How to Protect Your Boat's Vinyl Curtains
By: Scott Way/Ryan Tarrant
Canvas curtains and vinyl windows are often some of the most overlooked accessories on boats. It's too easy to tuck them away when they're not in use and forget that they, just like your engine and electrical components, need a little TLC from time to time.
Keeping your vinyl curtains or windows well maintained means better visibility and better longevity. Without any maintenance they will eventually crack and/or become cloudy, and that puts you and your passengers at risk. Saltwater environments are even tougher, so bear that in mind as well.
One of the first things to note is that some cleaners, particularly those with ammonia, can actually remove the natural oils in plastic/vinyl, so do not use them.
Failing to wash your curtains or windows with a UV treatment can also shorten their lifespan. While many shops can replace existing Viewflex panels or similar panels without having to purchase a completely new top or section, with a little maintenance that won't be necessary.
One of the best ways to clean your vinyl curtains is to rinse with a low-pressure garden hose first. Mix a bucket of non-detergent dish soap like Dawn with 4 parts water, then handwash the panels using a soft microfibre cloth. Do not use glass window cleaner on plastics as it can damage the surface. You should also avoid using soft bristled brushes as they can sometimes combine with debris already on the panel and cause scratches.
Always use a soft cloth when washing Viewflex. For the UV protection component, we recommend using a product like 303 Aerospace Protectant. Be sure to follow the directions and only apply to a clean surface in the correct temperature range.
Once they're cleaned and ready to go, make sure you store them properly. When they're not in use, store them lying flat with a soft fabric between each section (a bedsheet or a towel works great). This prevents panels from sticking together and getting damaged if they're exposed to extreme heat or humidity. If the curtains aren't being stored long term and you need quick access to them, roll them up individually and store them in the driest location possible (like below deck or in a storage locker). However, if you're going to roll them, make sure the zippers aren't in direct contact with any clear panels so you don't risk scratching them up.
If you protect your vinyl, not only will you have great visibility on the water, they'll also keep you and your boat dry and protected from the elements for years to come.