Smelly Stuff – Getting Smells Out of Fabrics

Magnolia saloon 2011
Magnolia saloon 2011

Does your boat smell?  Have boat halitosis?  Do you come off the boat and people take a whiff and look at you funny?  Dreaded boat smell.  At one point I was told to live with it.  Boats Smell.  I didn’t want to be condemned to boat smell if this is my home.  The hunt was on to get at the moldy stuffiness.  Here’s what I’m doing to minimize  boat smell starting with the least expensive options.  I’ve got it on the run…

1. Get fresh air flowing through the boat as often as possible.

  Whenever I can.

2. Take out, wash or dry clean any old, mildew-y fabric (e.g., curtains, cushion covers, bedspreads, blankets, pillows, etc). Marine canvas seems to really hold on to smells.

   Yup. If you follow this blog you’ll read about these efforts.

3. Try Fabreeze or Fresh Wave, airing in the sun and dryer sheets tucked in where possible.  These may work for less smelly problems.

   Minimal success on the 20+ year old boat.  I swear the curtains were original to the boat.

4. Keep the bilge and other low areas, like under sinks and head floors, dry if you can.  Dry any area rugs that get wet asap.

   Not so easy on Magnolia.  There is always a bit water in the bilge.  Found the water under the sink at one point and we think that’s resolved.

5. Try tea tree oils like Kanberra Gel placed strategically around the boat.  This stuff is magic on reducing mold and moldy smells.  Kanberra is expensive.  Watch for sales and samples at boat shows.  It now comes in a spray too.  I think there may be a competitor on the market now.  You can make your own tea tree oil into a spray like Tammy does on Dos Libras by mixing a bit with water in a small spray bottle.   Tea tree oil is available at Walmart, health food stores.

Love, love my Kanberra Gel.

6. Replace smelly fabrics – curtains, cushion and pillow foam and covers.  While this is more expensive, as Seamless Sailors you can keep the cost down by DIY’ing some or all of it!

New settee cushions under construction.

Other ideas to add to the list?  Post them here.

P.S.  Obviously this post doesn’t cover the other big issue – head smells.  That’s a whole other post. Those are taken care of by using fresh water in the heads when we can and Raritan products.  If you don’t have it, get the book Getting Rid of Boat Odors.  Worth every penny.


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