Many sailors get in a hurry to get the boat laid up in the fall or leave the entire winterization process to their local yard. This can be a real bonanza for fabric and interior specialists in the spring. Now is the time to give your interior a little attention, heading off some common problems and avoiding wasted time in the spring re-commissioning rush.
Inspect First When removing the interior cushions from the boat, give each one a close look. Frayed piping, inoperable zippers, tears, burns, or old stains that are not removable may make you decide to replace your cushions over the winter. Not only does this save you the task of cleaning and storage, but it gives you time to plan out your new interior at your leisure.
Keep it Clean Cushions should be cleaned at least once a year. For some interiors, this may mean just vacuuming the material to remove any crumbs or stray hair. Other cushion cover fabrics may be laundered by hand in cold or lukewarm water and Woolite, then line dried. Some cushion covers may require professional cleaning by such services as Stanley Steamer or Chem Dry. Finally, most leather interiors need only to be wiped down with soap and water while vinyl cushion covers can be cleaned with detergent.
With a cloth interior, you may never know the fiber content of your cushions. I have spoken with fabric manufacturers that have labeled their material DRY CLEAN ONLY just to find out that the reason is to keep the owner from throwing the cleaned item in the dryer, which distorts or shrinks many fabrics. According to the information on file, the only materials that require dry cleaning are linen, wool, wool/nylon blends, and rayon (including viscose). If in doubt about a cushion covers cleanability, do some testing on a smaller, less obvious cushion.
Depending on how the zippers were installed, removing the covers from the foam may be an exercise in wrestling with a foam monster. Dont be afraid to gently bend or fold the foam in this process. If the foam is deteriorating, it is possible to have new foam cut to fit inside covers that are still in good shape. Some customers report great success with restuffing the cushions while the covers were still damp, but not dripping. Cleaners used in cleaning processes will remove any coatings on the fabric; these should therefore be replaced with an application of fabric protectant. There are special dressings for leather and vinyl, and Scotch Guard works well on fabrics. After cleaning, snaps and zipper slides should be lubricated with dry teflon.
Storage Interior and cockpit cushions should be stored flat and no cushion should ever be stored rolled or folded with the cover on. If left folded with the cover on, the fabric will stretch and may never return to its original shape. Also, cushions made with a welt or piping in the seams may develop a wave in the piping after folding. If you need to store the cushions folded, remove the covers, fold each cover after cleaning and drying, and package each cover with its piece of foam.
If you are storing the cushions inside the boat, lay the cushions up against the hull side, or store them vertically. If you take them off the boat and store them in your garage, basement, or attic, wrap them in plastic to protect them from moisture, dust, and rodents. You may want to insert a desiccant pack in each package.
When storing cockpit or other cushions filled with closed-cell foam, do not store anything on top of them as floatation foam is susceptible to point loading. Laying heavy objects on flotation foam cushions will leave permanent indentations. Do not fold or bend any cushions made with closed cell foam for long periods of time.
When in doubt, ask for some advice from a professionalthe SailNet Interiors department is always here to assist you.