Better Views Clean and Care for Isinglass

One of the great joys of boating is the opportunity to see new and beautiful places, but you won’t be able to enjoy those vistas if the windows are dirty. Nor will any potential buyer be thrilled by your boat if they can’t see out of the flybridge. Take proper care of your Isinglass, and the excellent views will last for many years and many nautical miles to come. Here are a few cleaning and maintenance tips.

Above: The bridge of this Viking 55 is enclosed by Isinglass, but as you can see, when clean and in good shape the distortion is minimal and the views are excellent. Image via Jeanne Craig.

What’s In a Name?

Isinglass is a generic name for the clear vinyl windows on your boat, but there are a few types. One is roll vinyl, which is soft, flexible and comparatively inexpensive. It has some inherent distortion, although the newer varieties are much more clear. It rolls up for convenient stowage. The second type is sheet vinyl, which offers more clarity than roll vinyl, is stiffer, and better suited for larger boats and enclosures that stay up all season. One brand of sheet vinyl is Strataglass, considered a premier make because it’s manufactured with an additional scratch- and UV-resistant surface coating.

Clean Solutions

Approach the process with care as this sensitive clear vinyl could scratch if you look at it the wrong way. First, rinse thoroughly to remove salt deposits—but don’t spray a hard stream of freshwater, as the force can be enough to drive dirt and grime across the surface and damage it. Do a gentle drenching and then soap up Isinglass with boat-soap, using a clean mitt that’s designated for this job only. That way, you won’t transfer grime from other parts of the boat onto the vinyl. Follow with a rinse and dry with a chamois. Then, go over Isinglass with a suitable cleaner for clear vinyl or plastic (reliable products are made by Novus Marine, Plexus, IMAR and Star brite). Don’t even think about using household products such as Windex or Pledge, as they’ll just damage and discolor Isinglass. When applying the solution, use clean cloths, not some old AC/DC tee shirt that’s been lying around since that long-ago world tour. Nix the paper towels, too, because they can scratch the vinyl, although you may not notice the damage until weeks later. Apply cleaner several times during the season, along with a periodic coat of plastic polish which forces water to bead on the surface, thereby improving visibility in rain, fog and rough seas.

Special Treatment

As mentioned, Strataglass has a protective coating that can be damaged by the wrong products. Thus, before placing any type of cleaner onto this surface, read the instructions from the manufacturer. That’s critical, particularly since failure to do so could mean a voided warranty.

Spring Tip

When you install Isinglass for the first time in the spring, know that it may need a day or two in the warm weather to straighten out. Similarly, never leave Isinglass rolled up for long periods of time. And before you roll it up, dry it thoroughly since beads of water that remain could cause the material to fog.

Routine Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to prolonging the life of your Isinglass and keeping it in top condition. It’s recommended to clean your Isinglass at least once a month during the boating season, even if it doesn’t look particularly dirty. Dust, pollen, and airborne pollutants can settle on the surface and become abrasive over time. Additionally, after each trip, give your Isinglass a quick rinse with fresh water to remove any salt spray or debris. By integrating these small steps into your routine, you can prevent minor issues from becoming major problems, ensuring that your clear vinyl remains as pristine as the day you installed it.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

While Isinglass is durable, it’s not indestructible. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can scratch or degrade the surface. For example, never use ammonia-based cleaners, which can cause the vinyl to become cloudy and brittle. Similarly, avoid scrubbing with rough sponges or brushes. When wiping down your Isinglass, always use soft, clean microfiber cloths. If you need to remove stubborn spots, soak them with water and a gentle soap solution before attempting to wipe them away. Patience and gentle handling are key to maintaining the clarity and longevity of your Isinglass.

Seasonal Storage Tips

Proper seasonal storage of your Isinglass can make a big difference in its lifespan. During the off-season, store your Isinglass in a cool, dry place. Never store it in areas where it could be exposed to extreme temperatures, such as a garage or shed. If possible, keep your Isinglass flat or gently rolled with a protective layer of soft fabric between layers. Avoid folding, as creases can become permanent over time. For added protection, consider using a storage bag specifically designed for Isinglass, which typically includes soft lining and proper ventilation to prevent mildew growth.

Stash It!

Storing your isinglass properly will protect it and ensure clear sight-lines. Since Isinglass can crack, it’s better to roll it into its storage bag rather than fold it. It’s also a good idea to keep a soft towel between each sheet.

Repairing Minor Damage

Despite your best efforts, minor damage to Isinglass can occur. Small scratches and scuffs are common but can often be polished out with the right products. If you notice a scratch, clean the area thoroughly and apply a plastic polish designed for clear vinyl. Gently buff the scratch out using a soft cloth, following the manufacturer’s instructions. For deeper scratches or cracks, you might need professional repair. Always address any damage as soon as it’s noticed to prevent it from worsening. Regular inspection and prompt repairs will help maintain the integrity and appearance of your Isinglass.

Enhancing Longevity with Covers

One of the best ways to protect your Isinglass is by using covers when the boat is not in use. Custom-fitted covers for your Isinglass windows can shield them from UV rays, bird droppings, and other environmental hazards. Investing in high-quality covers will save you time on cleaning and reduce the wear and tear on the vinyl. Ensure the covers are breathable to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and mildew. By taking these proactive measures, you’ll extend the life of your Isinglass and keep your boat looking shipshape.

Taking proper care of your Isinglass not only preserves the clarity and appearance of your boat’s windows but also enhances your overall boating experience. With regular maintenance, the right cleaning products, and careful storage, you can ensure that your Isinglass remains in excellent condition for years to come. Remember, a clear view isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s also crucial for safe navigation and enjoying the beauty of the open water. By following these tips, you’ll keep your Isinglass—and your boating adventures—crystal clear.

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