that keeping your pontoon carpeting clean is easier than you think.

Why It’s Important to Keep Your Pontoon Carpet Clean

Look. We all know what carpet is. Here’s a reminder of why that carpeting is so very important:

  • It covers your deck.
  • It protects your deck.
  • It adds comfort.
  • It adds eye-pleasing appeal.

A dirty, damaged carpet won’t be able to fulfill the above purposes. And there are even more reasons to keep your carpet in tip-top shape:

  • It’s expensive. (You don’t want to have to replace it.)
  • It protects your deck. (The deck is expensive to replace.)
  • It adds value to your boat. (Cha-ching!)

Things That Can Ruin Your Pontoon Carpet

Your boat carpet sees a lot of traffic. Whether it’s human feet or pet feet, that dirt can add up. Soil and stains can do a number on your carpet. Not only can they make it look bad (or even gross) but they can harbor bacteria and mold that make on-board guests sick and eat away at the carpet and deck. Yuck.

Then there’s Mother Nature to think about. Your pontoon carpet is exposed to rain and sun on a regular basis, and if you don’t store it properly in the winter, snow and ice can cause problems too. And I mean cringe-worthy problems like mold, mildew, moss and fading.

The takeaway: Caring for your pontoon carpet extends its life, prevents mildew and reduces the potential for harmful bacteria. And it can maintain or even increase your boat’s value. Who wants to buy a used boat with a nasty old carpet?

All of this means that carpet cleaning should be done regularly and done right. But since nobody loves to clean, let’s make this as easy as possible.

What Is Your Pontoon Carpet Made Of?

First things first. Before cleaning with anything, even water, you need to check your carpet material. What’s it made out of? Some of the most common materials are polyester fibers and artificial grass, which should be perfectly fine to wash with water and carpet cleaner.

Then, there are other considerations. Does your carpet have marine-grade backing, long-term UV protectant or mold/mildew sealer or protectant?

If it does have long-term treatment with these things, then you’re all set to wash—you’ll just want to check out the sealers and protectants and make sure you don’t end up using any chemicals that negate their effects or reduce their potency. If it doesn’t have any treatment, you may want to look into applying such treatments after cleaning.

Avoid Manufacturer Issues: Check Your Owner’s Manual

Whether you know the answers to the above or not, you’ll still need to check your owner’s manual for your carpet cleaning guidelines.

After all, you don’t want to ruin your carpet, strip important sealants or void your warranty (heck, no!).

Your owner’s manual can be your BFF, and that’s what it’s there for. If you can’t find it, or if you have additional questions, contact the manufacturer. The answers you get might determine the cleaners you choose.

How Is Your Pontoon Carpet Attached to the Boat Deck?

This is another tidbit that should be covered in your owner’s manual.

In one word: Glue.

In most cases, your pontoon carpet will be glued to your deck. This is what you need to know:

  • Is your carpet glue water-resistant?
  • Should certain cleaners/ingredients be avoided?
  • Can certain ingredients or cleaners void your warranty?
  • How often is carpet cleaning recommended?

Once again, check with your owner’s manual. And when in doubt, call and ask. You want to be sure about these things.

Prepping: How to Remove Debris from Your Pontoon Carpet

Your pontoon deck is a busy place! It’s where all the fun happens. But when the fun’s over, there’s usually trash, dirt and debris all over the place, even if your guests are a relatively clean and orderly bunch.

Do this first: Pick up and remove all the trash. You know, like empty cans, half-empty water bottles, cigarette butts (yeah, you might want some gloves) and any other obvious trash you see.

Next: Remove all unsecured items in the way, such as chairs, coolers, umbrellas and radios. Put those in one place, out of the way of the carpet as much as possible.

Good job. Now you can start the debris removal. You have several options. Let’s check them out.

1. Broom and dustpan (Check price on Amazon)

Yeah, we’re talking about a good old-fashioned broom and dustpan. A quality broom with a long-handled dustpan is a handy item to keep around, and it can save you time and minimize back discomfort.

2. Cordless stick vacuum (Check price on Amazon)

A cordless stick (upright) vacuum is a convenient way to pick up small pieces of debris and eliminate the annoyance of a cord.

Tip: Be sure to fully charge it before using. You may not have access to an electrical socket (not to mention that charging can take hours).

Another tip: It may not work as well if your boat carpet is wet.

3. Cordless blower (Check price on Amazon)

A cordless blower is powerful enough to remove debris quickly and without a cord. (And, once again, fully charge it!)

4. Wet/dry shop vacuum (Check price on Amazon) 

Yep, wet/dry vacuums do a great job of sucking up unwanted debris. And yes, it’s great to have if your carpet is wet. But, remember, you need somewhere to plug it in.

Removing Carpet Stains

Carpet stains are unavoidable if you’re enjoying your boat! You’re bound to get stains from all this:

  • Pets
  • Food and beverage spills
  • Blood (from the occasional boo-boo)
  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Red mud (the worst kind!)
  • Mold/mildew/algae

I’m counting moss, mildew and algae as stains, even though they’re more like unwelcome guests living in your carpet. Left to grow enough, they can leave stains behind. So, if you have moss, mildew and algae growing on your carpet (yikes!) and you don’t know how to remove it yet, click here and read this guide to learn what steps you should take.

Now, on to the rest of your stains. You have two main stain-removing options:

Option 1: Commercial boat carpet stain remover

Your best—and most economical—path is to find a stain remover that’s safe and removes all types of stains. Spray Nine Marine Cleaner (check price on Amazon) is a powerful and popular choice.

Just make sure to read the directions, ingredients and any warnings. And don’t forget to check that boat’s owner’s manual before applying it. You might even want to ring up the manufacturer and ask what specific cleaning materials and stain removers they recommend.

Moss, mildew and algae are things that can keep cropping back up, so if that has been a problem for you, you may want to seal your pontoon carpet with an anti-moss and anti-mildew treatment like Wet & Forget (check price on Amazon) after cleaning.

Option 2: Go natural 

If you want to remove stains naturally, just to be on the safe and healthy side, white vinegar is known to help with stain removal. Here’s how you use it:

1. If fresh, blot the stain to remove any excess.

2. Spray a 1:1 mixture of water and white vinegar on the carpet.

3. Let set for 15-20 minutes (or longer if you have time).

4. Using a medium-stiff brush, scrub the stain until the stain is removed.

5. Repeat if necessary.

6. Rinse with a water hose.

That’s just my own favorite DIY stain cleaner. You can explore more homemade stain removers and carpet cleaners by clicking here.

Deep Cleaning Your Pontoon Carpet

During the boating seasons, the above steps are all ones you’ll want to take weekly or every couple of weeks, depending on how often you’re using your boat. That will keep your carpet from sustaining any serious damage or staining.

Ever month or so, you’ll need to do a deep clean after following all the above steps.

So, once the stains have been removed, it’s time to do the deep clean. You have options here, too:

Option 1: Hand scrubbing

With a stiff brush, a bucket, some gentle detergent (check the detergent label and boat owner’s manual), a water hose and some elbow grease, you can deep clean your boat’s carpet, then let the sun dry it out. That’s a great, old-fashioned way that you can’t go wrong with.

Pros: Inexpensive

Cons: Time consuming, can strain your back, can rub your knees raw (unless you get knee pads or kneel on a towel)

Option 2: Commercial/rented carpet cleaner or steamer

Check local cleaning companies to rent a commercial cleaner by the hour.

Pros: Quick, efficient, serious deep cleans

Cons: Costly, requires special detergent (and it may hurt your carpet, so you’ll have to check first), heavy equipment, needs access to electricity

Option 3: Pressure washer (Check price on Amazon)

Do you already have a pressure washer for your car? You can just use this to do the big deep clean. You could also look into renting one from a local cleaning company.

Pros: Uses water without detergent, deep cleans, removes stains

Cons: Must have access to water hose, heavy, pressure can damage carpet, can be expensive if hired

Option 4: Commercial carpet cleaning service

Of course, you can always ask that local cleaning company to send an employee over with their best equipment to do the hard work for you.

Pros: You don’t have to do it yourself, guaranteed to get a good clean

Cons: Costly, unknown detergents (unless you ask), cleaners could harm your carpet

Option 5: Car or boat wash

If you live in an area where boating is popular, there’s a good chance you’ll have car washes that also do cleaning services for boats, or dedicated boat wash companies. Take advantage.

Pros: Easy, convenient, cheap

Cons: Pressure can cause holes in carpet, unknown detergents can cause dryness/brittleness over time, size of wash bay may not be adequate (make sure you won’t get stuck)

Drying and Final Touches

Once you’ve removed the debris, removed stains and deep cleaned your pontoon carpet, it’s time to dry and fluff the carpet. Drying thoroughly can reduce the chances of mold, mildew and moss growth.

To speed up the drying process: Remove excess water with a wet/dry shop vacuum. Once the excess water has been removed, the sun can do the rest.

Once the carpet is dry, “fluffing” will improve the appearance for a look that’s almost new. Do this:

Step 1 — Use a medium-stiff bristle brush. (Bristles that are too soft won’t get the job done, but bristles that are too hard can rip the carpet fibers.) Tip: A long-handled brush can reduce back strain.

Step 2 — Brush the whole surface of the carpet with the brush. This will “fluff” the carpet fibers.

Step 3 — If desired, vacuum again with your shop vacuum.

Step 4 — Looks good as new, huh?

Optional: If you want to, you can apply a carpet protectant/sealer to prevent stains later. Some even offer UV protection. (I might sound like a broken record, but once again, check your owner’s manual before applying anything.)

Remember, there are no specific guidelines to clean your carpet. It all depends on your boat guidelines, what you have access to, how dirty your carpet is and the type of condition your boat carpet is in. You may even own a ponton tiny house, where you have high-grade carpet that needs to real liveaboard maintenance.

Once you consider all these things, choose the cleaning option that fits your needs.

The most important thing is to take care of your carpet and protect your pontoon deck.

Because, after all, that’s where all the fun happens.


Kelli Clevenger is a North Carolina freelance writer, blogger, and horse boarder. Since she was practically raised on the water, she enjoys writing about boats and water sports, and specializes in weight-loss and food writing. If you’d like, you can learn more about her on her blog.