Looking after your kayak correctly is essential. Properly cleaning and storing your kayak will increase its lifespan and ensure it’s performing at its absolute best.
Many people don’t even think about how they clean and store their kayaks. After all, they are built for rugged outdoor use and the river, lake, or sea water keeps it clean, right?
This is true to some extent. High-quality kayaks are built to withstand quite a beating. They will stand up to the wear and tear that outdoor life throws at them. However, routinely inspecting, cleaning, and correctly storing your kayak will give you a chance to catch issues before they arise and prolong the life of the vessel.
Let’s be honest, most of us have probably dragged a kayak up the side of the house and left it stranded in the garden during the winter months. Left sat there feeling sorry for itself, praying for spring to appear for a clean-up and an adventure. I know I’ve done it in the past, and most of us have (even if we don’t like to admit it).
Chances are if you’ve done this in the past, spring appears and you dig out the kayak from the layers of leaf litter and mulch, clean it up, and set out for an adventure. The kayak was probably none the worse for its cold and wet winter storage experience. Of course, your vessel will put up with one or two years of ill care, but year on year you’ll notice the kayak start to degrade.
So, how do you properly look after a kayak?
It sounds like it might be time-consuming, right? — Not exactly. Taking care of your kayak is simple. A quick clean and storing it properly won’t add more than 5 minutes onto your outing.
In this article, we will show you how to clean your kayak effectively, how to store your kayak indoors, how to store your kayak outdoors, and some “dos” and some “don’ts”.
Why is Proper Maintenance and Storage so Important?
There are a number of reasons why you should properly maintain and store your kayak. With ill care hard plastics can become brittle, mould can start to grow, colours can start to fade, and contours can become distorted.
Proper maintenance and storage are paramount if you expect the same performance out of your kayak from year one through to year 21. If you own a kayak already or are planning on purchasing one soon, pay close attention to this section to find out why correct maintenance and storage are so important…
1. Prevents Distortion and Damage
Routinely cleaning your kayak to remove dirt, grease, and salts will prevent damage to the outer surface of your kayak.
Storing your kayak properly and keeping it protected from the sun’s UV rays as well as the wind, rain, and snow will protect your kayak from distortion.
When a kayak is left exposed to the elements and sunshine, parts of the kayak can warp and bend. This will reduce the performance of the kayak in the water, alter the tracking, and compromise the structural integrity of the vessel.
Make sure you protect your kayak from the elements and don’t store it in direct sunlight.
2. Prevents Dirt Build-Up and Mould Growth
This is a pretty obvious one. Routine cleaning helps remove grease, dirt, and salts that have built up on and inside the kayak.
If dirt and moisture aren’t removed or the kayak is stored in a damp environment, the kayak can begin to grow mould and mildew. This not only looks and smells bad, but it can pose health risks.
Make sure to keep you’re your kayak clean and store it in a dry environment.
3. Allows You to Inspect for Issues
Routine cleaning gives you the opportunity to inspect every inch of your kayak.
You may notice something during a routine clean that you wouldn’t usually notice during daily use. A small crack, hole, or grazed area may go unnoticed during transportation and use on the water. Routinely cleaning your kayak allows you to spot these small issues before they turn into big problems.
When cleaning your kayak, be attentive and look out for any small signs that could lead to problems in the future.
4. Provides Protection from the Elements
Storing your kayak properly will protect it from the elements. Wind, rain, snow, and sunshine can be detrimental to your kayak when it’s left exposed for long periods of time.
As we mentioned, prolonged exposure to the sun and weather can distort the shape of your kayak. This can alter the performance and structural integrity of your vessel. Prolonged exposure to the sun can also bleach the kayak, causing colours to fade — making the kayak look tired and worn.
Leaving your kayak unprotected outdoors for a number of years can also cause the plastics of the kayak’s body to become brittle and easily cracked. This is a safety risk when you’re out on the water, especially when navigating shallow, rocky, or rough waterways.
Keep your kayak out of direct sunlight and protected from the elements.
5. Protects Your Kayak from Rodents
Properly storing your kayak prevents pesky rodents from setting up camp inside your kayak. Sit-in kayaks make for excellent rat homes, and who could blame them for moving in if your kayaks just dumped at the bottom of the garden?
Other rodents of a larger variety can be attracted to kayaks too. These rodents (otherwise known as thieves) will jump at the chance to snatch a kayak if it’s insecurely left in sight outside.
Make sure to store your kayak securely to protect it from rodents and theft!
How to Store Your Kayak properly
1. Make Sure to Clean Your Kayak
Before storing your kayak, it is important you clean it.
This isn’t something that has to be done every time you head out on the water, but it should be done at least once per month and when the kayak is particularly dirty.
If you use your kayak in a number of different waterways, it’s essential you clean off your kayak before changing waters. Bacteria, algae, and certain invasive species can be spread by kayaks. It only takes a single zebra mussel or killer shrimp to populate a waterway. So, make sure you thoroughly clean your kayak when changing waterways, especially if there’s an issue with invasive species in one of the waters you’ve been kayaking in.
Hosing your kayak off quickly before storage once or twice a week is a great way to prevent the accumulation of dirt. It’s not essential but it will prevent a bigger cleaning job in the future.
Thoroughly cleaning your kayak once a month is recommended if you’re taking it out on the water several times within the month. Follow the simple steps below to keep your kayak in tip-top condition:
First, remove the detachable seat of your kayak (if it has one), all the porthole lids, and open any storage hatches.
You can clean the seat by hand or by washing machine (depending on the manufacturer’s directions). The porthole lids can be washed by hand with detergent, warm water, and some light elbow grease.
Next, apply a mixture of detergent and water to the kayak’s body, inside any storage compartments, and inside the cockpit. Then, foam the detergent and work it into the plastic with a stiff scrubbing brush, concentrating on stubborn areas of grime and small contours in the moulded kayak.
Hose the kayak down to wash off the soap being sure to get to every area on and inside the kayak.
Open the drainage plug to allow the water to drain. Once drained, tip the kayak upside down to try and remove as much of the water out of the storage holes and cockpit as possible.
Finally, leave your kayak outside to dry off fully. Remember to leave any storage hatches open to allow them to air dry before reattaching the lids.
2. Tips on Storing Your Kayak Correctly
Always keep your kayak off the ground. If you must store your kayak on the ground, be sure to place two wooden planks down to raise the body up off the floor.
Storage racks built for holding kayaks are the best way to store kayaks both inside and outside. Consider looking at a storage rack if you have the room and want the best for your new vessel.
Kayaks can be hung from the ceiling using four secure O-rings and some climbing rope or two secure ceiling-mounted bars.
Kayaks can be hung on the wall using custom brackets or O-rings and ratchet straps. This is handy if you’re limited on space but want to keep your kayak off the ground and in the garage, shed, or outbuilding.
3. Storing Your Kayak Indoors
Storing your kayak indoors is the best way to store your kayak.
The environment inside is much more stable than outside. Even if you only have an old leaky shed, your kayak is much better off in there as it will keep the sun’s rays and at least 90% of the weather off the kayak!
A garage is an ideal indoor location for your kayak. A clear wall, ceiling, or spare bit of floor space will work just fine. Use inspiration from the tips list above and get creative with your indoor space, so you can store your kayak well without jeopardising the usable space inside your garage, shed, or spare room.
4. Storing Your Kayak Outdoors
Although storing your kayak indoors is your best option, there is certainly nothing wrong with storing your kayak outside. However, there is a good way to store your kayak outside and a bad way.
Storing your kayak outdoors takes a bit more prep than storing one indoors. You’ll need to find a space where you can store the kayak off the ground. You will also need to build some kind of shelter or cover it in some way.
Never wrap a tarp around your kayak to protect it from the rain. Doing this can trap moisture in between the tarp and kayak, quickly leading to mould and mildew growth. Instead, you should build a simple timber or PVC frame and attach the tarp to it. This way you can store your kayak underneath, so it’s protected from the elements in a breathable space.
Always store your kayak off the ground. If you can’t mount your kayak on an exterior wall or under a porch, make sure you put down some pallets or wooden planks to keep the body off the earth. Placing two planks of wood on the floor next to a wall is the best way to do this. The kayak can sit on its side on the planks with the cockpit facing the wall, this way, the opening isn’t exposed to the outside.
You should also remove any fabric seats or padding from the kayak if you must leave it outside. Fabric items will quickly absorb moisture and become mouldy if left outside. Bring your seat or cushion indoors when you come back from a trip out on the water.