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The Ultimate Guide to Waxing Your Boat: Tips and Techniques

The Ultimate Guide to Waxing Your Boat: Tips and Techniques
Read Time: 7 Minutes
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There's a lot that goes into proper care and maintenance of a boat, so you may wonder what's really necessary. For example, do you have to wax your boat?

Although it may seem like more of a cosmetic preference, waxing your boat is an important part of the routine cleaning process. Waxing protects the boat's finish by adding a protective barrier between the boat's gel coat and the environment, making it harder for dirt and grime to stick to the surface and making it less likely to be damaged by things like oxidation and scratches. This maintains the color and shine and, as a bonus, makes regular cleaning easier.

So, if you haven't been waxing your boat, there's no better time to start. In this guide we'll go over how to choose the right wax for your boat, how to wax it, and how to maintain the finish.

What Do You Need to Wax a Boat?

Before you get started, there are a couple things you need to do:

  1. Assess the condition of your boat's finish. Do you see any areas of discoloration, stains, or other signs of wear and tear? If so, you want to address those areas of wear and tear before you wax your boat.
  2. Gather your supplies, including tools and materials. You will need:
    • An orbital buffer.
    • A buffer pad.
    • A buffing compound.
    • A water source.
    • Boat soap.
    • Dewaxing solvent.
    • A large sponge.
    • Microfiber towels.
    • Boat wax.

How to Choose the Right Wax for Your Boat

The most important thing you need to wax your boat is, of course, the wax. But with so many options to choose from it can be difficult to know which one you need, especially if you're new to waxing. Here's how to choose the right wax for your boat.

There are four general types of waxes you can choose from:

  1. Carnauba wax. This natural wax offers a glossy look and protection against salt and UV light, but not dirt or debris. This wax is ideal for newer boats.
  2. Cleaner wax. This wax uses a coarse scrub to clean stains, dirt, and surface damage before glossing, but it won't protect the boat against scratches. This wax is ideal for boats with minor areas of damage.
  3. Polishing wax. This synthetic wax is designed to protect the boat against saltwater and UV rays without risking its integrity, but it doesn't have any grit in it. This wax is ideal for well-maintained boats.
  4. Restorer wax. This wax is thick and mixed with coarse compounds to go deeper into the boat's surface to remove damage, but it's strong and may be unnecessarily abrasive. This wax is ideal for old or damaged boats that need repair.

You'll find these waxes available in different consistencies, including:

  • Liquid wax.
  • Paste wax.
  • Synthetic alternatives.

Liquid wax is easiest to apply but paste wax will last longer and look better. Synthetic alternatives are somewhere in-between depending on what you get, but they're less likely to be made with natural ingredients as they chemically bond with the boat's surface.

Step-by-Step Guide to Waxing a Boat

Before you begin cleaning, buffing, and waxing your boat, secure it on the trailer on a flat, even surface for safety.

  1. Secure the Trailer

    Before you begin cleaning, buffing, and waxing your boat, secure it on the trailer on a flat, even surface for safety.

  2. Clean and Prep the Boat

    The first thing you need to do is remove dirt and grime so the wax will stick.

    Start by rinsing the boat's surface with water and using a clean, wet sponge to wipe it off. If you encounter any build-up, stubborn stains, or oxidation, you can use a fine-grain sandpaper to gently scrub it off.

    Then, remove the old wax using a microfiber towel soaked in a dewaxing solvent.

    Finally, wash the boat with some boat soap and warm water.

    Once you've rinsed it off and given it a chance to dry, you'll be ready to move on to the next step.

  3. Buff the Boat's Surface

    Use a polish or buffing compound to restore shine to the boat's gel coat. Polish is ideal for light refinishing, but a more abrasive buffing compound is ideal for boat's that need a deeper clean.

    Buff the boat in two-foot square sections, starting from the transom and working toward the bow. Applying the wax in sections will keep the coverage consistent.

    Apply a small circle (smaller than the size of a quarter) of polish or buffing compound to a clean microfiber towel or form polishing pad. You need just enough to cover the two-foot square. Buff in a steady, even circular motion and stop when the surface looks glassy.

    If you are buffing by hand, use consistent pressure and motions for an even application. If you are using a buffer, lightly place it against the boat's surface before turning it on at the lowest speed to keep it from spraying the polish or buffing compound everywhere.

    If you used a buffing compound, follow up by also using a polish. Apply it using the same method outlined above.

  4. Wax the Boat

    You can apply the wax by hand or with a buffer, but we recommend applying it by hand around non-removable fittings even if you choose to use a buffer everywhere else. This helps prevent damage.

    Apply the wax using the same method you did for the polish and buffing compound, moving in a circular motion in two-foot squares from the transom to the bow.

    Give the wax time to dry, about 5 to 10 minutes in the sun. You'll know it's ready for a second buffing when it looks hazy.

    Move in circles using a clean, dry microfiber towel or clean buffer pad to buff the wax in the same small sections as before.

How to Maintain a Boat's Wax Finish

Waxing a boat can be a time-consuming process, so it's important to try to maintain it as best you can when you're done. For the best results, you'll need to do a full application every 3 to 6 months, depending on how often you use your boat and in what conditions you're using it in.

You can extend the life of the wax by keeping your boat stored in a protected area or covered with a boat cover to shield it from the elements when not in use.

Always rinse your boat after you take it out – even in freshwater – to wash away dirt and grime that can get into the surface's pores.

To preserve your boat's shine, you can also apply small amounts of wax using a spray bottle to vulnerable areas and gently wipe it off.

Tips for Preventing Damage when Waxing a Boat

If you're new to waxing a boat, you may find yourself facing challenges during the process. Many of these can run the risk of damaging your boat, so here are some pro tips to keep your boat safe:

  1. If you have a fiberglass boat, choose a wax that's made for a fiberglass boat.
  2. Don't buff too hard, or you may go too deep and harm the boat's gel coat.
  3. Remember that less is more.
  4. Always wash your boat before you start buffing and waxing, or you can harm its surface.

Still have questions? The professionals have answers! Never hesitate to ask a boat expert for tips, advice, or help to ensure you can keep your boat in the best shape possible.

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