With household supplies, it's easy to keep those inflatables in tip-top shape.
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Is there anything better than floating atop your pool's crystal blue water on a hot summer day? We think not. But what do you do if your favorite pool toy looks less-than-stellar (read: is covered with dirt, mildew, and mold) at the start of the season? Rather than immediately find a replacement, give the inflatable a thorough inspection first. Take your pool float out of storage. If you didn't deflate it at the end of the last season, go ahead and do that now. Then, lay the inflatable flat in a well-lit area.

If the float has severe mildew or mold, or has holes that can't easily be patched, go ahead and toss it, says Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. Otherwise, you're in luck: Most grime will come right off with proper care. Experts say you need just a few household supplies and a few minutes to get the job done. And, perhaps best of all, you have options, based on what you have on hand. Here, cleaning experts and inflatable manufacturers outline best practices.

Soap and Water

According to FUNBOY, a quality dish soap ($4.99, target.com) cuts through any gunk on pool floats as well as it does grease and grime on dinnerware, pots, and pans. Simply fill a bucket with one part soap and three parts warm water. Then, dip a dry sponge into the solution and scrub the surface of the float. Just don't use anything too abrasive, like steel wool—your standard dish sponge will do just fine and won't accidentally puncture the inflatable. Once you're satisfied, rinse using a bucket of clean water or a hose, then set out to dry in the sun.

Vinegar and Water

Any cleaning guru knows the magic of white vinegar—brightening whites, busting carpet stains, wiping windows, and more. To harness its power on your pool floats, FUNBOY suggests mixing one part white vinegar and two parts water in a spray bottle. Spritz the inflatable all over, then use a sponge (again, a gentle one works just fine) to scrub off any dirt and debris. Rinse using a bucket of clean water or a hose, then set out to dry in the sun.

Alternatively, you can simply submerge the deflated float in a bucket of distilled vinegar and water, let it soak for about an hour, then rinse with water, says Peterson.

Baking Soda and Water

Baking soda is another cleaning miracle worker—your pool float is no exception, say the experts at FUNBOY. Just mix about one quart of warm water with 1/4 cup of baking soda, then stir to combine. Dip a sponge in the solution, then scrub your pool float. (If it's small enough, you can even soak it in the baking soda and water solution prior to scrubbing.) Rinse using a bucket of clean water or a hose, then set out to dry in the sun.

Bleach and Water

For really stubborn spots, Petersom says you can try a bleach solution or disinfecting all-purpose cleaning spray to help wipe off and disinfect the mold and mildew spots. If you opt for bleach, iFloat suggests mixing a tablespoon of bleach with a gallon of water. Then, in a ventilated space, don gloves and use a sponge or gentle brush to apply the solution to your float. Let sit for several minutes, then rinse clean using a bucket of water or a hose. Let dry in the sun. "The most important step is to allow the float to completely dry before inflating it, as trapping moisture inside the float can cause mold and mildew to resurface," says Peterson.

woman on modern inflatable swan pool float
Credit: MesquitaFMS / Getty Images

An Ounce of Prevention

Of course, there are steps you can take to prevent your pool floats from accumulating mold and mildew in the first place. "Throughout the summertime, maintaining a clean pool float is very easy," says Peterson. "Since it spends most of its time in chlorinated water, it won't be very prone to mold or mildew growth while in use. Rinse or brush it off once a week and allow it to dry in the sun before storing it between uses."

More importantly, before storing your floats for the winter, ensure they're completely dry before packing them away, says Peterson. "It's also important to deflate them if you plan to store them outside in a shed or garage that could experience below-freezing temperatures over the winter, as air contracts and expands with temperature changes which could distort the float's shape."


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