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jimgo 03-10-2013 03:21 AM

Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
I spent about 7 hours aboard our "new to us" boat today, cleaning her out and cleaning her up. I was able to get up a good bit of the mildew using various combinations of vinegar, tea tree oil, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, water, and rags. But, as I wiped away the black from the mildew from the headliner, I noticed that there were a lot of brown stains on there, too. And those didn't respond to the Magic Eraser at all, which was frustrating. Is there anything that will take out those stains? I didn't have any bleach, and with the other chemicals I had used, I wasn't inclined to go get any to use today, anyway. But bleach was my first thought, although I'm not sure how the vinyl would react to it. I really like the look of the headliner (assuming it wasn't stained) so I'm reluctant to pull it all down and put something else in its place. Any thoughts on how to clean it?

SloopJonB 03-10-2013 04:16 AM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
I've never used it on vinyl fabric but on vinyl rub rails, winch handle pockets and so forth, MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) solvent has worked miracles for me. Dampen a clean cotton cloth with MEK and rub. You have to be careful because it will temporarily soften the plastic - it becomes a bit tacky - but that goes away in a very short time.

It's nasty stuff so wear chemical resistant "rubber" gloves and be sure to be well ventilated. It has sort of an ammonia like quality - catches in your throat if you breathe the fumes. It is highly volatile as well so you have to keep moistening the cloth with it.

Give it a try in the most inconspicuous spot you can - you may be pleasantly surprised at how effective it is.

RichH 03-10-2013 11:20 AM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
Mildew (and most related fungals) are best removed from non-painted surfaces using STRONG alkaline / caustic detergents. Such will dissolve any cells that have penetrated into the surface of the material.
One of the best such detergents available in your area (usually available in local marina shops on the Chesapeake or by special order through WEST MARINE, etc.) is called "Tuff-eNuff" a sodium silicate based detergent available in spray bottles. - (expensive). If you cant obtain Tuff-eNUFF, then use TrisodiumPhosphate - TSP.
Oxalic crystals and TSP are available from most PAINT and hardware stores. Rinse thoroughly between each step and wear rubber gloves, goggles, etc. with both of these chemicals.

Spray and soak the mildew with the strong detergent so that it dissolves; then thoroughly rinse with water; THEN use Oxalic Acid and apply to 'bleach out' any remaining staining and 'shadows'.
Dont MIX caustics with Oxalic Acid. You have to remove the cells, before you oxalic bleach .... as if you leave any dead cells, they will only become the nutrient source for other specials of fungals.
Dont use on wood, painted/varnished surfaces, or 'natural fibers' such as cotton, rayon, or wool.

I dont think you will want to use MEK on a vinyl head liner ... it can dissolve the vinyl.

If you have mildew inside the boat, Id suggest you do an extremely thorough job of mildew removal, including from all the hidden 'underspaces' of the sole, the bilge, the anchor locker, and the vent line on your water tank!! --- its spreads by airborne spores and you really have to kill the spores at their source to keep it under control. Wear a respirator when cleaning mildews and fungals, and alway 'soak' it before disturbing it to keep the spores from 'flying about' - as some species of fungals, especially the 'black species and their spores' are VERY dangerous to human lung tissue.

here's a repost of a more detailed use of such caustics/oxalic
.... Oxalic Acid is also good for removing the brown staining on the hull/bow and dacron sails from tannins in the water, also quickly dissolves 'rust stains'.

jimgo 03-11-2013 04:07 PM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
Thanks Rich. Have you tried Kanbera gel?

Ulladh 03-11-2013 04:17 PM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
Totally Awesome in spray bottle from a dollar store and an abrasive green scrubby. This will also remove the vinyl surface finish, so restore with a vinyl cleaner/conditioner from an auto parts store.

jimgo 03-11-2013 04:33 PM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
Just to clarify, TA will essentially strip off a very fine layer of plastic (the protective layer), which I'll them have to replace with the protectant (kind of like a wax)?

chef2sail 03-11-2013 05:04 PM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
I use Kanaberra Gel and have for a few years now and like what it does. AFTER cleaning the boat as stated abopve it has mainatined it and she always smells nice too.


Ulladh 03-11-2013 05:49 PM

Re: Cleaning stained vinyl headliner
Yes TA will strip some of the vinyl surface, just as will many other aggressive cleaning product. After using TA, and wiping with a damp cloth you will see a slightly different surface texture/reflection. An auto store vinyl protectant will restore the surface finish appearance, but it may have more gloss than the original and will probably need to be repeated every year.

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