How to Clean and Dry an Inflatable Kayak

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How to clean an inflatable kayak is a process that requires a little bit of know-how and some patience. If you don’t clean it properly after each use, it can quickly become coated in mud, algae and other stinky things. 

One of the cons we mentioned in the Are Kayaks Any Good article is that it takes extra time to clean.

The good news is it’s not difficult, and with a few simple steps you can have your kayak looking and performing like new in just 15 minutes!

In this article, we will show you how to clean an inflatable kayak using basic supplies that you probably have at home. We’ll walk you through the process of cleaning an inflatable kayak, step by step, drying and storing your kayak. So read on to learn more!

Inflatable Kayak Cleaning Preparations 

Before we get started cleaning, drying and putting away our inflatable kayak we will need a few things On hand. 

For Category I Kayaks (Budget Vinyl Kayaks): a bucket of soapy water, water (preferably a hose) and a few towels/ old shirts on hand, every once and a while use mildew remover like Marine 31

For Category II Kayaks (Bladder in Protective Layer): soapy water, denser towels

For Category III Kayaks (Tough PVC, Hypalon kayaks): a hose, inflatable boat cleaner (soapy water will do), Tuluol (if there’s stains that can’t be taken out) and 303 UV Degradation Spray (only use once or twice a season), towel

The type of inflatable kayak you have matters as different materials should be treated with different solutions. For the best care, find out what materials your inflatable kayak is made of and follow the below steps.

How to Clean An Inflatable Kayak

We outline each step for each different kind of inflatable kayak. We also include videos so you can see it in action and visualize the process better. In case you haven’t gotten the gist of this site, I’m a big fan of visual learning.  

Cleaning Category I Inflatable Kayaks (Vinyl)

  1. Spray inflatable kayak with garden hose
  2. Any thing that is sticking get a bucket of soapy water and start scrubbing the stains out (deflate if you have to) 
  3. Every few months use a mildew remover like Marine 31. This helps keep mildew off and is a great product to use to “winterize” your boat

Cleaning Category II Inflatable Kayaks (Bladder in Protective Layer)

  1. Undo all the valves and let it deflate.
  2. If You Have Advanced Elements, pull the floor out and give it a rinse (it’s made of PVC so everything should come off).
  3. With Soapy Water Blot the inner tube and covers of the kayak if you have paddled in salt water (Avoid using a hose).
  4. If you have paddled in fresh water You can leave it be unless muddy. If muddy redo step 3.

If you want more of a thorough clean and/or you have a category II kayak that is not Advanced Elements, follow this video that follows Itiwit kayak care

Cleaning Category III Inflatable Kayaks (PVC/ Hypalon)

While the above video is about inflatable boats it provides many tips that can be used for kayaks that are made of the same PVC material like the Sea Eagle Razorlite or 380 Explorer series. 

  1. Take seats and other accessories out
  2. For a Short Storage Duration: You can rinse the boat off and use a bit of soapy water to give the inflatable kayak a once over
  3. For Longer Storage Duration: Use an inflatable boat cleaner and spray each section that you are cleaning, it evaporates quickly so it’s best to work in sections.
    1. Scrub any stubborn stains, anything that you can’t get out, use a tiny bit of Toluol.* Scrub until the stain is gone.
    2. Every once or twice a season use 303 UV degradation spray*. This helps maintain the materials composition that could otherwise be lost with too much sun exposure. 
    3. It’s important to wipe off any excess 303 or Toluol off the boat. Especially before storing it for longer periods.

There are a few caveats about Toluol and 303 UV Degradation spray that I’ll explain below.

*Toluol is specifically used for PVC, Hypalon and Urethane fabrics. It’s important you only use a bit as it is very aggressive for that type of material.

*If used too often 303 can wear out the PVC in your boat so make sure you only use it once or twice a year

How to Dry Your Inflatable Kayak

There are a few things to keep in mind when drying an inflatable kayak

  • Keep the inflatable kayak out of direct sunlight for a long period of time
  • Close or cover any air valves 
  • Don’t use heat sources like gas or electric powered heaters 

Drying Category I and III Inflatable Kayaks (Vinyl, PVC, Hypalon)

  1. If your inflatable kayak has a drain, stand it up so that the drain valve is facing down, this will drain the majority of the excess water out of the kayak.
  2. Remove the seats of the kayak (and floor if it has one) and flip it upside down on grass preferably for 10 – 15  minutes to make sure all the water is out
  3. Use a dry towel or something more absorbent (in the video the guy uses his wetsuit) and dry out the inside of the kayak including the nooks and crannies.

If you are adventurous enough to go out on a rainy day then bring it back to your place and dry it off with a towel.

Drying Category II Inflatable Kayaks (Bladder in Protective Layer)

  1. Have a couple of towels handy
  2. in a blotting motion dry the protective layers of the inflatable kayak
  3. In the areas where there is PVC/ Vinyl just wipe it off

Storing Your Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable kayak storage is very manufacturer dependent but fortunately many of the above videos show you how to do it with their kayaks. In this case it’s best to look up inflatable kayak videos for your own brand of kayak and learn how to fold and put them back into the bag properly.  We will be doing this on our Youtube videos shortly (there still snow on the ground here in Canada).

Below are some inflatable kayak storage tips:

  • Store your kayak in an indoor storage area that’s protected (like a garage, shed or inside your apartment)
  • If storage is in a garage or shed keep the kayak above ground and protected from critters 
  • Keep your kayak folded and in its original bag/ package
  • Keep it Away from anywhere hot
  • Keep the kayak away from sun if it’s not stored in its bag

Do I need to Store my Inflatable Kayak Deflated?

If you are in between paddling trips (like a week or two) its perfectly fine to keep it inflated. However if you are storing your kayak for winter or an extended period (like longer than a month) then it is best to deflate your kayak and go through the above steps. 

What We’ve Learned 

Below are the basic steps to cleaning an inflatable kayak:    

  1. Rinse off all dirt with fresh water before washing it; this prevents any soap residue from causing stains or other unwanted effects on the fabric
  2. Use mild dishwashing liquid for cleaning tough spots like grease and oil, but avoid using too much as that can cause bubbles in your material 
  3. Rinse out excess suds with fresh water again after scrubbing away at problem areas
  4. If those tricky stains don’t get out then use Toluol for PVC fabric
  5. Once or twice a season spray 303 UV Degradation Spray
  6. Dry and fold up your kayak
  7. Store it in a temperate area safe from outdoor elements and critters

How do you clean your inflatable kayak? Share your tips below!

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Hey, there! My name is Derek and I have been around kayaks and canoes all my life. The last 5 years I recently turned my attention to inflatable kayaks and my world has been a lot more portable since! When I'm not kayaking I like to watch motorsports, play hockey and work on this site!

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