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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How best to maintain Marine Upholstery Vinyl textiles?
    This is an example of the care recommendations from two of the top marine canvas makers. Omnova and Sunbrella. The PDF discusses cleaning both sides. They don't expect that pieces that are upholstered and stapled down. So it is clear that they expect that sometimes upholstery vinyl might be used as a loose cover, snapped into place. Who knew?
  • What can I do about MILDEW on my white boat seats?
    Mildew is a perennial problem on boats. As such, there are a few good old fashioned answers... which contradict themselves. The first good old fashioned answer is "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" (more about this later) the contradiction is that... if we are asking the question, we are already behind the 8-ball! The mildew has already set in. OFTEN this comes up when a person buys a new boat, so... "no shame" in having this problem. The second good answer is "don't use bleach!" This is important because bleach hastens the decomposition of polyester thread leading to seam failure. We have all seen seam failure of boat cushions. The contradiction comes from products like "Star Brite®" Mildew Stain Remover... it DOES remove mildew stains because it's main ingredients are Sodium Hypochlorite and Sodium Hydroxide (aka Bleach and Lye). Guess what Bleach and Lye do to Polyester? What do we recommend? Iosso (that's a capital "i") Iosso Mold and Mildew Stain Remover. We carry it at the shop and you can find it elsewhere, I imagine. Iosso is a dry grainy powder. It comes with a scoop. Half a scoop in a pint of warm water in a spray bottle. Shake until the blue goes away. Spray on. Agitate lightly with a brush. Wait 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with clean water. Et Viola! REGARDING "an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure": We reccomend and use Tenara thread on our upholstery. It is a lifetime thread. It costs about times as much as Polyester thread. We ask a modest $5 fee to help transfer that cost to the boatowner because it is well worth ten times that. references:
  • Can You Find and Exact Match For My Boat Seat Upholstery Vinyl?
    Well... that depends. What's it worth to ya? Boat manufacturers make proprietary arrangements with Vinyl Upholstery makers. That means that the vinyls used by OEM boat builders are not strictly available on the open market. THAT SAID, sometimes you can come close. If the boat is less than 5 years old, then the boat builder might have stock in your exact vinyl. If the boat is older or if they do not hold any more stock that is an exact match, There are two more options. Boat makers sell their roll ends to dealers that handle only "close-outs" and "over-runs". (You might even find a replacement dashboard part for the one that's cracked, while you're at it.) Not only roll-goods but also OEM Captain's chairs can sometimes be found. I recently found a brand new Captain's chair for a Chaparral. It was about $895. That is about what we would charge, because the chair was complicated and we don't have their pattern as a starting point... BUT, we were able to just install the new seat and move on to our next custom project; no real savings in money but it put us 2 or 3 days ahead on the next project. The second option if the boat manufacturer cannot help you is tricky. Marine Upholstery Vinyls have three main characteristics that people mean, when they ask, "Can you match my boat's upholstery vinyl?" or "Can we get an exact match for my boat seats?" Those three characteristics are COLOR, GRAIN and SHEEN. Color is self-evident. Grain is pretty obvious too. Grain is the "skin texture" of the vinyl you want for your boat. Sheen is less obvious to most people shopping for Marine Grade Upholstery Vinyl to match their boat. This has to do with whether the coated fabric maker made the surface "matte" or left it with a high-gloss finish. Of course there there are infinite vinyl sheens, colors, and grains made for boat interiors, and there are other subtle factors. Shoppers don't generally think of the surface thickness of the original vinyl. (30oz is typical for marine vinyl) If the original vinyl had a 1/4" foam layer on the back, that can be added by your upholsterer. If you find the right pattern without FB on the SKU number, you have solved your problem. There is, however, another way to go... Sometimes the boat owner can find an online partslist for the make, model and year of their particular boat. That list might tell the vinyl manufacturer and even the color and/or pattern of the vinyl that was used on the boat originally. THIS WILL STILL BE A PROPRIETARY VINYL, However, it greatly narrows down the job if you can know who made the vinyl. They might have taken a shortcut and you might find the right color and sheen... even though the grain is smoother or bumpier. That might be close enough if you're reasonable. The probable choices are narrowed down when you can find the vinyl maker's name because sometimes the vinyl coated upholstery industries make things a little easier on themselves. Sometimes Spradling, Nautalex, Morbern, Nassimi, or Naugahyde seem to use an existing "stock" color with a different grain or give a different sheen to make the run unique. SOMETIMES, two out of three ain't bad and we can help you quickly. So don't be sad! (you remember the song) These are the experiences when an upholstery shop tries to find an exact match for your boat by just sorting through all of their samples. That said, if the boatowner is a real stickler for an exact match, these minor difference can be enough to put some people off. That drove one boatowner we recently did work for to spend 15 hours searching until he found the exact match he wanted. This writer has personally spent 4 hours on just "searching". At $75.00 per hour, that's $300 spent while we found a match, there is no guarantee. All that said, HERE is the number one reason NOT to spend even one hour trying match your exact upholstery vinyl of a boat seat: The only reason for finding an exact match is because you only intend to do SOME of the upholstered parts at this time. Guess what? the same vinyl might no longer be available when the other upholstered parts wear out, too. SO the long hard search only serves to wax you into the corner when the rest of the seat or back parts need to be recovered! CLC&U recommends that you spend very little time on what can prove to be a fruitless search. A close match is usually the best choice, once you consider what you are really saying when you ask, " Can you find an exact upholstery vinyl to match the rest of my boat?"
  • What are the Best Practices in Marine Upholstery? and what kinds of things do the Product Guides specify?
    Find on page Sunbrella's New Horizon Marine Vinyl Textile product guide with recommendations like thread size, needle gauge, and stitch length for longest lasting Marine Upholstery...
  • Does it matter whether I use "MARINE" grade upholstery vinyl? Is Marine vinyl actually different from Automobile upholstery vinyl?
    The short answer is YES. It makes a difference! For example a 30oz Marine Vinyl like Omnova's Capitano™ has UV, Mold, Mildew, and Bacterial Protectant, milled into the stratum, which Automobile vinyl does not have. Furthermore, Marine Vinyl has all of the FADE Resistance that Auto Vinyl is made with. Manufacturers like Nautolex®, Mobern®, Naugahyde®, Omnova®, Nassimi® Spradling®, Sunbrella® brand (which matches their canvas colors) all make vinyls specially formulated to last on a boat. Sunbrella's Horizon protects against "Pinking" (a mold related problem) If they have a 5 year warranty then it it will require that we use New Foam and plastic boards (not old wood). If it will stand up to 5 years in Florida Sun, then, it ought to last much longer on Chickamauga Lake under a covered Slip. Furthermore CLC&U uses Tenara Lifetime Thread for all of their upholstery. That;s the stuff they use to sew bulletproof vests. We use the smallest needle possible and the longest stitch, so are to avoid "Postage-Stamp" tearing, over the years. All of these little extras add up to a much better finished product for the life of your boat! Nautolex® is a registered trademark of OMNOVA Solutions, Inc. Capitano™ is a trademark of OMNOVA Solutions, Inc. sample warranty Omnova, Nautalex, Capitano:
  • What's the best way to clean clear marine vinyl isinglass windows on my boat?
    The SHORT ANSWER is: A basic mild soap or Neutral Cleaner like Ivory or Lux in lukewarm water with a CLEAN NEW micro-fibre cloth or a micro-fiber car-wash mitt. Rinse thoroughly with water and let it air dry (theoretically, you could dry them with a clean new microsoft fibre cloth IF you are in a hurry) WHAT ABOUT WATER SPOTS? My brother-in-law the window cleaner says, "just do them often and there is less stuff on them to the create spots to begin with." Dirt, dust and pollen are all abrasive. Don't "scrub" dirty windows. NEVER USE detergents, Windex®, Rain-X®, Pledge®, Plexus®, SImple Green®, or Pine-Sol® or any other harsh "cleaner". NEVER USE car wax nor ANY kind of "wash & wax" protectant. Use nothing that says "Turtle" nor "Armour" in the name. NEVER USE polish nor scratch removers nor any products intended for commercial-grade vinyl or plastic. MARINE ISINGLASS (ROLL type or PRESSED AND POLISHED sheets ARE NOT the same stuff as the clear vinyl slip-covers your Great Aunt Marguerite had on her sofa, when you were a kid. Don't use bleach. Do not roll them "wet". Period. Do not fold them! Vinyl has a long "memory". If you will store them... consider Rolling them with a clean towel between layers. PUT SOMETHING at the center of the roll or else you might as well have folded them. They will sag until they are folded. Zippers will make a mark in the next panel if any weight presses them together. Warmth tends to let creases in isinglass relax... Warmth tends to let cloudiness to dissipate. Warmth comes from the sun or from a moving hairdryer (note to self... don't tell them about the hairdryer trick. They could ruin a panel with concentrated heat.) CONSIDER having your canvas shop do a zippered rack for your garage or basement where you can hang your panels in the off season. ||||| From Trivantage
  • What is isinglass (eisenglas)? Roll Vinyl, Pressed and Polished Sheets, Scratch-Resistance and PolyCarbonate (with or without scratch-resist coating) explained.
    "...with Eisenglas curtains you can roll right down, in case there's a change in the weeaaaather" ~lyrics from "Surry with the Fringe on the Top" from Rogers & Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA! The Isinglass curtains in those days were thin sheets of mineral Mica (a flaky stone like a fingernail) Isinglass can be split into large sheets but cannot actually be rolled right up or down... That lyric was just needed to make the song work. There is another form or isinglass. It is an emulsion of fish derived collagen. It is used variously to clarify beer and as a glue for flaking paint when restoring ancient works of art; akin to Mucilage. You can't make windows out of it and it gets gummy if exposed to the weeaaaather! So, the name Isinglass (or Eisenglas which is a German word) in it's use on boats, comes from the flaky mineral. That stuff makes a translucent pane, used for windows. There was a rich vein of the mineral in what is now Russia not far from Moscow... and so it was also called Muskovy Glass and many houses would have Muscovy glass windows to let the light in while granting privacy. So the term is like Klennex or Bandaid. In current usage, Marine Grade Isinglass is neither the mineral nor is it made from fish collagen emulsion. It is made from clear Vinyl. Mica Mineral Iron Glass (eisenglas) was common on ships in the 1700's because it could cover lanterns and let the light shine through. THAT is the thread which connects today's Isinglass with boats and ships; Mica lantern lenses. There are two primary categories of clear marine vinyls (commonly called isinglass) for your boat and two or three sub-categories of each main category. The primary division is between clear vinyl sold to canvas shops on a roll (roll vinyl) and sheets of vinyl, usually about 110"x54" ("pressed and polished sheets") Called "Pressed and Polished", these sheets are comparable to "plywood" because they are composed of several layers of roll vinyl, fused together under heat and pressure. A piece of plywood is more stable and stiffer that the same size piece of wood (you never see a karate demonstration with plywood!) Plywood shrinks and expands less that a plain pine board. This is also true of pressed polished sheets of vinyl compared to roll vinyl. ALSO, when layers of roll vinyl are pressed together, the molecules are fused into a tighter configuration making the surface more resistant to scratching. This is a mechanical alteration of the roll vinyl. Like ironing a shirt... it has a crisper finish... even without "spray starch". It's still the same fabric. To be clear, the raw material for pressed and polished sheet vinyl is "roll vinyl". Sold without further processing, roll vinyl is of course, less expensive. It is rolled "as is", hot off the press, or it might be rolled with a protective layer of tissue paper, interleaved on the roll. The clarity of extruded roll vinyl comes from the fact that it is one layer, front to back. The clarity of polished and pressed sheets comes from it's rigidity. Softer extruded vinyl shrinks in the cold and so 1% to 2% is added to the dimensions when it is made... otherwise it might likely pull away from the boat at the snaps or strain the zippers, in the winter when it shrinks. {hint: if your enclosure doesn't fit in the winter, it might in the summer]. This looser fit accounts for the rippled surface you see with roll vinyl extruded isinglass. It is NOT a construction error or sloppiness; it is more like the relaxed fit of jeans rather than the crease in the pants of three-piece suite. BOTH SERVE A PURPOSE. ONE IS ALSO LESS EXPENSIVE. That said; Holding up a 6" square of both... the cheaper extruded is more optically clear than a 6" square of a polished and pressed sheet... HOWEVER, the softer extruded vinyl, being less rigid, hangs in waves and those waves affect how things look through roll vinyl. The slightly less clear, "plywood-like" layers of rigid pressed and polished vinyl do not telegraph any ripples into your field of vision on a larger hanging panel. That rigidity more than makes up for the theoretical loss of clarity that comes from the layering. Pressed and Polished panels come two different ways: Plain or Scratch-Resistant. This accounts for the main difference between Strataglass® or CrystalClear® (same manufacturer) and between O'Sullivan's O'Sea® or Regalite®. Inotherwords, Strataglass® and O'Sea® have UV and Scratch Resistant coatings, intended to make them last longer. CrystalClear® and Regalite® lack that extra step in production. CrystalCLear® and Regalite® live in the space between Extruded Single layer, roll-vinyl and scratch coated top-of-the-line Strataglass® or O'Sea®; a step beyond plain roll vinyl; a step below scratch-treated. My eye glasses have a scratch-resistant coating too. Don't get me started on that. There are also TINTS. Regalite® comes clear or with a cool green tint. Strata® products can be had with a smoky tint. The HARD stuff you see on some boat windows is PolyCarbonate. Most eyeglasses now are made with polycarbonate lenses. Polycarbonate can come treated for scratch resistance or uncoated. It is not acrylic nor plexiglass. We actually sew through polycarbonate up to 60 gauge. Top of the line Makrolon Tuffak Marine 5 Polycarbonate carries a 5 year warranty against crazing, yellowing, or scratching and comes in 40, 60 and 80 gauge.
  • How is this page built? Are these Qs really FAed?
    When you ask a question that we have heard before, then we stop and write out an answer. That helps us to be sure we have researched the answer enough to give an authoritative answer. Conversely, when you ask a question we have never heard or about something we have never thought about before, THEN we stop and research an answer so that we can give an authoritative answer... even though the question is not a frequent one!
  • What is Marine Canvas? History and Current usage
    Leather, Woven reeds, Wool, Flaxen Linen, and Cotton have all had their turns as the fiber of choice for Marine Canvas. Currently brands like Sunbrella®, woven in North Carolina's Glen Raven Mills are made from Acrylic Polyester fibers because they are sun and water resistant.
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