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Boat Cleaning Basics

Sep 23rd 2020

Whether you spend your leisure time in a deck boat, center console, bowrider or cabin cruiser, you want to keep it clean. A clean boat is something to be proud of when you’re taking friends out on the water or just hanging out at the dock, but they don’t stay clean by themselves. Here’s some advice for keeping your boat looking its best.

Why Go to The Trouble?

Depending on how and where you use it, there are at least three reasons for cleaning your boat after every outing.

  1. Prevents corrosion, especially if it’s seen salt water
  2. Maintains its value
  3. A dirty boat reflects badly on its owner

In addition, if you fish from your boat it could be gross when you get back to land; a time to clean it thoroughly!

Boat Cleaning Basics

Let’s discuss both exterior and the interior. We’ll assume it’s in the water and exclude the hull, and we’ll ignore any teak, if you’re lucky or wealthy enough to have that in your boat.

We’ll also exclude the engine, because just like cleaning the engine in a car, this is a specialized job. You don’t want water getting into delicate electronics!

You will need some tools and equipment and boat cleaning products. The main items are:

  • Long handled scrubbing brush with soft bristles
  • Hose or pressure washer
  • Boat wash solution
  • Bucket
  • Sponges and or washing mitts
  • A mop
  • Microfiber towels for drying
  • Chrome or metal cleaner

Cleaning the Exterior

Start by rinsing thoroughly using a hose or pressure washer, the brush and clean freshwater. If you’re using a pressure washer, be careful not to get too close to the boat: you’re trying to loosen the dirt, not the gel-coat!

Then mix the boat wash solution with water in the bucket, diluting as recommended by the manufacturer. Reli Premium boat wash for example needs only 1oz per gallon. Mixing it any stronger risks damaging the gel-coat.

Starting at the top and working down, use the sponge to spread the soapy water over the exterior surfaces. Gently scrub any stains or salt that doesn’t want to come off. Don’t try to wash the whole boat at once because it will dry before you’ve finished and leave stains from the boat wash solution.

After soaping a section, rinse it thoroughly, scrubbing as needed, before drying with microfiber towels. Then move on to the next section.

After washing, clean any metal fittings with chrome or metal cleaner. Twice a year, consider applying a coating of carnauba wax for protection against UV light.

Cleaning the Interior

Start by vacuuming any carpets just as you would in a car. Vinyl upholstery is best cleaned with soapy water, although a vinyl cleaner might be needed for mildew or stubborn stains. Soapy water will work well on most surfaces, although non-slip will benefit from a good scrub and possibly some wax or grease remover.

Cleaning: It’s Essential

Boats are made for fun and cleaning one can seem a chore. It’s worth doing though, to protect your investment and to keep it looking good. The right tools and a high-quality boat wash makes it easier.