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Tips For Stress-Free Boat Cleaning

When it comes to keeping your boat clean, it seems like there are endless threats from A to Z — algae to zebra mussels. The good news is that with a little effort, know-how, and boat cleaning products, you can keep your esteemed vessel in pristine condition for seasons to come.

Getting Started

The first step in efficient boat maintenance is to gather all of your boat cleaning products and tools you will need and ensure you have access to a hose hookup. Depending on how in-depth your boat cleaning venture will be, you may need other supplies, but the basic boat cleaning products required are:


  • Two Buckets: the second bucket allows you to rinse dirt out before dipping a brush or Wash Mitt back into your soap


  • A Wash Mitt: this is less abrasive than a standard washcloth and protects the finish and gel coat of your boat


  • A water hose with a nozzle


  • Long-handled brushes: with both stiff and soft bristles


  • The Absorber: air-drying would leave water spots and swirls, so get some Absorbers, Shamwows, or an equivalent for a dry finish with no streaks


  • Boat Soap: choose a paint-safe and environmentally friendly product


  • Boat wax or sealant, applicator pads, and chrome polish


  • Buffing Balls: affix to a 3/8-inch drill to polish chrome and painted surfaces


  • The Glosser: a quick detailing wipe saturated with cleaners and waxes for the final shine


  • Dash Gear: a microfiber cloth for cleaning your instrument panel, etc.


  • Safety clothing: gloves and goggles as needed for dealing with heavy-duty chemicals


Step-by-Step Process

When beginning to tackle cleaning your boat, start by using a hose to thoroughly remove all of the loose dirt particles. Always rinse from top to bottom to avoid cascading dirty water over areas you’ve already cleaned.


Next, grab your buckets and fill one with water and your boat soap. Never use household cleaning soaps on your boat as they may have pH balances that could potentially damage your boat’s surfaces, such as the gel coat. Use the second bucket for your wringing out your Wash Mitt or sponge to keep your cleaning water bucket as clean as possible.


As you scrub with a soft brush or wash with a Wash Mitt, cover small areas at a time, rinsing them immediately thereafter to prevent dried soap from tarnishing the condition of your wax. It shouldn’t take much elbow grease either, so let the boat cleaner do the work and don’t push too hard and damage the boat’s surface.


Once you’ve washed and scrubbed every desired nook and cranny of your boat’s surface, give the boat one final rinse-down to limit the amount of beading and water spots. Use your Absorber (not a regular beach towel from the cabin) to dry your boat and leave a streak-free finish.


Next, buff your boat’s surface to prepare for waxing or sealing and then follow the directions on your specific waxing or sealing application to a T.


Sealants vs. Wax

Boat waxes and sealants are each designed to protect your boat’s finish from harmful UV rays, grime, salt, and other external elements that can deteriorate the boat’s paint. Waxes are used for covering the entire boat’s surface, while sealants fill the pores in a gel coat that dries into a hard finish that lasts the entire boating season. Always be sure to purchase boat sealant — not an automotive sealant or anything similar. The sealant must be made for gel coat finishes or else it will be too abrasive.


Topside Tasks

If you are planning on performing a full boat detailing, there are a few topside tasks to remember:


  • Wash the windshield and windows and dry with your Absorber or Shamwow.


  • Vacuum the floors and seats.


  • Scrub non-skid flooring and teak with a stiff brush.


  • Polish the chrome: railing, horns, ladders, cleats, etc.


  • If you have vinyl seats, apply a vinyl cleaner with a UV blocker.


  • Use Dash Gear to clean your instrumentation gauges.


  • If you cover your boat with a canvas between outings, scrub the underside of the canvas, too, to help prevent mold and mildew.


How Often Should You Clean A Boat?

If you can manage to, at the very minimum you should rinse and dry your boat after each time out on the water. This is especially true for saltwater boaters and those who keep their boat stored on the trailer. You don’t have to clean your boat with soap every time; in fact, this can break down any waxes on the boat’s surface if performed too often. So you should clean your boat with soap only after every month or two of use on average. A wax job should last you for up to four months while a quality sealant can protect your boat for an entire year of boating. Everything else when it comes to your boat maintenance should be performed on an as-needed basis.


Removing and Preventing Hard Water Stains

Boats succumb to hard water stains frequently, whether it’s on the bottom of the boat below the water line or on the sides from boat hull runoff. Hard water spot removers, vinegar, or acid-based products can help, but the best boat stain remover, in our opinion, is a boat stain preventer. So if you have a newer boat and want to avoid this aspect of boat maintenance, we recommend you pick up of a few of our Dripper Guards for preventing hard water stains and keeping the sides of your boat spotless.


Thanks for checking out our boat maintenance tips from the boating experts here at Dripper Guard. We hope these insights will help to make your boating experience even better.




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