Cleaning the Dinghy … The Easy Way!

For years and years, I’ve struggled with cleaning the dinghy.  I cleaned it with joy & water before we left last spring.  But it was covered all summer and it’s amazing how dirty and moldy it can get underneath a cover all summer!  So I just cleaned it again.

IMPORTANT POST UPDATE!!!  AFTER I used Magic Erasers to clean the dinghy, a CC reader asked about using bleach — I’ll post an update with that information soon, but in the meantime, I had a response from Stephan Lance, President of Defender Industries.  Stephan cautions:

“Be a bit cautious on the Magic Eraser though.  It does work, well, like magic.  That is true and use them in some places (my wife loves them in the house).   BUT, the physical structure of melamine foam (which is what a Magic Eraser is), is a lot like very, very high grit sandpaper.   If you do some Googling of melamine foam, you will find that it can abrade at a microscopic level.  So, use it sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.  It will wear the coating / finish off synthetic rubber or fiberglass.”

To tell the truth, I don’t want it TOO clean because then it looks new and if someone wants to steal a dinghy, why not a really nice looking one?  We deliberately didn’t clean ours when we were in certain countries to make it as inconspicuous as possible.  But now that we’re back in the US, David, being the clean freak that he is, wanted the dinghy REALLY cleaned.  OK, it’s my job.

The dinghy spends the summer months upside down and partially deflated on the foredeck covered with a blue dinghy cover.

The dinghy spends the summer months upside down and partially deflated on the foredeck covered with a blue dinghy cover.

I started, as usual with a bit of bleach water just on the rubrail to get the mold out.  Be careful when wiping down the rubrail with bleach water if it’s still on deck … and don’t use too much bleach,  if the bleach solution drips onto the deck and you happen to have teak decks, you’ll have spotted teak decks!  But we still need to clean the teak decks, so it’s OK for now.  I’m not sure how good bleach is on rubber, but I also don’t know how to get the mold out with anything less chemical.  I’ve tried vinegar and it just doesn’t cut it.

Here's what the dinghy looked like before Magic Eraser...

Here’s what the dinghy looked like before Magic Eraser…

Then based on a tip from a friend, I tried using a Mr Clean Magic Eraser on the dirty hypalon.   Absolutely amazing!  It comes clean so easily versus scrubbing and scrubbing as I’ve done in the past.   A couple of caveats … the hypalon chewed through magic erasers fairly quickly, but if it hadn’t been so dirty, it might not have gone through three!

The second Magic Eraser only halfway eaten up by the hypalon.

The second Magic Eraser only halfway eaten up by the hypalon.

Second caveat — if you’re cleaning in the hot sun, make sure to have a hose nearby — the magic sponge cleans, but if the residue dries before you rinse it off, it’s just as difficult to remove as the original grime!  I was cleaning our dinghy while it was still on the deck, not ideal, but easier than hoisting it off the boat & boat aboard later since David was firmly entrenched in the cockpit lazarette dungeon, changing an impeller – something I know to tiptoe around!

Here's the before and after ... notice any difference?   :)

Here’s the before and after … notice any difference? 🙂

When rinsing the dirty dinghy after cleaning a spot with the magic eraser, be SURE to rinse it off the boat too — otherwise you’ll be scrubbing the dirty residue off the boat later!

But all in all, I am very happy with the results.  The dinghy could look better, and when we actually put it in the water, I’ll probably magic eraser it again, but overall:   WOW!   And with so little effort on my part.  Gotta love it!

I bought a package of 4 Mr Clean Magic Erasers

I bought a package of 4 Mr Clean Magic Erasers “Extra Power” … and I have one left!

How do you clean your dinghy?  Any other easy suggestions for cruisers unable to buy Mr Clean magic eraser sponges in other cruising areas?  Please leave a comment and share!   Cheers!  Jan


  1. Keith Davie says:

    Umm… cleaning the dinghy? Am i supposed to clean hat too? I thought the occassional rain storm was all that was required! Silly me! 🙂

    • 🙂 Keith — I resisted the urge for years …. after all, why did I want to call attention to our dinghy? Rain is good! Cheers! Jan

  2. I recently used bathroom bleach from a spray, was amazing but now have a gut feeling my inflatable may pop like a balloon very soon. Is bathroom bleach harmful to inflatables? If so whats the worst that can happen?

    • Hi John! I honestly don’t know, but bleach is harsh, so I have always assumed it might shorten the life of the hypalon, but I’ll look into it & see if I can get a real answer. Thanks for your question! Cheers! Jan

  3. I use the magic erasers all the time..they work fabulous on so many surfaces…there are other brands as well as no name…they work awesome on your vinyl seats too..I do condition the vinyl after to keep it supple in the sun….used them on the dinghy, the hull (but u do take off some of the wax with it too) and inside the boat too

  4. Larry - DH says:

    Thanks for the Magic Eraser tip! I tried bleach on the dinghy for the first time this last weekend. My 2001-manufactured Hypalon RIB had a bad case of mildew and grunge that would not be removed with the strongest detergents commonly recommended for dinghies. It also chalks after a month or two between washings. I was going to paint it this year with Tuff Coat. The TC directions said mildew must be removed prior to painting and recommends a 1:3 solution of bleach to water.

    I hadn’t read your post and would never have tried bleach because it’s so caustic but I was giving up on this dingy dingy — it’s a miracle! The dinghy now looks so good (almost like new other than wear spots) I decided not to paint it and it’s been launched as-is. Perhaps I’ll paint it next year if it still chalks, or I’ll just tape-off and paint sections where the fabric is showing through. .

  5. Miami G says:

    I was turned on to this 4Ucleaner from my tender shop. This stuff is amazing on inflatables. Spay it on full strength and use a magic eraser in stubborn spots and you will be amazed. All the boats on my dock have been using it now and we have the cleanest dingys in the marina. check it out at 4uproducts dot com. It also is incredible on fiberglass, I use it on everything on my boat now. I can’t say enough about it. One gallon lasts me all season.

  6. Sandra Renwick says:

    we use captain Phab to clean our dinghy and then to protect it from uv rays we spray it with 303Aerospace protectant(same as the. 303 for your Bimini sunbrella but for vinyl) and it works great!! I wouldn’t use bleach of any kind as it will break down your vinyl on your dinghy tubes and cause stickiness that you can’t get rid of. we were told by our manufacturer to only use the two products mentioned to extend the life of our dinghy. It requires just spraying it on and let it sit for a few minutes then lightly scrub it clean and rinse well with water and try not to do this in the direct sunlight. we have been able to get rid of the stickiness(which means the uv has broke down your vinyl by the time it does this)and it looks like new again. You only have to reap ray the 303 every 3-4 weeks and it only takes about. 5 minutes to save your dinghies vinyl and have it last for many years of cruising the anchorages in it. S/v secondwind Georgian Bay Canada

  7. We just cleaned our 10 year old Walker Bay Hypalon dinghy yesterday. We used Toluene and it looks almost brand new. Just applied full strength with a rag and wiped off. All of the grimy grey film wiped off so easily we couldn’t believe it! We then rinsed with soap and water and applied 303 Aerospace protection. It was an Authorized Walker Bay repair shop that recommended the Toluene so we believe it to be safe to use. I highly recommend trying it!

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