Question:   My family has recently purchased a '96 Sea Ray, and I have been chosen to take care of the boat. I want to know what is the best product or products to use on the soft plastic windows. I've heard many people use "Pledge", but recently another boater said that is was the worst thing one could use on the isinglass. I'm beginning to get confused. Could you give me the pros and cons on this product and what other products are also good to use?



Dear George:

There are 3 "types" of clear vinyl window material commonly found on boats. "Roll goods" are just that. The vinyl comes on a roll and is purchased by the yard, generally in .020, .030 and .040 gauge thicknesses. It's soft (that is, flexible) and comparatively inexpensive. It tends to have some inherent distortion when looking through it, although the newer varieties are much more clear. The next type is "pressed and polished" window material, sometimes called "optically clear". The manufacturer presses two pieces of clear vinyl together and polishes it, removing the distortion. It's purchased in sheets in .030 and .040 gauge thicknesses. It's stiffer than the roll goods but is still easy to roll up. The next step up is "Strataglass", where the manufacturer applies a film to both side of the pressed and polished glass making it resistant to scratching and deterioration from UV. It is sold by the sheet, generally in only .040 gauge thicknesses. It has the same stiffness as the pressed and polished. The manufactures of Strataglass tested it under accelerated UV conditions and found it still good after 12 years. It's been on the market since 1994, and under "real" UV conditions, it still looks great.

To clean any kind of clear vinyl, rinse thoroughly first to remove any salt deposit, then use a mild soap, rinsing well as you go along. Dry with a soft cloth or chamois. Don't use paper towels. After it has been cleaned, you can apply a product to help preserve and protect the vinyl. Pledge has long been used on clear vinyl. The idea is that it is absorbed into the vinyl keeping it more flexible, it fills in small scratches and leaves a light coating to help protect it. I have always heard to use "regular" Pledge, NOT lemon Pledge, as the acid in the lemon is supposedly hard on the glass. The last time I looked, I was unable to find "regular" but "potpourri" seemed for work fine!

The manufacturers of Strataglass say not to use any product labeled wax, polish or scratch remover, including Pledge. The film on Strataglass will prevent the absorption of these products, and polish and scratch removers will remove the film. They do recommend a product called IMAR Protective Cleaner. Our customers have used it on both Strataglass and regular clear vinyl and seem to like it.

What ever kind of clear vinyl you have, never use any kind of product with silicone in it, don't handle the glass with sunscreen on your hands, and when storing them, place paper or old sheets in between the panels.

More than likely, your Sea Ray has the pressed and polished vinyl.

By the way, the term "isinglass" is a German word to describe the mica that was (and still is) used in thin sheets to allow viewing the flames in a wood or coal stove. Thank you, Tom Williams, for clarifying that for us!

Jean Carroll