I remember when a friend of mine asked me about my process for drying and storing my inflatable kayak. It was the end of the season, so I had her come over and I showed her the method I use. I also shared some of the many tips I’ve picked up over the years from others. Some of them I do, some I don’t, but here is the scoop.
When I am out camping, doing a float down a river, or going for a paddle in one of the local lakes, I tend to do a less detailed cleaning on it than when I pack it up for the winter. I try to go kayaking quite a bit in the summer and fall so there is no real sense for me to take the time to really give it a good cleaning unless I’m not going to use it for more than 2 days in a row. I do make sure that, before I deflate the kayak, I wipe it down with a towel before rolling it up. It’s also a good idea to let it air dry before putting it away in the bag.
Long Term Storage
For end of the season, over the winter storage, you need to be more thorough. Just before it gets too cold to use the hose outside (below 50 degrees) I will inflate the kayak and give it a good scrub down with a mild soap and water mix and a big sponge, I rinse it off with the hose and empty the water out of the inside. I like to use those super shammies you can get at the auto parts store to dry off my kayak because they soak up quite a bit of water and don’t leave any lint behind. If I still find water in those hard to reach spots like between the inner hull and the floor, I take my electric air pump and hose and just blow the water away with the air from it.
A couple notes about cleaning solutions …
- The mild soap and water mix will get most of the dirt off your kayak. For tougher stains, though, you can use a cleaner that’s specifically made for inflatable kayak materials, such as the Star Brite Ultimate Paddlesports Cleaner & Protectant with PTEF which is available from Amazon or the biodegradable Inflatable Boat Cleaner from NRS. An additional advantage to using the commercial brands is that they contain protectants that they help repel future staining and give additional protection from harmful UV rays.
- It’s also possible for your kayak to grow some icky black mildew on it. To get rid of that and the musty smell that can accompany it, spray your kayak with vinegar and let it sit out in the sun to dry. The vinegar will kill the mold spores and remove any fetid odor. Don’t worry … once the vinegar mixture evaporates, your kayak will not smell like a Caesar salad. Using a mild bleach solution is also an option for mold and mildew. Although, I prefer using the vinegar mixture to eliminate the possibility of ruining your clothes with bleach stains.
Now that the kayak is dry, to store it back in its bag, I first deflate the kayak, then fold and press the excess air out of it. Using the deflation port on my air pump helps with this process as it pulls all the air out, makes the kayak fold down smaller, and fits into the storage bag much easier. My clean and dry kayak sits in my closet waiting for another season of summer fun. From start to finish I think the entire process can be done in about 30 minutes. I must add that Kelly doesn’t use a ‘fancy’ air pump like mine, but I assured her that it’s not necessary to have one for deflation, simply compressing it with her hands will do fine.
If you’re stowing your kayak in an environment that is rich in moisture, you can toss a few desiccant packets into the crevices. Those are the little packets that often come in the box when you purchase electronics. Another tip I’ve heard of is to take a bag of uncooked macaroni noodles, punch a few holes in it, then store it in the storage bag with your kayak. The pasta will absorb the excess moisture and protect the kayak from growing mildew on it. Only thing I’m not sure about that is whether the macaroni will attract mice or not.
In that case, here’s a good tip to keep mice from chewing on your inflatable kayak especially if you’re storing your kayak outside in a shed. Pop in a few dryer sheets with it. Mice do not like the smell of dryer sheets and will avoid them at all costs. The downside is that you should change them every month or so.
Happy kayak cleaning everyone.
This article was written by Victoria Adams