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By Lucy Chabot Reed
The best way to care for the expensive woods, stones, fabrics and leathers on yachts is as basic as it gets: soap and water.
But even that simple solution can get complex, giving interior crew a glimpse into how complicated and perhaps even daunting their responsibilities can be in keeping the interior sparkling: The water is best warm, even hot in some situations, and the soap should be a mild, dishwashing soap to neutralize any acids and break down any oils.
That was the advice of experts gathered for the final YachtInfo seminar yesterday. With more than 150 years of experience in their related fields and on yachts, the panelists shared their thoughts for how crew can better maintain their interiors.
“The end-all for cleaning is dish soap,” said Richard Perkins, a former chief stew who started Interior Technology Services about 30 years ago. “It’s pH neutral. Heavily dilute it in warm water. It’s the best degreaser you can buy.”
For fine fabrics, headliners, drapes and carpets, he said owners are better off with natural fibers such as wool and silk. He cautioned crew to be wary of the current trend toward art silk (artificial silk), also called bamboo or banana silk.
“It can’t get wet,” Perkins said. “If it does, it looks like you took a scrub brush to it and it turns brown. It can’t be reversed.”
Best way to handle spots or marks on carpets is with hot water extraction (steam) and it’s also the healthiest way. And always blot, never rub. Leave anything more involved than that to expert cleaners.
“It took me many, many years of going to high-end schools to learn all the techniques to clean and take care of fine fabrics,” he said, noting that even the manufacturer’s recommendations can be misleading.
All four panelists talked technical and specific about their area of expertise, underscoring the complexity of high-end finishings.
“Most cleaning products are bad for stone,” said Devon Vance of South Florida-based American Tile Installations. “Many are waxes and compounds that block the breathability of the stone, turning it darker. Liquid doesn’t want to stay in stone; it wants to come out. But these compounds give it something to hold onto and trap it in.”
The biggest sin crew commit is when they grab a towel and attempt to wipe up a spill. That spreads it into all the crevices and pores of the stone, fabric or other covering. Instead, blot it up, wash it in small sections with mild soap and warm water, then dry it as best and as quickly as possible.
All the panelists urged crew not to believe in “magic potions in bottles” and to beware of simple solutions online.
“Hot water is your best friend,” said Kibbie Fulton of Leather Solutions said of traditional leather. “If the little wet rag doesn’t work, don’t do anything else. That’s a $100,000 sofa and you may do something that I can’t repair.”
She cautioned crew specifically from using products with lanolin in them. While they might make the leather look better at the time, they do long-term damage by weakening the leather. And it’s normal to have some color transfer on a cloth when cleaning.
When cleaning suede and nubuck, take a dry, clean microcloth, roll it up, and use it to brush over the target area. Focusing on one little place that might have a mark will only damage the fibers around it and make the area more pronounced, she said. Using the microcloth roll regularly every couple of weeks or every month will help keep suedes nice.
“It’s best to have the least done at the beginning,” she said. “Quick fixes are a temporary solution but create bigger problems down the road.”
She also urged interior crew to fight for a budget to maintain their furnishings, including the leather.
“It’s very expensive to replace, but we can make it last forever,” she said.
All the panelists said they would come onboard and offer crew training in preventative maintenance and care of the yacht’s furnishings at no charge.
“We’re all here to help keep the yachts looking good so the crew look good,” Perkins said.
Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of Triton Today. Comments below.