Kayaking might just be your favorite weekend activity — but cleaning your kayak? Not so much. Still, you don’t want to be *that* person. You know, the one that shows up to the lake with a kayak that smells like swamp and low tide.

Plus, dirt and sand can scratch your kayak’s finish, or, in the case of inflatable kayaks, wedge themselves into crevices and seams and cause rubbing or slow leaks. So for the love of boating, keep your kayak clean. We’ll show you how.

TLDR: Cleaning a kayak properly requires attention to detail but it’s something almost anyone can do. The trick is to rinse inside and out with fresh water after each use and use a gentle boat-safe soap. Then, rinse off the soap and air dry.

How to Clean the Inside & Outside of a Kayak

Should you wash your kayak? Only if you want it to be clean. (That’s a yes, in case there was any confusion). 

Think about it though: kayaks get pretty damn dirty. Lakes and streams aren’t always the cleanest of environments. There are all sorts of mud, algae, and bugs out on the water, not to mention food crumbs from your lunch, beer spills from your liquid lunch, and so forth…And if you go fishing in your kayak, there are all sorts of blood and guts that are probably also sitting in your kayak, just waiting to sit there and fester.

With that in mind, here’s how you can keep your boat looking squeaky clean inside and out.

How to Clean the Outside of a Kayak in 6 Steps

  1. Remove everything from the kayak.
  2. Rinse the exterior of your kayak with fresh water. This is usually best done using a garden hose on a fairly strong setting to loosen any dried-up or caked-on mud or debris. There may be some splatter, so you won’t want to change out of your bathing suit for this job.
  3. Fill a bucket with warm, soapy water and submerge a clean sponge or microfiber cloth in it.
  4. Wash the kayak! 
  5. Rinse off thoroughly.
  6. Air dry fully before storing.

How to Clean the Inside of a Kayak in 6 Steps

Cleaning the inside of a kayak is much the same as cleaning the outside of a kayak with some notable exceptions.

  1. Remove all items from inside the kayak. You may find it helpful to sweep the inside of the kayak out or remove dirt and debris with a cloth or broom.
  2. If you’re cleaning an inflatable kayak, you may wish to use a soft-bristled brush to avoid damaging the material from the mud or dirt that’s been on there for a long time.
  3. Rinse the boat out.
  4. Wash the interior of the boat like you did for the outside, spending extra time scrubbing any soft materials like neoprene seat cushioning.
  5. Rinse to remove soapy water.
  6. Allow to air dry fully before storing. This is even more important with inflatable boats, which can hold water that leads to mold and mildew growth.

Kayak Cleaning FAQs

  • What is the Best Thing to Clean a Kayak?
  • A mix of soap and water works well in most cases. But a dedicated boat cleaning solution or spray, or even an all-purpose cleaner could work.

  • What Kind of Soap Do You Use to Clean a Kayak?
  • A gentle soap that’s boat-safe is best. You can also use car wash or boat wash.

  • How Do You Clean & Protect a Plastic Kayak?
  • Cleaning can be done with the methods listed above. To protect a plastic kayak, it’s recommended to use UV protectant like 303 Aerospace Protectant.

  • Can I Use WD-40 On My Kayak?
  • Many people wonder if they can use WD-40 to lubricate their rudder or skeg. Doing so is not recommended. Instead, use a silicone lubricant.

    Additional Kayak Care for Composite vs. Inflatable Kayaks

    Why? Because when cleaning and caring for composite kayaks vs. inflatable kayaks, there are some key differences. 

    For one thing (and we know this might come as a surprise), inflatable kayaks do, in fact, inflate and deflate (shocker). This means the material is different. Each manufacturer has unique recommendations for whether to clean inflated vs. deflated. So check your boat’s care guide if it comes with one. 

    Otherwise, we recommend cleaning an inflatable kayak while inflated to really get the dirt and grime from every square inch. It’s also wise to use a UV protectant from time to time to prevent fading and sun bleaching.

    Shop Kokopelli Kayaks

    Looking for a new kayak? Check out the Kokopelli Platte inflatable kayak or the tandem Platte Plus. Looking for information about how to clean your packraft? Check out our guide to cleaning and maintaining an inflatable boat. We’ll see ya out on the water./p>

    May 29, 2023 — Kokopelli Outdoor