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Removing Mildew from a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide

Going kayak fishing is one of our favorite activities when staying at our lake house or visiting our friends on the coast. Having a fishing kayak with a kayak fish finder allows you to get your lure in front of fish you wouldn’t stand a chance catching from shore. But after using our kayak many times, we noticed a faint mildew started to build up on the outside. Do you know how to clean mildew from a kayak?

Lucky for you, we’ve tried and tested multiple techniques – and turns out, it is quite easy! In this guide, we’ll go over exactly how to clean mildew from a kayak as well as what you will need to do it. After about 15 minutes of easy work, you’ll have a kayak that looks brand new.

Let’s get started!

How to Clean Mildew from a Kayak: What You Will Need

Before we start with the steps to cleaning your fishing kayak, let’s first go over the various items you will need. You can pick most of these items up from your local grocery, drug, or hardware store.

Equipment Needed

  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Scrub brush
  • Large sponge
  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • 409 cleaning solution
  • Water

Next Steps

Ok, now that you have collected the above items (also, for most mildew and mold situations you can probably get away with using only one of the cleaning items – like dish soap), follow the below instructions to clean away the mildew.


  1. Begin by putting your kayak somewhere that has access to a hose or other water. You’ll want to be able to get your kayak wet easily to soak the mildew but also to wash away the cleaning solution. We like washing our kayak in our driveway that has access to a hose.
  2. Rinse your entire kayak off with water to soak the mildew. This will soften the mildew on the surface of the kayak and make it easier to remove. Depending on the amount of mildew, you may need to let your kayak soak for up to 30 minutes. 
  3. Once your kayak has sufficiently soaked, mix your cleaning solution up in the 5 gallon bucket. For vinegar cleaning solutions (which will work great for most mildews and molds), we like to mix one part vinegar with one part water. 
  4. If you decide to use one of the heavier duty cleaners instead, we like to add enough where the water begins to have suds and will properly remove dirt. A few big squirts of soap or 409 should do the trick!
  5. Now you’ll need to get the cleaning solution on your kayak. Submerge your sponge or cleaning brush and begin wiping the solution on the kayak. Sometimes you will need to rub the surface of the kayak firmly to remove stubborn mildew. If you are using 409, you can also follow the instructions on the bottle and leave the solution on the mildew for a minute before rubbing off. You should start to see progress with the kayak becoming lighter where you clean.
  6. Work your way around the kayak focusing on small areas and moving on once they are clean. Depending on how much mold there is, this could take up to an hour for a deep clean.
  7. Once you have cleaned your kayak, you’ll need to let it dry. We like to simply let our kayak dry in the sun in our driveway. Avoid cleaning or letting your kayak dry on your lawn as the cleaning solution could harm your grass and bleach it. 

How to Apply Protectant to Your Kayak

After cleaning your kayak, it is a great idea to add a protectant to it. This will help protect it from mold and mildew in the future, as well as reduce the number of times you need to clean it manually. Here’s how to add a protectant to your kayak.


  1. Ensure your fishing kayak is completely dry. This is very important! Most protectants won’t properly adhere to kayaks if their surface is still wet. If you want to speed up the amount of time that it takes for your kayak to air dry, we recommend using some towels to dry it off.
  2. Once your kayak is dry, apply a thin coat of 303 protectant to it. Follow the instructions on the bottle of 303 protectant to ensure it is applied correctly.
  3. Let the 404 protectant dry, and you are good to go!


How Do You Clean a Moldy Kayak?

Lucky for you, the process for cleaning a moldy kayak is pretty much the same as cleaning a kayak with mildew! Follow the above steps for a similar result. We also recommend using the same 404 protectants to prevent your kayak from getting moldy in the future.

If your kayak also smells bad or weird, we recommend using a spray air freshener on it after you have cleaned and added protectant to it.

What Do You Clean a Kayak With?

Check out what we listed above to learn what you need to clean a kayak with. Usually, a sponge, dish soap, a scrub brush, and a little elbow grease will do the trick!

How Do I Get Algae Off of My Kayak?

Getting algae off of your kayak should be just as easy as removing mold or mildew. You might want to use a bit stronger cleaner depending on how much algae has built up. Letting your kayak soak for a little longer is also probably a good idea depending on how much algae is on your kayak.

If the algae has stained your kayak, we recommend using soft scrub to get rid of deeper stains that the soap or vinegar did not work on. Soft scrub requires you to leave it on the surface you are cleaning a while longer, but it does a great job cleaning difficult stains.

How Do I Get Mold Out of My Inflatable Kayak?

We recommend following the same steps we outlined above for how to clean mildew from a kayak. Soak the inflatable kayak with water for 15 to 30 minutes, then begin scrubbing it with either vinegar water or dish soap. 

If your inflatable kayak smells bad, we recommend using antibacterial soap to kill any bad-smelling bacteria or mold then hitting it with a spray-on air freshener. Your inflatable kayak should then be good as new!

Can You Use Bleach to Clean a Kayak?

The short answer is yes, but you probably should try using simple dish soap or vinegar before using something as strong as bleach. Bleach can easily ruin anything you accidentally get it on (like your clothes) or kill your lawn if you are cleaning it outside. 

Dish soap or vinegar will almost always get the desired effect you are looking for when cleaning a kayak. Only use bleach if you have a white kayak and you need to do some really heavy-duty cleaning.

How Long Will a Kayak Last?

If you continue to clean your kayak in the ways we have outlined in this guide and treat it well, it will easily last over 10 years. Many of today’s kayaks are built very well with components that will not break easy. 

It is up to you to repair anything that might break and treat your kayak with respect. If you do that, they will reward you by lasting a very long time.

How Do You Make an Old Kayak Look New?

Follow the cleaning steps we outlined above! This will do a great job of removing any stains or blemishes on an old kayak, and help make it look new. Depending on how old your kayak is and what condition it is in, you may need to clean it several times to get it looking new.

Parting Thoughts

Learning how to clean mildew from a kayak is an essential skill to have for all kayak fishermen. Keeping your kayak looking new and in good shape will ensure it lasts for many years to come. And this is important since kayaks are great for fishing for many species of fish from redfish to king salmon!

Have additional thoughts on how to clean mildew from a kayak? Let us know about them in the comment section below. 

Happy Hunting!


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