Caring For Your Inflatable


Armorall and other oil-based products can damage the rubber or fabric over time and prevent patches from sticking. Mild dish soap is best for cleaning your inflatable boat. There are also several cleaners designed specifically for inflatable boats.


Because uninflated boats are more vulnerable to damage, many manufacturers recommend that you store the boat partially inflated and covered with a tarp. If this is not possible, completely deflate the boat and be sure it is dry and clean before rolling and storing in the carrying bag. If you plan to store your inflatable boat on a trailer, be sure there are no bends or kinks in the boat.


Sometimes, even with the best of care and safety precautions, your inflatable boat can develop a puncture or leak. Unless you have a major and obvious accident, it may be difficult to determine the location of the leak. While the boat is inflated, wipe it with soapy water and watch for bubbles to form on the surface of the boat as a result of escaping air. Don’t assume there is only one leak. Check the entire boat with soapy water to be sure before setting out on the water.

Many manufacturers recommend that you bring your boat to a professional for larger repairs, because it can be difficult to get a good seal with a patch. However, if you have a small puncture or are in a situation where you need to make immediate repairs, follow the directions on the patch kit. Some basic tips include:

  • Ensure that the surface is clean and dry before applying the patch.
  • Be sure the adhesive is sufficiently tacky before applying the patch.
  • Choose a patch that extends at least three inches beyond the rip in all directions.

If your inflatable boat has rough or cracked areas that are filled with tiny pinhole leaks, this is an indication that the coating on the material has aged or become damaged by sunlight, saltwater, overheating or some other type of wear and tear. While you may be able to patch some of these leaks, it is best to replace the inflatable boat if other areas show signs of wear.

Inflatable boats and kayaks have many advantages over traditional watercraft, however, because of their special design and materials, they can require more care and maintenance. But as this article describes, it is not difficult to care for an inflatable boat, and most problems can be avoided by using common sense and by developing a consistent routine. If properly cared for, inflatable boats can provide you with years of service and recreational fun without the expense associated with traditional watercraft.


  • When inflating your raft or boat, many manufacturers recommend filling each air chamber in a clockwise pattern around the boat, just until the craft takes shape. Then work your way back around the boat filling the chambers to the pressure level indicated for that particular boat.
  • If the floor of the boat is inflatable, add air until the pressure relief valve releases a small amount of air.
  • Don’t overfill. A properly inflated boat should have just a bit of give.
  • Be aware that air temperature causes changes in the air pressure in the inflatable chambers. Many boaters fill their inflatable boats in the morning when the air is cool. But as the temperature increases over the course of the day, the air in the tubes expands, increasing the pressure. If a tube or chamber becomes too pressurized, it can explode if struck by a sharp object. You may have to let some air out at different points throughout the day if you operate your inflatable boat or inflatable kayak in the hot sun.
  • Most inflatable boats deflate simply by opening the air valves.

Standard Precautions

  • Because punctures are the main concern with inflatable boats, it is important to protect if from sharp objects. Use care when transporting knives, fishing hooks, and other objects that could puncture the skin of the inflatable boat. Watch for sharp metal or branches when navigating the waters, as well as avoid dragging the boat over rocks and debre when landing on a beach.
  • Even dull objects such as oars, ropes, or coolers can cause abrasion and deterioration of the coating material if allowed to rub for an extended period of time.
  • It also is important to rinse out your inflatable boat or inflatable kayak after each use. Sand and gravel can cause abrasion and plug air valves. If left to soak into an inflatable boat, salt water can cause the material to deteriorate.

Preventative and Normal Maintenance


It’s best to put a protective coating of 303 Protectant on a brand new. It seems to work as a coating that doesn’t allow dirt to adhere as much if it weren’t there. Hypalon is very resistant to most chemicals so the worst a heavy duty cleaner can usually do is bleach the pigment, which doesn’t effect the Hypalon. Fortunately there are inflatable cleaners on the market that clean the surface and don’t harm it.

Use a large scrub pad with handle and work in four foot sections. Rinse the boat off with a power washer then spray the cleaner on and wait five minutes. Using a circular motion, scrub the area and then fully rinse immediately. The boat will appear to be faded, but a coat of 303 Protectant will bring back the shine.


The boat should only have a maximum of 3 PSI (pounds per square inch) so it is far less than a bike or car tire. Using a compressor that will put out high volumes of air will over pressure a tube instantly. Make sure whatever you use has a maximum 3 PSI output.


Each chamber has a cone shaped baffle that separates it from the others. Maximizing pressure on a single baffle can easily damage it. Therefore equal amounts of pressure should be applied to each chamber until you reach maximum pressure. Do the opposite when you deflate a boat. Ideally it would be best to have someone at each of the chambers and open at the same time.


Have a pressure gauge handy so staff can take a reading when they are inflating. The air temperature and that of sand and asphalt in mid day can more than double the pressure in a boat. Make a habit of keeping boats in the shade and or deflating them on occasion. Keep in mind that you must release equal pressure or you’ll harm the baffles.


Moving the boats has been known to cause more damage then usage on the river unless it is closely monitored. Using the handles as tie-downs, abrasive ropes rubbing on the tubes, and the biggest culprit of all, tossing the boats to the ground!


Originally intended by American Propeller Co to protect rubber and vinyl airplane parts from high altitude UV, it is ideally suited for inflatable protection. Given that Hypalon is used to coat high power wires and reservoirs, it has incredible UV resistance. We have found that it helps reduce pigment fading, leaves a layer that is easier to clean dirt off and prolongs the life of the boat. We highly recommend it on a new boat and then once at the start, middle and end of the season prior to cleaning and storage.